Descendants of Freedmen sue U.S. government

07/07/2014 10:57 PM
Courthouse News Service

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government turned its back on the descendants of freed slaves of Native Americans, swindling them out of lucrative land royalties allotted to them as children, a class action claims in federal court.

Leatrice Tanner-Brown and the Harvest Institute Freedman Federation sued Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewel and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn, seeking an accounting of revenue from leases on land promised to children of Freedmen, who were liberated by citizens of the so-called “Five Civilized Indian Tribes” or Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw and Seminole nations.

According to the complaint: “The Five Civilized Tribes allied themselves with the Confederacy during the Civil War and attempted to maintain slaves following the War. As a result of the Tribes’ disloyalty to the United States during the Civil War all territory owned by the Tribes was forfeited. The status of the Tribes was reestablished under treaties entered in 1866.”

Some of the forfeited land was allotted to the freed slaves and their descendants.

The Department of Interior in 1908 agreed to keep track of revenue from leases on land granted to Freedmen minors or their descendants.

“Notwithstanding demand from plaintiffs for an accounting of revenue from leases on restricted lands during the period that these lands were held by Freedmen minors and not subject to alienation, defendants have failed to provide the requested accounting,” the complaint states.

“Under the Act of May 27, 1908, restrictions against alienation of Freedmen allotments ... were not removed. Accordingly, any royalties derived from leases on [Freedmen] allotments should have been accounted for by the Department of Interior under the terms of the Sections 2 and 6 of the 1908 Act,” according to the complaint. “These failures were not innocent. They were the result of a deliberate strategy to swindle land and money from Freedmen.”

The claims says many of these allotments were for oil-rich land, and the government allowed grafters and speculators “anxious to obtain oil-rich lands for little or no payment to allottees” to exploit the often unsophisticated and uneducated Freedmen.

According to the complaint, there were 23,405 Freedmen in 1914.

“Defendants breached their duty to avoid conflicts of interests and to monitor Freedmen allotments in favor of alienation of European settlers, Oklahoma statehood, and corporate interests,” the class claims.

They want an accounting of money collected from the allotted lands and declaration of the government’s fiduciary duties.

They are represented by Paul Robinson Jr. of Memphis, Tenn.


07/23/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is reducing services to children, senior citizens and residents with disabilities as it deals with what its director says is $30 million in budget cuts to the agency. DHS officials announced the cuts on July 11. Although the Legislature increased appropriations to the agency by $18 million over last year's spending level, Director Ed Lake says the cumulative effects of previous cuts and increasing fixed costs led to the $30 million shortfall. Lake says a freeze on child care subsidies will eliminate assistance to about 1,000 children and their families. Also, senior citizens and adults and children with disabilities will see a reduction in the number of hours of services that they receive each week. The agency also is reducing reimbursement rates to foster families.
News Writer
07/23/2017 01:45 AM
VIAN, Okla. – Candidates E.O. Smith and Uriah Grass vied for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council’s Dist. 5 seat in a runoff election on July 22. Smith won the seat by receiving 52.26 percent of the vote or 347 votes out of 664 total votes, according to the unofficial results from the CN Election Commission. “I would just like to thank everybody. It’s been a very long campaign. Uriah is a good guy, I will ask his advice on some things, and I want him to know he can come to me anytime with a suggestion, and I will listen to him,” said Smith. “First thing I want to do is see our community pull together and be one. I going to work for everybody, I am going to be everybody’s councilman, and I am going to make the people glad they voted for me. I can’t wait to get started.” Smith said he has always been a “people person” so working for the people is his main goal as the district’s councilman. “I’m going to open an office in Vian from 9 a.m. to noon, five days a week so if you have a problem come see me and I will try to get you an answer and go to work on your problems right then,” he said. “If you can’t come during those times you can call me and we will make an appointment and I’ll meet with you. I am going to be with the people so they know that I am genuinely interested in their problems.” Grass came in close behind Smith by winning 47.74 percent of the vote or 317 votes. Grass could not be reached for a comment about the election results. As Dist. 5 councilman, Smith will be serving western Sequoyah County and part of eastern Muskogee County. The Tribal Council inauguration ceremony for elected officials will be held at 10 a.m., Aug. 14 at the “Place Where They Play” gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
07/23/2017 01:30 AM
JAY, Okla. – A July 22 runoff election to fill the Dist. 9 Cherokee Nation council seat may be remembered for the winner as well as the low voter turn out. Candidate Mike Shambaugh defeated candidate Clifton Hughes with 54.96 percent of the vote or 421 votes. Hughes received 45.04 percent or 345 votes. In official results, only 766 voters participated in the runoff election. Voting took place at precincts in the towns of Jay, Kansas, Kenwood and Salina. Dist. 9 include the southern portion of Delaware County south of Hwy. 20 and part of eastern Mayes County. Shambaugh reacted to the win in an enthusiastic tone. He thanked his supporters and said he wanted to rest for a couple of days before working on his council agenda. “I had great help on this election. I had people who stepped up and made it easy for me to mingle with the crowd. I think I’m very fortunate to serve District 9,” Shambaugh said. “Personally I want to relax for a couple of days. Whenever you campaign every day until 11:30 at night or later it wears on you.” Although Hughes was not the winning candidate, he was still willing to comment about the runoff election. Hughes said he is proud of his hard work and campaign. “I just want to thank my supporters and (say) that I ran an honest campaign,” Hughes said. Shambaugh and the other council candidates who their races in June and in the runoff election will be sworn in to office at 10 a.m., Aug. 14 in the “Place Where They Play gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
07/22/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Officials say ancient artifacts discovered at an Oklahoma Department of Transportation construction site will be sent to the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. Oklahoma City television station KOKH reports that crews preparing for a bridge replacement project in east central Oklahoma found the artifacts several years ago. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, workers found large fire pits and obsidian rock that isn't local to Oklahoma. Scott Sundermeyer is program director for ODOT's cultural resources program. He says the artifacts may be from Wichitan-affiliated tribes and are about 3,000 to 4,000 years old. He says the last of the artifacts was removed from the site late last year, and that the construction project won't be delayed.
07/21/2017 01:30 PM
PARIS – Airman First Class and Cherokee Nation citizen Mason Turman was one of many United States service members who helped lead the parade down Champs Elysees on July 14 in honor of France’s Bastille Day. Turman, who is in the U.S. Air Force, marched with fellow members of the U.S. Air Forces Europe Force down the Champs-Elysees in the annual event. However, this year marked the first time the American military led the parade. This year’s theme was “Operational Together,” and it highlighted the close relationship among all the French security services and with the Americans. While France is America’s oldest ally, the United States would not have won the Revolution without French sailors winning the Battle of the Chesapeake against the English in 1783. The modern version of the alliance dates to World War I. The 2017 Bastille Day Parade was almost exactly 100 years from when 14,000 American soldiers arrived in France as part of the American Expeditionary Force. The American contingent leading the parade included troops from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Marines from U.S. Marine Forces Europe.
07/20/2017 04:00 PM
VENORE, Tenn. – Officials at the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in Vonore, Tennessee, have announced phase one of a renovation project for the museum will soon get underway. The main museum building will be closed beginning July 26 for extended internal and external renovations with a planned finish date for phase one in early 2018. During this time, many of the museum activities and features will still be available for visitors to experience. However, the current exhibit area will be replaced with “an exciting new exhibit and delivery system,” museum officials said. “This will highlight the story of the famous Overhill Cherokee, Sequoyah, our namesake, and will feature his greatest accomplishment (Cherokee syllabary). Sequoyah was born very near our museum site circa 1776,” museum officials said in a statement. The mission of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a property of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of the Cherokee Indians in Eastern Tennessee, particularly the life and contributions of Sequoyah. The museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits objects and data that support this mission. Following the completion of phase one in early 2018, workers will begin installing the new exhibit, which will not affect general services and sales, however, museum offices and the gift shop will relocate to a temporary trailer. Updates on the progress of the renovation will be shared with the public. Visitors will still find the museum open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday and 12-5 p.m. on Sunday, and the museum will continue to hold outdoor classes and events on site. Other on-site or nearby attractions, including the picnic pavilion, Maxwell D. Ramsey Shoreline Hiking Trail, the Chota Town House and the Tanasi Memorial will continue to be open to the public. “Thank you all for your patience during this time of growth for the museum. We are extremely excited to officially begin renovations and re-open the main museum building as soon as we are able to,” said museum officials. “We are pleased you will be able to enjoy our site during this down time, and ask that you speak directly with our staff if you have any concerns or questions regarding the property. We are planning to have the grand opening of our new exhibit and services in mid-2018.” For more information, visit the museum’s website at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or contact the museum at 423-884-6246. The museum is located off U.S. Hwy. 411 in Vonore on Hwy 360.