http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgMuscogee Creek citizen Eli Grayson emphasizes a point about the Cherokee Freedmen issue during an Aug. 27 meeting in Muskogee. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/23/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Casino Tahlequah will host the 14th annual Cherokee National Holiday Car Show from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 3. The all-ages car show is free to the public. At 2 p.m. is when judges will award trophies in nearly 40 categories. “This is always a fun event to host because there is so much excitement about all the great classic cars that overflow our parking lot,” Cherokee Casino Tahlequah General Manager Rod Fourkiller said. “It’s really impressive how good the vehicles are that enter the car show. It makes it a tough decision for the judges, and the car enthusiasts can’t get enough of them. If you love cars, you definitely need to be here that Sunday.” Categories include stock and modified cars and trucks for each decade, beginning pre-1935 through 2000s. Other categories include Camaro, Mustang, Chevelle and Corvette from multiple decades, and motorcycles with categories for pre-1979 and post-1980. In addition to category awards, recognition will be given to Best of Show, Best Paint, Best Interior, Chief’s Choice, Speaker’s Choice, Council’s Choice, Casino’s Choice and the Chamber of Commerce’s Choice. Registration is from 9 – 11 a.m. and costs $20. Members of car clubs who want to park together should arrive together, as parking will be filled as cars arrive. The first 125 entries receive a dash plaque, while every car show participant receives sunglasses, an event shirt and $10 in rewards play. Also, a fireworks show is scheduled for dusk. Cherokee Casino Tahlequah is located 4 miles south of Tahlequah on State Highway 62. For more information call, 918-207-3600 or visit <a href="http://www.CherokeeCasino.com" target="_blank">www.CherokeeCasino.com</a>. To find a complete list of the 65th Cherokee National Holiday events, visit <a href="http://www.Cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.Cherokee.org</a> and click on the Cherokee National Holiday quick link.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/23/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a Cherokee Nation Communications press release, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded the tribe’s Environmental Programs a $300,000 grant to create a national tribal mentoring program that focuses on the development and reporting of water quality assessments. The Environmental Information Exchange Network Grant will provide the CN with $100,000 per year for three years, the release states. It also states that in return CN Environmental Programs staff would help other tribes use an EPA reporting tool called Assessment, Total Maximum Daily Load Tracking and Implementation System or ATTAINS. The online system allows the EPA states, territories, tribes and other partners to submit water quality data using an integrated reporting process, according to the release. “Over the past year, we have been active within our 14 counties and across Indian Country when it comes to the conservation of water,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Now, with this grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, a new door has been opened for our environmental programs. Tribes across the country will have a strong mentor and partner in the Cherokee Nation. Our environmental programs will play a vital role in educational efforts and outreach to tribal water programs.” The release states that CN Environmental Programs staff members will develop a webpage to serve as a resource for tribes that want to learn more about ATTAINS. According to the release, CN workers will also create and coordinate workshops, trainings and meetings taught by the EPA and tribal mentors and publish a newsletter to showcase the ATTAINS reporting tool for tribal water programs. “This is another example of Cherokee Nation serving as a leader in Indian Country,” Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill said. “Not only does the Cherokee Nation depend on the technical ability and excellence of our Environmental Programs staff, but tribes across the country depend on them, too. We are looking forward to working with various EPA regional water programs and tribal water staff across the nation.” The Clean Water Act requires states, territories and some tribes to monitor water quality and report to EPA on the waters evaluated through the process known as assessment. CN Environmental Programs can begin working on the project in October, the release states.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/22/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School senior Danya Pigeon, of Hulbert, on Aug. 19 was crowned the 2017-18 Junior Miss Cherokee during the 26th annual leadership competition at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center. For the next year, Pigeon will act as a goodwill ambassador for the tribe, promoting the government, language, history and traditions of the Cherokee people. Three teens competed for the honor in three categories: a cultural presentation, an impromptu question-and-answer and a speech on their respective platform. Pigeon, 18, earned her crown and sash after giving a special presentation on Sequoyah and the Cherokee syllabary, giving her opinion on connecting citizens inside and outside of the tribal jurisdiction and speaking on her platform, alcohol abuse. “It has been a dream of mine to be Junior Miss Cherokee, and I would like to thank God for giving me this opportunity to serve the Cherokee Nation,” Pigeon said. Pigeon is the daughter of Tammy West and Walter Pigeon. She previously served in the Cherokee National Youth Choir and is a member of the Harvest Time Tabernacle youth group. The Junior Miss Cherokee competition is held each year in conjunction with the Cherokee National Holiday. The 2017-18 Miss Cherokee competition is slated for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26, at Cornerstone Fellowship Church in Tahlequah.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/21/2017 04:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will meet at 10 a.m. on Aug. 31 in the Tribal Services Conference room located at the W. W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. In Person: 17675 S Muskogee Ave, Tahlequah, OK 74464. Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex, Tribal Services Conference Room Conference Call: 1-866-210-1669 Code: 4183136# Agenda Items: 1. Welcome 2. Roll Call: Board members present 3. Approval of Minutes from last meeting- July 18, 2017 4. Update from Editor 5. Old business 6. New business 7. Set next meeting 8. Public comment 9. Adjourn
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/21/2017 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation hosted a “Solar Eclipse Watch Party” for its employees and citizens on Aug. 21 at the One Fire Field, west of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The eclipse began at 11:45 a.m. CST, peaked around 1:10 p.m. and ended about 2:40 p.m. According to NASA’s website, all of North America was able to observe the sun’s eclipse. The totality path, where the moon completely covered the sun and its tenuous atmosphere stretched from Oregon to South Carolina. Observers outside this path, as in the case of the CN, saw a partial eclipse where the moon covered part of the sun. Locally it was estimated at about 90 percent coverage. CN Communications officials handed out 1,000 pairs of NASA-approved solar eclipse viewing glasses to employees and visitors. “A solar eclipse is an extremely rare event. We wanted our employees to witness and enjoy this rare occasion safely,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. The Burrow family, of San Antonio, was among the many observers at One Fire Field. “We drove to the Cherokee Nation specifically for the solar eclipse,” CN citizen Catherine Burrow said. “We wanted to be here for it.” Throughout the watch party, Cherokee storyteller Robert Lewis shared the Cherokee eclipse story of how a frog once tried to eat the sun. “Cherokees began screaming, yelling and banging on things until they scared the frog away and saved the sun,” he said. Lewis summed up the eclipse philosophically. “It’s important that Cherokees see the eclipse because it reminds us of our place in the universe.” According to Accu-weather.com, those who missed today’s eclipse will have to wait until April 8, 2024, when the moon’s shadow will once again block out the sun across the United States. Next time the path will be more southwest to southeast and spread from Texas to Maine. <strong>Cherokee Take on Eclipses</strong> “When the sun or moon is eclipsed it is because a great frog up in the sky is trying to swallow it. Everybody knows this, even the Creeks and the other tribes, and in the olden times, 80 or 100 years ago, before the great medicine men were all dead, whenever they saw the sun grow dark the people would come together and fire guns and beat the drum, and in a little while this would frighten off the great frog and the sun would be all right again.” – From “The Moon and The Thunderers” on Page 257 of James Mooney’s “History, Myths, and Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
08/21/2017 09:45 AM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — While much of the country gawks at the solar eclipse, Bobbieann Baldwin will be inside with her children, shades drawn. In Navajo culture, the passing of the moon over the sun is an intimate moment in which the sun is reborn and tribal members take time out for themselves. No talking. No eating or drinking. No lying down. No fussing. "It's a time of renewal," said Baldwin, a Navajo woman from Fort Defiance, Arizona. "Kind of like pressing the alt, control, delete button on your computer, resetting everything." Across the country, American Indian tribes are observing the eclipse in similar and not-so-similar ways. Some tribal members will ignore it, others might watch while praying for an anticipated renewal, and those in prime viewing spots are welcoming visitors with storytelling, food and celebration. For the Crow Tribe in Montana, the eclipse coincides with the Parade Dance at the annual Crow fair, marking the tribe's new year. Many American Indian tribes revere the sun and moon as cultural deities, great sources of power and giver of life. The Crow's cultural director, William Big Day, said the sun is believed to die and come back to life during an eclipse. In more nomadic days, Crows would offer each other "good wishes" for their travels, and elders would advise them to do a cleansing ceremony to start anew, he said. U.S. Bureau of Indian Education spokeswoman Nedra Darling said the agency's schools, most of which are on the Navajo Nation, were given the option of closing Monday. Navajo Nation employees have Monday off, and other schools on and off the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah earlier decided to close in respect of the culture that teaches that looking at the sun during an eclipse can be harmful not only to one's eyesight but for overall well-being. "You're welcoming negativity into your life, or turmoil, or troublesome times ahead of you, as well as socially, health-wise and spiritually," Baldwin said. "You're observing something that should not be observed." Farther east near the Great Smoky Mountains, the Eastern Cherokee tribe is expecting thousands of spillover visitors from the national park. Stickball games during a two-day event will reinforce a lesson about cheating and the appearance of the moon. Fairgrounds supervisor Frieda Huskey recalled a legend of a player on the losing team picking up the ball, which is against the rules, and throwing it against the solid sky, so its appearance is small and pale. When the moon or sun is eclipsed, it's because a great frog is trying to swallow it, she said. In response, Cherokees beat drums and fire guns to scare off the frog and ensure the moon or sun don't disappear forever — just as they will do during Monday's solar eclipse, she said. Once the eclipse is over, Cherokee warriors will dance to celebrate the great frog's defeat. When the sun and the moon disappeared during eclipses in the past, it frightened indigenous people who believed they displeased the gods, said Stanford "Butch" Devinney, an Eastern Shoshone spiritual leader and teacher at Wyoming Indian Schools on the Wind River Reservation. The way he sees it now, the eclipse is an opportunity for renewal. "Maybe our way of thinking might change, our behavior," he said. "People will have a different outlook on life. Maybe it will change for the better. Be a different person." Students at two Northern Arapaho schools that share a reservation with the Eastern Shoshone will be using telescopes donated by NASA and special glasses to view the eclipse. Principal Elberta Monroe said teachers have been talking to students about the solar eclipse for months. It's "something students are going to remember for a lifetime," she said. Baldwin will call her children into the living room Monday, share traditional Navajo stories and ask them to meditate and reflect on what they want out of school, athletics and life, she said. For one daughter, the focus would be acceptance from elders on her role in rodeo. Baldwin will ask the children to concentrate and wish for happiness and health for their family, friends and all of humanity. "There's a little conversation, but there's that constant reminder that we need to be quiet," she said.