Thursday, July 8, 2010


Freedmen suit challenge sent to D.C.

A federal judge in Tulsa says the Cherokees' action is similar to a case pending there.

By CLIFTON ADCOCK World Staff Writer
Published: 7/7/2010 2:23 AM
Last Modified: 7/7/2010 8:04 AM

A federal lawsuit filed in Tulsa by the Cherokee Nation seeking a declaration that the descendants of freedmen are not entitled to membership in the tribe has been ordered transferred to Washington, D.C., where a similar lawsuit is pending against tribal leaders and the federal government.

The Cherokee Nation filed its suit last year against the U.S. Department of the Interior and five descendants of freedmen — former slaves that had been owned by tribal members. The freedmens' descendants had obtained tribal membership before Cherokees voted in 2007 to restrict Cherokee citizenship by excluding people whose ancestors were not listed on the Dawes Rolls as having a percentage of American Indian blood.

The Dawes Rolls, which the U.S. government created in 1893 to allot land to members of the Five Civilized Tribes, contained several categories, including citizenship by blood and freedmen.

A Cherokee court ruled in 2006 that descendants on the freedmen roll were eligible for tribal citizenship, but only the "by blood" rolls were recognized after the election. (our right as Citizens to vote on this - and the vote was overwhelming in favor of Cherokee by Blood)

The case will go to U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, who is hearing a lawsuit brought in 2003 by Marilyn Vann, a freedmen descendant, against Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith and the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Vann's suit seeks to void the outcomes of tribal elections in which freedmen descendants were not allowed to vote.

The Cherokee Nation has argued that the case should be dismissed because it was an indispensable party in the Washington suit but did not waive sovereign immunity to be named a party in the suit.

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern of Tulsa ruled Friday that under the "first to file rule," the tribe's case should be transferred to the Washington court because it is essentially hearing the same issue. The freedmen descendents and the Interior Department argued for the transfer. (so is the Federal Judge in DC just hoping this will go away or is he going to rule; seems to me the Supreme Court has already told him what he needs to do? So just do it - let's get it over with! Talk about stone walling, not to mention it's getting the same appearance as the Voter Intimidation case, where the justice department said no cases would go forward if it was a white man against a black man. So the Cherokee once again get blind sided by a different ethnic group; Most of the Freedmen have supplied misinformation blaming the Chief and Councilors for what they say they've told people, when in fact Cherokee families themselves have passed the information about the Freedmen non-blood status down - in essence, even, the historical facts against them are overwhelming - not to mention that the Ancient Document Rules of Evidence say a document (Dawes Roll) is considered true if over 75 years old - and they aren't listed with any Cherokee Blood and in fact are set in their own roll separate and apart from the Cherokee by Blood Rolls - looks pretty clear to me - Congress can make them their own Tribe - Indian Freedmen by Association I guess)

Vann cheered Kern's ruling as a victory for freedman descendants. She said the tribe waived its immunity from a lawsuit by filing its own suit.

"We eagerly await the day when all descendants of Dawes-enrolled Cherokee freedmen can register/reregister as Cherokee Nation tribal members, vote and run for tribal political office, as promised our ancestors by the U.S. government and tribal officials in 1866," said Vann, who is also the president of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association. (say what? I've not read anywhere they were granted this, Cherokee's didn't even have this in 1866; the only thing they got was land and the Freedmen got that as well - Court of Claims has already ruled that this group is filing their claim too late)

Cherokee Attorney General Diane Hammons said the ruling was merely a procedural move, and the suit's merits have not been decided.

"The record clearly shows that the federal government itself has extinguished any rights non-Indian freedmen descendants had under the treaty, and we look forward to bringing the issue to a conclusion in the appropriate federal court," she said. (The court knows what it must do, but it's dragging it's feet and the case should go againt the Freedmen)

"The law, history, and facts show that non-Indian freedmen descendants have no treaty rights under federal law. This ruling moves the process forward, and we look forward to demonstrating this in court." (Yep, but I guess the Freedmen figure they're above the law and the bully law rules)

Clifton Adcock 581-8462

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Dangers of State Recognition

Tennessee Indian status dispute has tribes at odds

Clarksville leader defends move

A dispute over tribal recognition has some American Indians in Tennessee at odds with a well-established tribe in another state. And a state American Indian caucus chaired by a Clarksvillian has positioned itself right in the middle of it.

The Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs officially recognized six new tribes last month, a move that will make them eligible for federal funding and minority status.

Jim Cossingham, a retired business consultant who now lives in Clarksville, praised the decision, noting the new opportunities it will provide local tribe members.

Cossingham, a member of the Nipmuc Tribe of Massachusetts, said he's worked with American Indian tribes for years, helping them apply for federal funding.

The scarcity of that funding appears to be at the heart of opposition to the new tribes. The most vocal opponent has been the Cherokee Nation — an Oklahoma-based tribe that likened the new Tennessee tribes to "culture clubs" in a recent Tennessean report.

A Cherokee Nation spokesman told the Tennessean they did not deny that the members of the Tennessee tribes have Native American lineage.

"What we absolutely dispute is that they are tribes," said Mark Greene, a Nashville lobbyist who works for the Cherokee Nation.

Responded Cossingham: "Now, who are they to tell us what we are? What expertise does their lobbyist have to say (that)?

"The commission put those six tribes through a very, very daunting process," he added. "They didn't say, 'OK, here you are, here's your certificate.'" (let's see, some of the commission members were also members of these *tribes* - just exactly how daunting was it?)

Funding isn't the only thing at stake.

"This is not just an economic issue from my standpoint — this is a civil rights issue," said Cossingham, who chairs the independent Tennessee Native American Convention.

The Tennessean report highlighted the cultural importance of the move for previously unrecognized tribe members. Before the commission vote, one woman said she felt like an outcast in the Native American community. "I'm more than just an Indian," Edna Duncan told
The Tennessean. "I know who I am now."

Another benefit to state recognition is an ability for tribes to market their arts and crafts as Indian-made; a federal law intended to protect tribes from con artists peddling fake Indian goods has had the opposite effect on unrecognized but full-blooded American Indians. The penalty for selling without official status is up to $250,000 for individuals.

The decision was one of the last acts for the TCIA, whose status as a state agency was not renewed by the Legislature for the 2010-11 year.

Cossingham said tribal recognition was a focus for the TCIA and TNAC. TNAC appoints TCIA members, and Cossingham said they replaced five of the seven commission members recently, with that goal in mind.

"Just as we get something moving now, all of a sudden the commission is going to be sunset," Cossingham said.

"(But) we'll live with this. We've got another governor and another Legislature in six months," that should, he said, reinstate the agency.

Native America Knows the REAL Andrew Jackson!

Newcomb: ‘Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson’
By Steven Newcomb
Story Published: Jul 6, 2010

While in New York recently for the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, I was invited by an American Indian friend to see the off-Broadway production “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Public Theatre. Written by Alex Timbers and Michael Friedman, and directed by Timbers, the play is being described as “an irreverent Wild West rock musical” that “redefines America’s seventh president, a pioneer of humble stock who invented the Democratic Party, moved Indians west, and played a kick-ass guitar.” The reviews have been quite positive and the play ran through the end of June.

>From an American Indian perspective, however, “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is a racist and dehumanizing portrayal of American Indians. It is an effort to be humorous by using and reinforcing the worst stereotypes of American Indians, and working them to great effect and laughter among the non-Indian audience. It does so by evoking the false images of Indian people that continue to permeate the mass culture of American society.

At the outset, the play portrays Jackson as a child, witnessing and experiencing his parents being killed by Indians (shot in the back with arrows). Thus, Jackson is immediately cast as a sympathetic figure in the eyes of the audience, while the Indians are framed as cold-blooded killers.

Historically, however, Jackson’s father, Andrew Jackson Sr., injured himself while lifting a log and died in 1767, at the age of 29, a month before Jackson was born. His mother also was not killed by Indians; she died of cholera while tending to wounded soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Clearly, historical accuracy was the last thing on the mind of the writers.

“Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” is said to be an effort to greatly entertain while drawing parallels between Jackson’s era and what’s going on today, with issues of populism, banking, the Washington elite, taxation and terrorism. In keeping with the last analogy, however, this means that the ones being associated with the issues of “terrorists” and “terrorism” are the Indians on the “frontier” who were attempting to defend their traditional lands and territories from American colonization. Jackson’s militaristic and bloody actions were his means of attempting to grow “the homeland” of the United States.

The play makes no effort to accurately contextualize what Indian nations and peoples were facing during Jackson’s era, and the script refers repeatedly to Jackson wanting to get the land “back” from the Indians. As if the Indians had taken it away from the whites to begin with, and Jackson was trying to win it back.

In another effort to be funny, the writers have “Indian” warriors (white cast members) dancing across the stage in drag, to illustrate what exactly is never made clear. Andrew Jackson captures an Indian infant as “a souvenir” of battle, and takes the child home to his wife Rachel. Later the boy comes on stage dressed in the ridiculous stereotypical attire that non-Indians associate with Indian people, and in another effort at humor Jackson mildly reprimands the child for a pastime of “scalping squirrels,” which would not meet with Rachel’s approval.

The play dehumanizes the Indian characters by characterizing them as stupid, and willing to sell their lands for a few blankets so long as you throw in some “dream catchers.” Having white actors in black face would be the equivalent of what Timbers and Friedman have done to American Indians in “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson.”

The “Battle of Horseshoe Bend” involved the slaughter of nearly 1,000 Creek Indians, most of whom had almost no weapons, other than bows and arrows. Rather than deal with this, however, the section of the play that references Horseshoe Bend simply portrays Indians as lacking in intelligence in treaty making. The play also portrays Jackson as anguished over his Indian Removal Policy, which resulted in the Trail of Tears and the deaths of thousands of Cherokee Indians. History clearly shows that Jackson was unequivocal and unwavering in his support of Indian removal to lands west of the Mississippi River.

There’s simply no getting away from the fact that the backdrop of the play is Indian lands, territories and resources, and how effective Jackson was at acquiring them for the United States by any means necessary. And perhaps this was part of the subtext that the writer and director had in mind. If it was, the point is buried beneath the confusion created by the clumsy and dehumanizing use of Indian stereotypes in the play in a bid for cheap laughs.

Steven Newcomb, who is Shawnee and Lenape, is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, author of “Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery,” (Fulcrum, 2008) and a columnist with Indian Country Today.