Walkingstick wants Freedmen ruling appealed
Ruby King, Margarete Nadiecop, Anna Nicholson, Doris Boulware and Rodslen Brown King attend the Nov. 14 Rules Committee meeting after hearing that Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was expected to propose an act calling for the appeal of a federal court ruling that cleared the way for Cherokee Freedmen to become Cherokee Nation citizens. Attorney General Todd Hembree said on Aug. 31 that he would not appeal the courts ruling. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick plans to propose an act at the Rules Committee meeting on December 12 at 9:00 am, giving the Tribal Council the option to appeal an Aug. 30 federal court ruling that states Freedmen can become Cherokee Nation citizens.
Walkingstick said his bill would give authorization to “appeal or not appeal” the “District Court of Columbia’s memorandum of opinion.”
“What I’d like to get out of this is the council to get a say in the matter,” he said. “It’s not a matter of race. Cherokee Nation is a political entity as well as every other tribe is across the United States.”
A day after Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan issued the ruling in the Cherokee Nation v. Nash case, Attorney General Todd Hembree said the tribe would not to appeal.
On Sept. 1, the tribe’s Supreme Court chief justice ordered the CN, including Registration, to begin processing citizenship applications of eligible Freedmen descendants.
Walkingstick, however, said it’s a “no brainer” to appeal Hogan’s ruling.
“When a 10th Circuit (Court of Appeals) judge rules on it you pretty much got to say, ‘OK, that’s it. That’s what it is.’ But when you have a lower court ruling like that, and it’s just an opinion, there’s not a lot of merit to that,” he said.
But Hembree said not appealing was the tribe’s “best course of action.”
“Mr. Walkingstick doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he tries to delineate the differences between an opinion and a ruling,” he said. “I would recommend reading the Hogan decision in the Freedmen case. If they read it thoroughly with a good understanding of Cherokee Nation history and jurisprudence, they would know that this was by and far the best course of action for the Cherokee Nation.”
Walkingstick said his bill comes after councilors were left out of a process they should have been a part of.
“The Cherokee Nation AG violated tribal law by not getting authorization through Tribal Council to determine a decision on this litigation,” he said. “The action that (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker and AG Hembree made to not appeal contradicted our Constitution, which violated every elected officials’ oath that we took to protect and uphold our Constitution.”
However, Hembree said Walkingstick is incorrect with his allegation.
“I think David Walkingstick is absolutely incorrect when he says that the attorney general’s office has violated any law in failing to appeal this decision,” he said. “This is a decision that was based on the law and the facts of the case that required an legal interpretation. It’s not a settlement of the case as he alluded to in his act. It is a decision to abide by a court’s order.”
Walkingstick said by not appealing Hembree also “violated” the tribe’s Attorney General Act.
“He was just acting by himself and as well as with the principal chief. Nothing was ever brought to the Tribal Council,” he said.
However, Hembree said he’s “absolutely” upheld his oath as attorney general.
“I believe that I’ve upheld the oath that I took as attorney general, and I believe that I have protected the interest of the Cherokee Nation and have, in fact, promoted its sovereignty by agreeing to uphold previsions of a treaty that was signed between the Cherokee Nation and the United States,” Hembree said.
Walkingstick also alleges that because Hembree didn’t appeal he put himself and other elected officials in a state of impeachment. “We all took an oath to defend and protect our Constitution, and when he didn’t appeal, it contradicted our Constitution. And it put us all in a state of (where) we can all be impeached because we didn’t uphold our own Constitution.”
Hembree said if Walkingstick believes oaths were violated then he recommends bringing charges against those believed to be in violation.
Walkingstick also said he wants to uphold the 2007 special election in which voters prevented Freedmen descendants from becoming citizens. “We exercised democracy in our government by having this election and they voted. So, as a elected official, we have to uphold our Constitution.”
According to the Sept. 1 Supreme Court order, the 2007 amendment that limited citizenship to “Cherokees by blood, Delaware Cherokees and Shawnee Cherokees is held to be void and without effect.”
Hembree said throughout the case’s entirety he wasn’t sure how much it had cost the tribe in legal fees but estimated it in the “millions of dollars.”
Walkingstick said regardless whether the tribe adds Freedmen citizens or appeals the case it would cost the tribe money.
“When you get an increase of citizens…those are program dollars and that’s going to cost a lot of money, and if you go try to fight for you sovereignty and your constitution that’s going to cost a lot of money,” he said. “So I think it’s a wash in the end.”
Freedmen advocate Rodslen King Brown said money spent appealing could be better spent helping citizens.
“It is really sad that David Walkingstick is wanting to spend all these dollars and to get this all back in the system just to put it in limbo because it’s already done,” she said. “And it’s really sad they want to spend all this money in to trying to keep us out instead of putting it toward the people.”Attorney General Act, 51 CNCA 105 A. 16
Limits the Attorney General’s authority, “To settle any case or controversy on behalf of the Nation, except that a settlement involving injunctive relief which substantially impacts the operation or programs of a Nation agency or would impose obligations requiring the expenditure of funds in excess of unallocated unencumbered monies in the agency’s appropriations or beyond the current fiscal year shall be reviewed prior to its finalization by the Principal Chief and the Tribal Council. The purpose of the review is to determine the budgetary, programmatic and operational impact of the proposed settlement.”