Muscogee Creek citizen Eli Grayson emphasizes a point about the Cherokee Freedmen issue during an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Freedmen vow to continue fighting Cherokee Nation for their rights

President of the Descendents of Freedmen Association Marilyn Vann speaks with other Cherokee Freedmen following an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
President of the Descendents of Freedmen Association Marilyn Vann speaks with other Cherokee Freedmen following an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
08/30/2011 08:29 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The library of the Martin Luther King Center in Muskogee was filled to capacity Aug. 27 as Cherokee Freedmen met to discuss the Aug. 22 Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruling that once again ousted them from the tribe.

The approximately 100 people at the meeting resolved to continue fighting for their citizenship and discussed options for regaining CN citizenship and their voting rights.

Many of the Freedmen at the meeting expressed concern about not being able to vote in the Sept. 24 election for principal chief between Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker and former principal chief Chad Smith. In an Aug. 23 press release, President of the Descendants of Freedmen Association Marilyn Vann said she was suspicious of the timing of the ruling.

“This action happened just before the election. Freedmen have a right by law, by treaty to vote,” Vann said.

Vann said she was given permission to inform people at the meeting that attorneys representing Cherokee Freedmen are filing a preliminary injunction in federal court this week “to ensure Freedmen rights are protected” for the Sept. 24 election. If the CN states Freedmen cannot vote on Sept. 24, Vann said Freedmen should attempt to vote anyway because she believes federal officials will be watching to see what happens that day.

“If by chance this election still goes on and they have taken your name off the voting rolls, you still need to go down there to try to vote because it might set it up to where the election may not count,” she said.

John Parris, a former CN attorney who is not part of the Cherokee Freedmen legal team but has been assisting them by explaining legal matters, also spoke at the meeting. He said he concurs with Freedmen attorneys who believe the 1866 Treaty is a law of the CN. He added he believes the Freedmen stand a better chance of winning their rights in federal court, and the federal judge hearing the eight-year-old case of Vann v. Salazar in Washington, D.C., has been “staying his hand” waiting for the CN courts to rule on Freedmen rights.

Marilyn Vann and five other plaintiffs filed Vann vs. Salazar in 2003 because Freedmen were not allowed to vote in the 2003 CN elections.

“As far as the election coming up quickly, I can see a federal judge likely saying that we’re going to maintain the status quo…and everybody that was eligible to vote last week will be allowed to vote this week,” Parris said.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons said at the Aug. 25 Tribal Council Rules Committee meeting that CN has been in contact with the Freedmen attorneys and is preparing for the federal court filing by the Freedmen legal team.

“I anticipate that something will be filed in the District of Columbia next week,” Hammons said. “I don’t know what that is. I guess the most positive thing I can report in that regard is that we are trying to anticipate the worst and prepare for it but hope for the best.”

During the meeting, Freedmen members discussed filing lawsuits against individual Cherokee leaders for discrimination and emulating civil rights leaders in the south that peacefully fought discrimination and segregation laws nearly 50 years ago.

“Just like the blacks did in the Deep South, we are going to have to continue to fight and work together to keep our rights,” Vann said. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King and Rosa Parks and those folks, if they did not use the legal system they would still have Jim Crow laws (segregation laws) in half the states in this country.”

She added black people fighting for their rights in 1960s did not stop at state courts when those courts denied them their rights and appealed to federal courts, which the Freedmen have also done.

The second Freedmen case pending in a Washington, D.C., federal court deals with a suit filed by the CN in February 2009 in the Northern District of Oklahoma against Freedmen involved in the Nash suit. In July 2010, a federal judge in Tulsa, Okla., refused to hear the case and ordered it moved to the District Court for the District of Columbia.

In a 4-1 ruling on Aug. 22, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court reversed a January 2011 CN District Court ruling decision that voided a 2007 constitutional amendment that denied citizenship to descendants of former black slaves who do not have Indian blood.

The District Court had ruled in Nash v. CN Registrar that the amendment violated the 1866 Treaty between the CN and United States that gave Freedmen “the rights and privileges of other Cherokees.”

In a written opinion, the Supreme Court stated Cherokee Freedmen were not provided citizenship by the Treaty of 1866 but rather by an amendment to the 1839 Cherokee Constitution in November 1866. The court stated the Cherokee people have a sovereign right to define Cherokee citizenship and did so by voting for and approving the 2007 amendment.

During the Aug. 27 meeting, Muscogee Creek citizen Eli Grayson appealed to Cherokee Freedmen to not argue about blood quantum and citizenship by blood because they are Cherokee citizens by the 1866 treaty. In the treaty, Freedmen were not required to have Indian blood to be a CN citizen, and Cherokee people did not have the right to vote Freedmen out of the CN based on Indian blood, he said.

“Free yourselves of their argument that it’s about Indian blood. That’s a lie; let it go. Either you are a member of these tribes or you’re not. In my world…you’re either Creek or you are non-Creek. In your world you’re either Cherokee or you’re non-Cherokee,” Grayson said. “Your ancestors knew who they were in 1866. They knew they were not American; they knew they were Cherokee. These (tribes) are political groups of people not races.”

The Freedmen plan to demonstrate at 2:30 p.m., Sept. 2, outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs office in Muskogee. They also plan to march the following morning in the Cherokee National Holiday Parade in Tahlequah.

will-chavez@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-453-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

News

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
11/28/2014 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Two federal complaints have been filed concerning Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe’s Sept. 5 “dove hunt” fundraiser in Lone Wolf that included Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Principal Chief Bill John Baker. The event gathered attention when Illinois-based group Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK, released a video showing event workers throwing pigeons into the air toward hay bales. People with shotguns, located behind the hay bales, then fired upon the pigeons as they attempted to fly away. It also shows pigeons falling to the ground dead, while others fell injured. Some made their way off the shooting field only to be recaptured by workers and thrown back into the air to be fired upon again. What concerned some people was not only the killing of the pigeons but the use of Kiowa County law officers, who were in full uniform and using their official vehicles, as event security. Rebecca West, of Pryor, submitted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. Within it she states Inhofe had at least two Kiowa County law officers work as security. She alleges that one officer was paid for his services while the other was on duty while working the event. According to a Tulsa World article, records state that Kiowa County officer Clay Farrington was paid $300 for “event expense/security” around the same time the fundraiser took place. The article also states that Rusty Appleton, Inhofe’s campaign manager, said he “paid one guy an amount and he paid the others.” SHARK officials filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming the misuse of the law officers, violation of multiple state and federal laws and committing of animal cruelty. In the complaint, SHARK President Steve Hindi states he’s concerned the fundraiser did not completely follow the law when hiring and reimbursing the county officers who worked the event. He also alleges the fundraiser took place on land owned by the federal government. “Our best research shows that the land that was used for the live pigeon shoot is owned by the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation and is managed by the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District,” Hindi said. Hindi states the “serious questions about why this federally owned land was being used, not just for a pigeon shoot, but for a political fundraiser for Senator Inhofe, who, it must be noted, got, ‘$5,000,000 for water related infrastructure improvement projects at the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District, Altus, Oklahoma.’” Hindi also stated he read a Facebook post that claimed the pigeons were captured in Houston and transported to Oklahoma. “…transporting them to Oklahoma makes this an interstate commerce issue,” he stated. He also wrote that an article in The Oklahoman states Appleton said the Inhofe campaign paid a contractor to “trap the bird humanely” and fed, watered and housed the pigeon until the shoot. Hindi stated that this raised concerns regarding the obtaining of the pigeons and if “proper taxes have been paid by the Inhofe campaign and the person who trapped them.” Hindi ended his complaint stating that politicians need to be held accountable for their actions. “When local and state authorities fail, we turn to the federal government to keep the law from being rendered meaningless,” he stated.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
11/28/2014 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Following the Tribal Council’s June amendment of the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act, the Attorney General’s Office has hired Cherokee Nation citizen Gwen Terrapin as the first information officer. The amendment created the position within the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Todd Hembree selected his former paralegal to serve as the liaison for Cherokee Nation citizens seeking public records from the tribe. “I am pleased that the Tribal Council chose to create this position,” Hembree said. “Hiring an information officer whose primary job is to increase the free flow of information about the Cherokee Nation government to its people is a huge improvement. The hallmark of every free society is transparency. With this position, transparency is increased, information will be shard on a grander scale and the Cherokee Nation will be better off for it.” Hembree said the officer’s duties will be to process and be a clearinghouse for the Freedom of Information and Government Records acts requests. When requests are received, the officer will make sure it is a proper request, then forward the requests to the proper department/entities for their responses and documents. Once the information is received the officer will then send it to the requestor. A log will also be kept of each request received. According to the act, the officer is to be independent of political influence; can only be terminated for cause; and will be responsible for facilitating, gathering, tracking and responding to FOI and GRA requests, as well as providing monthly reports to the Tribal Council. “The act calls or the information officer to be independent, and in order to have that independence, and to be free of influence, it is best that the information officer has an office to itself,” Hembree said. Currently, all FOI or GRA requests go through the Attorney General’s Office. Hembree said that with the information officer, responses would not have to be approved by the attorney general before being released. Each request will continue to be updated on the attorney general’s website. “The information officer will serve as a direct point of contact for the Cherokee people to help them gather information about tribal government. It is a first position of its kind and will enhance transparency for all Cherokees,” he said. Hembree said the office went through the Human Resources process of posting the job and had more than 15 applicants. The officer’s start date was Nov. 17, is a full-time position and a pay range of $17.24 to $19 per hour. “She was the most qualified applicant with two and a half years experience of doing exactly this type of work,” Hembree said. “She has been a paralegal and clerk for over 10 years.” As of Nov. 20, Terrapin was located at the Attorney General’s Office, but a location for her office was under review. “I'm excited about working in this position, and I look forward to continuing to provide assistance to our council members and tribal citizens,” Terrapin said. CN citizens can call Terrapin at 918-772-4165 or email <a href="mailto: gwen-terrapin@cherokee.org">gwen-terrapin@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/26/2014 11:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report shows the state of Oklahoma collected $122 million in gaming fees from Native American tribes during the last fiscal year. The report issued Nov. 19 by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that for the first time ever, the fees paid to the state declined from the previous year. The report noted a drop of nearly $5.5 million – or about 4 percent – from previous year’s collections. The funds are used primarily for public education. Possible reasons cited for the decline include an increase in the number of Class II games such as electronic bingo for which tribes do not pay exclusivity fees and “possible market saturation.” The annual report was prepared by the state agency’s Gaming Compliance Unit.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law. “The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said. The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16. “I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said. Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her. “But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said. Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends. “It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said. Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference. “We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.” Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape. Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved. “Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered. Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.” Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said. “Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.” Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex. It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said. Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school. “That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said. Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18. “Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said. The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said. (If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage. “Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added. Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee. <strong>Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Cherokee Nation:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex. <strong>Oklahoma:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 04:04 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 29, Loretta Lynn will perform at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. After being encouraged to learn to play the guitar and write songs by her husband, Doo, who she married at 13, Lynn quickly became a natural and began playing at area nightclubs. She caught the attention of Zero Records and recorded her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Lynn made herself a fringed cowgirl outfit, and she and Doo drove across the country promoting her single. By fall 1961, Lynn was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage and in 1962 her Decca Record debut came out with the smash hit “Success.” It was the first of her 51 Top 10 hits. Among Lynn’s other songs are “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” “Love Is the Foundation” and “One’s on the Way.” In 1967, she began picking up various Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn dominated the charts with hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Somebody Somewhere,” “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed,” “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” and her 1982 smash hits “I Lie” and “Making Love from Memory,” which brought her into the new decade. In 1971, Lynn and fellow country musician Conway Twitty won several Duet of the Year awards. In 1972, Lynn made history as the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year trophy. The country star continued renewing her creativity after being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 with the hit “Heart Don’t Do This to Me.” In 1988, Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned a gold record in 1994 with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a trio CD with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. In 2000, she was back again with the CD titled “Still Country.” She also returned to the concert trail. In 2002, Lynn published a second memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2003. The following year she won two Grammy Awards for “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with rocker Jack White. Lynn added to her collection of awards in 2008, when she was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010, when she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets start at $40 and go on sale Nov. 28. Tickets are available online in The Joint section of <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will hold its annual “Light Up” event at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The event will feature the Cherokee National Youth Choir, holiday lights as well as cookies and hot cocoa for guests. Following the event will be the Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. in downtown Tahlequah.