Thursday, September 15, 2011

Well, This Is Awkward
Stranger - Online, The

From the Native American Times :
OKLAHOMA CITY – Descendants of former black slaves once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation are asking a federal judge to block a tribal election for principal chief until the tribe restores their full citizenship rights, including the right to vote.

In legal papers filed Friday in Washington, D.C., descendants of Cherokee freedmen, as they are known, asked a federal judge to halt a Sept. 24 election for principal chief of the Oklahoma-based tribe. A hearing on the request is set for Sept. 20 before U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr.
Documents filed by attorneys for the freedmen accuse the tribe of violating a 145-year-old treaty when the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court last month restored a voter-approved amendment denying citizenship to non-Native American descendants of tribal members' former black slaves. The court reversed a lower court ruling that had voided the amendment approved by trial voters in 2007. The court's decision affected an estimated 2,800 freedmen.

What's at stake for the estimated 2,800 freedmen: a vote over who gets to lead the tribe's $600 million annual budget, wield veto power over the tribe's agenda ("which is crucial," the news story says, "since many tribal members live outside Oklahoma"), and oversee its casinos and healthcare facilities. What's at stake for the genetic Cherokee: a bunch of folks with an oblique relationship to Cherokee-ness having political influence over the tribe's future.

I'm going to venture a hypothesis.

In the next decade or so, as an older generation concerned with maintaining tradition (as they define it) dies away and the rest of the U.S. slides deeper into trouble (drug war, economy, etc., etc.), the reservations' unique legal status will allow them to become oases of sanity ( pot , gay marriage , etc.). Being registered as Choctaw or Cherokee or Suquamish will become less of a cultural proposition and more of an economic/political one.

According to Indians in the Making by historian Alexandra Harmon, Indian "tribes" in the Puget Sound area were invented during the treaty-making process, which involved government agents identifying powerful families to negotiate with and build a "tribal" infrastructure around. That political jockeying is why, in part, the Tulalip keep trying to legally block the Duwamish from being recognized as tribe.

The business of Indian-ness, a onetime liability that is now being perceived as an asset, is going to get much more complicated in the very near future.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Here is former Chief Chad Smith's response to the BIA letter sent out today, dated Sept. 9

Our September 24 election is a matter of Cherokee National pride and honor. My opponent needs to step up the plate and take a position: Does he agree that the Cherokee people have a right to elect a chief according to our own laws and Constitution or will he stand with his non-Cherokee freedmen supporters who are trying to stop this election and cut all funding for services?

The letter from the BIA is clearly an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of the Cherokee Nation. We must assert our sovereignty and follow the mandate of our Supreme Court. Washington D.C. bureaucrats are telling the Cherokee people that they don’t think we should be able to elect our own chief. The BIA wants to decide who our chief is, just like they did 100 years ago, and that’s wrong.

During my tenure as Chief, I fought each and every attack on our sovereignty and will continue to do so during the next term. As Cherokees, we must be united in our battle against these Washington DC bureaucrats instead of casting aspersions for personal gain like my opponent is doing.

Every Cherokee citizen, especially our acting leadership, should defend the Cherokee people’s right to determine their own citizenship and elect their own chief. I challenge my opponent to stand up for the Cherokee Constitution and the people's right to vote instead of his non-Cherokee freedmen supporters who are trying to end all funding for the Cherokee Nation.

(Go Chief!)

response to BIA - say if they move us again can we go to someplace where the weather is warmer in Winter, I like Hawaii

Below is a message from Acting Principal Chief Joe Crittenden in response to a letter from the BIA regarding our upcoming special election for Principal Chief and the citizenship status of freedmen in the Cherokee Nation.

"Yesterday, I received a letter from the United States Department of Interior which asserts that the United States will not recognize the results of the September 24, 2011 election for Principal Chief if the freedmen are denied the right to vote. I am disheartened by the Department of the Interior’s actions. I received no prior notification of the letter, and the federal government did not consult with me before sending their letter. In the future, I will insist on an open and transparent dialogue with the federal government.

The Department of Interior’s letter asserts that several amendments to the prior Cherokee Nation constitution were implemented in violation of tribal and federal law. This assertion, if not handled properly, could lead to additional losses of federal funding and severe hardship for the most vulnerable Cherokees.

The Cherokee people were not fully apprised of the methods or consequences of moving forward with proposed constitutional amendments, nor where they told of potential legal complications in having the amendments recognized externally. Such things will not occur during my administration.

When I was sworn into office, I pledged to maintain the status quo leading up the September 24, 2011 election. However, I have inherited issues that can’t wait until a new Principal Chief is elected, and recent events have put me in a position where I must act to protect the Cherokee Nation’s interests. Through this process, I will keep the Cherokee People informed and I intend to take actions in an open and transparent fashion. I will demand that the Department of Interior deals with the Cherokee Nation in an open and bi-lateral fashion. I will insist there will be no more behind the scenes letters from congressmen, and no more secret dealings behind the Cherokee People’s backs. I will demand of the federal government that we conduct the Nation’s business openly, and only after consultation.

The Cherokee Nation is a party to a lawsuit in Washington, DC regarding the legality of various constitutional amendments. I have caused briefs to be filed strongly defending the Cherokee Nation. I will continue to faithfully follow my oath of office and legally defend the Cherokee Nation. I am also pursuing political remedies that are in the best interest of the Cherokee Nation. I will do my best to quickly resolve this issue and I have mobilized all resources to quickly resolve this matter so that services to our people and the operation of the tribal government are protected. I will also do my best to ensure that services will not be interrupted and the election will occur timely. The Cherokee Nation will emerge stronger because we will act quickly.

I hereby re-pledge to the Cherokee People that I will be transparent and truthful. I re-pledge that my administration will not be negligent in performing its duties. I re-pledge I will take every necessary step to ensure that proper policies are followed and completed. The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA. We will hold our election and continue our long legacy of responsible self-governance."

Sept 9, 2011 Letter from the BIA!

Dear Chief Crittenden:

We have followed the news of the upcoming election for Principal Chief with interest and growing concern. I write to advise you that the Department of the Interior (Department) has serious concerns about the legality of the Cherokee Nation's actions with respect to the Cherokee Freedmen, as well as the planned Septemeber 24, 2011, election.

On August 22, 2011, the Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation issued its decision in the matter of the Cherokee Nation Registrar v. Nash, Case No. SC-2011-02. In this decision, the Court vacated and reversed the earlier decision of the Cherokee District Court, as well as the temporary injuction that maintained the citizenship of the Freedmen. We have carefully reviewed this most recent decision. I am compelled to advise you that the Department respectfully disagrees with the Court's observations regarding the meaning of the Treaty of 1866, between the United States of America and the Cherokee Nation (Nation), 14 Stat. 799, as well as the status of the March 3, 2007, amendment to the Cherokee Constitution.

The Cherokee Constitution ratified by the voters in June 1976 expressly provides that "[n]o amendment or new Constitution shall become effective without the approval of the President of the United States or his authorized representative," which is the Secretary of the Interior. The Department declined to approve the 2003 amendments of the 1976 Constitution, as evidenced by the August 30, 2006 letter from Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason to Principal Chief Chad Smith and the March 28, 2007, letter from Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs (AS-IA) Carl Artman to Princiapl Chief Smith, copies of which are enclosed. (We've not seen these letters yet) Although on August 8, 2007, AS-IA Artman approved a June 23, 2007, amendment to the 1976 Constitution that removes the requirement for Secretarial approval of amendments, that decison is not retroactive. Thus, the decision of the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court appears to be premised on the misunderstanding that both the unapproved Constitution adopted in 2003, and the March 3, 2007, amendment that would make Freedmen ineligible for citizenship, are valid. The Department has never approved these amendments to the Cherokee Constitution as required by the Cherokee Constitution itself.

Furthermore, we understand that in 2010 the Nation adopted new election procedures which will govern the upcoming election for Principal Chief. Those procedures were never submitted to, nor approved by, the Secretary of the Interior or any designated Department of the Interior official as required by the Principal Chiefs Act, (Pub. L. 91-495, 84 Stat. 1091). Pursuant to the Princiap Chiefs Act, enacted by Congress in 1970, the Secretary is required to approve procedures for the selection of Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

We are concerned that the recent decision from the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court, together with 2010 election procedures that have not been approved by the Secretary of the Interior as required by the Principal Chiefs Act, will be the basis for denying Cherokee Freedmen citizenship and the right to vote in the upcoming election. The Department's position is, and has been, that the 1866 Treaty between the United States and the Cherokee Nation vested Cherokee Freedmen with rights of citizenship in the Nation, including the right of suffrage.

I urge you to consider carefully the Nation's next steps in proceeding with an election that does not comply with Federal law. The Department will not recognize any action taken by the Nation that is inconsistent with these principals and does not accord its Freedmen members full rights of citizenship. We stand ready to work with you to explore ways to honor and implement the Treaty.

Larry Echo Hawk
Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs

(Thank you BIA!!!  Well, I guess the Freedmen don't need a Federal Court Case or Hearing on the 20th of Sept...what a slap in the face by the BIA and an absolute Fraud upon the Cherokee Nation to send out this letter at this time...why didn't they do this say in 8 or 12 years earlier...we needed not waste time and resources on something they were going to shove down our throats anyway...??)

BIA new Chief of Cherokee Nation - They have done what the Courts Will not Do; recognized the 1866 Treaty and demanded Freedmen be given Citizenship!!

Compiled by Dan Agent
Copyright © 1996-1998 DAgent
All Rights Reserved

Text To Be Updated,'Various Sources Used'
[Related Articles found at: Tulsa World Online unless otherwise indicated.]

Birth of the Cherokee Constitutional Crisis
          Chronologies, timelines, news stories and press releases about the Cherokee Nation constitutional crisis began with the serving of the search warrant at the tribal complex on Feb. 25, ignoring the action or inaction that led to the search warrant. The crisis actually began when Chief Joe Byrd refused to provide contracts and financial records of tribal business to the council and the Cherokee people.
          During council meetings and council committee meetings beginning in the summer of 1996, some councilmembers made repeated requests to Byrd for those documents in compliance with the Cherokee Nation constitution. In brief, Article X. Fiscal requires the Secretary-Treasurer of the tribe to provide the council with "financial statements reflecting the results of operations of all tribal activities and shall prepare a consolidated balance sheet in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles...."
          Almost every request for this information, that should have been provided without the necessity of request, was refused or ignored.
          Frustrated by Byrd's failure to comply with the constitution, the councilmembers petitioned the Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal for a ruling on the contracts. On August 22, 1996, the Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal ruled that the documents were a matter of public record and should be provided to the council. Byrd and his administration still refused to provide the documents.
          The ongoing refusal, combined with other information, resulted in the search warrant, a necessary last resort. Until June 20 when the Byrd administration raided the Courthouse, the tribal prosecutor had copies. Those copies were transferred to the U.S. Attorney’s office. Presumably, the FBI has copies. On the basis of those documents, Tribal Prosecutor A. Diane Blalock charged Byrd with misappropriation of funds. The FBI is still investigating. Byrd claims he has done nothing wrong, and it can all be explained by accounting errors, yet the financial records with those accounting errors have not seen the light of public scrutiny. He has pledged accountability again-and-again, yet he remains unaccountable, refusing to make the constitutionally-required information public and firing everyone who has tried to make those documents public in compliance with the constitution.
          Following is a real chronology that will be refined further as we progress toward the Byrd’s removal from office, along with Deputy Chief Garland Eagle and the eight council members we will call Byrdettes for lack of a better term.
Feb. 5: Chief Justice Ralph Keen sends a letter to Byrd telling him that members of his administration had made contact with the JAT in an apparent attempt to influence the outcome of a case. Keen writes: "Please remind members of your administration that it is not proper for anyone to attempt to influence the outcome of any case."
Feb. 24: After Byrd's repeated refusal to produce financial records in accordance with the Cherokee Nation constitution, Tribal Prosecutor A. Diane Blalock asks Keen to issue a search warrant of Byrd's office, which he does based upon Ragsdale's sworn affidavit.
Feb. 25: Cherokee Nation marshals serve the warrant at the Tribal Complex, politely and peacefully gaining access to the financial records and making copies for the investigation rather than seizing the originals. Byrd claims he has done nothing wrong and fires Marshal Service Director Pat Ragsdale and Lt. Sharon Wright. Justice Dwight Birdwell reinstates Ragsdale and Wright and issues orders that anyone interfering with JAT orders and/or the investigation will be charged with contempt of court.
Feb. 26: In an effort to demonstrate employee and public support, Byrd orders all employees to attend a hastily-called press conference, where he says, "There is no need for an investigation because absolutely no money has been misused."
Feb. 27: Ragsdale calls for assistance in the investigation from the FBI and the U.S. Attorney General's office.
Feb. 28: In one of many attempts to take credit when none is due, Cherokee Nation Press Secretary Lisa Finley informs the media that Byrd had requested the presence of the FBI.
March 3: Ragsdale calls for a federal civil rights probe into alleged interference with him and the other marshals.
March. 4: Tribal Inspector General Bob Powell, a non-Indian and former agent with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, makes a conference call to the marshals' office and urges five deputies to "come over" to the Byrd side and keep their jobs. During the call, Powell reveals the existence of a wiretap tape he says appeared on the chief's desk and which he gave to the FBI claiming it supports evidence of a "conspiracy" to overthrow Byrd's administration.
March 6: U.S. Attorney John Raley announces a federal investigation by the FBI and the Department of Interior into "recent developments" in the Cherokee Nation involving "allegations of violations of federal laws."
March 7: Byrd holds another employees-must-attend press conference, where the spin control continues as he tells the media that he invited the FBI to investigate his spending practices. Later, the FBI confirms that Ragsdale had made the first request for the FBI to investigate, and Byrd had asked them to investigate Ragsdale. Evidence surfaces of an illegal wire-tap of the phones of the Cherokee Observer, Councilmember Barbara Starr-Scott, Robin Mayes and former-Councilmember Melvina Shotpouch. The tape is cited by the Byrd as evidence of a "conspiracy" to overthrow him and his administration.
March 8: FBI announces the wiretap was illegal and begins an investigation into the illegal tape, stating the tape shows no evidence of a conspiracy, rather it is a recording of tribal members complaining to one another about the corrupt government of the Cherokee Nation.
March 10: The tribal council approves a budget of more than $100 million, despite a lack of a full accounting of expenditures for the previous year and an incomplete listing of all sources of income for the coming year. Council says they will amend it later. During the meeting, some councilmembers vigorously question the appointment of Powell to a position never approved by the council or provided for in the constitution.
March 14: Blalock files contempt charges against Powell for violating court orders not to interfere with the Marshal Service and trying to coerce fired marshals to join Byrd's new security force. Powell allegedly tells his staff he doesn't have to obey Cherokee courts because he is not an Indian.
March 16: FBIEyes Cherokee Wiretaps - [**Note: Tulsa World, article references both the "March 8 FBI investigation" and "March 14 Blalock files contempt charges" items above] By AP Wire Service
March 19: Counsel Pleads Case To Tribal Justices Tulsa World article, by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
March 20: At another press conference, Byrd says he intends to defy the orders of the JAT which he considers "illegal" or "unconstitutional." He issues an executive order disbanding the Marshal Service and claims he has sworn in his own 17-man armed security guard. He then orders all marshals to report to him by 5 p.m. and be sworn-in as members of his security force, or they will face termination. None report. Human Resources Director Ervin Rock, Administrative Assistant Jamie Hummingbird, along with councilmembers Sam Ed Bush, Mary Cooksey, Don Crittenden and Harley Terrell, deliver letters of termination and checks to Ragsdale and Wright.
March 21: Byrd swears in six individuals for a "new tribal marshal service" to join others already sworn-in and armed. His news release says that on Feb. 26, "Byrd said he would honor the tribunal's order to reinstate Ragsdale and Wright but changed his mind yesterday...." Birdwell says he is "dismayed and distressed" at Byrd's conduct, but declines to cite him for contempt as he orders the immediate reinstatement of the Marshal Service. Blalock notifies the council that the records taken in the search indicate violations occurred, and federal and tribal charges could be filed. Justice Birdwell orders the tribe's Secretary-Treasurer, Jennie Battles, and Chief of Staff George Thomas to restore services and funding of the Marshal Service by 4:30 p.m. or face the consequences. Powell sends notice on police teletype that Ragsdale and the other marshals are no longer recognized and "are not to be considered law enforcement officers." District Attorney Dianne Barker Harrold tells sheriffs in Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah and Wagoner counties that cross-deputization cards issued before the sheriffs took office in 1997 are no longer valid, and the marshal Service no longer has jurisdiction on non-Indian land, a curious ruling that gives Byrd another "reason" to call in the BIA police. Byrd cancels the Cherokee Marshals gasoline credit cards to fuel patrol cars and cuts off cellular phone service.
Former Chief Wilma Mankiller in a Tulsa press conference expresses alarm and concern for the Cherokee Nation and her shock that Byrd would defy the court, comparing him to a dictator from a third world country. Former Chief Ross Swimmer releases a statement in agreement with Mankiller and asks Byrd to "apologize to the court." Byrd holds another spin-control press conference to counter Mankiller's, but media focuses on Mankiller conference.
March 24: Chief Justice Keen issues a statement declaring "the Cherokee Nation is in a crisis" and Byrd "has set himself up as being above the law" and promises "aggressive action to restore the constitutional government of the Cherokee Nation." Justice Birdwell orders Battles and Thomas to appear in court on Mar. 25 on charges of contempt.
March 25: Chief of Staff George Thomas and Secretary-Treasurer Jennie Battles appear before the tribunal to answer charges of contempt. Justice Birdwell reads the previous order, and Justice Keen asks if they intend to obey. After consulting with their attorney, they answer no. They are then held in direct contempt and ordered to jail for 90 days or until they obey the court orders. Less than three hours later, they are released because of document problems.
March 26: Chief Snubs Tribal Truce Offer, Tulsa World article by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
March 27: Tribal Prosecutor Blalock files a complaint accusing Byrd of conspiring to obstruct tribal justice. Tulsa World article.
March 31: Tribal Court Fines Lawyers, Tulsa World article by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
April 1: Cherokee Chief, Key Aide Plead Innocent Tulsa World article, by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
April 3: Cherokee Nation Press Secretary Lisa Finley sends out a release titled "High power weapons spark concerns among Cherokees," a potentially inflammatory release, inferring that the Marshal Service and their legal and justified armaments may be the cause of violence, beginning a pattern of blaming everyone except those responsible for the volatile situation--the Byrd administration.
April 3: Third Cherokee Official Under Fire Tulsa World article, by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer [**Note: References an arrest warrant issued for Bob Powell and the April 3 item concerning Marshal Service weapons.]
April 4: OCU Law Group to Stay Out of Cherokee Problems Tulsa World article, by World's own Service.
April 10: Chief Puts Officials On Leave, Tulsa World article, by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
April 10: Weapons Banned, Tulsa World article, by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
April 11: Tribal prosecutor Blalock files a complaint accusing Byrd of diverting $64,984 to pay a Washington, D.C., law firm.
April 12: Inspector General Bob Powell resigns. Tulsa World article.
April 14: Critics Speak Out on Indian Housing Program Tulsa World article, by Wesley Brown World Staff Writer.
April 15: Coburn Offers Assistance in Cherokee Flap, Tulsa World article by, Jim Myers World Washington Bureau
April 15: On one of the darkest days in Cherokee history, Byrd hires a non-Indian attorney to provide one of the most ludicrous interpretations of a document in the history of Indian-white relations. The interpretation will ensure Byrd's place in history as the most sinister destroyer of Native American sovereignty since Andrew Jackson. The attorney, Thomas Seymour of Tulsa, was reportedly paid from $100,000 to $300,000 for the deed. In the Seymour-Byrd ruling, Seymour offered an interpretation that could not stand up to ethical and legal analysis by the most rudimentary "LA Law" student. Article V. Legislature, Section 4, emphatically states: "No business shall be conducted by the Council unless at least two-thirds (2/3) of members thereof regularly elected and qualified shall be in attendance, which number shall constitute a quorum." At no place in the document is this superseded, and certainly not in Section 5 of Article V, which immediately follows the ruling requiring a quorum to conduct business and which states: "Special meetings of the Council may be called:...(C) upon written request of fifty-one percent (51%) of the members of the Council...." In a quantum leap of logic that defies most imaginations, Seymour cited that section as the basis for changing the requirements to conduct business as a council or a "Council Court" from a quorum of ten to a simple majority of eight. Eight of 15 council members, in the absence of six members, vote to begin impeachment proceedings against the Judicial Appeals Tribunal. Nine of nine present vote to ask the BIA to take over the tribe's law for a period of two months. If the federal government and Cherokees accept Seymour-Byrd law, it can be invoked again or permanently, and he and the eight Byrdettes can do virtually anything they want until the next election. But wait. Under Seymour-Byrd law, we many not have an election, if Byrd remains in office and realizes he has no chance to win in a free, democratic election. Later that night, 44 Cherokees including former Chief Mankiller and a number of tribal employees, sign on as plaintiffs in a lawsuit contending the meeting is illegal due to the lack of a quorum. (Two related Articles were found at Tulsa World.)
April 16: A petition effort to recall and/or impeach Byrd, the deputy chief and the eight Byrdettes is begun. Tulsa World article.
April 17: Chief Ordered Not to Interfere in Probe Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
April 18: BIA Law Enforcement To Remain Two Months, Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
April 21: Turmoil Grows For Cherokees Tulsa World article by, by Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
April 21: Contempt Charges Dismissed Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
April 23: BIA Acted in Haste, Court Says Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
April 24: Tribal Prosecutor Blalock files a complaint accusing Byrd of diverting $23,419.75 in tribal funds to pay an employee assigned to work with the Democratic National Committee. Tribunal rules the April 15 meeting was illegal due to lack of a quorum.
April 25: Cherokees Find No Wiretap Evidence, Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
April 27: Although Byrd has been in office almost two years (20 months), in an interview in the Tulsa World, he continues to blame others for his failures, including former Chief Mankiller. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.)
April 28: The illegal meeting recessed on April 15 is continued. When Cherokee attorney and constitutional scholar Chad Smith emphasizes the illegality of the meeting, Byrd's armed security guards drag him from the meeting.
May 1: Justices Named in Charges Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 1: Tribal Officers Relinquish U.S. Duties, Tulsa World article by, World's own Service.
May 2: The tribal council met and announced that they were going to change a statute from the requirement of the presence of a 2/3 majority (10 of 15) of the council to do business to a simple majority (8 of 15).
(Related Article was available at Tulsa World.
May 3: Eight of 15 members of the council conduct a "court of removal" using a plethora of frivolous charges and, in an unprecedented act, "impeach" the three justices. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.)
May 4: Cherokee Justices Say They Won't Step Down Tulsa World article by, Michael Overall World Staff Writer.
May 6: Changes Sought By Chief Tulsa World article by, Jerry Fink World Senior State Writer.
May 9: Cherokee Court Remains in Session Tulsa World article by, AP Wire Service.
May 12: Group Calls for Chief Byrd's Resignation Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 14: Chief Cuts Off Impeached Justices' Pay Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 14: Cherokee Nation Marshals file suit in federal court against the BIA, charging the agency with interfering in tribal affairs. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.)
May 17: Cherokee Saga Continues to Churn Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 20: Tribe Officials Dispute Ousted Cherokee Judge's Term Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 20: Byrd's Allies Defend Ouster Of Judge Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 21: Chief Tries to Cut Off Utilities Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 22: Cherokees Seek Unity On March Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 23: Cherokee Marshals Restrained Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
May 27: Tribunal issues arrest warrants for Byrd and Eagle after they fail to appear on contempt charges. Byrd says he will not recognize or comply with actions of an "impeached" court. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.
May 29: Judge Eyes His Role in Tribal Flap, Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
June 15: The Muskogee Phoenix reports that Harlan "Joe" Jones, former secretary-treasurer of the Cherokee Nation and one of Byrd's boyhood chums, in a sworn deposition, said Byrd "indicated that I should not remember everything that happened" during negotiations to bring a plastics plant to the Cherokee Nation.
June 19: U.S. District Judge Frank Seay of Muskogee dismisses the lawsuit filed by the fired marshals, who alleged the BIA wrongfully intervened in tribal law enforcement. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.
June 20: Byrd's security guards, apparently aided by the BIA and local law enforcement, take over the Cherokee Courthouse in an early morning raid, citing Seay's ruling in the Cherokee Marshals' case as justification. When Chad Smith attempts to cross the police barrier surrounding the Courthouse Square, he is tackled from the rear, taken to the ground, restrained by five officers, handcuffed and arrested. Throughout the confrontation, Smith does not strike any of the officers. Files are turned over to the BIA and FBI. Byrd refuses Ragsdale's request to be allowed to remove the personal belongings of the justices, including Birdwell's Silver Stars and a Purple Heart earned for heroism in Vietnam and photos of his tour in Vietnam. "Impeached" justices and "fired" marshals are locked out. Byrd says the justices will be allowed to re-enter the Courthouse and their offices, and conduct business on Monday, June 23.
Detroit News *** Path to RealPlayer Video Of Chad Smith's Arrest!
June 22: More than 700 people gather at Whitaker Park in Pryor for a hog fry and fund-raiser for the Cherokee Nation Marshals, who have not received a paychecks for nearly four months. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.
June 23: Justice Philip Viles Jr. and Court Clerk Gina Waits go to the Courthouse in order to conduct the business of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal. Clint Vernon, head of Byrd’s security force, stops them from entering the building and informs them that if they don’t leave they will be arrested. (Two Related Articles were available at Tulsa World.)
June 30: Attorney General Drew Edmondson says cross deputization agreements between the Cherokee Nation marshals and state and federal agencies remain in effect, overruling District Attorney Dianne Barker Harrold’s conclusion that they were not, which was one of the reasons Byrd used to bring in the BIA police. Edmondson’s ruling was based on what he called an “obvious principal of law,” citing the Supreme Court of Washington’s decision in Board of Directors Kennewick School District v. Black in 1955, and concluded “There automatic withdrawal from the agreement simply because an individual officeholder of a compacting agency leaves and another individual takes his or her place.”
July 9: Byrd fires Tribal Prosecutor A. Diane Blalock through a one-page notice from Shawn Terry, assistant personnel manager, "because of job abandonment."
July 11: A BIA public affairs officer informs the media that the BIA has spent $196,525 of taxpayer’s monies during the past ten weeks to provide police services and support for Byrd’s administration. The BIA public affairs officer said $159,363 had gone for the marshals’ hotel bills, meals and communications equipment. The remaining $37,162 in salaries was kept low because, Gonzales said, “We have had, on a rotating basis, essentially just two additional officers.”
July 14: Cherokee Elder Paul Thomas informs the council that Justice Birdwell's service medals and other personal belongings had been returned to Birdwell by mail, but they were intentionally damaged and defaced while in the hands of Byrd's security force. A collective moan of disbelief fills the council chambers when Thomas makes the revelation, and, during the discussion, councilmembers Mary Flute Cooksey and Harley Terrell, a veteran, walked out of the meeting.
July 16: News reports announce the Oklahoma Bar Association is investigating allegations that Tulsa attorney Thomas Seymour has had a bar complaint filed against him as a result of his interpretation of the Cherokee constitution on April 15.
July 29: With former Sequoyah County Times writer Lynn Adair waiting in the administrative offices to fill a position in the tribe's Public Affairs Department, the public affairs staff are informed that all are being "laid-off" except the clerk-typist, effective 5 p.m., Aug. 15. Four of the six are tribal members. Department Director Dan Agent, who has been excluded from all public affairs decisions, is placed on administrative leave beginning at noon, July 30. Adair is brought to the office of public affairs on Aug. 4 and seated in the former director's office.
Aug. 10: Judicial Appeals Tribunal orders the "fired" marshals to take back the Cherokee Courthouse at noon on August 13, 1997.
Aug. 12: Byrd swears in 10 “new marshals.” U.S. Justice Department and U.S. Department of Interior recognize the Judicial Appeals Tribunal as legal court of the Cherokee Nation, saying only the BIA police have the authority to enforce tribal law until further notice. Yet, the BIA police fail to enforce the tribunal’s orders. When the council deadlocks 7-7 in a meeting, Deputy Chief Eagle casts the deciding vote, denying Councilman Harold “Jiggs” Phillips motion to “reinstate” the justices. Councilman Bill John Baker refers to the justices as “you boys” and “idiots,” prompting former Deputy Chief John Ketcher to call it an all-time low and disgraceful behavior by a council member. Byrd tells a reporter that he should be able to hire and fire at will to ensure that loyal people are working for him. Byrd tells the council that he had fired a lot of people recently and plans to fire more.
Aug. 13: When refused entry to the Courthouse, Ragsdale tries to force his way in. In the resulting melee, six people are injured, including women who are thrown off of the Courthouse back porch, as officers from five counties, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the BIA police help Byrd's security force maintain control of the Courthouse.
Aug. 14: The day before their lay-off begins, the five members of the public affairs staff still on duty are informed that their lay-off date has been changed to Aug. 29.
Aug. 21: Twenty-five people file two lawsuits in federal court for more than $1 million, alleging civil rights violations and that state and federal officials, including District Attorney Diane Barker-Harrold; the sheriffs and Boards of County Commissioners for Adair, Cherokee and Sequoyah Counties; Perry Proctor; Jim Fields and Ada Deer of the BIA; the Tahlequah City Police; and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, illegally barred tribal members from access to their Courthouse on June 20 and Aug. 13.
Aug. 22: In an attempt to settle the crisis before Congress takes action, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt holds a meeting in Washington, D.C., with Byrd, Attorney General Janet Reno, BIA head Ada Deer, Councilmen Harold DeMoss, Harold "Jiggs" Phillips, Charles Hoskin and Don Crittenden. After the eight hour meeting, Babbitt informs the media that it appeared an agreement had been reached until Byrd refused to recognize the tribunal as the Cherokee Nation court and refused to agree to the return of all marshals to work with back pay.
Aug. 23: Media reports that Sen. Don Nickles, R-Okla., expressed his ongoing concern, saying Byrd is the cause of the problem and referring to him as a dictator.
Aug. 24: Media reports Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., says he will ask President Bill Clinton to remove Byrd from office. After walking out of the Aug. 22 meeting, Byrd decides to return to Washington, reportedly calling council members while he is en route to the airport in Tulsa. He and some council members arrive in Washington for another meeting with Department of Interior.
Aug. 25: Byrd, the council members and Babbitt sign an agreement that calls for the “reinstatement” of Ragsdale and the other marshals with back pay. Ragsdale is placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the Massad report. The Massad group investigation by three attorneys non-Indian attorneys with no connections to the Cherokee Nation was commissioned by the tribal council. The agreement calls for the opening of the Cherokee courthouse on Aug. 27 and the return of the Justices to their roles as the tribe’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal, pending the opinion of the Massad report as to the legality of the “impeachment” and a temporary moratorium, which may be only a few days, on further legal action. Many tribal members remain angry that a non-Indian panel is being utilized to determine the legality of an “impeachment” that is obviously illegal, as well as the placing of Ragsdale on administrative leave, which for the Byrd administration, is usually the preliminary action to termination. (Related Article was available at Tulsa World.)
Aug. 26: The Massad report is released. It invalidates the “impeachment” of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal, concluding that “Any business conducted by this council with less than two-thirds present is not valid.” In contravention of the Seymour-Byrd ruling and statements by Byrd and his spin nurse, the Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal was never impeached. (Related article was available at Tulsa World.)
Aug. 27: Report Backs Marshal Firings "Impeachment of Tribal High Court Justices Termed Improper" Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
Aug. 28: Cease Fire, Tulsa World article by, World's own Service "All Oklahomans have a stake in the peaceful resolution of the internal strife that has wracked the Cherokees' tribal government."
Aug. 28: Tribal Treasurer Probed In Alleged Funds Misuse, Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
Aug. 28: Courthouse Reopened - Byrd Won't Give Traditional Address to Tribe on Tahlequah Square: "The doors were open again Wednesday at the historic Cherokee Nation Courthouse, but Chief Joe Byrd said there would be no state of the nation address Saturday on the square downtown." Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
Aug. 29: Mankiller Calls for Unity "Former Chief Tells Of Facing Similar Problems in Tribe" Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale and Michael Smith World Staff Writers
Aug. 30: The Cherokees "THE RECENT TROUBLES of the Cherokee Nation tend to obscure the fact that the tribe has generally run a peaceful and usually productive operation." Tulsa World article by, World's own Service
Aug. 30: Panel Critical of Tribal Factions "Cherokee Nation Depends on Cooperation, Report Says" Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer
Aug. 31: Cherokees Reunite on Holiday - "Despite armed police atop buildings with binoculars to keep an eye on a peaceful parade, there were signs Saturday that a shaky truce might be developing in the strife-torn Cherokee Nation after six months of turmoil." Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior Writer.
Sept. 7:As of September 7, 1997 Byrd still has not re-instated 7 of our Cherokee Nation Marshals. Byrd has yet to return the judicial branch files. Byrd's illegal Tina Glory Court is still set up inside the executive branch. Byrd has demanded that requistions for checks and purchases requested by the judicial branch be sent to him by accounting for approval. The BIA are still here in charge of law enforcement. The problems are far from over, and there are many legal actions to be filed and resolved.
Sept. 10: Chief's Peace Effort Called `Largely a Sham' - Tribal justices send a letter to keep the heat on Chief Byrd. Tulsa World article by, Michael Smith World Staff Writer
Sept. 18: Cherokee Treasurer, Officials Talk Writer "The treasurer of the Cherokee Nation, a major target in an FBI investigation into allegations of misuse of federal funds, has been talking behind closed doors with federal prosecutors, it was learned this week." Tulsa World article by, Rob Martindale World Senior
Sept. 21: Point of View: The Illusion Of Sovereignty, "For several months the Oklahoma Cherokees watched Principal Chief Joe Byrd almost single-handedly destroy constitutional tribal government. Although high-level federal intervention recently quashed Byrd's rampage, the Cherokees are now wondering how to ensure that elected officials henceforth conduct tribal affairs in accordance with the Cherokee Nation Constitution." [**Note: The Author - A graduate of Columbia, Stanford and Harvard Universities, Robert A. Fairbanks is president of the Native American College Preparatory Center in Norman. He is Leech Lake Ojibwe.] Tulsa World article by, World's own Service
Sept. 22: Audit of Tribe Cites `Weaknesses' - in Accounting Procedures "Deloitte & Touche auditors told the Cherokee Nation that the tribe's weaknesses in internal accounting controls were 'as serious as it gets.'" Tulsa World article by, AP Wire Service
Sept. 23: Cherokee Accounting Blasted "Audit of Tribe Cites `Weaknesses' in Accounting Procedures" Tulsa World article by, AP Wire Service

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cherokee Nation no longer needs BIA approval on Constitutional Amendments

TAHLEQUAH, Oka. — The Bureau of Indian Affairs has acknowledged that the federal government no longer has the authority to approve amendments to the Cherokee Nation Constitution. In a letter dated August 9, the BIA’s top official, Carl Artman, cited a June 23 vote of the Cherokee people and agreed that federal approval of amendments to the Cherokee Nation Constitution would no longer be necessary.

“This acknowledgment of our sovereignty should be seen as a victory not just for the Cherokee Nation, but for all tribes who understand the importance of self-governance and crafting a Constitution by and for their own people, without interference from Washington, D.C,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

The letter ends an eight-year struggle by the Cherokee Nation to remove the BIA from its Constitutional process.

“I have to thank Cherokee patriots like Jay Hannah, Ralph Keen Jr., and so many others who worked on our Constitutional Convention since 1999,” Smith said. “Without the efforts of Cherokee citizens like them, this day might never have come.”

“The BIA has told us what we already knew---the Cherokee people do not need a federal bureaucracy micromanaging our Nation,” said Meredith Frailey, Speaker of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. “The Cherokee people are remarkable and resilient. When you consider our history and the remarkable progress our government has made, it is obvious that the Cherokee people citizens are perfectly capable of making fundamental decisions about our government for ourselves.”

The Cherokee Nation re-affirmed its 2003 Constitutional amendment rejecting BIA approval with a 67%-33% vote on June 23, despite claims from some candidates for office that a yes vote would result in a negative reaction by the BIA.

“Some candidates actively deceived our own people, even claiming the BIA would cut our funding if we voted yes,” Smith said. “In fact, just the opposite is true: the BIA has said repeatedly they do not intend to cut funding and that they affirm our tribal sovereignty.”

The BIA’s regional director, Jeanette Hanna, recommended approval of the amendment in July.

“We appreciate Jeanette Hanna’s prompt action on our vote in June, and we owe her a debt of gratitude for her service in the regional office,” Smith said. “This action demonstrates the BIA backs up the federal policy of self-governance for Indian nations, and we do appreciate that they acknowledge what our own courts have already held to be true: that the Cherokee people are the only people with the right to decide what our Constitution says.”

Palin Yup'k connection

Palin has talked positively of her husband and children's heritage in the past. When running for governor in October 2006, she wrote a letter addressed to rural voters, saying she ''so very much appreciates Alaska's First People, their proud heritage and diverse cultures so abundant in the communities throughout our state.''

''I personally feel the language, stories, and traditions of Alaska Native cultures are a national treasure to be nourished and held close to our hearts,'' Palin added. ''It is our rural lifestyle and diverse cultural heritage that distinguishes Alaska from the rest of the world and makes it our wonderful home.''

She wrote, too, that her family has been ''blessed'' by learning Yup'ik traditions and stories from Helena Andree, her children's great-grandmother and a one-time Bristol Bay Native Corporation Elder of the Year. The Palins named their oldest daughter Bristol in honor of the region many of their family members still call home.

Palin also promised to support tribal economic development and fishing subsistence issues, noting that her family has fished commercially in Bristol Bay for decades.

In terms of education policy, Palin said she supports teaching traditional culture and languages in schools. ''A strong sense of identity will keep kids in school until they become strong adults equipped to thrive in today's world,'' she wrote.

Also of note, the governor proclaimed June 10-13, 2007 as ''National Congress of American Indians Days'' in recognition of a conference held by NCAI in Anchorage.

Since the governor's campaign letter focused on Natives, Shepro said the governor has offered relatively little public comment on tribes. Some Indians and tribal advocates have been critical of her silence, especially given her Native family ties. They also noted that in her two years in office, the governor has not appointed any Native people to high-ranking positions within her administration.

But former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Northern Cheyenne Tribe, thinks that Palin could never have become governor of Alaska without the support of tribal constituencies, which, he said, shows her popularity among Alaska Natives.

''There's no question in my mind that she will be a great Indian country advocate,'' said Nighthorse Campbell, honorary co-chair of the American Indians for McCain Coalition.

McCain Natives push back on Palin smearing

In response to the document and Kendall-Miller’s statements, a member of the American Indians for McCain Coalition told ICT that Kendall-Miller “obviously has an axe to grind.”

“She’s playing a bit of a political game with a popular governor,” said the Republican political observer, who asked not to be identified. “And she’s misleading American Indians, trying to make them believe that Palin is some kind of she-devil.”

Other Republican Natives said it was interesting that the Kendall-Miller document was released unsigned to blogs, news outlets and e-mail.

They wondered whether the Native American Rights Fund, the legal organization for which Kendall-Miller works, had any hand in the production of the document, which they said could be a violation of the governmental rules surrounding its nonprofit status.

Kendall-Miller was adamant that NARF had nothing to do with the production of the document. In fact, she said “bring it on” to criticisms from Republicans about her research and writings.

“I have to be careful because I work for a nonprofit – I don’t want to mix what I do, in any way. That’s the kind of dirty tricks the Republicans do – they come back and try to shut down my employer.”

Beyond the partisan squabbles surrounding the document, Jacqueline Johnson, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, said there are many Alaska Natives who have counterpoints to the arguments brought up by Native Obama critics of Palin.

“There are two sides to the coin,” she said, adding that its NCAI’s position to stay neutral on the candidates, since the organization will have to work closely with whatever administration is ultimately elected.

The governor proclaimed June 10 – 13, 2007, as “National Congress of American Indians Days” in recognition of a conference held by NCAI in Anchorage and has attended some of the organization’s events, according to Johnson.

Ken Johns, president of the Ahtna Inc. Alaska Native Corporation, said that many Alaska Natives with whom he has spoken since Palin became the GOP’s vice presidential pick are strongly supportive of her candidacy.

for the full story:

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Don't be fooled by flowery words

“With respect to the Cherokee Freedman issue, Senator Obama said that while he is opposed to unwarranted tribal disenrollment, congressional interference was not warranted at this point. ‘Discrimination anywhere is intolerable, but the Cherokee are dealing with this issue in both tribal and federal courts. As it stands, the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen are not being abrogated because there is an injunction in place that ensures the Freedmen’s rights to programs during the pendency of the litigation. I do not support efforts to undermine these legal processes and impose a congressional solution. Tribes have a right to be self governing and we need to respect that, even if we disagree, which I do in this case. We must have restraint in asserting federal power in such circumstances.’