DeBunking of Dr. Richard Allen (PHD) Piece that
in the August edition of the CNO Rag!
By: David Cornsilk
is an opinion piece issued by longtime CNO employee Richard Allen in
support of his own bread and butter. His position is a gravy job and of
course he wants to protect it. Attacking the UKB, where his own family
has very strong ties, exposed Richard's opinion for what it truly is,
an effort to confuse and enflame the uninformed, which of course,
favors the leadership of the CNO. His OP-ED piece follows with my
Cherokees: one people, separated by politics and spirituality
By Richard Allen
Cherokee Nation Policy Analyst
Recently, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma has
issued articles and ads that distort historic fact.
In his opening remark, Richard sets the stage for the reader to make
the assumption that what is presented will be historic fact, as opposed
to what has been published by the UKB. Unfortunately, very little of
what was written presents any historic facts to dispute the claims of
For example, the UKBCIO suggest it is descended from the western
Cherokee otherwise known as the "Old Settlers." This distinction
between the eastern Cherokee and the western Cherokee came about in the
early 1800s to distinguish between the Cherokee Nation in the east and
the contingent of Cherokees who had moved from within the Cherokee
Nation to Arkansas.
So far so good. History is correct, but still not mention of any facts
which might tend to refute the UKB claim of being the historic
successors of the Old Settlers aka Western Cherokee Nation. read on.
The UKBCIO should not be confused with the Keetoowah Society, as it
tacitly asserts that "traditional Cherokees are Keetoowahs." The
Keetoowah Society is an ancient spiritual society that maintains an
identity separate from the political identities of the Cherokee Nation
and the UKBCIO. (See related letters below.) The Keetoowah Society may
include within its membership those Cherokees who may be either
Cherokee Nation citizens or UKBCIO members.
One must wonder how Richard Allen made the leap from discussing the
history of the Western Cherokees to claiming that the Keetoowah Society
and the UKB are not one and the same thing. He is correct that they are
not the same. The Keetoowah Society is a spiritual movement, not
political. Its members, as Richard points are, may be members of the
UKB, CNO, both or neither. In order to make this conclusion
significant, Richard would have to bring out some historic fact which
would tend to prove that the Keetoowah Society is the historic
successor to the Old Settlers. They are not. Certainly, many members of
the Keetoowah Society are descendants of Old Settlers, but so are many
members of CNO and the UKB. The UKB has never claimed to be the
Keetoowah Society any more than it has claimed to be the Cherokee
Baptist Association, even though most of its principal officers have
been members and pastors there. Richard is simply trying to confuse the
reader into thinking the UKB has made this claim because they use the
word "Keetoowah" in their title, similarly to the Society. However, we
Cherokees are all Keetoowah. That is our traditional spiritual name.
And in case anyone has wondered why the UKB has used the term "United"
in their title, the answer is simple. When the full blood Cherokees
sought federal recognition, many of the communities were divided and
bickered with one another. But all considered themselves to be
Keetoowah and incorporated that word in the title of their small
organizations. The federal recognition of the Band brought all of those
local governments under one umbrella, thus uniting them.
The Cherokee people have a well-documented history. In 1817, a treaty
was made between the United States and the whole Cherokee Nation ceding
land in the east in proportion to land acquired in Arkansas for the
benefit of those Cherokees who had or who would move there. The western
Cherokee resided in Arkansas about 30 years before making treaties in
1828 and 1833 in which they agreed to move from Arkansas into Indian
Territory. The eastern Cherokee were forced into the Indian Territory
as a result of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. Upon arrival of the
eastern Cherokee, the western Cherokee were then identified as the "Old
Good history, but has nothing to do with whether the Old Settlers aka
Western Cherokee Nation is now constituted in the United Keetoowah
Band. But you have to know the history to know the truth, so far so
After the forced removal of the eastern Cherokee into the Indian
Territory, there were two Cherokee entities that had treaties with the
U.S. government that had placed them in the same territory.
Now we are getting to some meat and potatoes. There were two entities
with federal treaties. Ask yourself this one question and the answer
will later become clear: "If there were two entities with treaties,
where did they both go?"
Author Emmett Starr informs us in his "History of the Cherokee Indians"
that upon arrival in the western Cherokee Nation, John Ross settled
near Park Hill, along with many other newly arrived Cherokees who
camped nearby. Ross understood the necessity to unify the Cherokee
people under one government. Starr notes the earliest written
communication from Ross' camp was dated April 23, 1839, and addressed
to the western Cherokee. Ross stated: "Although many of us have, for a
series of years past, been separated, yet we have not and cannot lose
sight of the fact, that we are all of the household of the Cherokee
family, and of one blood - let us kindle our social fire, and take
measures for cementing our reunion as a nation, by establishing the
basis for a government suited to the condition and wants of the whole
Most certainly, there was a need to bring all of the Cherokees together
under one government. That has not changed today. George Wickliffe,
chief of the UKB has extended a hand of friendship and cooperation to
Chad Smith. In return, Smith has slapped that hand away by attacking
the UKB at every turn. Smith's goal is the utter destruction of the
UKB. There is no comparison between the gestures for unison from Ross
Camp, and the vile attacks on the full bloods by Chad Smith. But again,
history is history, and the offer of John Ross to achieve unity is
significant to the history of the Old Settlers, and thus the UKB.
Ross reminded the western Cherokee that they met in council with the
eastern Cherokee on Dec. 8, 1836, and that the western Cherokees
unanimously agreed "to cooperate and unite in a joint effort to
negotiate a treaty with the United States for the best interests of the
whole Cherokee people." He concluded: "Let us never forget this
self-evident truth; that a house divided against itself, cannot stand;
or, united we stand, divided we fall."
It was clearly the understanding of the Western Cherokee leaders, that
the new immigrants would meld into the society already existing in the
west. The chiefs of the Western Cherokee Nation believed that they had
agreed to a unification of the Cherokee people under the government
then existing in the west, not a usurping of their own authority.
Elections were only a year away, it would have been easy for the
Cherokee emigrants to search out homesteads, establish themselves and
then elect whomever they wanted for leadership. But politics being what
it was and still is, the majority of the emigrants wanted John Ross as
the chief of the whole nation. Because they had a majority, the
emigrants used their political power to overwhelm the Old Settlers and
supplant their government with that of the emigrants.
On July 12, 1839, the eastern Cherokees and the western Cherokees came
together in an Act of Union: "(T)he people composing the Eastern and
Western Cherokee Nation, in national convention assembled, by virtue of
our original unalienable rights, do hereby solemnly and mutually agree
to form ourselves into one body politic, under the style and title of
the Cherokee Nation."
Yes, under some duress, the Western Cherokees agreed to join with their
Eastern brethren. But did they disappear? Again, ask yourself the
question, where did they go?
On April 15, 1858, Budd Gritts, head captain of the Keetoowah Society,
in Howard Q. Tyner's master's thesis, "The Keetoowah Society in
Cherokee History," said the Keetoowah Society was formalized under
bylaws. It was apparent to the Keetoowah Society that the U.S. was
divided and that the Cherokee Nation would be affected.
It is at this juncture in history that the Old Settlers become the
Keetoowah Society. While not all Old Settlers were eligible for
membership, because they did not speak Cherokee, the Society at that
time was comprised of both traditional and Christian Cherokee speaking,
mostly full blood people. Because the Keetoowahs has come west prior to
the Trail of Tears, had been a major force among the Western Cherokee
Nation and the leadership of the newly organized Keetoowah Society was
comprised of that political group, and they claimed an historic
connection to the Western Cherokee Nation's treaties, lands and
annuities, the newly formed Keetoowah Society became the historic
successor to the Western Cherokee Nation and its treaties.
"(T)he men were becoming reckless and seemed to be taking sides with
the South, but the leading cause was those who owned Negro slaves,"
The Keetoowah Society reacted to circumstances within the Cherokee
Nation: "(O)ur Keetoowah forefathers - loved and lived as free people
and had never surrendered to anybody. They loved one another for they
were just like one family, just as if they had been raised from one
family. They all came as a unit to their fire to smoke, to aid one
another and to protect their government with what little powder and
lead they had to use in protecting it," according to the Keetoowah
Society bylaws of April 29, 1859.
The Keetoowah Society declared over and again that they were prepared
to protect the Cherokee Nation.
The Keetoowah Society did work to protect the government that had been
forged by the union of their former government, the Western Cherokee
Nation, with the government of the Eastern emigrants. Why wouldn't
they, much was at stake and they were true patriots. The UKB has done
the same. They have, for years defended the status of the true Cherokee
Nation authored by the Constitution of 1839. They have fought against
the interloper government created by Ross Swimmer and now headed by
UKB-hater Chad Smith known as the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma or CNO.
In 1968, members of the UKB resisted the tyranny of then Cherokee
Nation principal Chief by filing suit (Groundhog v. Keeler) against
him, claiming that he was violating the valid Constitution of the
Cherokee Nation. That does not sound like the actions of a people
trying to destroy the Cherokee Nation. Those are the actions of a
people who recognize that the Cherokee Nation still exists and want to
enforce its laws. Those are the actions of Keetoowah patriots who
continue to recognize that the Cherokee people are one, under the
governance of the Act of Union and the Constitution of 1839. It is the
fraudulent government of the CNO which threatens everything Cherokees
hold dear. That interloper government, with its willingness to hand
over to the state of Oklahoma the sovereignty and rights of all of the
Cherokee people, is the true danger to the continued enjoyment of
sovereignty by the Cherokee people.
"The name Cherokee was in danger. The Cherokee Nation were about to
disintegrate. It seemed intended to drown our Cherokee Nation and
destroy it-. We must love each other and abide by treaties made with
the Federal government-. Second, we must also abide by the treaties
made with other races of people. Third, we must abide our constitution
and laws and uphold the name of the Cherokee Nation - we must endeavor
to strengthen our society. Our society must be called Keetoowah."
This statement speaks for itself. The United Keetoowah Band has done
nothing but seek to protect the rights of the Cherokee people. They
have sought to strengthen the Cherokee Nation and protect it from the
corrupt leadership of the Keeler/Swimmer/Mankiller/Smith regime. They
have fought to hold onto the traditional lifeways of the Cherokees.
They have sought only to strengthen our society under the traditional
name of Keetoowah.
In 1861, the Keetoowah Society resolved that "if any urgent and
important message from the Chief of the Cherokee Nation should be
received by Head Captains to be looked into, it shall be the duty of
the head captains to send out the message to all parts of the Cherokee
The above resolution shows a stark contrast between the old chiefs of
the Cherokee Nation, who worked with the Keetoowahs and the current
chief, Chad Smith, who refuses even to speak to them.
The Cherokee Nation did become embroiled in the American Civil War on
both sides and the Keetoowahs did fight for the north. After the Civil
War, the Keetoowahs became more political and their leadership had
control of the Cherokee Nation government. In the 1890s, there was a
split within the Keetoowah Society's organization based on spiritual
and religious differences. However, the Keetoowah Society (Nighthawks),
as we know it today, is a spiritual organization that retains the 1859
The split Richard eludes to is an important moment in the history of
the UKB and the Keetoowah Society. While Mr. Allen glosses over this
split as spiritual and religious, the fact is the split was political.
The leadership of the Keetoowah Society began to move in different
directions. In the 1890s, the full bloods lost total control of the
Cherokee Nation government. The last of the National Party Chiefs was
put out of office by the southern thinking, Treaty Party mixed bloods.
Those Cherokees who sought only to live a spiritual life, free from
politics, withdrew and refused to get involved in what they saw as a
hopeless political fiasco. Other members of the Keetoowah Society saw
things differently. They wanted to continue to play a role in the
politics of the Cherokee Nation and continued to put forward National
Party candidates, some who were elected, others were not. But no
National Party candidates for chief were ever elected again. The split
in the Keetoowah Society brought about a religious arm, operating at
ceremonial grounds around the Cherokee Nation and rejecting politics;
and a political arm delving into tribal politics and the electoral
The UKBCIO is a political entity that emanated from within the Cherokee
Nation. The UKBCIO was recognized by federal legislation in 1946 and
chartered in 1950. So, the UKBCIO is 56 years old. Within the last few
years, it has redefined its identity several times. The current UKBCIO
administration claims a membership of about 10,000 who meet the
one-quarter degree membership requirement and based on this, they
state: "traditional Cherokees are still Keetoowah."
Again, Richard glosses over the political history of the Keetoowah
Society. In 1905, when everyone believed the Cherokee Nation was being
destroyed, the political branch of the Keetoowah Society applied to the
federal courts for recognition and a federal charter. This charter was
granted and the separation of the political arm of the Keetoowah
Society became complete. The religious organization of the Society
continued to function independently of the all other entities,
concerning itself only with the religious and spiritual life of the
Nation. On the other hand, the now federally chartered Keetoowah
Society Incorporated, set out to represent the full blood Cherokees in
their relationship with the federal government, specifically the BIA.
While the history of the spiritual arm of the Keetoowah Society remains
a mystery to most non-members, the history of the political arm of the
Keetoowah is well known and the documents are public record.
The Cherokee Nation has more than 40,000 citizens who are one-quarter
degree or more Cherokee blood and if one were to base the strength of
tradition on blood quantum, the Cherokee citizens of the Cherokee
Nation are traditional Cherokees or in the ancient rhetoric they, too,
Richard is simply playing a math game here, but it fails miserably. The
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma boasts a members of 260,000 members. If
only 40,000 of those are 1/4 or more, then 220,000 members are less
than a quarter. You do the math, percentages don't lie, the CNO is not
a traditional organization. On the other hand, the UKB boasts a members
of about 10,000, and nearly 100 percent of them are 1/4 or more. Their
chief speaks Cherokee, as do many on the Council. Nearly 40 percent of
the members continue to speak Cherokee in their homes. While the
spiritual Keetoowah Society still refuses to take part in politics,
many of the Society's members are members of the UKB. In fact, after
the Keetoowah Society leaderships refusal to join in the organization
of the UKB back in 1946, Chad Smith's grandmother, Rachel Johnson
Quinton, was instrumental in getting many of the Nighthawk Cherokees to
join the UKB. They appear on the amended base roll.
The Cherokee Nation has an open enrollment for citizenship based on
ancestry enrolled by the Dawes Commission. The UKBCIO excludes those
who do not meet the one-quarter degree or more membership requirement.
The Cherokee Nation (not CNO) is made up of all the Cherokee people,
including the Cherokees by blood (of any degree), Shawnees, Delaware,
Freedmen and adopted Creeks. The CNO admits to membership anyone who
can prove to the Dawes Roll (although they have excluded the Freedmen
for 20+ years). With a membership of over 250,000, and most of those
being less than 1/4, or basically caucasian, does it not stand to
reason that the full blood Cherokees not only need, but deserve their
own representation? I doubt that anyone could make a sound argument
that the needs of the full bloods, with language issues, cultural
issues, poverty issues, education issues, don't need some form of
separate assistance. The full bloods have become a minority in their
own Nation. I would never say that a Cherokee of the nth degree should
be cast out. I have supported the rights of the Freedmen for over 25
years. But I also believe that the UKB has a purpose that is essential
to the survival of the Cherokee people and more particularly the full
bloods. I know Richard agrees with that. I have listened to him talk
about the mixed Cherokees. He's not fooling me for an instant. He's
Cherokee in his heart, but he's letting his pocketbook do the talking
Many Cherokee children are born at the W. W. Hastings Hospital, some
are less than one-quarter and born to a UKB parent(s). Therefore, the
child is not eligible for membership in the UKBCIO. Are those
grandchildren who do not meet the one-quarter degree requirement of the
UKBCIO enrolled as citizens of the Cherokee Nation?
If a member of the UKB marries outside the tribe, they make that choice
of their own free will. They know the consequences for their children
if they are less than 1/4 blood. Certainly, that child can become a
member of the CNO. I have said for years that the members of the UKB
should ALL be members of the CNO. After all, the CNO is nothing more
than the vehicle whereby all of the Cherokee people, including the
members of the UKB popularly select the Principal Chief of the Cherokee
Nation. The CNO is not a tribe, it is merely an organization designed
to assist the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in carrying out
elections. All descendants of the Dawes Roll Cherokees should have the
right to vote for the office of Principal Chief, including the
membership of the UKB.
Letters regarding independence of Keetoowah Society and Redbird smith
Nighthawk Keetoowah Society from the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee
Indians in Oklahoma
Reprinted from the Cherokee Advocate Special Edition, April 1991
Letter from the Keetoowah Society
Jan. 30, 1991
To All it May Concern:
I am William Smith, Chief of the Keetoowah Society. The Keetoowah
Society is a religious society made up of traditional Cherokees; this
organization has often been referred to as the keepers of the sacred
fire or the Keetoowah Nighthawks. I am writing this letter because of
the statements and rumors that the United Keetoowah Band leadership
represents the traditional Keetoowah Society.
The Keetoowah Society is a spiritual movement of the Cherokee people
founded on the culture and tradition of the Cherokee people before the
Trail of Tears. It was reorganized and we function presently under our
1859 Constitution. We practice our beliefs as a religion. Unlike the
United Keetoowah Band, we are not a political organization or movement.
We do not foster division among our people or the outside world.
Certainly, we do not approve of using the Keetoowah name for commercial
activities, bingo and smoke shops. We are the keepers of the tradition,
culture, language and spirit of the Cherokee Indians.
I have told other Cherokees that United Keetoowah Band is not the
Keetoowah Society and that the United Keetoowah Band should remove the
Keetoowah name from its organization. I have also told leaders of that
organization that the division that they promote among the Cherokee
people is not in keeping with Keetoowah ways and is just wrong. As it
was before the Trail of Tears and as it is today, there is only one
government for the Cherokee tribe and that is the Cherokee Nation. The
United Keetoowah Band and the Keetoowah Society have never been
governments of the Cherokee people.
This statement is made for the record so that all may know the truth
about the Keetoowah Society and that Keetoowah Society has nothing to
do with the leaders of the United Keetoowah Band who are
misrepresenting the ways of the Keetoowah. I have enclosed a video tape
documentation of the Keetoowah Society titled "Spirit of Fire" to let
you know more about our organization and to show the authenticity of
this statement. ('Spirit of the Fire,' produced by KJRH-TV and
broadcast in 1984, is available for viewing at Cherokee First in the
William Lee Smith
Chief, Keetoowah Society, Vian, Okla.
It is not nice to speak badly of the dead, so I'll just say this, the
letter you have just read was NOT written by William Smith. It was
written by Chad Smith and signed by William. Close to the end of his
life, William Smith was unable to write. Chad used William for
political gain. As far as I know, William Smith and his immediate
family are the ONLY Smiths who give any kind of recognition to Chad
Smith as a Smith. The statements in this letter, while basically true,
do not give the full picture of the long-standing and historic
relationship between the Keetoowah Society, the spiritual branch, and
the United Keetoowah Band, the political branch, of the same
organization. They are twins, born of the same mother, The Western
Letter from Redbird Smith Nighthawk Keetoowah Society
Jan. 24, 1991
To Anyone Concerned:
Redbird Smith's Nighthawk Keetoowah Society Inc. is an organization
separate and apart from the United Keetoowah Band. We are not involved
in the current dispute between the United Keetoowah Band and the
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
We are a cultural and spiritual organization. We do not operate
businesses and do not get involved in the politics of these
We are for unity and against division of the Cherokee People.
R. Bruce Ross, IV
Chief of the Clan Council
And they are separate and apart from the Keetoowah Society and separate
from the Four Mother's Society and separate and apart from the Cherokee
Baptist and Methodist Associations. That proves nothing about the UKB
and says nothing about the historic splits that have taken place across
the board among the Cherokees that has created all of these
organizations. It is our generation that must bring them all back
together. And it won't be accomplished by talking about who they are
not. We can only bring all factions of the Cherokee people back
together by talking about who we all are, Cherokees of the Keetoowah,
one people united by politics and spirituality.