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
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


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BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2014 04:09 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix will be selling subscriptions and merchandise Sat. Aug. 30, 2014 during the 62nd Annual Cherokee National Holiday. Come visit with staff members from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Courthouse Square and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex during it's annual open house. Scroll through the photos to see when and where each staff member will be.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2014 02:12 PM
In this month's issue: • Hard Rock Cherokee Tower under revamp • Cherokee Phoenix wins awards at NAJA conference • Tribe requests IHS help to build Tahlequah hospital • Watt strives to enlighten others with his artwork ...and much more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/8/8483_2014-09-01.pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a> to read this month's issue.
BY JAMI MURPHY
08/29/2014 01:20 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During the Cherokee National Holiday weekend, Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials unveiled plans to build the Cherokee Springs Plaza, a travel destination that will include venues for dining, shopping and gaming. An artist’s rendering shows the complex including retail spaces, restaurant sites, auto sales lots, office spaces, a convention center, two hotels and a casino. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said purchasing the former Cherry Springs Golf Course property and the vacant land parallel to Highway 62 was a business decision of CNB “knowing that anytime they do anything it’s first class.” “It was the largest contiguous piece of property left in the capitol of the Cherokee Nation, and they’ve been on the drawing board for almost a year now with some of the best land developers in the country coming up with their plan to make this a showpiece in not only all of Indian Country, but I think it’s going to be a showplace for Oklahoma,” Baker said. [BLOCKQUOTE]The approximate 150 acres will bring more traffic to Tahlequah and more attention to the CN, he said. “Just be an awesome, awesome development for this part of Oklahoma,” Baker added. When officials unveiled the project, they said there would be spots for approximately six national restaurants. “I don’t know anybody in this part of the country that hasn’t said ‘I wish we had this’ or ‘I wished we had that.’ People don’t realize the dollars that go to Muskogee or go to Tulsa to just go out to dinner, and we think we can reverse that to where folks from Muskogee are going to be coming this way,” Baker said. “Folks from Tulsa, they can play golf. They eat at our restaurants and eventually stay at our hotel. It’s just going to be a destination of a mixture of fine dining, shopping, a casino resort, golfing. It’s going to tie everything together here at the Cherokee Nation.” Baker said the space would also include a convention center so people who often use convention centers at hotels in the Tulsa area can stay closer to home. He added that CNB Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett had much to do with what the CN envisioned for the property and was the “perfect fit to carry the ball.” Garrett said he’s looking forward to helping execute Baker’s vision for the property. “As chief said, I think that for the first time the citizens of Tahlequah and Cherokee County are going to have the entertainment and amenities that they deserve. They’re no longer going to have to travel to Tulsa, Muskogee or other larger cities outside of the area to enjoy a restaurant or some shopping opportunities that they’ve previously had to travel for,” he said. “We also hope to be providing a venue for entertainment and other community activities within a conference center that will be attached to a hotel.” The project will be completed in three phases, Garrett said. Phase 1 will include the “civil engineering” portion of the project that will consist of road construction and pad sites where potential businesses will be developed. “So our initial efforts will be focused on the engineering and road construction necessary for the development including water, sewer and those sorts of things,” Garrett said. The first thing citizens will see, he said, will be pad sites along the highway that will be the future homes of restaurants. Phase 1 is underway and is expected to be complete in 12 to 18 months. But citizens will see work on the property within the next month, Garrett said. Once everything is complete, Baker said, the CN would continue with its plan to move the Cherokee Nation Immersion Charter School into what will be the former Cherokee Casino Tahlequah, located west of Sequoyah Schools along Hwy 62. “We designed it that way when we built it…so we won’t have two casinos. But when we build the one there (behind Cherokee Springs Golf Course), the one out here (Hwy 62) will become the immersion school,” Baker said. The Cherokee Phoenix will update this story as more developments unfold.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/29/2014 11:40 AM
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/8/8481_HolidayGuide2014.pdf" target="_blank">Here</a> you will find the schedule of events for the 62nd Annual Cherokee National Holiday.
BY BRYAN POLLARD
08/29/2014 10:23 AM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, September 10, 2014. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/8/8480_140910_EB_Agenda.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
BY JOSH NEWTON
08/29/2014 08:31 AM
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