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
07/29/2015 02:00 PM
KETCHUM, Okla. –The Cherokee Nation recently presented the Native American Association of Ketchum a $57,273 grant to build a park in Ketchum. The park will include two pieces of commercial playground equipment, spring rockers, spinners, swings, teeter-totters and more. The group also plans to add volleyball and basketball courts, as well as a walking trail in the park’s next phase of development. The playground is set to be complete by the end of summer and is located at the corner of Grand Lake Avenue and Amarillo Street. “It means a great deal to partner with the Cherokee Nation because without the tribe there would not be a park in Ketchum,” NAAK President Jerry Taylor said. According to a CN press release, the NAAK is one of several community organizations to receive a grant from the tribe’s Community and Cultural Outreach in 2015. The department awards about 45 grants per year to local organizations that want to make improvements in their communities, helping both Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike. “Helping the town of Ketchum build a family-friendly park is part of the Cherokee Nation’s mission to invest in our citizens and communities,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This will soon be a beautiful space for children and families to gather and enjoy. I’m proud we are able to improve the quality of life for all citizens in the Ketchum community.” The release states the NAAK was established in 2013 and has been active in the community. In addition to obtaining a grant for the town’s first-ever park, the organization has distributed weatherization kits to citizens in the area and will partner with the CN to do home repairs in the community next month. The organization also hopes to build a community building in the future. For more information about Community and Cultural Outreach, call 918-207-4953.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/29/2015 10:35 AM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The 10th annual Blast to the Past Car & Truck Show makes its return to the Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs on Aug. 15. The show is one of the largest car shows in the region. According to a press release, categories consist of classics built between the years 1900-60, 1961-80 and 1981 to present and customs built between 1900-60, 1961-80 and 1981 to present. There are also the Redneck Award, Car Club Attendance Award and Grand Champion. Steve Perry, of Bentonville, Arkansas, took home the first place prize in the 1900-60 classics category for his 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air at the 2014 show. “It’s a great show and one of our favorites every year,” Perry said. “Blast to the Past is one of the larger draw car shows around. There are a lot of great cars for the enthusiasts in the area. The fact that you can go inside to grab a nice lunch and cool off in a beautiful facility also makes it a great time for the family.” There will be cash prizes and trophies awarded for those who place first through third in each category. All participants will also receive a free shirt. “We are excited to bring back Blast to the Past for the 10th consecutive year,” Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs General Manager Tony Nagy said. “This has been a huge event for us. We’ve had so much interest, we just had to bring it back for 2015. We have some exciting things in the works for this year. It’s going to be a great time.” Jeff Johnson, also of Bentonville, won first in the 1961-80 classics category with his 1971 Chevrolet Camaro 228. “Last year was my third time to attend this show. It is one of the best we have in the region. Everyone in the area looks forward to it,” Johnson said. “The setup is fantastic. We like the environment, and it’s a great place to come show off your hobby. The entire show is nicely put together, with a great location and wonderful employees. It’s a whole lot of fun.” Registration and entry into the car show are free. Those who want to register can do so through noon at the casino on Aug. 15. Participants can also fax their registration forms to 918-422-6229. For more information, visit the promotions page on the Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs section of <a href="http://www.cherokeecasino.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeecasino.com</a> or call 1-800-754-4111.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/28/2015 11:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In Oklahoma, there is a tax-free weekend in which the state does not require individuals to pay taxes on clothing and shoes. Oklahoma’s sales tax holiday is set for Aug. 7-9. According to the Oklahoma Tax Commission’s website, the annual sales tax holiday will begin at 12:01 a.m. on Aug. 7 and end at midnight on Aug. 9. “Retailers are required to participate and may not collect state and local sales or use tax on most footwear and clothing that are sold for less than $100 during the holiday. Clothing is indicated by all “human wearing apparel,” which includes, but not limited to, aprons, belts, coats, underwear and socks. Having to set aside money for clothing, shoes and school supplies can be a burden on some families that might be struggling financially. USA.gov suggests families to look into qualifying for federal programs that may help ease financial burdens, including low-cost meals and affordable health insurance. For more information and answers to common questions on the sales tax holiday, as well as a listing of sales tax exempt items, please visit the OTC website at <a href="http://www.tax.ok.gov" target="_blank">www.tax.ok.gov</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/27/2015 01:09 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in an Alaska plane crash on Aug. 15, 1935. It is often called the “crash heard around the world.” This year the Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch is set for Aug. 15, the 80th anniversary of the history-making event when bold headlines in newspapers all over the world carried the story. That day and the lives of the two, undoubtedly the world’s strongest aviation boosters of their time, is remembered each year on the Oologah, Indian Territory, ranch were Will Rogers was born. Usually a Sunday event, it was changed to Saturday to reflect the anniversary of the deaths, said Tad Jones, Will Rogers Memorial Museum executive director. Airports across the country have been invited to join in a special Moment of Remembrance at 10 a.m. (CST) at their respective airports to honor those who have lost their lives in a small aircraft accident. At that same time a short program at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch airstrip will pay tribute to the lives of Will and Wiley. Mary West of Oologah will sing the “National Anthem” and Ross Adkins, Fly-In announcer for the past several years, will present the commemoration program and call for a moment of silence. RSU Radio will live stream the tribute at 91.3 FM and on their website <a href="http://www.rsuradio.com" target="_blank">www.rsuradio.com</a>. The popular duo of Lester Lurk and Joe Bacon, aka “Will and Wiley,” will land about 9 a.m. The Fly-In provides an opportunity for the public to get a close-up look at airplanes and meet the pilots. Pilots enjoy the fellowship with fellow aviators and people who just enjoy planes. Cherokee Storyteller Robert Lewis will be under a shade tree with his tales of animals, so much a part of early Cherokee tradition. There will be antique cars, inflatables and games for children and food concessions. Ample parking is provided with rides to the viewing area. Roper Martin Howard and members of the Verdigris School football team have assisted with parking several years. Members of Rogers County Sheriff Mounted Troops will be on hand. Air Evac Lifetime, an air medical service, will fly in and be on hand to show their plane and provide information about the access at the Claremore Regional Airport. Ambulances from Oologah-Talala EMS and Northwest First District will have units for the public to see as well as be on hand for emergencies. Bring your own lawn chair or blanket and enjoy watching planes land and take off, walk among the aircraft, visit the house and see the room where Will was born and remember the day 80 years ago when the world learned Will and Wiley had died in Alaska. Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
07/27/2015 09:19 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results, Bryan Warner won the July 25 runoff for the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 6 Tribal Council seat. Unofficial results show that Warner received 54.06 percent of votes with 619 votes, while Natalie Fullbright received 45.94 percent of votes or 526 ballots. The numbers include 23 accepted challenged ballots. Warner said he feels truly blessed by the results. “This has been a very humbling experience,” he said. He said when he takes office he wants to take a look at everything and already has an idea of what types of resources the CN needs. He added that he wants to get out and meet more people. “I still think there’s people out there that I didn’t get to visit with in this district, and I want them to feel apart of this process,” he said. Warner said he is grateful to all who cast their vote for him to be the next Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor. “Thank you, thank you, thank you. My family thanks you, all my supporters thank you,” he said. “It’s just been a wonderful experience and there’s no way I could have written it out like this at all. I can’t wait to get to work and see what we can do for Dist. 6. When I say we, I mean all of us.” Warner extended congratulations to Fullbright for a well-ran race. “Her family and all her supporters have been wonderful through this campaign, and I feel like they’re all top-notch individuals. They’ve been cordial, they been kind,” he said. “I hope that we can all get together and work together.” In a Facebook post Fullbright conceded defeat to Warner. “Well guys we lost. Not by a lot but by enough. I think a lot of Bryan, get behind him, support him, pray for him work with him,” it stated. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Fullbright for comment. “Why in the world are you people calling me? You need to call Bryan Warner,” she said. Dist. 6 covers the eastern part of Sequoyah County. Candidates who won their races will be sworn into office on Aug. 14. According to Election Commission officials, candidates had until July 29 to file for a recount. As of publication there was no request for a recount in the Dist. 6 race.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
07/27/2015 09:18 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results, Keith Austin won the Dist. 14 Tribal Council race against William “Bill” Pearson on July 25. Unofficial results, which included 26 accepted challenged ballots, show that Austin garnered 498 votes for 53.9 percent of the ballots, while Pearson got 425 votes for 46.1 percent. Austin said he would like to thank the Cherokee Nation citizens of District 14 for allowing him the honor of being elected as their next Tribal Councilor. “I am humbled that you would place your faith and trust in me. This is a responsibility that I do not take lightly, and I will endeavor to represent you with the same energy and integrity that I have practiced throughout life,” he said. “I would like to thank Mr. Pearson for his service to our Nation, the community and his willingness to serve the Cherokee Nation. Also, I would like to thank Councilor Lee Keener for his service to District 14 on the Council and I wish him well with his future endeavors.” The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to Pearson, but he was available for comment. The EC rescheduled the Dist. 14 race after the CN Supreme Court on July 8 ruled that a winner could not be determined with mathematical certainty. Pearson was certified the winner of the Dist. 14 race after the June 27 general election by one vote. Following a recount on July 2, his lead had been extended to six votes. Austin appealed the recount results to the Supreme Court alleging that ballots were cast that should not have been accepted, ballots were cast that should have been accepted and two absentee ballot envelopes could not be found. Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are to be sworn into office on Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline.