Descendants Of Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes

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During the contentious Cherokee Nation election, Cherokee freedmen tribal members’ citizenship rights were removed by the tribal Supreme Court on August 22, 2011.  This action was taken just before absentee ballots were set to be sent out to tribal voters.   The justices had been appointed by then Tribal Chief Chad Smith.

Article by Robert Warrior on Cherokee Freedmen August 2011

On September 2, 2011, Cherokee freedmen and attorneys in the Vann et al case filed motions to block their disenrollment by the tribal Supreme Court.  On September 9th 2011, Department of Interior Assistant Secretary Echohawk filed briefs in the Vann case and sent a letter to Acting Chief Joe Crittenden that the DOI would not recognize a principal Chief election in which Cherokee freedmen tribal members were not allowed to vote:  HUD also froze more than $30 million in funds for Indian Housing for the tribe due to the freedmen disenrollment.

On September 21, 2011 after hearing oral arguments on September 20 2011 from attorneys representing the Cherokee freedmen, Cherokee nation and the department of Justice, Judge Kennedy signed an order in which all parties agreed that Cherokee freedmen would retain the rights of citizenship throughout the period in which the Vann and Nash cases were under consideration by the Federal Courts.  The agreements filed both in the Vann and the Nash case allowed freedmen tribal members to vote in the upcoming tribal election.

Marilyn Vann spoke on the Freedmen issues on blogtalk radio in September 2011

NPR covered the freedmen story in September 2011

CNN covered the Cherokee freedmen fight, interviewing Cherokee freedmen tribal member Sam Ford on September 20, 2011.

On September 2011, Judge Kennedy dismissed the Vann versus Salazar case on procedural grounds and transferred the Cherokee Nation VS Nash case back to the Northern District of Oklahoma.  Freedmen attorneys have 60 days from September 30 2011 to file appeals.  A notice of Appeal was filed with the Federal Court on November 3 2011.

On October 11 2011, the tribal Supreme Court voided an order signed by Federal Judge Kennedy on September 21st 2011, however the tribal prosecutor stated since the Nash September 21 2011 order was still in effect that the Cherokee freedmen citizenship continued, the ballot counting in the Principal chiefs election should continue. The freedmen votes were counted in the principal Chief Election.

October 2011 articles on Cherokee freedmen citizenship:

Article by John Stremlau of the Carter Commission on Cherokee freedmen participation in Chief election October 19 2011

On October 19 2011, Bill John Baker was sworn into office as Cherokee Principal Chief after the tribal Supreme Court refused to throw out the election due to freedmen voting in the election.

Article by Cherokee freedmen descendant Kenneth Cooper on the Cherokee freedmen published October 26 2011

Cherokee Nation Housing funds restored October 27, 2011 after HUD assured that freedmen voted in 2011 Principal Chief Race

The Keepseagle Indian Farmers discrimination lawsuit was settled in November 2010 in favor of the Indian Farmers.  The lawsuit is a class action lawsuit.  The URL  has information on how to obtain a claim package.  Qualifying Indian farmers include members of State and Federal recognized tribes as well as others of Indian heritage who have suffered discrimination by USDA officials.


A U tube of part of the Descendants of Freedmen Black History program, held in Muskogee on February 13 2010 is at:  For those wishing to acquire a CD with the song sung by Mrs Whitfield on the U tube, contact Deacon  Ishmael King at: 918-683-0821 or   A portion of the proceeds from the CDs are dedicated to African Indians Foundation by the King family.


In March, 2011 Descendants of Freedmen Association President Vann was invited to speak on Cherokee freedmen issues at Bacone College in Muskogee Oklahoma.  Vann was told that the board of trustees had cancelled the freedmen forum because freedmen issues were in litigation.  However, she was told by other Bacone faculty members that the forum was cancelled at the instigation of trustee Mike Miller, Cherokee nation spokesman and former communication director for the tribe.  The speech was scheduled for April 29th during a Native American symposium.  We have asked that all persons who support removal of Miller as a Bacone trustee, support a freedmen forum, and wish for limitations of Cherokee Nation influence in academic programs at Universities which take public funding to contact the Bacone University Board of Trustees.  Descendants of Freedmen and supporters demonstrated at Bacone College 4/1/2011.


In January 2011, Cherokee tribal court Judge Cripps issued a ruling in the Cherokee tribal court that Cherokee Freedmen tribal members cannot be disenrolled due to the 1866 treaty.  Cripps ruling was appealed by the Cherokee nation prosecutor in January 2011.


In July 2010, the Cherokee freedmen defendants and the Department of Interior won motions to move the Cherokee Nation Vs Nash Federal case to Washington DC.  In 2009, the Cherokee Nation sued the Department of Interior and several freedmen in the Oklahoma Northern District Federal Court with the issue being the validity of the 1866 treaty.  Please note the following links:


A recent story was written by Anita Crane on the Nash case.

 The AARP in 2010 recognized Oklahoma Native Elders including UKB  tribal member John Cornsilk for his work through his website supporting continuation of Cherokee freedmen tribal membership and Cherokee nation tribal member Raymond Vann for his work assisting the needy through the War Pony Community Outreach. We congratulate these elders for their tribal community work.

Descendant of Cherokee freedmen Ken Cooper - a Pulitzer prize winner who lives in Massachusetts was interviewed by the Bay State Banner about a new book written by Professor Tiya Miles:

 DVDs are available from the recent Freedmen Treaty Celebration banquet program  of 4/23/2010. Hear wonderful music by the Nash, Goree, and King families, speeches by Attorneys Hannibal Johnson and Jon Velie. Contact us regarding your order.

Felton Newell, a candidate for California District 33 who received funding from the Cherokee nation was defeated in the primary election by former California Assembly speaker Karen Bass. The seat is currently held by Congresswoman Diane who is retiring at the end of the year 2010.  Congresswoman Watson has been an outspoken member of 1866 freedmen treaty rights.

Congressman Mike Thompson of California has asked Chairman Rahall, head of the House Natural Resources Committee to hold hearings dealing with Tribal disenrollments and violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act.

Articles discussing the Civil Rights and Human Rights  policies of recently deceased former Cherokee Chief Wilma Mankiller during her term as Principal Chief are added below:

On April 24, 2010, Marilyn Vann was a guest discussing freedmen issues on Red Town Radio program which was hosted by Creek Citizen Brenda Golden

An April 2010 radio program by Journalist D"Anne Burley discusses the freedmen situation;

Cherokee Freedmen descendant Kenneth Cooper, a Pulitzer prize winning journalist wrote an article about the freedmen in November 2009:

The Smithsonian Indian Museum has created an Exhibit on African Indians called Indivisible:

We provide a link to additional information on the freedmen as of  May 2010:

A U tube of part of the Descendants of Freedmen Black History program, held in Muskogee on February 13 2010 is at:  For those wishing to acquire a CD with the song sung by Mrs Whitfield on the U tube, contact Deacon  Ishmael King at: 918-683-0821 or   A portion of the proceeds from the CDs are dedicated to African Indians Foundation by the King family.


We encourage Freedmen tribal members who have problems accessing NAHASDA (Native American Housing programs  for members of Federally recognized Indian tribes) due to  their status as a freedmen tribal member to send formal  complaints to  The Honorable Sandra B Henriques, Assistant Secretary for Public and Indian Housing, Department of Housing and Urban  Development, 451 7th street Southwest, Washington DC 20410 General Phone number for Public and Indian Housing: 202-708-1112. Copies of the complaints filed with HUD should also be sent to Chairman Barney Frank, House Financial Services Committee, B-303 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C.  20515

The  Velie  Law Firm – lead attorneys in cases involving Seminole and Cherokee Freedmen over the last decade has had a new mailing address as well as new office phone and fax numbers since 2009.
A discussion on freedmen is also available on the following blog:
Read freedmen testimonies and stories on

African Indians of the 5 Civilized Tribes Foundation – Marilyn Vann, Vera Jones and Alan Mitchell are directors of  this 501 c 3 Oklahoma  charitable foundation whose tax exempt purposes were approved by the IRS in February 2005.  The new foundation will eventually have its own website.  To contact the foundation directly, send correspondence to:  Box 42452, Oklahoma City, Okla 73123. 

In the spring of 2009, 6 members of Congress: the Honorable: Barney Frank, Diane Watson, John Conyers, Barbara Lee, John Lewis, and Sheila Jackson Lee requested that the Justice Department investigate Civil Rights violations against the freedmen of the 5 tribes.  However, 2 Oklahoma members of Congress – Misters Tom Cole and Dan Boren requested that the justice department not investigate Civil Rights violations against freedmen peoples
In November 2009, the Department of Justice informed Misters Cole and Boren that they would not investigate the freedmen situation because of ongoing litigation
However, in other situations not involving wealthy gaming tribes – where the defendants are relatively poor and powerless, the Department of Justice has quickly intervened on behalf of the person claiming to be experiencing unlawful discrimination and Civil rights violations, irregardless of the fact that such persons had already sued in the courts of law.……
We remind our readers that tribes are not subject to campaign finance limitations in respect to donations to partisan politics on the same basis as other entities such as corporations, federal contractors or individual. We also remind you that the former slaveholder tribes such as the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma receive most of their budget – hundreds of millions of dollars – from the US government, ie the taxpayers.

We encourage our readers to stay abreast of tribal donations of the 5 former slaveholder tribes to political candidates of both parties and decide for yourself whether or not you believe that such donations have influenced the candidate’s position on freedmen treaty rights. Remember, you have the power to determine where to spend your money so far as supporting various candidates and how to cast your own vote. You have the right to support candidates and or organizations who want changes in campaign finance laws

We encourage all persons who oppose racism to continue to elevate the freedmen issue with their own Congresspersons and US Senators. 
IN September 2009, Harvard Law Professor Dr Charles Ogletree debated Cherokee Chief Chad Smith on the Cherokee freedmen issue at the Federal Bar Association conference in Oklahoma City.

IN June 2009, an article supporting the freedmen ran as follows:
In June 2009, Freedmen and supporters picked the receipt of an award by Chief Chad Smith at the Skirvin Hotel
In June 2009, Congresswoman Diane Watson reintroduced HR2824 as HR 2761.  The bill ties the Cherokee nations ability to receive federal funds to continuing citizenship of the Cherokee freedmen people

In May 2009, an article on freedmen was written by Cherokee Freedmen Pulitzer prize winner Kenneth Cooper:
The Cherokee nation, in February 2009, filed a lawsuit against several individual freedmen in the Federal northern district court based in Tulsa Oklahoma.  Over a several year period, the tribe has spent millions of dollars to dismiss the Federal lawsuit Vann et al versus Salazar.

In  September 2008, Actor Danny Glover,  NAACP Washington Bureau Chief Hilary Shelton, and Congresswoman Watson highlighted a panel on Freedmen issues
In September 2008, Freedmen marched in the Cherokee National  holiday\
In September 2008, freedmen language was included in a NAHASDA (Indian housing) bill  which was signed by the president

In July 2008, the Washington DC Appeals Court in the Federal Case Vann et al versus Kempthorne (07-5024) allowed the case to proceed against the Cherokee Chief and the Department of Interior.  The tribe has spent millions trying to dismiss the lawsuit. The appeals court judges stated on pages 24-25 of the court opinion that the tribe treated away their right to discriminate against the freedmen; the court held that the discrimination  against the freedmen is illegal based on  the 13th amendment to the US constitution and the 1866 treaty.

Several descendants of freedmen of various tribes as well as supporters of freedmen treaty rights
were interviewed in the April 2008 Ebony Magazine  article on the freedmen.

On March 13,  2008 a meeting between the Honorable Congresspersons Barney Frank, John Conyers, Diane Watson,and Mel Watt was held with the Assistant Secretary of the Interior Carl Artman in Washington DC. The Congresspersons held the meeting to determine the DOI position on the freedmen and the DOI plans to resolve the issue.

A letter signed by 35 members of the Congressional Black Caucus was sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressing their support for an amendment to HR 2786 (Indian Housing – NAHASDA) linking the Cherokee nations ability to receive Indian housing funds to its continuance of Cherokee freedmen tribal membership:

The Honorable Barney Frank, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee also gave public support to the amendment to HR 2786 encouraging Cherokee nation compliance with the 1866 treaty to receive NAHASDA funds:

News reports indicate that Oklahoma Congressman Tom Cole does not support the 1866 treaty rights of freedmen. Congressman Cole, a member of the Chickasaw nation is running for office again for his seat in the Oklahoma 4th Congressional District.  The district includes areas such as Stephens, Carter, and Garvin County Oklahoma.

Some Newspapers have reported that Senator Obama objects to the house version of HR 2786 and HR 2824

Links to a sample letter which can be used by those who support treaty rights to send to the Senators office.  Faxing is preferable although mailing or emailing letters can also be done.  Please contact other candidates and office holders to support freedmen treaty rights through legislation.  Do not let candidates and office holders take your vote for granted. 

The Muskogee Phoenix published an article on freedmen rights on February 21 2008 which had been written by Marilyn Vann:

An article on freedmen written by Sean Nordwall, a Cherokee citizen and nephew of former United Keetowah Band Chief  Bill Glory was published in the Tahlequah press:

A memorial marker ceremony to honor Stick Ross, a former Cherokee nation councilman who was registered by the Dawes Commission as a freedmen tribal member took place in Tahlequah Oklahoma in 2008.  Stick Ross was elected to the Cherokee council to represent the Tahlequah District in 1893.  The Tahlequah press covered the story in May 2008 

Cherokee citizen Steve Russell, a State of Texas Judge and Professor writes the following on freedmen issues:

Descendants of Freedmen Association President Marilyn Vann and Attorney Jon Velie were featured on a panel moderated by   Advocate Ron Daniels which discussed freedmen issues at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation meeting. The panel was hosted by the Honorable Congress persons John Conyers and Diane Watson on  September 28th 2007 at the Washington DC Convention Center.

Descendants of Freedmen Association President Marilyn Vann spoke on Freedmen issues at Michigan State University Law School on November 9th 2007.Information on the event and talk materials is linked below:

After the illegal March 3rd 2007 vote to remove citizenship from the Cherokee freedmen – ( most of the disenrolled tribal members  had ancestors who were slaves of Cherokee Indians at the beginning of the Civil War). by amending the illegal 1999 constitution (neither the March  2007  amendment nor the 1999 constitution is recognized by the Department of Interior), world attention has turned to this outrageous crime against Humanity.  Civil Rights organizations, social organizations, as well as members of Congress have made public statements against this outrage.  Approximately 8,000 persons (less than 3 %) of the 280,000 tribal members voted on March 3 2007.  Since the tribe had seized tribal membership cards/voting cards of freedmen tribal members during the 1980s, freedmen were only allowed to register/ re register as tribal members and tribal voters between March 2006 and March 2007 Only a small percentage of the 25,000 freedmen who potentially could have been registered with the tribe were able to participate in the March 3 2007 illegal election. .  

In March 2007, after encouragement from certain members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Freedmen band of Cherokee nation of Oklahoma was organized as a band (i.e. a tribal entity) in order to better organize Cherokee freedmen tribal members as a political force and in order to better speak with one voice before members of Congress and others. Both the Cherokee tribal constitution of 1975 as well as the treaty of 1866 allow tribal minorities (which includes tribal entities such as Delaware, Shawnee, and Keetowahs be organized as tribal entities and units. )   Cherokee freedmen tribal members attending a meeting in Tulsa Oklahoma approved a band constitution, and elected band officers: Marilyn Vann: Band Chief, Richard Riley, Band Deputy Chief, and Vicki Baker as Secretary and also elected a band council. To get more information regarding the Freedmen Band and to get an application for membership, please contact Marilyn Vann , Richard Riley    Vicki Baker:

In June 2007, Congresswoman Diane Watson introduced legislation (HR 2428) to remove federal funding from the Cherokee nation and to strip the tribe of its ability to offer 3rd Class Gaming if the tribe is not in compliance with the treaty of 1866 as it pertains to retaining citizenship of the Cherokee freedmen tribal members. links to the actual bill language.

Congresswoman Watson followed up introduction of the bill by attending Fact Finding town hall meetings in Oklahoma in August 20-21 2007:

Please contact YOUR Senators and Representatives to SUPPORT THIS BILL if you support treaty rights and believe that Indian nations must follow treaties as well as the US government. . You may find your Senators and Congressman’s, emails, faxes, and phone numbers at: and

Additionally, amendments have been made to House Bills  HR 2786 (Indian Housing) and HR 3002 ( Tribal Community and Economic Development) to restrict the Cherokee nation from receiving funds until it comes into compliance with the treaty of 1866 as it pertains to Cherokee freedmen citizenship.

As of September 21, 2007, the Senate version of HR 2786 was stripped of the amendments (which had been approved by the House) which require the Cherokee nation to be in compliance with the 1866 treaty pertaining to citizenship rights of the Cherokee freedmen tribal members. We ask that all persons who support treaty rights contact your Senators and Congressmen to restore those amendments which require the Cherokee nation to be in compliance with the 1866 treaty in order to receive federal funds from these bills.

  Although the Cherokee  tribe has “temporarily” restored citizenship of the  freedmen tribal members  (through emergency actions of the tribal court after a motion was filed in May 2007 in the Vann case requesting that the federal judge Kennedy strip the tribe of federal funding )  it has identified as freedmen citizens – approximately 2800 persons – we note that  tribal officials have not verified this number with members of Congress who have requested such information, the tribe has NOT registered additional freedmen tribal members since March 2007 and continues to be in non compliance with the treaty of 1866. The tribal constitution - both the 1975 recognized by the US government and the 1999 not recognized by the US government still bars freedmen citizens from running for tribal office which is in violation of the treaty. The tribe has stated in its filing of Cherokee nation defendants opposition to plaintiffs motion dated May 29th 2007  of the Vann et al Versus Kempthorne federal  case that the freedmen not registered with the tribe as of March were “non citizens” who would not be permitted to vote in the June 2007 elections.  The tribe continues to register Delaware, Shawnee, Creeks, Natchez and others who have an ancestor listed on the Dawes rolls that do not have “Cherokee blood”.

During the Week of September 10th, 2007, the Cherokee nation Council held budget hearings.

Although Cherokee nation Chief Smith talks about the impoverishment of the tribe,  Councilwoman Cowan Watts of District 7 made a motion to specifically earmark  4 million dollars in the tribal Budget for litigation costs of the  Federal Court Freedmen lawsuit Vann Versus Kempthorne. (The tribe was not originally a party to the lawsuit but demanded admittance into the lawsuit for the purpose of  dismissing  the case. The Budget hearings can be heard at the Cherokee nation website.      The tribe had already committed $520,000 in litigation fees in early 2007 besides funds which had been spent and earmarked prior to the middle of 2007.

In August 2007, Department of Interior assistant Secretary Artman signed off on the Cherokee nation being able to change the tribal constitutions without federal government approval. He stated in an interview that the tribe is still subject to the 1866 treaty and that the freedmen cannot be kicked out.

Many Civil Rights organizations and Civic Organizations have come out in public support of the Freedmen treaty rights: These include: the National NAACP which has adopted a resolution in 2007 signed by officials Dennis Hayes and Julian Bond in support of the Watson Bill HR 2824  (the resolution will be added to the Descendants of Freedmen Association NAACP link). 

Other organizations which have given support to the Watson bill and or the Freedmen treaty rights include the national Congress of Black Women:  Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Resolution  of Support

Another statement of support of HR 2824 has been given by George Wycliffe, Chief of the Federally Recognized United Keetowah Band of Cherokees and a former council member of the Cherokee nation

(See also Chief Wycliffes address in the UKB newspaper of August 2007

Although Cherokee nation leaders have criticized the Watson Bill based on sovereignty issues and that if passed, the tribe could lose Federal funding, the Cherokee nation in 1991 was successful in having Congress  pass 105 Stat 990 (Act of Nov 13 1991) which has severely limited  the United Keetowah Band, Delaware Tribe, and the Shawnee tribes from receiving Federal funds . (see also 29 IBIA 229

Other Elected tribal officials have also questioned the freedmen removal efforts led by the Cherokee nation Principal chief

Illegally disenrolled Cherokee freedmen tribal members have also gained support from non profit Choctaw Chickasaw Freedmen Association which submitted a petition to Congressmen in March 2007.  A statement by official Mr. Verdie Triplett was given on the following KOTV news clip in March 2007:

An online petition drive to support the freedmen treaty rights was started by Cherokee citizen John Cornsilk. We encourage people of all races creeds, and colors to sign the petition.

The nation of Islam and the Indigenous nation’s alliance have also issued resolutions of support of the freedmen treaty rights:

Various interviews are on the internet as well as additional stories regarding  freedmen issues:

Also:       August 23 – Round about Midnight show – 1am)

Worlds Apart TV:  February 26 2007 interview – Tribal Tribulations   Tulsa Demonstration/rally  Freedmen plan fight

Freedmen turned away from polls

Legislators voice concerns    Demonstration at BIA Muskogee office  Demonstration at Oklahoma State  Capitol  BIA rejects Constitutional Amendment Tulsa Demonstration /Rally  Cherokee nation sets up Constitutional vote BIA and Cherokee constitution  Senator Coburn supports Treaty 

The Cherokee nation website  continues to call freedmen tribal members “non Indians” although many of these so called “non Indians” can establish that they have Indian ancestors through their Freedmen ancestors Dawes roll census cards, Dawes roll testimonies, and or other tribal and federal government rolls (Guion Miller, 1880 authenticated Cherokee census, etc) made more than 100 years ago. Cherokee Chief Smith continues to imply that the freedmen do not have Indian ancestors and are not listed on the tribes “base roll”. Although Mr. Smith and other tribal officials continuously refer to the “non Indian freedmen roll”, they never admit that the “Cherokee by blood”, “Cherokee by blood Minor” roll, and the “Delaware Cherokee” roll include persons who are identified as “whites” or “adopted whites” who have no degrees of Indian blood.  See testimonies of Richard Byrd on the Descendants of Freedmen Cherokee link in the dawes.pdf file

( ).

Because Chief Smith continues to talk about protecting sovereignty, we encourage our readers to read 22ibia 75 (  ) where Chad Smith, his father Nelson Smith, and current Cherokee deputy Chief Grayson  (who during the 1990s were all members of the United Keetowah Band) demanded that the Department of Interior not only overthrow a UKB  election but also sever the government to government relations of the tribe with the US government  with a resulting loss of tribal funding.  See  20 IBIA 1 and 20 IBIA 67  and We point to these decisions to show that when Mr. Smith, his friends and relatives are not in office, they  to use US federal government solutions as opposed to “tribal solutions” pertaining to tribal elections that they demand that the freedmen use. .  

 We encourage those who have questions regarding what is the tribes “base roll” to review the sections of the Dawes Commission ‘Final Rolls which are listed by the Department of Interior letter  dated 2 25 1975 which is posted on the Descendants of Freedmen Cherokee link (identified as bia dawes roll.pdf)

We also encourage those who have questions as to whether persons listed as Freedmen by the Dawes commission 100 years ago had documented Indian ancestry to review the Cherokee link of the Descendants of Freedmen website to review various Dawes Census cards and testimony of Dawes enrolled freedmen such as those included in the file labeled unkansas1106.pdf                                        (   ) and look at the Testimonies and or census cards of Freedmen Solomon Baldridge and Rachel Walker in which the Dawes commission identifies these persons as having an Indian ancestor. Because the Indian ancestors of persons such as   Baldridge and Walker died prior to September 1 1902 there Indian ancestors were stricken or otherwise not listed on the final “Cherokee by blood roll so that their families would not receive a land allotment for the dead person. (See Cherokee Agreement (32 Stat 716)  Also the Cherokee tribal court determined in the Riggs case, (which is listed on the Descendants of Freedmen website) :

Although Bernice Riggs had an Indian ancestor, the ancestor was not listed on the Cherokee by blood roll. (The Indian ancestor had died prior to 1902 and by Act of Congress was therefore not listed on any section of the Dawes rolls).  Persons such as Bernice Riggs as well as descendants of  Freedmen Solomon Baldridge and Rachel Walker are examples of “non Indians” who tribal officials believe  should be barred from tribal membership  since their Indian ancestors do not appear on the “Cherokee by blood roll” – (the reason of course for that being due to their untimely deaths). Additional testimonies of Freedmen whose Indian ancestors died prior to 1902 (such as Dawes enrolled freedmen Thomas Downing whose 1902 Dawes testimony and Dawes census card identify his father William Downing as a dead “Cherokee by blood”) will be added to the Descendants of Freedmen website so that the public can review for themselves as to whether or not the freedmen rolls are rolls compiled of “non Indians” who do not have Indian ancestors or who lack “Indian blood”.  Descendants of Thomas Downing, Rachel Walker, and Solomon Baldridge are persons who were evicted from the tribe in the March 2007 election due to their being  descendants from “Non Indians”.   

Other Dawes enrolled freedmen who the Dawes Commission recorded that their Indian parents were dead  by 1902  (and whose descendants  have been evicted from the tribal membership  as “non Indians” by the March 3rd 2007 Cherokee vote)   include Reed Vann, the son of Cherokee Indian John Vann.   See Dawes census card at:

Anti Freedmen propaganda continues to be spread by freedmen removal petition proponent former deputy Chief John Ketcher who admitted both in June 2006 and in August 2007 that he knows nothing about the Dawes Rolls.

We have tapes  and DVDs available from our June 2004 meeting in Tulsa with special speaker  former Deputy  Cherokee Chief Hastings Shade as well as tapes and DVDs of  Professor Dan Littlefields talk in  September 2003. Please contact us regarding your order.




Jonathan T. Velie Telephone: (405) 364-2525

William Velie Facsimile: (405) 364-2587

Toll-free: (877) 304-2525 Email:



August 7, 2003



In a reversal of it’s earlier position, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has recognized an election that forbid the Black Citizens of the Cherokee Nation to vote for it’s tribal leaders and on a Constitutional amendment that would remove the President of the United States authority to approve Cherokee Constitutional amendments. The decision is in the face of earlier agency decisions, Treaty rights, recent federal decisions and a Supreme Court decision.

An unsigned August 6, 2003 BIA memo reversed the signed July 25th memo from Regional Director, Jeanette Hanna of the Muskogee, Oklahoma office In the earlier memo, the Bureau stated that the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act mandated the Nation to submit election procedures prior to the election. The Cherokees did not present the procedures and held an election and precluded the Black Cherokees from voting. The second memo ignored the statute and the earlier position and recognized the election even though approximately 25,000 Black Cherokees, also known as Cherokee Freedmen, were not allowed to vote.

The Black Cherokees citizenship in the Cherokee Nation is protected by the Treaty of 1866 between the United States and the Cherokee Tribe. Recent litigation occurred regarding a similar situation with the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. When the Black Seminoles were ousted from the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma in one election and precluded from voting for Chief of the nation in a subsequent election, the Bureau of Indian Affairs took the position that the United States could not recognize the administration that claimed victory because the election did not permit the Black citizens of the Nation to vote.

The B.I.A. cut off federal funds to the Seminole Nation as it reasoned could not provide them to an illegal government. The B.I.A. currently does not recognize the Seminole government elected under the illegal election. The cases that stemmed from the B.I.A’s determination to enforce the Treaty Rights of the Black Citizens were Seminole Nation of Oklahoma v. Norton, 206 F.R.D. 1(D.D.C. 2001) (CKK) and Seminole Nation of Oklahoma v. Norton, 223 F. Supp. 2d 122 (D.D.C. 2002). These cases said in short, the Treaty of 1866 ensured Tribal Citizenship of the Black Seminoles and the B.I.A.’s determination to not recognize the Tribe when citizens were not entitled to vote was appropriate.

The B.I.A. has flipped it’s reasoning a number of times regarding the Cherokee April 24, election. A March 15, 2003 letter signed by then Secretary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Neal McCaleb, stated in pertinent part, that the Cherokee Nation could remove the clause from it’s Constitution requiring United States Presidential approval for amendments to the Cherokee Constitution, provided the Cherokee Freedmen are entitled to vote in the election. An April 23, memo also signed by Mr. McCaleb, stated that he did not actually sign or authorize his signature of the March 15, memo and removed the provision that the Black Cherokees needed to be able to vote in the Cherokee election.

The current situation means that Bureau of Indian Affairs has breached it’s duty to uphold the United States Treaty of 1866 as recently interpreted by the Seminole decisions. The effect of the determination strips the Black citizens of the Cherokee Nation from voting for their leadership and on a very important Constitutional amendment that would take out U.S. oversight.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has breached its duty as trustee by recognizing an administration elected in opposition to relevant United States law, and has acted in direct opposition to the Seminole decisions, a 1942 Supreme Court decisions that mandates it to protect the Tribe as trustee, Wheeler v. Dept. of Interior, 811 F. 2d. 549 (10th Cir. 1987) that the B.I.A. it cited in the July 25 letter requiring mandate compliance with the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act, has made numerous inconsistent decisions in this matter and is acting inconsistently with its current stance in the Seminole Nation.

Jon Velie, Norman, Oklahoma attorney for the Cherokee Freedmen states, "The BIA decision to recognize an election that forbid the participation of approximately 25,000 voters based on a racist policy is a giant leap in the worst direction. It undermines the basic tenet of democracy of both the Cherokee Nation and the United States of America. It exposes sovereignty for the Cherokee Nation and all Native Nations as it begs for litigation on whether treaties must be obeyed, it takes the decision of who rules away from the people and it exposes the actors of both governments as sleezy, backroom political puppeteers.

Marilyn Vann, a Cherokee Freedmen, says, "The stripping of my vote and identity as a Cherokee fills my heart with sorrow and rage. How can the United States recognize my Tribe’s government and fund millions of dollars of aid to it, when it denies me my most precious asset, the right to vote for my elected officials and decide major Constitutional reform. I not only feel less of a Cherokee today but less of an American."

For more information please contact Jon Velie, legal counsel for the Black Cherokees at the above address or numbers or via mobile at 405-821-5959. Attachments available upon request.



Jon Velie

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