Supreme Court hears White’s candidacy appeal

BY JAMI MURPHY
Former Reporter
03/20/2017 07:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on March 20 heard arguments regarding Cherokee Nation citizen Randy White’s appeal of the Election Commission decision that disqualified him as a Dist. 11 Tribal Council candidate.

Dist. 11 covers Craig County, northern Mayes County and northern Nowata County.

Prior to appeal arguments, the court rejected two motions – one for intervention in the case by the tribe’s attorney general’s office and the other to dismiss made by the EC.

Attorney General Todd Hembree said he should be able to intervene because of his responsibility to uphold the CN Constitution. However, White’s attorney, Deb Reed, said the election law (Title 26) states the EC contracts with its attorney and that no other attorney may work on its behalf.

Regarding the dismissal motion, EC attorney Harvey Chaffin said Title 26 states the EC may present evidence and testimony and that it “intends the EC be made a party.”

“Once they’ve made a decision it’s my job to support that decision,” he said about the EC.

Reed said Title 26 does not say “shall be a party” and that the EC had made its ruling.

After a recess, the court denied both motions and stated the EC was welcome to present its evidence and testimony.

Attorney Curtis Bruehl – representing Chance Hayes, who challenged White’s candidacy – said, “to run (for office) you need to have Cherokee blood running through your veins.” He said the 2006 Lucy Allen v. Cherokee Nation ruling states the “only time a legal right, under Cherokee law, depends on Cherokee blood, is when a person decides to run for elected office…we rely on the blood degree findings of the Dawes Commission to make sure our principal chief and council members are Cherokee citizens by blood. This guarantees Cherokee control of government, but that government is ultimately elected by a larger and more diverse constituency of citizens.”

White is Shawnee by blood but a CN citizen via an 1869 agreement with the U.S. government to adopt Shawnees.

In court documents, Bruehl states White is a CN citizen by adoption but not “by blood.” He said the CN Constitution states the Tribal Council will consist of those “who are citizens by blood of the Cherokee Nation.”

Chaffin said there are three types of CN citizenship – Cherokees by blood, Delaware by adoption and Shawnee by adoption. He said the Allen case sets forth the reasoning why the “by blood” be Cherokee and not just a citizen to be a candidate for office.

“Cherokees want to be governed by the Cherokees,” he said.

Reed said Article 6, Section 3 of the CN Constitution states “any citizen by blood of the Cherokee Nation…” can be a Tribal Council candidate.

Reed has argued that the statutory definition of “citizen by blood” includes Shawnee Cherokees based on a 2007 Constitutional amendment, 1999 Constitutional Convention delegate intent and the attorney general’s representations to the federal courts.

She has also stated the CN Citizenship Act requires a person to “prove back directly to an individual who is listed by blood on a base roll.” She states the act defines the “by blood base roll” to include Shawnee Cherokees for CN citizenship.

“‘Base roll’ means a specific list of individuals used for determining tribal citizenship…Those final rolls by blood used for citizenship purposes are Cherokee by blood, Cherokee minors by blood, Delaware Cherokees and Shawnee Cherokees,” she stated.

She added that she agrees CN citizens elect their representatives and that White is “asking for a chance to run.”

After the hearing, White said he doesn’t understand the confusion because all parties “go by what the Constitution states.”

“They’re all arguing the same thing, but if they meant you had to be Cherokee blood, actual Cherokee blood, then they need to write it that way and they didn’t,” he said. “We’ve had other Cherokee Shawnees and Cherokee Delaware on council before. Why now is it being challenged?”

Reed said Greg Pitcher, a Cherokee Shawnee, and Wathene Young, a Cherokee Delaware served on Tribal Council previously. According to the Tribal Council’s website, Pitcher served Craig and Nowata counties, and Young was an At-Large councilor.

The court said it would rule by March 28.

To view court documents relating to the case, visit cherokeecourts.org.

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