Cherokee Freedmen descendant Anthony King, center, asks a question while Freedmen descendants Raymond Foreman, left, and William Lawrie listen during a July 14 meeting in Muskogee, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Freedmen anticipate winning citizenship rights

Cherokee Nation citizen David Cornsilk shares tribal registration information with Cherokee Freedmen descendants during a July 14 meeting in Muskogee, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A Cherokee Freedmen descendant wears a T-shirt that honors his heritage during a July 14 meeting in Muskogee, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen David Cornsilk shares tribal registration information with Cherokee Freedmen descendants during a July 14 meeting in Muskogee, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
07/20/2012 08:28 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Area Cherokee Freedmen descendants gathered July 14 at the First Missionary Baptist Church to discuss the latest development in their fight for Cherokee Nation citizenship, saying justice would soon be served on their behalf.

On July 2, the Department of Interior filed a counterclaim against the Nation to obtain a declaratory judgment that the 1866 Treaty between the CN and United States provides Freedmen descendants with certain rights and privileges, including tribal citizenship.

The counterclaim is now part of a lawsuit filed in 2009 by the CN against five Freedmen and the Interior in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa. No hearing dates have been set for the suit or the counterclaim.

“It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been waiting for justice to be served for the Cherokee Freedmen,” said Kathy Washington, one of the Freedmen defendants in the case.

She said many of her ancestors are on “all the Cherokee rolls” and her great-great-great-great grandfather was a by-blood Cherokee named Mose Mackey.

“We come from a long line of Cherokee history and to be told that our history no longer matters, it really does hurt. It deeply hurts,” she said. “We came across the Trail (of Tears) and suffered along with the Cherokee and helped build the Nation.”

A Sept. 2, 2011, injunction from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia allows Washington and approximately 2,800 other Freedmen to have CN citizenship while the case is pending.

Washington said she’s praying that soon other Freedmen would be able to enroll in the CN, too.

CN citizen David Cornsilk, a supporter of Freedmen citizenship, spoke to about 50 Freedmen who attended the July 14 meeting. He said he believes with the Interior’s counterclaim Freedmen are “close” to victory and the CN would soon start processing Freedmen applications that have been in the Registrar’s Office since March 2007.

On March 3, 2007, CN voters amended the tribe’s constitution requiring a citizen to have an ancestor with Indian blood on the Dawes Roll.

“I’m not trying to speak for the chief (Bill John Baker)…it just makes sense to me that if people have been denied the ability to be registered in the tribe for as long as you folks have, they need to take special steps to go ahead and get those that have been sitting there waiting through the process,” he said.

Cornsilk walked Freedmen through the registration process and provided tips for getting citizenship applications processed with minimal delays.

Freedmen are basing their rights to CN citizenship on the 1866 Treaty, which was signed after the Civil War. The treaty dictated terms to the CN because it allied with the Confederacy.

In support of its countersuit, the Interior alleges Article IX of the treaty provided, and the CN agrees, that all Freedmen “who have been liberated by voluntary act of their former owner or by law, as well as all free colored persons who were in the country at the commencement of the rebellion, and are now residents therein, or who may return within six months, and their descendants, shall have all the rights of native Cherokee…” Also in November 1866, the CN amended its constitution to comply with treaty.

The Interior is also asking the court to rule that the treaty provided Freedmen and their descendants with “all the rights of native Cherokees,” including the right to citizenship; that the Five Tribes Act and other statutes did not repeal the 1866 Treaty; and that the March 3, 2007, Cherokee constitutional amendment is “inconsistent with the treaty.”

In May, CN Attorney General Todd Hembree filed for a declaratory judgment against the Interior, asserting the treaty “did not guarantee to Freedmen and their descendants eternal, unimpeachable rights to citizenship within the Cherokee Nation.” Additionally, Hembree’s complaint seeks a judgment declaring that the treaty “does not bestow upon…Freedmen a right to citizenship within the Cherokee Nation that cannot be altered by the Cherokee Constitution.”

Hembree said he looks forward to having “all interested parties in the same courtroom and getting a definitive resolution to this matter.”

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
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials will attend area Christmas parades with floats during the holiday season. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 9, the CN will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Lights in Tahlequah. The tribe will also have a float in Catoosa’s Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. The tribe will also have a float in the Christmas Parade in Jay, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, as well as the Christmas Parade in Hulbert, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Finishing out the holiday parade season, the CN officials will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Sallisaw, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
12/06/2016 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After several years of same-day lightings, the Cherokee Nation and Northeastern State University held their holidays “Lights On” ceremonies on separate days. On Dec. 2, CN officials turned on the tribe’s lights at approximatley 6:30 p.m. at the Cherokee Courthouse Square. “We’re preparing to actually begin our Christmas season here at the historic courthouse of the Cherokee Nation with a lighting ceremony that’s going to take place with all the Christmas lights and decorations.” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “We’re getting into the Christmas season. That time when we remember the birth of Christ and we celebrate his birthday.” The CN event included a live Nativity scene as well as corn shuck doll making, a mailbox for letters to Santa, the story of the first Christmas, refreshments and caroling from the Cherokee National Youth Choir. NSU held its lighting ceremony on Nov. 29 at Seminary Hall. NSU President Steve Turner said the tribe and university held the lighting ceremonies on different days to make it easier for people to see both events. He said in past years those attending the first lighting would have to rush off to see the second event. Turner said the separate events did not diminish the strong ties between NSU and CN. “Tonight we’re having the 24th annual ‘Lights On’ ceremony on campus here at Tahlequah in front of this iconic building, Seminary Hall. And you couldn’t ask for a more dynamic, panoramic place to host this event because of the contributions that were made some 127 and a half years ago by the Cherokee Nation,” he said. According to NSUOK.edu, work began on the original female and male seminaries after the passage of an 1849 act by the CN that created institutions for secondary education for young women and men. In 1887, a fire destroyed the Female Seminary, which was located where the Cherokee Heritage Center stands today in Park Hill. The seminary was rebuilt at the NSU’s current location in 1889 and is now one of several buildings on campus.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/05/2016 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The National Indian Gaming Commission on Nov. 30 announced its first Technology Leaders Fellowship opportunity to support tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal governments. According to a NIGC release, NIGC officials said they see the importance of leadership in Indian Country year-round and have created the fellowship to help cultivate future leaders in Indian gaming. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act mandates that the NIGC support tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal governments. “In keeping with the mission of IGRA, as well as promoting our initiative of staying ahead of the technology curve, the NIGC is proud to offer this fellowship as a one-year apprenticeship-type opportunity for recent graduates in the fields of technology and who are interested in Indian gaming,” the release states. According to the release, the Technology Leaders Fellow will assist and collaborate with NIGC technology staff on a variety of special projects. It also states that the fellowship was developed based on conversations with tribal leaders about the important role technology plays, and will continue to play in the tribal gaming industry. From those conversations, the release states, the NIGC designed a program with the purpose of helping to foster technological expertise specific to tribal gaming. “In this growing industry it is necessary to train the best and brightest in gaming technology serving Indian gaming. This fellowship supports our initiative of staying ahead of the technology curve by giving hands on training to recent graduates that can be taken back into Indian Country and Indian gaming. NIGC Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri said. To learn more about the Technology Leaders Fellowship requirements, go to <a href="http://www.nigc.gov/utility/nigc-employment-opportunity-technology-leaders-fellowship" target="_blank">http://www.nigc.gov/utility/nigc-employment-opportunity-technology-leaders-fellowship</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/05/2016 10:30 AM
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — Protesters celebrated a major victory in their push to reroute the Dakota Access oil pipeline away from a tribal water source but pledged to remain camped on federal land in North Dakota anyway, despite Monday's government deadline to leave. Hundreds of people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment cheered and chanted "mni wichoni" — "water is life" in Lakota Sioux — after the Army Corps of Engineers refused Sunday to grant the company permission to extend the pipeline beneath a Missouri River reservoir. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters argue that extending the project beneath Lake Oahe would threaten the tribe's water source and cultural sites. The segment is the last major sticking point for the four-state, $3.8 billion project. "The whole world is watching," said Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. "I'm telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over." Despite the deadline, authorities say they won't forcibly remove the protesters. The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, released a statement Sunday night slamming the Army Corps' decision as politically motivated and alleging that President Barack Obama's administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. "The White House's directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. That uncertainty, Allard said, is part of the reason the protesters won't leave. "We don't know what Trump is going to do," Allard said. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to consider alternative routes for the pipeline's crossing. Her full decision doesn't rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck. "Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." North Dakota's leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the Department of Justice will "continue to monitor the situation" and stands "ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions." "The safety of everyone in the area — law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike — continues to be our foremost concern," she added. Carla Youngbear of the Meskwaki Potawatomi tribe made her third trip from central Kansas to be at the protest site. "I have grandchildren, and I'm going to have great grandchildren," she said. "They need water. Water is why I'm here." Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn't respond to messages seeking comment. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has done much of the policing for the protests, said that "local law enforcement does not have an opinion" on the easement and that his department will continue to "enforce the law." U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps' "thoughtful approach ... ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts." Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn't clear how many actually arrived. "We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action," Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: "If we come forward, they will attack us." Instead, he told the veterans, "If you see someone who needs help, help them out." Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they'll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans' presence "about right and wrong and peace and love." Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury. "That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they'll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will "will result in their arrest." Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who's a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters' main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. "This is not just a native issue," he said, "This is an issue for everyone.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/05/2016 09:30 AM
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won't grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota, handing a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters, who argued the project would threaten the tribe's water source and cultural sites. North Dakota's leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States. The four-state, $3.8 billion project is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to "explore alternate routes" for the pipeline's crossing. Her full decision doesn't rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck. "Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, released a statement Sunday night slamming the decision as politically motivated and alleging that President Obama's administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. "The White House's directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. The decision came a day before the government's deadline for the several hundred people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment to leave the federal land. But demonstrators say they're prepared to stay, and authorities say they won't forcibly remove them. As the news spread Sunday, cheers and cheers and chants of "mni wichoni" â?? "water is life" in Lakota Sioux â?? broke out among the protesters. Some in the crowd banged drums. Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said he was pleased but remained cautious, saying, "We don't know what Trump is going to do." "The whole world is watching," Allard added. "I'm telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over." Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the Department of Justice will "continue to monitor the situation" and stands "ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions." "The safety of everyone in the area - law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike - continues to be our foremost concern," she added. Carla Youngbear of the Meskwaki Potawatomi tribe made her third trip from central Kansas to be at the protest site. "I have grandchildren, and I'm going to have great grandchildren," she said. "They need water. Water is why I'm here." Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn't immediately respond to messages left seeking comment. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has done much of the policing for the protests, said that "local law enforcement does not have an opinion" on the easement and that his department will continue to "enforce the law." U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps' "thoughtful approach ... ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts." Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn't clear how many actually arrived. "We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action," Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: "If we come forward, they will attack us." Instead, he told the veterans, "If you see someone who needs help, help them out." Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury. "That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they'll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will "will result in their arrest." Veterans Stand for Standing Rock's GoFundMe.com page had raised more than $1 million of its $1.2 million goal by Sunday â?? money due to go toward food, transportation and supplies. Cars waiting to get into the camp Sunday afternoon were backed up for more than a half-mile. "People are fighting for something, and I thought they could use my help," said Navy veteran and Harvard graduate student Art Grayson. The 29-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, flew the first leg of the journey, then rode from Bismarck in the back of a pickup truck. He has finals this week, but told professors, "I'll see you when I get back." Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who's a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters' main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. "This is not just a native issue," he said, "This is an issue for everyone." Art Woodson and two other veterans drove 17 hours straight from Flint, Michigan, a city whose lead-tainted water crisis parallels with the tribe's fight over water, he said. "We know in Flint that water is in dire need," the 49-year-old disabled Gulf War Army veteran said. "In North Dakota, they're trying to force pipes on people. We're trying to get pipes in Flint for safe water." Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they'll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans' presence "about right and wrong and peace and love.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/04/2016 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix is seeking citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to submit design ideas for its 2017 Cherokee National Holiday T-shirt. For its initial 2016 T-shirt design, the Cherokee Phoenix used CN citizen Buffalo Gouge’s design that Gouge said was inspired by the original Cherokee Phoenix logo with modern modifications. On the 2016 shirt, a phoenix rises from the fire and the seven Cherokee clans are featured behind the bird. The Cherokee Phoenix banner is between the bird’s wingspan, and above the banner are seven stars also representing the clans. The Cherokee Phoenix printed 200 T-shirts and sold them at its office and Cherokee National Holiday booths during the Labor Day weekend event. Shirts went on sale to the public on Sept. 2 and sold out on Sept. 3. Assistant Editor Travis Snell said the Cherokee Phoenix would like to choose a different Cherokee artist each year to design the news organization’s holiday T-shirt. Snell said he initially thought of Gouge and approached him to be the first artist to bring the idea to life. “I’m thankful to be the first artist to do this. I mean this, this will be here forever,” Gouge said. Snell said after contracting with Gouge, Cherokee Phoenix staff members gave Gouge an idea of what they wanted the design to represent as well as the freedom to create. After several meetings with staff members regarding the shirt’s look, Gouge’s design came to fruition. “I think Buffalo did an excellent job creating the design for our 2016 holiday shirt. It sparked a lot of buzz before they even went on sale during the Cherokee National Holiday,” Snell said. “Now we are looking for that next great design from a Cherokee artist. Hopefully we can expand the number of shirts we print next year for the holiday because Buffalo’s design sold quickly.” Former Miss Cherokee Kristen Thomas said she loved the artwork instantly when she saw online photos of the T-shirts before they went on sale. “It’s a beautiful design, and I really enjoy the colors,” she said. “The phoenix represents continuation and renewal, and for me that’s what the Cherokee National Holiday celebrates. I think I just found my new favorite T-shirt.” Those interested in submitting a design idea can email the idea and an estimated commission fee to <a href="mailto: travis-snell@cherokee.org">travis-snell@cherokee.org</a> by Jan. 1. The Cherokee Phoenix retains all rights to the design. For more information, call 918-453-5358.