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
01/30/2015 12:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – A disabled Cherokee Nation citizen with a love for hunting was able to partake in hunts thanks to the assistance of a local game warden and an eye surgeon from Sherman, Texas. Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer knew of CN citizen Rick Tabor’s love of hunting and his desire to hunt even though he was born disabled and confined to a wheelchair. With the help of Cramer and eye surgeon Bob Burlingame, Tabor was able to realize his dream of hunting elk this past fall. “Cramer had come to know Rick, and because of Rick’s desire to hunt, despite physical disabilities that would sideline most, he was determined to give this bright young man an opportunity to hunt,” Burlingame said. Burlingame purchased a ranch in Sequoyah and Adair counties and turned it into a wildlife haven while maintaining it as a timber and cattle ranch. Four years ago, Burlingame and Cramer met when Cramer visited Burlingame’s ranch. From that meeting, Burlingame said, Cramer and Tabor were to form an unusual alliance, the purpose of which was to enable Tabor to pursue his hunting dreams. Sam Munholland of the Oklahoma Youth Hunting and Shooting Sports Association assisted Burlingame and Cramer in locating a device that would allow Tabor to hunt. The wheelchair device was procured from beadaptive.com, a web-based company specializing in devices designed to aid disabled hunters. It was equipped with a brand new 30-06 rifle topped with a pistol scope and presented to Tabor for high school graduation this past spring. Cramer and Tabor wasted no time in sighting in the new rifle. After dispatching several hogs on Burlingame’s ranch later in the summer, Tabor’s first fall hunting trip in November proved successful after he harvested a buck and a doe. Cramer again visited with Burlingame regarding hunting possibilities for Tabor. Cramer and Tabor hoped to have a more challenging hunt. Three years previously, Burlingame had stocked Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch with elk, and a trophy bull was on the agenda as Tabor’s next hunting adventure. In December, the team of Cramer, Tabor, Burlingame and fellow hunter B.J. Latta waited patiently for an opportunity. Cramer, who had long wanted Burlingame to hunt with Tabor, gave up his spot in the hunting blind, taking a position farther south to watch the action. “Suddenly B.J. hoarsely whispered, ‘I see horns.’ Sure enough, a large bull loomed in the short brush adjacent to the trail they were hunting. After 30 tense minutes of wondering whether the massive bull would step out, B.J. once again exclaimed, ‘He’s stepping out,’” Burlingame said. “Rick readied himself for the shot, guiding his gun with a special aligning device that he operates with his mouth. After lining up his crosshairs just behind the bull’s shoulder, he coolly announced ‘I’m about to take the shot.’ The rifle roared, and the bull staggered as Rick’s bullet found its mark, a perfect hit. He followed up with a second shot to put the bull down for good.” Tabor’s hunting friends celebrated back at Burlingame’s barn. The bull was a true trophy for Tabor, Burlingame said. “Thus ended a fantastic hunt by a gutsy young man with physical challenges that most would consider insurmountable. It should be noted that none of this would have occurred without the hard work and dedication of Jared Cramer, who befriended Rick and tirelessly worked to make his hunting dreams a reality,” Burlingame said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/29/2015 12:17 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The eighth annual Reindeer Games Poker Tournament at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs helped raise $1,000 for the Oaks Indian Mission. The funds were raised to ensure that children would be able to celebrate important milestones in 2015. “We are very happy that Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Cherokee Nation Businesses continue to support the children we care for,” Oaks Indian Mission Executive Director Vance Blackfox said. “Gifts such as this and the ongoing support from casino employees and guests are crucial to providing the children with structure, a place to call home and educational opportunities that will bring hope for them and their futures.” Those participating in the tournament were given an opportunity to purchase additional poker chips. The money generated from the rebuy was designated as a contribution to OIM, raising approximately $1,000. “I’m proud to see our employees working hard to make sure the children of Oaks Indian Mission feel special throughout the year,” Tony Nagy, Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs general manager, said. “This is something they have continued to be passionate about. Making birthday memories is important for any child, but these children especially need loved during their special day.” Aside from the donation of money, CNE, CNB and OIM collaborate year round to help better the lives of each child at the mission. Employees from CNE and CNB volunteer at the mission and serve as storytellers, mentors and tutors. Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs employees also provide monthly birthday cakes to the youth at OIM. OIM cares for Native American youth ages 4 to 18. They house approximately 36 youth during the school year with a majority of them staying during the summer months. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.oaksindianmission.org" target="_blank">www.oaksindianmission.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have told tribal employees that they will now text or call employees regarding possible office closings or late start times. “This administration wants to ensure our employees are informed, and quickly, about decisions that affect their work day,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “In the past, when a foot of snow or ice patches covered the ground, our employees called our complex early that morning to listen to an operator recording to see if tribal offices would be open at 8 a.m., or they would text co-workers or bosses to ask.” To alert employees earlier the tribe will use Blackboard Connect, “a mass notification service.” “This is how it works: the system allowed our IT department to plug in all Cherokee Nation issued employee cell phones into a call list. When inclement weather strikes and our administration makes a decision to close the complex, or start work later than normal, employees will receive a phone call or text message, or both, as early as possible with such updates recorded by our Communications office,” according to a CN Communications release. “School systems, such as Fort Gibson, and city governments, such as Tahlequah, use similar messaging systems to keep their stakeholders informed.” CN employees who use a personal cell phone can send a name, title, department and phone number to communications@cherokee.org if they would like to receive the same notifications. “We realize it may take using this system a few times before it’s seamless, but I believe this will be another tool that increases the safety for employees and keeps you all better informed,” the release states. “Employees may also check Cherokee Nation Facebook and Cherokee Nation Twitter for the latest inclement weather related work updates as well.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/27/2015 11:01 AM
Tahlequah Sequoyah certainly has picked a proper time to peak during the season. The Indians and Lady Indians have taken advantage of a grueling January slate. The boys (11-5) are riding a seven-game win streak and the girls (13-3) have a six-game win streak of their own, too. Saturday, Jan. 24, Sequoyah claimed the boys and girls championship trophies at the Tri-State Classic in Jay. That type of domination couldn’t have come at a better time with No 1 boys and girls’ basketball teams in Class 4A coming to Sequoyah on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Fort Gibson is a combined 27-1, as it has dominated its opponents throughout the season consistently. The girls game will start at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will follow at 8 p.m. The same night, Sequoyah will honor a group who helped pave the way for basketball success at SHS--the Native American “Dream Team,” of 1998. “This was the team that broke the ice, being the first SHS team to reach the state basketball tournament,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Leroy Qualls, who is now a superintendent, was the head coach of the boys team. Also, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was a member of the team, too, among notables. In addition to the ceremony honoring the team, an autographed basketball from a notable Oklahoma City Thunder guard can be won, too. “Thanks to a generous donation from BancFirst of Tahlequah, we have a basketball autographed by Russell Westbrook that we will raffle off the same night,” Crittenden said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
01/27/2015 08:15 AM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
01/26/2015 03:45 PM
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