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
07/25/2016 04:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Join Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism in honoring the legacy of former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief John Ross on Aug. 2 at the John Ross Museum. The one-hour discussion begins at noon with Amanda Pritchett, historical interpreter of the George M. Murrell Home historic site, leading the session. John Ross, principal chief from 1828–66, served longer in the position than any other person. As principal chief, Ross witnessed devastation by both the Indian removals and the U.S. Civil War. The discussion is open to the public and free to attend. Guests are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch. The museum will also offer free admission throughout the day. The John Ross Museum highlights the life Ross and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and the Nation’s passion for education. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School No. 51 and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery where John Ross and other notable Cherokee citizens are buried. The John Ross Museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Road. CN museums are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For information on CNCT, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
07/25/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials, citizens and guests on July 18 celebrated the life and achievements of former CN Secretary of State Charles L. Head at the Cherokee Courthouse as part of the third annual Charles L. Head Day. Head co-founded the tribe’s ONE FIRE Against Violence Victim Services Office before dying in a car accident on Jan. 30, 2013 near Chouteau. The CN citizen and Pryor native was 63. That same year Principal Chief Bill John Baker designated July 18, Head’s Birthday, as a “national day of celebration of the life of Charles L. Head throughout the Cherokee Nation.” According to the tribe’s website, ONE FIRE provides services to increase the safety for victims of crime. ONE FIRE stands for Our Nation Ending Fear, Intimidation, Rape and Endangerment. “We’re real excited because today is our annual butterfly release in remembrance of Charles L. Head” ONE FIRE Victim Services Director Nikki Baker said. “Before he passed away, he was really working hard on ONE FIRE, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Today, we release butterflies in his memory and also to the legacy he leaves behind, which are the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.” Domestic violence survivor and former ONE FIRE client Lena Nells also spoke at the event about how the program helped her be successful after being abused. Nells, who is Cheyenne-Arapaho, Kickapoo and Navajo, said as commissioned intelligence officer for the U.S. Army she never expected her life to be affected by domestic violence but was thankful ONE FIRE was available when it did. “They educated me, helped me understand what I was going through.” Nells said. Other speakers described how the program has helped and what Head meant to them. ONE FIRE Victim Services Manager Amanda Drizzle told the audience that the department saw 216 clients in 2015 and has seen 107 in 2016. “We were also able to help 120 kids get to safe homes,” Drizzle said. She also credited CN marshals for their help in domestic violence issues. “They’ve been referring a lot of people to us, and we’ve been able to help a lot of women get to households…Out of these people, we were able to get several women to safe homes, where they could spend Christmas, where they can spend birthdays, where they can come home safe after work.” Former Little Miss Cherokee and sexual assault survivor Cierra Fields read a poem honoring both the domestic violence victims and their caregivers as butterflies were released. “With this symbolic gesture, we honor those who have left us and encourage those left behind to continue on the fight, on the wings of hope,” she said.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/22/2016 12:00 PM
MUSKOGEEE, Okla. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and 12-year prison sentence of a former Choctaw Nation construction director. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for a mistrial Tuesday sought by Jason Merida, who was convicted in November 2014 on two counts each of theft and tax fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery. Prosecutors alleged contractors used false billing practices between 2008 and 2011 during construction of the tribe's Durant and Pocola casinos. Money generated from the false billings was used to make campaign donations and purchase gifts. Merida testified he received gifts from vendors but claimed it didn't affect his decisions because he did not have the authority to select contractors.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
07/22/2016 09:15 AM
BRUSHY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Breanna Potter and the Brushy Cherokee Action Association on July 14 hosted the second annual back-to-school giveaway at the Brushy Community Center, providing children and their families needed items such as backpacks, shoes, coats and hygiene kits. “We…have some families in our area that are homeless. They don’t have anywhere to live,” Potter said. “We have families in our area that live in tents, and those families oftentimes can’t get those types of items. So we’re just here to kind of fill in the gaps.” In 2015, Potter and the BCCA began applying for an in-kind donation grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation to get the needed items for the giveaway. “The reason we started writing this grant last year was because there’s a big need in our community for basic essential items, and a lot of time a lot of these families fall through the cracks,” Potter said. “They either make just enough that they don’t qualify for things, or some of the families aren’t actually Cherokee so they don’t qualify for services at the Cherokee Nation. So we have a lot of families that end up falling through the cracks and the system and aren’t able to get the items they need, and the kids are the ones who end up suffering.” Earlier this year Potter received another grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation called the Dreamstarter Grant. With it she created a youth group in the community to help youths gain leadership skills and learn about diabetes prevention. Now youth group members, known collectively as the Brushy Youth Dream Team, are in turn using those acquired skills to give back to their community with Potter leading them as program director. Parents of BYDT members said they noticed the development in their children thank to the new skills. “I think it’s great because my kids are shy. This will teach them, maybe, to communicate better with their peers and with adults and learn to make their way in the community and kind of what their role is, that they can do something even though they’re just kids,” Crystal Thomas, mother of a BYDT member, said. Potter said the impacts the BYDT and BCCA are making in the community are noticeable with events such as the giveaway. “The coolest things is when I’m driving around and everything, I see kids out and I see them wearing these shoes, or I see the kids at school and I happen to stop by for a few minutes and some of the kids have the backpacks or the coats,” Potter said. Potter said the biggest impact she’s seen in the community is that kids are able to receive items that their families struggle to provide. Potter said she and her teams are trying to get additional funding so they can host more events and help more families. For more information about the BCCA and the BYDT, visit <a href="http://www.brushycherokeeactionassociation.org" target="_blank">brushycherokeeactionassociation.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/21/2016 04:00 PM
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BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/21/2016 12:00 PM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A prosecutor said the state wants its own psychologist to examine a woman charged with crashing her car into a crowd at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade. The Tulsa World reports that a pretrial status conference in 26-year-old Adacia Chambers' case was held Tuesday. Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas said the state would like to have its own witness examine Chambers, a Cherokee Nation citizen, if defense attorney Tony Coleman intends to call a psychologist who met with Chambers soon after her arrest. Coleman said at the hearing that he intends to call on the psychologist to testify. Coleman has said Chambers is mentally ill, but she was found competent to stand trial in December. According to Coleman, the psychologist has not yet performed his evaluation of Chambers because he hasn't received a copy of the final order from the judge approving the use of state funds to pay for his services. Prosecutors said Chambers intentionally drove around a police barricade and into spectators on Oct. 24 in Stillwater. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery. Chambers' trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 10