An open letter to members of the Cherokee Nation who despite the recent court decision, still can’t get right.
To: Cara Cowan Watts and Does 1-1,000
Last Saturday, folks gathered in Tulsa to celebrate the recent ruling by a federal judge that officially bestowed citizenship to Cherokee Freedmen. This celebration was especially warranted considering that the Attorney General for the Cherokee Nation, Todd Hembree, issued a statement saying that he, in his constitutionally created position and capacity, would not pursue an appeal and added:
“As the Attorney General, I see this as an opportunity to resolve the Freedmen citizenship issue and allow the Cherokee Nation to move beyond this dispute. My office will work tirelessly to thoroughly review this decision and its legal ramifications, and will move forward in a way that best serves the interests of the Cherokee Nation and its citizens, including Freedmen descendants.”
So, imagine my surprise when I came across an email that appears to have been sent out on Friday, by you, a former member of the Cherokee Tribal Council. I question the need to conflate “mandated citizenship” with the saga of Cherokee Freedmen, or the Freedmen of any of the Five Civilized Tribes within your email. I find it highly hilarious that you would raise such a point considering the centuries long issues nearly all First Nations groups have had with the federal government not honoring their end of the treaties. It appears that honoring treaties only works one way.
So, I took to Twitter on Saturday to ask you directly why you would go behind your own tribal leadership to push an appeal of the decision when they have released their official statements saying they would not. I laid out the reasons why your email and line of thinking could be easily challenged.
My Tweets to Cara Cowan Watts – [twitter_moment id=”930467673091248130″ limit=”1″]
After more than 24 hours, there was no response from you despite the fact that you were tweeting. You even shared an article about the event in Tulsa, with no comment.
Did you support the rally or not? Between the email and the tweet things are clear as mud. Your response was to block me. But the Cherokee Nation didn’t.
That Time You Tried It
Following my series of tweets to you, a Cherokee blogger named Twila, who I had corresponded with previously and who said “I’ve read your blog and love it!” proceeded to try to discredit my research into my family. In the series “Rider Fields and Freedmen,” which was published on Sunday, Twila makes canyons wide leaps in an attempt to lay out the case that Rider Fields was not the father of my ancestor, Katie Fields Vann. Twila openly tries to discredit the ancestral ties of the lead plaintiff in the recent court case, my cousin Marilyn Vann. In my opinion, this was done to challenge the claims that I made in my tweets and to challenge Marilyn’s credibility.
But, here’s what’s REALLY funny. I’m not only a Cherokee Freedmen, but I’m also a Cherokee by blood.
Ike Been Told Y’All
On May 20, 1885, Isaac Rogers, my 2x great grandfather, son in law of Katie Fields Vann, issued the statement that his “children have Cherokee blood in their veins” before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Perhaps you assumed that blood “allegedly” came from his wife, Sarah Vann Rogers, Katie’s daughter. In a previous post, I clearly laid out how oral history, combined with DNA, confirmed my 4x great grandmother, Annie May Humphries, was raped by either Old Settler Chief John Rogers or one of his sons. and the product of that rape was my 3x great grandmother, Martha May Richardson, Isaac’s mother. I have time today to lay this case out even more.
Above you’ll find a table of just 25 of the descendants of Old Settler Chief John Rogers that share DNA with me and my two known cousins, SRH, and SV. There are several family groups within those 25 matches. Most have proven ancestry through the genealogical paper trail and the DNA they share amongst each other. 24 of these people are eligible to be members of the Cherokee Nation based on their ancestor being identified on the by blood roll.
Until August 2017, the one remaining (in addition to me and my family), would have been denied membership into the Nation because our ancestors were segregated onto the Freedmen roll despite all of us knowing they had Cherokee blood.
What makes all of this more sickening is the fact that me and you are cousins. You proclaim your tie to Chief Rogers proudly on your website. Yet, you ignored me and blocked me. Apparently I’m not invited to the cookout because of all this melanin.
Twila’s own words in a blog post, published on September 10, 2011, clearly outline an important reason why the blood quantum argument (and really the by blood roll) is moot:
“The Cherokee Nation survived before US funding and they will survive if they lose it all, but I do care about what is right and disenfranchising people is wrong, especially when it is based on the color of one’s skin. You would think one minority would not do that to another, but the problem is, most of the Cherokee Nation is not a “minority.” They are mostly white. (If you are less than 1/2 Indian blood, then you are mostly something other than Indian racially. Fact, not a racist opinion.) I guess they forget, back when I was born, one had to be 1/2 or more to be a Cherokee. I imagine most of those that voted for this amendment wouldn’t like it if the nation voted a 1/2 or a 4/4 BQ in, would they? They would say it wasn’t fair and it was based on race rather than a proven connection to the tribe or the Dawes Roll. Well, if we start disenfranchising Cherokees now, what makes anyone think it will ever stop? Who will be next? Will it be those with less than 1/64 Indian blood? Or maybe those with less than 1/16th? Or maybe even those with less than 1/4th? Who knows, but it’s something to think about.”
But Wait, There’s More
Right when I thought the situation was under wraps, I learned about Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Member David Walkingstick’s attempt to introduce legislation to disenroll the Cherokee Freedmen AGAIN. Even though the Attorney General for the Nation said they would not pursue an appeal.
“An Act Relating to Appeal a Federal District Court Decision Impacting the Sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation and the 566 Other Tribes Across the United States and Declaring an Emergency,” charges that:
“Attorney General Hembree, Principal Chief Baker, and Deputy Principal Chief Crittenden failed to defend the 2007 Constitutional Amendment and the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court’s decision in Nash by refusing to appeal”
The fact that this proposed act even has traction is beyond ridiculous and doesn’t negate what was ruled in August: “…the Cherokee Freedmen’s right to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation is directly proportional to native Cherokees’ right to citizenship… ”
I get it. Sometimes it’s hard to accept things that change the way we live and operate. On the other hand, to attempt to discredit me, my family, and all the other thousands of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes and try make us out to be $5 Indians is flat out rank and disrespectful. We aren’t out here touting ancestors with “high cheek bones and long hair.” We actually have approved Dawes ancestors AND can prove Cherokee blood based on DNA. Please go get your life. Please.
Featured image:” Negro drinking at “Colored” water cooler in streetcar terminal, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,” by Russell Lee. Source: Library of Congress.