Mullin: ‘volunteer walk’ comment referred to Old Settlers
This story has been updated to reflect that the last sentence of a press release on U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin’s website was edited Nov. 2 to remove the reference to his ancestors who were initially reported as having walked the Trail of Tears.
TAHLEQUAH – U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin says he was referring to Cherokees who left the Cherokee Nation East before the Trail of Tears when he spoke on Fox News about his ancestors ending their “volunteer walk” in eastern Oklahoma.
During an Oct. 16 interview on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends,” the CN citizen discussed his family’s roots in eastern Oklahoma while addressing Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test that showed she had some Native ancestry.
“My family literally still live – I drove in this morning an hour and a half to get to the studio – where my family literally stopped walking on the volunteer walk, and I use that as a loosely term,” Mullin said. “I still live on the Indian allotment land my family still has. The heritage runs deep in my family.”
He replied to a Cherokee Phoenix interview request on Oct. 31 with a statement clarifying what he meant by “volunteer walk.”
“I know the story of my family and the history of the Trail of Tears,” Mullin said. “The Cherokee Nation states that there were Cherokees who voluntarily relocated before the forced removal. My family did exactly that, and that is what I was referring to in my comments. They moved west before the forced removal and settled near the Arkansas/Oklahoma border where my family and I still live today.”
The congressman on Nov. 1 released the same statement on Facebook, while claiming “a group of political activists have twisted my words.”
Cherokees who lived in Indian Territory prior to the federal government’s forced removal of southeastern tribes to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, are often referred to as Old Settlers. In 1838-39, about 16,000 CN citizens were forcibly removed along the Trail of Tears and approximately 4,000 died before and after making it to Indian Territory.
However, Mullin’s Old Settlers response contradicts recently published information on his congressional website.
On Sept. 12 when announcing the House passage of House Resolution 2606 (the Stigler Act Amendments of 2018), the final paragraph of the press release stated that he was a “proud member of the Cherokee Nation. He and his wife are raising their five kids on the same family farm where Mullin’s ancestors ended their walk on the Trail of Tears.”
The last sentence of the press release on Mullin’s website was edited Nov. 2 to remove the reference to his ancestors who were initially reported as having walked the Trail of Tears.
As of publication, Mullin had not responded to questions about the discrepancy in historical accounts. There has also been no response to a request for his ancestors’ names.
Mullin, who lives in Westville, has represented Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. He is seeking re-election against Democrat Jason Nichols, who is also a CN citizen.