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
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.
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.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/02/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Tribal Film Festival is set to take place on Sept. 4-6 during the Cherokee National Holiday. Those in attendance can expect to watch indigenous films, ranging from children’s films to horror films. There will also be locally filmed features and documentaries. During the festival, 41 films will be screened totaling more than 21 hours of film time. The event kicks off at 11 a.m. Sept. 4 and is expected to go until 11 p.m. There will be a red carpet event, wine and cheese tasting and a silent auction at 5:30 p.m. On Sept. 5, film screenings kick off at 11 a.m. with the last one showing at 7 p.m. After the last film Red Dirt Southern Rock band Badwater will perform at 9:30 p.m. Admission for the live music is $5 and includes two beers for the first 200 people in attendance. On Sept. 6, those in attendance can expect a day featuring “kids flixs” starting at 1 p.m. TFF sponsors include TribalTV, Cherokee Nation, Osage Casino and Acrylic Graphics and Designs. The Dream Theatre is located at 312 N. Muskogee Ave. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.tribalfilmfestival.com" target="_blank">www.tribalfilmfestival.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – Cherokee Nation Foundation is hosting an open house during the 63rd annual CherokeeNational Holiday Sept. 4-6. CNF hopes to raise awareness about the organization and its mission to help Cherokeeyouth succeed academically and achieve their higher education goals. The open house is Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 800 S. Muskogee. Students, parents and teachers are encouraged to stop by for goodie bags and to gather information about CNF programs and scholarship opportunities. “Most people do not know that we have programs for students as young as fifth grade,” said Janice Randall, executive director of Cherokee Nation Foundation. “We have so many ways to help prepare Cherokee students, and we are dedicated to helping as many of them as possible. We just have to let them know who we are and how we can help.” CNF also plans to reveal its new branding initiative at the open house. “The Cherokee National Holiday is the perfect time to reintroduce ourselves and remind the Cherokee people that we are here to help,” said Randall. “We want Cherokee students to understand the value of higher education and know it is within reach for each and every one of them. We work diligently with all of our students to help them prepare for their academic journey and keep them informed about resources to help them succeed.” For more information, contact Cherokee Nation Foundation at (918) 207-0950 or Janice Randall at jr@cherokeenationfoundation.org.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 08:35 AM
In this month's issue: • The principal chief, deputy chief and eight Tribal Councilors take their oaths of office on Aug. 14. • CN files lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson' • CCO brings Cultural Enlightenment Series to Briggs community • OK tribes approach $1B in state fees ...plus much more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/9/9576_2015-09-01(rev).pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Sept. 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 12:00 PM
DURANT, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Emalea Hudgens, a junior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a double major in psychology and music, recently spent a semester studying at the Swansea University, a public research university based in Wales of the United Kingdom. Hudgens received the title of Brad Henry International Scholar in 2014 and she studied abroad this past spring. The Jay native is a Cherokee Nation citizen and Harvey Scholar recipient. She is also a Savage Storm Leader and was selected to be in the President’s Leadership Class for 2012-13. Hudgens is a member of the Southeastern Chorale, Sparks Dance Team and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, according to the SOSU Communications Department. “I am very blessed and excited to get this opportunity to study abroad and become immersed in a different culture,’’ Hudgens said to the Southern, the SOSU newspaper. “It has been a life-long dream of mine to travel the world, and I cannot wait to share the stories and experiences with family and friends.” Hudgens said she felt fortunate to have studied overseas. “It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad and to live in Europe for a period of time. I hope to learn about their culture and get opportunities to work there myself, getting the experience that I need to do so. I just think it would be cool to work in a different culture.” She told the Cherokee Phoenix she was nervous to leave Oklahoma and live in a culture different than hers. “To say the least, it turned out to be the most life-changing experience. During my stay in Wales, I travelled to 11 different countries across Europe,” she said. “It was amazing to see the different cultures and the different people. I came to find people were very interested in hearing about the American culture and they found it fascinating to learn that I was a member of the Cherokee Nation.” Hudgens said studying abroad opened her eyes to many ideas about the world. “It is common to think the world is scary, but it is also very beautiful and filled with beautiful things,” she added. “Since travelling, I have created a passion to want to continue to travel and go see more of the world. I encourage everyone to travel if they get the opportunity.”
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 10:00 AM
NEWKIRK, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation, with the approval of five other tribes, negotiated a lease of more than 8,000 acres to Weatherby Energy for oil and gas exploration at the former Chilocco Indian School in Kay County. CN Real Estate Services Director Ginger Reeves said meetings were held between the CN and Kaw, Pawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missiouria and Tonkawa tribes in 2009. “Public Law 99-283 in the Federal Register grants Cherokee Nation the authority to lease the trust acres,” she said. “The leases are recorded at the Kay County Clerk’s Office in Newkirk, Oklahoma.” According to CN Resolution 134-09, Reeves said then Principal Chief Chad Smith and the Tribal Council approved a resolution to lease the property. “Regarding the referenced lease, the six Chilocco tribes’ trust lease was approved April 4, 2011, and has until April 4, 2016, to drill and produce or expire. Samson Resources Company, the current lessee, is in the process of assigning the lease to a Texas group (MPG Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Weatherby Energy.) Real Estate Services is processing that assignment approval through the BIA,” she said. Weatherby Energy has received Bureau of Indian Affairs approval for this assignment, officials said. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Weatherby Energy but did not receive a response as of publication. The Chilocco properties are trust and fee lands and the lease covers both. “The fee land lease will expire Nov. 5, 2015, unless they drill and produce. This fee lease was also recently assigned by Samson to the Texas group. Real Estate Services is processing the assignment for Cherokee Nation approval,” Reeves said. “Both leases were five-year leases and are filed in Cherokee Nation Title Plant. There is also a smaller acreage lease on fee lands at Chilocco with another oil company, which was in place before the lease started.” When the previous leases ended in the early 1990s, Reeves said it covered 320 acres and leased for $11,520 over a three-year term. She said it lasted longer because of oil and gas being produced in “paying quantities” from the property. Officials said the CN receives $8,736.30 on trust property annually plus $6,985.23 on fee property for a total of $15,721.53. A total of 8,152.61 acres are under lease with more than 5,000 acres being trust land and more than 2,300 acres in fee.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
08/31/2015 08:21 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. claiming the companies misbranded the drug Risperdal and failed to disclose risks posed to elderly patients. According to drugs.com, Risperdal is an antipsychotic medicine and is used to treat schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder and manic depression. Risperdal is also used in autistic children to treat symptoms of irritability. Initially filed by the tribe in April in Sequoyah County, where the drug was distributed at the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, the suit was moved in July to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee. According to court documents, the CN claims the companies admitted to selling the “misbranded” drug for unapproved uses more than a decade ago, during the time the tribe purchased it. The tribe also claims that from 1999 through 2005, the companies sold Risperdal for uses that were not approved as safe and effective and between March 3, 2002 and Dec. 31, 2003, the CN purchased the drug after the defendants expressed that the drug was not misbranded. The suit also claims negligence, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment and violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act on the part of the companies. Court documents state the tribe “is entitled to restitution to the extent of the increased revenue received by defendants from Risperdal prescriptions that were purchased or reimbursed by the Cherokee Nation and which resulted from the sale of misbranded Risperdal.” The tribe is asking for a judgment of $75,000 for “attorney fees, civil penalties and all other relief this court deems just and equitable.” “The crux of our case is that unbeknownst to us, this drug is a bad drug,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “We prescribed it through our clinics to our citizens. We now know it’s a bad drug and we don’t do it anymore, but as a result of it damaging our citizens, we incur the extra costs of having to take care of those citizens. Money that we otherwise would not have spent if it had not been for this bad drug.” Currently, no hearing has been scheduled. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over the marketing of the antipsychotic drug for failing to warn that it could cause gynecomastia, which is abnormal development of breasts in males. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler served as an expert witness for the family that issued the lawsuit and testified that Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks associated with Risperdal but failed to disclose the data showing the extent to which youth may develop gynecomastia. According to the Wall Street Journal, lawsuits continue to be filed against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. across the country. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to get a comment from Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals but was unsuccessful. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/8/9571_nws04_150814_JJSuit.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the lawsuit.