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 • 918-207-3961
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 STAFF REPORTS
03/27/2015 02:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Friends of the Murrell Home Gift Shop have launched a brand new online store, which carries a variety of items relating to Cherokee history and nineteenth century life in Indian Territory. The museum gift shop, housed at the Murrell Home Historic Site, sells history and language books, maps, historic toys, handmade reproductions, souvenirs and more. A new line of heirloom seeds are also available in-store and online. These vegetable, flower and herb seeds are provided by Seed Savers Exchange, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic seed varieties. The varieties sold at the Murrell Home are representative of nineteenth-century flora that would have been grown in Indian Territory. These vegetables and herbs will be planted in the historic site’s kitchen garden beginning this spring. Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, bloody butcher corn, Cherokee purple tomatoes and Moon & Stars watermelon are just a few of the twenty-four varieties now available for purchase. All of the proceeds from the gift shop and online store benefit the Friends of the Murrell Home, the support organization for the Murrell Home Historic Site. To view the new online store, visit <a href="http://www.mkt.com/murrellhome" target="_blank">mkt.com/murrellhome</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/murrellhome" target="_blank">facebook.com/murrellhome</a>. The historic site is located at 19479 E. Murrell Home Road, three miles south of Tahlequah. The museum store is open from 10 a.m. to5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 918-456-2751.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/27/2015 10:00 AM
WASHINGTON – On March 25, Principal Chief Bill John Baker delivered testimony before the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C. Baker addressed the necessity for increased Indian Health Service funding and the significance of contract support costs. “Cherokee Nation and other tribes have successfully litigated three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases established the federal government is legally obligated to fully fund BIA and IHS contract support costs,” Baker said. “Last year, we negotiated a $29.5 million settlement with IHS to collect nearly a decade’s worth of underpaid contract support costs. Unlike the IHS claims, resolution to BIA’s case has been slow. We request that the Subcommittee encourage BIA to work harder to reach a settlement with tribes. We also request that the Subcommittee support the president’s fiscal year 2016 proposal to fully fund IHS and BIA contract support costs.” Baker also discussed the CN’s commitment to invest its own $100 million for new and improved health facilities, but said IHS needs to pay its share for staffing doctors and nurses. “We have invested more than $100 million from our casino profits to build, expand and renovate our health care facilities. We are the largest tribal health provider, seeing more than 1 million patient visits in 2014. Last year, I testified before this Subcommittee and requested the IHS Joint Venture Construction Program be reopened,” he said. “We are deeply grateful to Rep. Cole, Ranking Member McCollum, and members of the Subcommittee for your efforts that resulted in IHS reopening the program in fiscal year 2014. Cherokee Nation was selected as a Joint Venture project, and the tribe will fund construction of a new health care facility. We request that the Subcommittee ensure IHS meets its obligation by funding the staffing and operations for our Joint Venture facility.” Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) chaired the hearing. He was joined by ranking members Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.).
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/26/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – To help with staffing, travel and community members in need, the Cherokee Nation donated $30,000 to Friends of the Murrell Home, War Pony Community Outreach and the CN Color Guard. Friends of the Murrell Home support and promote the Murrell Home Historic Site in Park Hill. The Murrell Home was built following the Trail of Tears for then CN Chief John Ross’ niece, Minerva Ross Murrell. The group uses donations to help cover museum staffing. “Without this donation from the Cherokee Nation, a Cherokee citizen who works for us in the Living History Program would be out of a job,” said Murrell Home Site Manager David Fowler. “Because of that, we’re very appreciative of the help the tribe provides.” War Pony Community Outreach is a nonprofit organization in Cherokee County dedicated to helping people across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction with living expenses. The group plans to use the donation to buy beds, washers, stoves and other household appliances. “Whatever a community member that qualifies needs, we help provide it,” said Raymond Vann, who works with the outreach. Making appearances at public events, funerals or other venues across the country, veterans who act as cultural ambassadors for the tribe make up the CN Color Guard of Native American. The Color Guard will use the donation for travel expenses.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
03/25/2015 02:00 PM
WELLING, Okla. – A non-Cherokee couple that recently tried to partake in a new master-apprentice Cherokee language course offered by the tribe’s Cultural and Community Outreach is saying they were asked to leave the course after three sessions. Doug and Judy Cotter of Welling tried to participate in the program in February after receiving a call from a participant. Doug said the pilot program pays three Cherokee speakers to interact with four students, so he said there was plenty of room in the classroom for him and his wife. “I received a call from one of the participants that knew we were interested in the Master-Apprentice Program. They stated they would like for us to come sit in just as another example of people that could learn the language because he knew we had been studying it several years over here at NSU (Northeastern State University),” Doug said. “We were tickled to death and jumped at the chance.” However, after three sessions, Doug said CCO Director Rob Daugherty called them into his office and told them they could no longer attend classes. Doug added that he and Judy never got a straight answer as to why they couldn’t attend anymore. “He (Daugherty) said ‘when my students start complaining I have to do something. This is for people who are being paid to be here. It’s for participants only, and you guys just can’t be here,’” Doug said. He said he could not imagine that he and his wife somehow disrupted the classes they attended because mainly they just sat and listened to the Cherokee speakers. The program aims to teach Cherokee Nation citizens to become second-language Cherokee speakers so that they can go into their respective communities and teach others in an effort to revitalize the language, Daugherty said. Citizens will meet eight hours per day on weekdays through this fall, according to the program. “It’s a very demanding schedule,” Daugherty said. “As CCO’s director, when it was brought to my attention by other participants that Mr. and Mrs. Cotter were attending classes regularly and not merely observing, nor were they Cherokee Nation citizens, or a member of any federally-recognized tribe that I know of, I simply explained to the couple that our program is for Cherokee Nation citizens, and we simply did not have the space, nor funding to allow them to be participants.” Daugherty said the class is taught in a small office space and participants are paid stipends. Occasionally there are visitors who observe a class, and the Cotters were allowed to observe by one of the instructors. Doug said he went in strictly as a volunteer and he and his wife did not expect to get paid. “You have to be a member of the Cherokee Nation to even be considered for payment, so I didn’t expect to get paid,” he said. “I just think it would be a privilege to get to participate.” He said he was even willing to teach the language for two years after completing the program, which is required of all students enrolled in the program. “We welcome sharing our Cherokee language, and there are other online and community Cherokee language courses that are free and open to the public that the Cotters can utilize,” Daugherty said. “Moving forward, in our application for this program, we require participants be Cherokee Nation citizens, apply, be accepted and sign a contract with CCO, in an effort to avoid any public confusion.” Doug said at first he was angry because he was invited to partake in the program and then was told he couldn’t. “I didn’t understand. You’re volunteering, and you’re not causing any problems. Why would they not want someone to learn the language? In my opinion, the more people that learn it, the better. If the language is in dire straits, and we all know it is, the more people that can learn it and share it and spread it and teach it, the better off you’re going to be,” he said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
03/25/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission, candidates and representatives of candidates drew for ballot order during a March 24 special meeting after the EC ruled on candidate eligibility a day earlier. Candidates, their respective representatives and volunteers drew from a jar containing numbered chips that determined the order in which candidates would appear on the June 27 general election ballot. This year, 36 candidates are vying for eight Tribal Council seats as well as the principal chief and deputy chief positions. Those elected take office on Aug. 14. For the principal chief seat, candidate Will Fourkiller, a representative in the state House, received the first spot. Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden drew the second ballot spot for Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Former CN Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap drew the third spot, while former Principal Chief Chad Smith will be fourth on the ballot. For the deputy chief seat, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener drew the first spot followed by incumbent S. Joe Crittenden for the second position. Smith, Tribal Councilor Julia Coates’ representative, drew the third spot. Coates has appealed to the tribe’s Supreme Court an EC decision that states she is not eligible to run for the deputy chief seat because she did not meet residency requirements. However, the EC still drew her ballot placement in the chance the court rules in her favor. If the court rules against Coates, her name would be removed from the ballot. For the Dist. 1 Tribal Council seat, a representative drew the first spot for Rex Jordan and candidate Ryan Sierra drew the second spot. For Dist. 3, Brandon Girty got the first spot, which was drawn by his daughter. Incumbent David Walkingstick’s representative drew the second spot. Kathy Kilpatrick drew the third spot, while Brian Berry’s representative drew the forth spot. Larry Pritchett drew the last spot. For Dist. 6, Natalie Fullbright’s representative drew the first spot for her, while Bryan Warner drew the second position. B. Keith McCoy got the third slot, and Ron Goff drew the fourth. For Dist. 8, Corey Bunch drew the first spot, while a representative for Shawn Crittenden drew the second. For Dist. 12, incumbent Dick Lay drew the first spot and his opponent Dora Smith Patzkowski got the second. For Dist. 13, a representative drew the first spot for former Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen, while another representative drew the second spot for Kenneth Holloway. For Dist. 14, a representative for Keith Austin, a former Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board member, drew the first spot, while William “Bill” Pearson drew the second position. For the No. 1 At-Large seat, Wanda Hatfield drew the first spot, while Tommy Jones drew the second. Pamela Fox got the third spot, while Betsy Swimmer drew the fourth. Benjamin McKee drew the fifth spot, and Trey Brown drew the sixth. Deborah Reed got the seventh spot, while Linda Leaf-Bolin got the eighth. Former CN Supreme Court Justice Darell Matlock drew for the ninth spot, and Shane Jett got the last position on the ballot. After drawing for ballot positioning, the EC also drew for watcher names that were provided by candidates for some voting precincts. More than 40 names were drawn. Two names, if available for that precinct location, were drawn as well as an alternate, if possible. The EC also drew several watchers for the four days of in-person absentee voting in Tahlequah. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/OurGovernment/Commissions/ElectionCommission.aspx" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/OurGovernment/Commissions/ElectionCommission.aspx</a> or call 918-458-5899.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/25/2015 10:00 AM
LANCASTER, N.Y. (AP) – A western New York school district will do away with its Redskins mascot and nickname after other districts in the region turned up the pressure by boycotting games because of it. The Lancaster Central School Board voted to retire the longtime symbol Monday during a special session called after three districts with sizeable numbers of Native American students canceled lacrosse matches. The term Redskins is considered by many to be a racial slur against Native Americans. While supporters of the nickname said it was a source of pride and never meant to offend, a resolution by Superintendent Michael Vallely said it has become a "symbol of ethnic stereotyping" and that keeping it could subject students to retaliation. The unanimous vote was shouted down by Redskins supporters, many of whom wore past and present school uniforms and jackets with the Redskins logo. "All of these years we've never used it in a negative way," Lancaster High School senior Emily Koeppel said after the meeting. "It was never meant to be hurtful." Numerous high schools and universities throughout the country have dropped the term in recent years and several Native American groups have begun a "Change the Mascot" campaign to press the National Football League to remove it from the Washington, D.C., franchise. "There is no pride in having schools boycott playing our sports teams," board member Kimberly Nowak said. "There is no pride in winning by forfeit." The lacrosse boycotts by the Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara Wheatfield districts in western New York followed a March 3 public forum in Lancaster that drew more than 100 people from both sides of the issue. Several students said they would continue to wear their Redskins apparel and call themselves Redskins despite the vote by the board to begin a "student-centered" process to develop a new mascot. "This is our school. We are Redskins," student Torie Dombrowski said. The school has been leaving the Redskins name off new uniform orders for the last three to four years, and a new football field scoreboard also is without the mascot, but district leaders had said they would take their time before deciding whether to do away with it altogether. The boycotts and other pressure from the community hastened the decision, board members said. A spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation of central New York, which is involved in the NFL campaign, said districts that have replaced their mascots, including neighboring Cooperstown, have not seen a decline in school spirit. "Not only did the school make a powerful statement to the Native American community that they no longer wanted to use a term that is a dictionary-defined slur against native people," spokesman Joel Barkin said. "But it made a statement to the kids in that school to be self-aware and have empathy and think about how the actions that you are engaging in affect other people outside of yourself." The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools, saying the portrayals "encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people." The American Psychological Association took a similar stance in 2005, citing harmful effects "on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people." Said board member Michael Sage, "The students in this generation and those to follow need a new tradition."