Appeals Court: Freedmen can sue principal chief

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/21/2012 09:10 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A federal court on Dec. 14 ruled that descendants of slaves who were owned by Cherokee Nation citizens can sue the tribe’s current chief in an attempt to restore their tribal citizenship.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a lower court’s ruling that the case could not proceed because the tribe was not a defendant in the case and couldn’t be compelled to abide by the court’s ruling.

“Applying the precedents that permit suits against government officials in their official capacities, we conclude that this suit may proceed against the Principal Chief in his official capacity, without the Cherokee Nation itself as a party,” Judge Brett Michael Kavanaugh wrote in the unanimous ruling.

The court noted that an 1866 treaty granted the former slaves known as Cherokee Freedmen all tribal rights, including the right to vote. But in 2007, the tribe approved an amendment to its constitution requiring all tribal citizens to have a by-blood Native American ancestor listed on the Dawes Roll, thus rescinding the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 Freedman descendants.

The Freedmen claim the chief – and through him the sovereign tribe – broke federal law by not honoring the treaty. Chad Smith was serving as principal chief in 2007 when the constitution was amended.

Marilyn Vann, a Freedman and the plaintiff in the case, said she was pleased with the court’s ruling and looked forward to having the merits of the case determined in court.

“We look forward to continuing on until we have final vindication of the enforcement of our rights,” she said.

Vann said slaves owned by Cherokees played an integral role in the survival of the tribe along the Trail of Tears during the forced relocation of most of the tribe in the 1830s from their ancestral homelands in the southeast to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. And she likened the Freedmen’s plight today to the struggle for civil rights by blacks in the South during the 1950s.

CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said the tribe is pleased that the appellate court reaffirmed in its ruling that the Nation is a sovereign government.

“However, the Court of Appeals also ruled that the interests of the tribe can adequately be represented through its elected officers,” Hembree said. “Although our principal chief stands ready, willing and able to protect and defend the Cherokee Nation Constitution and the will of its people, we believe that the entity that should be tasked with that responsibility is the Nation itself.”

Removing the Freedmen from the tribe was not a racially motivated decision, but one of a tribe’s sovereign ability to determine who is a citizen, Hembree said.

“It’s not asking too much that in order to be a citizen of an Indian tribe, that you be Indian,” he said. “We believe that’s very important, and so did the Cherokee people, and we intend on representing their will in this case.”

Vann et al v. Salazar was dismissed in September 2011 by federal Judge Henry Kennedy in Washington, D.C. Ken Salazar is the current United States Secretary of the Interior.

The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal, which forced the CN to file a response. Oral arguments for an appeal of the dismissed Freedmen case were heard in October.

The lawsuit was filed in 2003. Vann and five other Freedmen contend the CN, with approval from then-Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, prevented them from voting in the 2003 CN elections.

The plaintiffs sought a court order declaring the elections invalid. They also wanted the DOI secretary to not recognize the results of the elections until Freedmen were permitted to vote.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/31/2015 04:00 PM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
07/31/2015 02:00 PM
NEW YORK – After a dozen of Native American actors felt insulted and walked off the set of Adam Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six” in April, the movie actor recently told the Associated Press the movie is a “pro-Indian” movie. “I talked to some of the actors on the set who were there and let them know that the intention of the movie is 100 percent to just make a funny movie,” Sandler said. “It’s really about American Indians being good to my character and about their family and just being good people. There’s no mocking of American Indians at all in the movie. It’s a pro-Indian movie. So hopefully when people see it — whoever was offended on set and walked out, I hope they realize that, and that’s it. It was kind of taken out of context.” “The Ridiculous Six,” which is scheduled to be released worldwide via Netflex in December, is Sandler’s first production for a multi-move deal he signed with movie-giant Netflix. “The Ridiculous Six” is intended to be a parody to the 1960 “The Magnificent Seven” Hollywood-western. While the Native actors walked off the set, many other Native American actors did stay and continued to work on the production. The actors who walked off the set said they were upset with the demeaning portrayal of Native women and how the movie producers were insensitive to tribal usage of feathers. “At first I was glad to be part of the movie because it is about Apaches, who are like cousins to us, but then I noticed things were not right about how Apaches were depicted,” said Loren Anthony, Navajo. “For one thing, the costumes we were given to wear were more like what plains Indians wear, not Apache. Then the way feathers were desecrated on the set made me sick to the stomach, literally. I was brought up by my elders to respect feathers. The move crew paid no respect to the feathers.” Back in April, Netflex said, “the movie has ridiculous in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous. It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of but in on the joke.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/31/2015 08:00 AM
In this month's issue: • At-Large CN car tag sales gross $1.2M • Warner, Pearson, Hatfield win Tribal Council seats • Court tosses Smith’s election appeal • Cherokee Phoenix wins NAJA, OPA, SPJ awards ...plus much more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9489_2015-08-01.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the August 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9489_HolidayGuide2015.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the 2015 Cherokee National Holiday guide.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2015 04:00 PM
LOS ANGELES – Native Voices is seeking short plays that address the many ways a Native American family forms and functions. Native Voices at the Autry is the only Equity theater company devoted exclusively to developing and producing new works for the stage by Native American, Alaska Native and First Nations playwrights. Plays may be a celebration of family life or an examination of complexities and issues in Native families. Alternately, plays may dramatize traditional family stories or family histories. A reading panel of nationally recognized theater artists and community members will evaluate short plays that are related to the family theme. Selected plays will be presented as staged readings on Nov. 8, as part of the Autry’s annual American Indian Arts Marketplace. A panel of celebrity judges will select the 2015 Von Marie Atchley Award for Excellence in Playwriting, a $1,000 cash prize. For more information and submission details, visit <a href="http://www.TheAutry.org/NativeVoices" target="_blank">TheAutry.org/NativeVoices</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Dream Theatre 312 N. Muskogee Ave., will host the Tribal Film Festival on Sept. 4-5. Film festival officials are calling for “indigenous films with inspiring and uplifting stories that change people’s lives.” The films must be indigenous stories, but filmmakers do not have to be of tribal backgrounds. All videos that are selected will be shown at the red carpet premiere event at the Dream Theatre and the ‘best of’ prizes will also be announced at the event. The winning submissions will also be featured on the TFF’s Facebook page, Twitter newsfeed and in the TFF’s trailer reel, which will play at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill during the 2015 Cherokee National Holiday. According to the TFF’s website, each submission will be eligible for distribution on TribalTV, which is a new broadband channel. Those who are submitting their work must own the content or have the rights to submit the film. Films that contain pornography or ultra-violent material will not be considered. Short films must be less than 20 minutes, which includes the credits. Films that are more that 20 minutes will be entered into the feature film category. The official submission deadline is July 29 with a $20 entry fee. The late submission deadline is Aug. 15 and will cost $30. Digital submissions can be entered at filmfreeway.com and hardcopies can be mailed to P.O. Box 581507 Tulsa, Oklahoma 74158-1507. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.tribalfilmfestival.com" target="_blank">www.tribalfilmfestival.com</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
07/30/2015 08:00 AM
BRIGGS, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Community and Cultural Outreach has found a way to help CN citizens and local community members learn more about the Cherokee culture with its Cultural Enlightenment Series. The series is held the second Tuesday of each month, and in July it took place at the TRI Community Association W.E.B. Building (Welling, Eldon and Briggs) in Briggs. Those attending watched participants play Cherokee marbles, weave baskets and perform other family and culture-friendly activities. CCO Director Rob Daugherty said this is just one of the many communities his department reaches out to within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. “This is one of the buildings that we helped start fund along with other departments of the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “In our jurisdiction area we have several of these building and we work with approximately 38 community buildings that we have. We work with way more communities than that, but this is one of them.” Daugherty, who watched the marble games, said he’s glad the community has taken up the sport. “We’re real proud of this organization here in that they started doing this marbles. (They) picked up one of the old games, and now Cherokee Nation’s coming out here and hosting tournaments,” he said. “The good thing about this game is it doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matte what size you are. It doesn’t matter what level of skill. This is a game that you’re pretty well even starting out. It looks like it’s a games of just haphazardly movements, but there’s a strategy to this game. They’re playing teams, and you can tell among themselves they’re talking where to move, who to hit, where to sit and so forth.” Daugherty said it is also important to use the Cherokee language in the Cultural Enlightenment Series. “Language is really big in my department, so one of the things that I have suggested is no matter what you do incorporate Cherokee language in there,” he said. John Sellers, TRI Community W.E.B. Association president, said he was glad to have the CN come to the building to show community members Cherokee culture. “We attend classes about once a month at the (Cherokee) Nation’s complex and they saw our facilities and they were talking about the old traditional marble games, and we’ve been asking questions about the rules, how you do it. So they come out here to show us and they said, ‘hey, we’ll just have our regular monthly meeting out here and do that,’” he said. “Then, at the same time we got a call and said they had a lady that wanted to do the basket weaving and I said, ‘bring her on.’” Sellers said he is thankful to the CN for all it has done for the community. “I can’t say enough for Cherokee Nation,” he said. “I mean we couldn’t do what we’re doing if it wasn’t for them.” For more information about the Cultural Enlightenment Series, visit <a href="http://www.facebook.com/CNCCO" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/CNCCO</a>.