Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is the Cherokee Nation Taking Over the White House?

It may sound ridiculous but when you look at some of the recent events concerning nominations by the White House you have to ask is the Cherokee Nation making these appointments?

Think back to the year 2008, then Senator was in the midst of a presidential race and was confronted by headlines that the Congressional Black Caucus was authoring bills that would stop funding $300 million dollars per year to the Cherokee Nation if they did not adhere to the Treaty of 1866 and a Cherokee Supreme Court decision that the descendants of the former slaves of the Cherokee Nation were entitled to citizenship.

Obama position on Cherokee issue builds ties with Native Americans

By Kevin Bogardus

Posted: 06/04/08 07:08 PM [ET]

Democratic presidential front-runner Sen. Barack Obama’s support for the Cherokee Nation in its controversial battle with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is helping him win support from Native American leaders.

That support has translated into votes in Democratic primaries, and could also help the Illinoisan in a general-election fight with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).

Obama has weighed in against legislation supported by other CBC members that would cut off federal funds to the Cherokee Nation. The CBC is upset with the Cherokee for excluding Freedmen — descendants of slaves once owned by tribal members — from tribal membership.

Many people would probably agree with Obama that the United States has been heavy handed when it comes to relations with Native Americans. However, the issues pertaining to the Five Slave Holding Tribes concern issues that have more far reaching aspects that include people perceived as African-American exclusively.

The history of the Five Slave Holding Tribes and “blacks” was based on enslavement and the repercussions of the five tribes siding with the Confederacy during the Civil War. These two facts require an extensive look at the true history of these tribes and how the laws of the United States not only affect the tribes and tribal members but the descendants of the former slaves of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations.

President Obama has indicated he is in favor of a court rendered solution to the issue of whether freedmen descendants have legal rights as citizens, or more accurately the tribes have the legal rights of sovereignty and can ignore the treaty when determining citizenship in lieu of the Treaty of 1866.

This background is necessary when you look at the various appointments and nominations by the Obama administration since he has become president. During his run to the White House, then Senator Obama was being advised on Native American issues by former Oklahoma Congressman, Brad Carson.

After the 2004 Senate race, Carson's term in the United States Congress expired on January 3, 2005; Carson was succeeded by Dan Boren. Carson indicated that he had no immediate plans to seek political office. In January, 2005, he accepted a semester-long teaching fellowship specializing in U.S. politics at Harvard University. Upon leaving Harvard, he worked as Chief Executive Officer of Cherokee Nation Businesses, which is owned by the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Catoosa, Oklahoma. As CEO, Carson oversaw more than a dozen lawyers who specialized in Indian law and corporate law, and was primarily responsible for the legal and business dealing of the company. In December 2008, Carson left his post at Cherokee Nation Businesses to deploy to Iraq as an Intelligence Officer in the U.S. Navy. He was officer-in-charge of weapons intelligence teams embedded with the U.S. Army's 84th Explosive Ordnance Disposal Battalion in the nine southern provinces of Iraq; the teams worked with EOD teams at seven bases and investigated bomb sites, caches, smuggling routes, and other activities related to improvised explosive devices. For this work, Carson received, among other awards, the Bronze Star. On his return, he was elected to the board of Cherokee Nation Businesses.[3] In January 2010, Carson assumed a position as professor of business and law and director of the National Energy Policy Institute, a non-profit energy policy organization funded by billionaire George Kaiser's family foundation, and located at the University of Tulsa.[4]

In 2006, Carson endorsed the campaign of Barack Obama. [5] He has contributed journalism to The Weekly Standard, The New Republic, Blueprint, and Democracy: A Journal of Ideas.

Clearly Mr. Carson is an accomplished man but it is his ties to the Cherokee nation that become worrisome when put into context with the statements coming from the President of the United States, Barak Obama.

If that was all, we might not be alarmed by this connection but as we continue to connect the dots a distrubing trend begins to emerge and it may have severe consequences for Indian Territory Freedmen descendants in general and Cherokee Freedmen specifically.

Since Obama has become president we have seen not only appointments by his administration curious but the advisors attributed to the Obama administration would have a decidedly “Cherokee” bias on deeper inspection.

Again as Obama was running for president, a news article I read caught my attention and I made a mental note just in case it became useful later. The first item dealt with former Clinton Chief of Staff, John Podesta. The article told a story of Mr. Podesta and an organization he developed since his time at the White House called the Center for American Progress.

The article went on to say how Podesta would become a major powerbroker should any Democrat win the general election for President. This was newsworthy to me because back when the Cherokee Nation’s Chief ignored and disregarded and disagreed with the decision by the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court, he subsequently hired the Podesta group to lobby for the tribe in Congress to prevent the Cherokee Freedmen from receiving citizenship according to the Treaty of 1866 and begin the process of public relations to minimize the perception that his actions were based on racial intolerance.

John Podesta, Shepherd of a Government in Exile


Published: November 6, 2008

WASHINGTON — John D. Podesta, co-chairman of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, has spent the last five years building up liberals’ policy-making muscle as president of a lavishly financed research organization, the Center for American Progress.

Thu March 9, 2006

Freedmen to become Cherokee citizens

By Chad Previch

The Oklahoman

TAHLEQUAH - Cherokee Nation officials said Wednesday the tribe will abide by a court ruling that will allow black freedmen to become Cherokee citizens. …

In a 2-1 vote, the tribe's highest court, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal, ruled unconstitutional a law requiring citizens to trace ancestry to a person with Cherokee, Shawnee or Delaware blood. Now freedmen must prove only that they are descendants of a person on the Dawes Rolls.

Up to 45,000 freedmen are estimated to be eligible for citizenship now, with a majority of those in Oklahoma, two attorneys said. A representative of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes estimated the ruling will affect 13,000 Oklahomans.

"I think this is a momentous decision," said Nate Young III, chairman of the Cherokee Nation Bar Association. "It makes the freedmen real players in the politics over here."

Justice Stacy L. Leeds wrote that the 1975 Cherokee Constitution did not mention blood as a requirement for tribal membership.

"People will always disagree on who is culturally Cherokee and who possesses enough Cherokee blood to be 'racially' Indian," the ruling states. "It is not the role of this Court to engage in these political or social debates."

There were other accounts that noted D.C. insider Lanny Davis was involved as a lobbyist to thwart any congressional actions that would take away the $300 million dollar annual “reparation” doled out to the Cherokee Nation when Congresswoman Diane Watson became aware of the actions by the Chief of the Cherokee Nation to disenfranchise the Cherokee Freedmen Descendants.

Congresswoman Seeks To Sever U.S. Relations With Cherokees

AP - 6/21/2007 10:51 AM - Updated 6/22/2007 6:29 AM

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Rep. Diane Watson introduced legislation Thursday to cut millions of dollars in federal funding to the Cherokee Nation over its vote ending tribal membership for many descendants of former slaves. The tribe decided on March 3 to limit Cherokee citizenship to descendants of ``by blood'' tribal members.

Results of the election are on hold pending a legal challenge, but if the results stand, about 2,800 descendants of the tribe's former black slaves, also called freedmen, would be removed from the tribe. They would lose tribal benefits, including medical coverage.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said the Tahlequah-based tribe has a sovereign right to determine membership.

``The Cherokee Nation simply wants to be an Indian tribe composed of Indians,'' Smith said in a statement. ``The introduction of this bill is really a misguided attempt to deliberately harm the Cherokee Nation in retaliation for this fundamental principle that is shared by more than 500 other Indian tribes.''

Watson, D-Calif., said the vote violated a treaty the tribe signed with the U.S. government in 1866. She said that until the Cherokees comply with the treaty, federal funding of an estimated $300 million a year should be cut and the tribe's authority to conduct gaming operations should be suspended.

``The Treaty of 1866 states unequivocally that the freedmen are citizens of the Cherokee Nation and have all the rights of Cherokees,'' she said in a statement. ``It particularly pains me, over forty years after the passage of the historic Civil Rights Act, that legislation has to be introduced to compel the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma to recognize the basic civil rights of the Cherokee freedmen.

``The Cherokee Nation's leadership claims that it has the sovereign right to determine who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. But the sovereign right to discriminate is no right at all.''

Two Oklahoma congressmen, Republican Tom Cole and Democrat Dan Boren, have said that Watson's legislation should wait until after the courts have resolved the issue.

The fact that you have a wealthy Native American tribe receiving $300 million dollars in aid is not surprising or unique, the fact they could employ some of the most expensive and influential lobbyist to prevent the descendants of their former slaves from receiving their rights to citizenship is also not surprising considering the deep pockets they possess and the determination of their Chief to clothe himself and the tribe as some aggrieved party that these “non-Indians” are attempting to force themselves on the tribe.

Cherokee Nation Courts Allow Temporary Citizenship for Non-Indians, Including Freedmen Descendants

Cherokee Nation's Attorney General Statement (PDF)

Temporary Court Order And Injuction (PDF)

TAHLEQUAH, Okla.—Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons today agreed to a temporary injunction in tribal court that allows descendants of Freedmen to keep their citizenship while their citizenship appeals work their way through the tribal court system.

“I agreed to the injunction because I believe that, although the Cherokee citizens who voted to change the citizenship requirements on March 3rd have a right to have their determination implemented, those individuals who lost their citizenship status as a result of that election also have the right to have our Cherokee Nation courts consider the legality of the Amendment,” said Hammons. “In the interest of fairness and as a legitimate exercise of a reasoned democratic government, I believe that an injunction staying the effect of the March 3rd election is proper from the Cherokee Nation court until that tribunal has the opportunity to fully review and decide the plaintiffs’ claims.”

“For decades our people understood that you have to be Indian to be in our Indian tribe,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. “I think the will of the people is very clear. I understand, however, that the rights of citizenship should be taken very seriously, and we take our court’s orders very seriously. We will abide by the order and restore citizenship while the case is pending.”

In March 2006, the Cherokee Nation’s highest court reversed a previous decision and ruled that the Cherokee Nation’s Constitution allowed citizenship for non-Indian descendants who were listed on the Dawes Rolls of the Cherokee Nation. Until that time, citizenship had been restricted to those who had a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee ancestor on the Dawes Rolls. On March 3, 2007, Cherokee voters approved an amendment to the Cherokee Nation Constitution that mirrored the previous policy, requiring citizens be a descendant of a Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee Indian listed on the Dawes Rolls.

Cherokee voters to decide on constitution amendment


The question of who can be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation will be answered on Saturday as Cherokee Nation voters go to the polls to decide on an amendment to the Cherokee Nation Constitution.

The tribe is proposing that a section of the tribe's constitution, which pertains to who can be a citizen of the tribe, be amended to include only citizenship by blood.

These issues may not seem to be connected to the White House and whether the Cherokee Nation has bought their own influence within those hallowed walls but as we continue to look at the events of the day, you begin to see a pattern of behavior that begs the question; is the Cherokee Nation taking over the White House?

Just last year the Obama administration nominated

Kim Teehee to a White House job

TUESDAY, JUNE 16, 2009

Filed Under: Politics

Kim Teehee, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, will do a great job for President Barack Obama and for Indian Country. "I have always found her to be a thoughtful, dedicated and passionate advocate for our Native American population,"

Teehee will serve on the White House Domestic Policy Council and will advise Obama on Indian issues.

I suspect that Ms. Teehee is a dedicated worker and has great concerns on Indian Country but under the circumstances one has to ask; who does she serve. Certainly it is the President that determines policy but if his main advisors are Cherokee Indians or lobby for the Cherokee Nation shouldn’t the question be asked, who is in charge, Obama or the “Cherokee Chief Who Shall Not Be Named?”

I know you are probably saying this doesn’t amount to an indictment on Obama or the Cherokee Nation but considering Obama’s statement when he was running for president he was not overly supportive of the Cherokee Freedmen descendants and he continues to appoint Cherokee’s to key positions in government and include them among his advisors. What are they advising him on? He is a Constitutional lawyer so the Treaty of 1866 must mean something to him other than a statement that he is resign to let the courts decide. The same thing that Congressman Dan Boren and Senator Tom Cole stated as representatives of Oklahoma. Oh, and by the way, Tom Cole is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation the nation that was so determined not to adopt their former slaves they denied them educational funding for the forty years following the Civil War and tried to induce them to leave Indian Territory and the only home they knew following the Civil War.

It was just a week or so that it was announced that President Obama was making a nomination to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and guess what, he nominated another Cherokee. Is this just coincidence or is it the advisors? In that week the usual suspects began to complain loud and often that the position should have gone to a “real” Oklahoman. The congressional representatives of the house and senate were up in arms about a nomination they thought should be “reserved” strictly for an Oklahoman.

The Chief of the tribes was non-committal about his opinion on whether it should be an Oklahoman because you see, he was conflicted. Which was more important, siding with his boys in Congress who represent him like the blue dawg Democrat Dan Boren or does his loyalty support the Cherokee, no matter what degree of blood and no matter if he resides in the nation.

Well we didn’t have to wait long. Old Smith figured it out. He is all Cherokee all the time. Is this a reflection of all Cherokee’s? I mean I can understand it to a point. You want to see people you identify with achieve success but how does this play with the issues of citizenship and Freedmen?

Keith Harper is a card carrying Cherokee citizen and as an appeals judge on the 10th Circuit, he could very well become instrumental in legal issues concerning the Five Slave Holding Tribes and the descendants of their former slaves. In a recent editorial the “Chief Who Shall Not Be Named” made a remarkable statement that bears to be scrutinized.

Nomination for circuit court well deserved


Published: May 30, 2010

“… Harper could be the first American Indian ever nominated to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, I fully expect that Harper, as a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, will not be assigned cases that our tribe may have before the 10th Circuit, should he be nominated and confirmed. But the chance for me to support an Indian in the mold of the Will Rogers for appointment to a federal court is literally a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, which is why I will firmly support him if he's nominated, as will other tribal leaders from around the country. “

Now for the record, I’m not an attorney and I don’t play one on T.V. but Smith is and I would gather that should Mr. Harper become confirmed (and that Oklahoma Congressional Contingent was still objecting last I heard) shouldn’t he have to recuse himself from any case concerning the Cherokee tribe? What about any of the Five Slave Holding Tribes?

I’m not sure what to make out of all these Cherokee appointments but it is rather remarkable how they have become ingrained in the Obama Administration and appointments by the president. Remember he wants the courts to decide the fate of Cherokee Freedmen Descendants, it appears he is stacking the deck against them.

Something to think about at the very least.

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