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
Interim Executive Editor – @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 ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/12/2016 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Budget cuts of 3 percent that began in January for Oklahoma agencies, including its public schools, will grow deeper beginning in March, the state's finance director warned on Monday. Collections to the state treasury have continued to come in below projections, exacerbating the revenue failure that was declared in December, Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger said in an email to state agency directors and finance officers. "We are communicating as proactively as possible because we recognize how challenging continued changes to the reduction levels will be for agencies," Doerflinger wrote. The exact amount of the reductions won't be known until next week after the state's Board of Equalization updates the forecast for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Doerflinger noted that because the Legislature is in session, state leaders could take further actions that could affect the size of the next reduction. House Speaker Jeff Hickman said before the session started that lawmakers might consider a bill to adjust agency allocations to protect priority areas like education and public safety, mandating deeper cuts to a state agency to ease the reductions for another. The 3 percent cuts ordered last month are expected to cost public schools about $47 million for the rest of the fiscal year that ends June 30. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said at the time she believes continued cuts could force some school districts to close their doors before the end of the current school year. Already, the University of Oklahoma announced a plan to cut about $20 million in spending through a voluntary retirement offer, travel restrictions and a reduction in staff resulting from attrition. OU President David Boren announced Monday he also intends to recommend a pay cut of 3 percent for himself and other top administrators, including vice presidents and deans, for the upcoming fiscal year. Revenue collections have fallen below the estimate upon which the state-appropriated budget for this fiscal year was based. Lawmakers are facing even deeper cuts to agency budgets for the fiscal year that begins July 1, with a hole of about $900 million, or 13 percent. That figure is expected to grow larger once the final revenue figures are certified next week. Much of the decline is a result of the plummeting price of oil and natural gas, and the impact of the energy industry's contraction on the state's economy. The state's individual income tax rate declined in January from 5.25 percent to 5 percent, a move that will cost the state about $147 million annually when fully implemented.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/11/2016 11:30 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – According to Adair County court records, a Cherokee Nation marshal on Jan. 12 arrested CN employee Joshua Lee Littlefield, 26, for claiming ownership of tribal equipment that was pawned at a shop in Stilwell. Court documents state that James Harper, a Cherokee Nation Marshal Service investigator, arrested Littlefield for pawning an Infocus projector to H&H Pawn Shop on or about Dec. 7 and signing an ownership certificate for the projector when it belongs to and was stolen from the CN. According to state law, any person selling or pledging property to a pawnbroker who uses a false declaration of ownership shall be guilty of a felony, upon conviction. The fine for a violation shall not exceed $500. Court documents show District Court Judge Liz Brown on Jan. 11 issued an arrest warrant and a $3,000 bond. Records state the warrant was served on Jan. 12 and that Littlefield posted bond that day. According to court records, Littlefield on Jan. 20 pleaded not guilty to one felony count of false declaration of ownership to a pawnbroker and that he was to reappear on Feb. 17 in Adair County District Court. In a Feb. 10 email, Chrissi Nimmo, CN senior assistant attorney general, said the CNMS was investigating possible theft of electronic equipment but did not state if Littlefield was the focus of that investigation. “Regarding…inquiry regarding J. Littlefield, and his state arrest for ‘false declaration of ownership of pawn,’ I can tell you that the Marshal service has an open investigation regarding possible theft of electronic equipment. Because it is an open investigation, we are unable to release any additional details at this time,” Nimmo wrote. Human Resources officials said Littlefield, as of Feb. 10, still worked for the tribe as a health technical analyst for Health Services’ Information Technology department. CN Communications officials added that Littlefield was on leave, but didn’t specify what type. As of publication, the Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Littlefield for comment but was unable to reach him. Court records show no attorney listed for Littlefield.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/10/2016 02:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Feb. 9 voted to recommend election law changes that will go before the Tribal Council’s Rules Committee on Feb. 17. Election Commissioner Carolyn Allen made a motion that the EC adopt the law changes that were discussed during the EC’s Policy Committee meeting. Allen then made a motion to recommend those changes to the Tribal Council. One election law change the EC recommended defines “term” to mean a full four years in which the elected or appointed officer may perform the functions of office…and shall not include the remainder of any unexpired or partial year. Another recommendation adds language that fines $5,000 to any person who fails to file as a candidate for office after receiving in-kind contributions and/or raised funds in excess of $1,000. Also on Feb. 9, the EC voted to purchase a safety deposit box and selected the commissioners and staff needed to be able to retrieve the box. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet at 1 p.m. on Feb. 17. The election law amendment item is No. 8 under New Business, according to the Rules Committee agenda.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/09/2016 04:30 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Steve Gragert, former Will Rogers Memorial executive director, will open the 2016 Milam Lecture Series telling about his Aug. 15 visit to the plane crash site that claimed the lives of Will Rogers and Wiley Post. Rogers and Post died Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska. The lecture will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum Theatre in Claremore. Admission is free and open to the public. Gragert, who started his involvement with Will Rogers in 1967 working on the Will Rogers Research project at Oklahoma State University, was named museum director in 2006, serving until 2014. He edited or co-edited 17 of the 22 volumes in the scholarly series “The Writings of Will Rogers,” published by OSU and two volumes of “The Papers of Will Rogers.” Gragert is also expected to share his most recent research on Will Rogers the humanitarian. For more information, call 918-341-0719 or toll free 1-800-324-9455.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/09/2016 01:15 PM
GLENPOOL, Okla. – Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Cherokee artist Bill Glass Jr. were honored at the 2016 Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival on Feb. 5 at the Glenpool Expo Center. As part of its 30th anniversary, the GTIAF honored veterans and Native Code Talkers. Crittenden, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, said he was surprised and humbled at being selected as the honorary chairman of the GTIAF. “The theme of this year’s festival was honoring our veterans and Code Talkers,” he said. “CNB (Cherokee Nation Businesses) represented the Cherokee Nation with a sponsorship at the Bear level, $5,000.00. It is my understanding that we have helped with this event in the past.” According to the GTIAF program, Crittenden is a champion for the rights and privileges of American military veterans, and during his tenure as deputy principal chief he has supported programs to better serve the brave men and women who have served the United States. Among the featured artists was Glass, who was honored as the elder artist. According to the GTIAF, the festival annually honors a Native American artist whose support of American Indian art has been extraordinary throughout his or her lifetime. “It’s an honor and its fun to see the new artists that are coming up and doing so good. I always think of art as cultural retention for our tribes,” Glass said. “This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been here. Some friends nominated me and it’s an honor to be selected.” This year’s featured artist was Choctaw Nation citizen Gwen Coleman Lester, who paints and draws Choctaw history, legends and culture. According to the GTIAF, “Lester began her artistic career in the commercial sector and gradually moved to fine art working in colored pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, and occasionally oils.” A primary mission of the festival has been to provide scholarships to Native students. Money raised via sponsorships and auctions helps aid that cause. The weekend event included an art market, cultural demonstrations, silent and live auctions, honor dances and Cherokee fiddling. “Today the Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival is a national premier juried art show, which showcases Native art, cuisine and entertainment. Most importantly, many Native students have been recipients of the Festival’s scholarship program. Scholarships began in the early 1990s,” a GTIAF official said. The art festival is a project of the National Indian Monument and Institute, a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/09/2016 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission are urging CN citizens who want to vote in the 2017 Tribal Council elections to register to vote or ensure that their voter registration information is correct at the Election Commission Office. “The 2017 election year is fast approaching and we would like to encourage the Cherokee citizens who would like to vote in the 2017 Council elections to register to vote,” an EC press release states. “Registered voters of the Cherokee Nation who have had an address or name change should also complete a voter registration form and submit to the Election Commission Office to update your registration information.” According to the release, a registered voter living in the tribe’s jurisdiction who has moved to a new district and wishes to change precincts within his or her district shall re-register for a new district and/or precinct on or before the last business day in March of the election year. In 2017, that day will be Friday, March 31. According to CN law, every resident registered voter shall be registered to vote in the district of his or her residence. Also, a resident registered voter shall have the right to vote only for a Tribal Council candidate of the district in which the voter resides and cannot vote for a candidate of any other district. Tribal Council seats that are up for election next year are districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, and one At-Large seat. EC officials said At-Large registered voters should be registered to vote in the At-Large District, unless a voter has elected to remain a voter in a district pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the CN Constitution. At-Large voters who move to new at-large address should provide the EC their new addresses for registration and mailing purposes. At-Large voters who move to addresses within a jurisdictional district should reregister within the district of their new addresses. EC officials also stressed that tribal citizenship cards do not automatically register citizens to vote in CN elections and that citizens wanting to vote must register with the EC. According to CN law, one must be 18 years old as of the election day to register to vote. Also, a person must be registered to vote no later than the last business day in March of the election year. Registration and change of address forms are available at the EC Office located at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road or online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/election" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/election</a>. For more information, call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895. One can also email <a href="mailto: election-commission@cherokee.org">election-commission@cherokee.org</a> or visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/election" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/election</a>. The EC’s mailing address is P.O. Box 1188 Tahlequah, OK 74465.