Cherokee Freedmen Story
A continuing of the story of Freedmen, who struggle for citizenship and voting rights within the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. CA Rep Diane Watson speaks on their behalf.
A March 2008 article in Tulsa World, hard copy and website, briefly reports on this long-standing controversy:
“U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., the most vocal congressional critic of the Cherokee Nation and its efforts to deny citizenship to descendants of former slaves, said both the tribe and the BIA need more oversight on the issue.”
The Act of stripping the Cherokee Freedmen descendants of their citizenship was done by Chief Ross O. Swimmer, and done without hint of law as basis; Swimmer and his appointed registrar put together a set of bogus rules in 1983 that began the dastardly deed!
An interesting side note, the registrar at the time, Dora Mae Watie, was of Freedmen descent. Her grandfather was on the roll as a Freedmen, but she denied the fact and strongly supported Swimmer’s plan to kick them out. The Jim Crow era wasn't that long gone in 1983, which the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma (CNO) had adopted along with Oklahoma. Following are some words that makes for a clearer picture of the fraud by CNO and what they do to this a class of Cherokee Citizens.
In 1988 Wilma Mankiller realized this heinous act being perpetrated upon this class of Cherokee People was totally without basis in law, so she had her Council pass a resolution to strengthen it. In 1992, she finally realized a resolution is not actual law, so she had her council pass a legislative Act, which is an actual law that made the set of rules, and the bogus Resolution, into Cherokee law.
As a result of this legislative Act, for nine years the Freedmen were denied citizenship rights until 2006 when the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court issued a ruling that found the 1992 Act unconstitutional, striking it down.
I believe this letter, posted without
attribution, to be a very accurate account of the continued fraud upon the
Cherokee Freedmen descendants, by CNO leadership up to and including Chief
Smith. All that has been sent and received since demonstrates the most important
part of the whole mess: Chad Smith will abide by the 1866 treaty.
On August 11, 2003, descendants of Cherokee Freedmen, through the Velie and Velie law firm, filed suit against the US Dept. of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), alleging loss of voting rights in Cherokee elections, and that the elections, as run, are illegal and should not be countenanced by the BIA. After the initial complaint was filed, various stays have been granted by Judge Kennedy for the parties to attempt a resolution.
During this time period, Cherokee nation tribal spokesman, Mike Miller told the Fort Smith Times, “Freedmen had never voted for officials of the Cherokee nation.” This is an untrue statement as such men as Freedmen Councilman Stick Ross today has streets, mountains, etc. named after him and there is even a plaque with his name on the grounds of the CNO complex Tahlequah.
The Muskogee Phoenix newspaper on September 13, 2003 interviewed Principal Chief Smith, an attorney, who reportedly stated that the Cherokee Constitution requires CDIB cards. This was an outright blatant lie; Smith is a lawyer, and was a member of the Constitutional Convention that revised the 1975 Constitution. Article III Section 1 of the 1975 Constitution and the Revision and Article IV section 1 of the 1999 Constitution both say the same thing.
Chief Smith was not pleased with that 2006 Ruling, and laid out his position defending the exclusion of Black Freedmen from the Cherokee Nation. This article appeared on the CNO website, and shows the beginning of his plan to overturn the supreme law of CNO, which Smith referred to as words of just three people - never mind that he had appointed two of them to the court, by bogus claims and a very questionable election process. In a lawsuit that eventually supported the petition process, Justice Leeds offered this dissenting opinion - a must-read to see the blatant disregard for Cherokee law by Chad Smith’s court of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma CNO!!
In September of 2007, Eli Grayson, a Creek Indian of Oklahoma, gave this rousing report in support of the Freedmen at the DC panel of the Black Caucus.
Allies of Cherokee Freedmen are growing, raising
hope that this racist exclusion will end.
Cherokee Member of CNO