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Below is a copy of my latest article in the Oklahoma Eagle newspaper published September 29, 2005. The Eagle is the oldest Black newspaper in Northeastern Oklahoma. I regularly write a bi-weekly column. This column is the accurate truth regarding our presentation of the Creek Freedmen case currently in front of Judge Pat Moore. We expect a decision within the next two weeks:
“Freedom, Justice, & Equality…Even in Indian Country!”
Wow! I finally get a chance to catch my breath now that the Creek Freedmen trial has finally concluded. Closing arguments were heard Wednesday, September 14, 2005 at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation District Court in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. It will take two weeks to prepare the trial transcript which includes close to one thousand (1,000) pages. After the transcript is completed, it is expected that Muscogee (Creek) Nation District Court Judge Patrick Moore will need at least another two weeks to issue his ruling.
I thank clients Mr. Ron Graham and Mr. Fred Johnson for their trust and belief in the ability of my firm to represent their interests in this landmark case. I’d also like to thank the tremendous effort of the legal team that made it possible for this case to be presented so well. The team includes attorneys Susan R. Sharrock and Michelle Leflore of SolomonSimmons & Associates, PLLC, and Selim Fiagome of EldridgeCooper Steichen&Leach, PLLC; legal assistants Aretha Johnson, Trey Jackson, Jeff Trevillion, and Greg Williams of SolomonSimmons; internationally acclaimed African-Native American scholar Dr. Daniel F. Littlefield of the Sequoia Research Institute, and well-known historian and genealogist Mr. Bob Littlejohn who served as experts; and fact witnesses Mr. Grant Perryman, Mr. Rayord Hawkins, and Mrs. Sharon Scott who shared their stories pertaining to citizenship. Together this multi-racial group of individuals made history and left a legacy of “speaking truth to power” that needs to be studied, praised, and emulated anywhere there is racial injustice. It was truly a blessing to be a part of something so special!
Clearly anything besides a victory would be a crushing blow to everyone that worked on and followed this case. However, having the opportunity to represent my people and expose and hopefully eradicate another racist barrier that seeks to impede our progress made this grueling endeavor worth it. Moreover, regardless of the outcome, this case was a success because now there is a judicial and official record of the horrific plight Creek Freedmen have endured since the end of the nineteenth century due to the racist and discriminatory practices of the Dawes Commission and those who rely on its ideology. Through in-depth testimony and volumes of documentary evidence, we believe that we were able to prove conclusively the following:
1500 – 1830: Creek Nation lives as a confederacy -- an inclusive, amalgamation of Creek peoples.
1832-1840: Federal Government attempts to destroy Creek way of life. Creeks, including Creeks of African descent – both free and “enslaved” – were forcefully removed from their homelands in southeastern North America to Indian Territory.
1840-1860: Creek Nation, including Creeks of African descent, work, live and contribute together as citizens of Creek Nation.
1860-1865: Civil War divides Creek Nation.
1866: Confederate faction of Creek Nation attempts to eliminate Creeks of African descent from Nation; Union faction prevails. By Treaty of 1866, Creek Nation grants full citizenship to all people of African descent living within the Nation.
1867: Creeks of African descent are denied $17.34 per capita payment, just because they are of African descent.
1869-1898: Creek Nation, including Creeks of African descent, function as one nation – working and living together, with all participating in civic and governmental affairs. Many Creeks of African descent serve the Nation as chiefs, interpreters, lighthorsemen, legislators, lawyers, etc.
1898-1906: Federal government again tries to destroy Creek Nation. Dawes Commission separates families, divides and weakens the Nation by employing its own racist ideology to divide the Nation. By using the ideology commonly known as the “One Drop Rule,” the Dawes Commission purposefully looks for “any evidence of Negro blood” in order to classify a Creek as a Freedmen and thus make it easier to acquire possession of that individual’s 160 acre allotment of land.
1907: Oklahoma Jim Crow laws further divide and weaken Creek Nation.
1979: Creek Nation reorganizes, adopts Constitution providing two eligibility criteria for Creek citizenship: (1) Creek blood, (2) a direct lineal ancestor on 1906 Dawes Rolls finalized pursuant to the Act of April 26, 1906.
1980: Creek Nation adopts citizenship code, according to which an applicant for citizenship can prove he/she has Creek blood by using: 1) many listed pre-1906 tribal rolls; and 2) other “suitable records.”
1983-1994: Creek Nation tells Creek Freedmen to go to the BIA for citizenship; BIA infringes on Creek sovereignty by applying its own – not the Nation’s -- standard for determining whether applicant for citizenship has Creek blood (i.e., the myth that “Creek Freedmen have no Creek blood”). Although repeatedly applying for citizenship, descendants of Creek Freedmen are summarily denied citizenship by BIA.
1994: Ron Graham and Fred Johnson ask to apply for citizenship; they are given applications for CDIB card; BIA informs them that BIA no longer handles such applications and redirects them to Creek Nation’s Citizenship Board.
1995: Ron Graham and Fred Johnson are informed by Citizenship Board that they are not eligible for citizenship because they are not “Creek by blood.”
1995-2001: Ron Graham, Fred Johnson and hundreds of others similarly situated – all of whom meet Creek constitutional and ordinance requirements for citizenship -- are wrongfully and summarily denied citizenship by Citizenship Board which refuses to follow Creek Nation law and instead employs its own racist and mis-informed ideology to determine eligibility for citizenship.
August 23, 2001: Citizenship Board decides to amend the citizenship code to conform to its own racist and lawless practices and ideology, effectively disqualifying from eligibility for citizenship any applicant whose direct lineal ancestor was listed on the Creek Freedmen Roll of 1906, in direct contravention of the Constitution of the Creek Nation.
2001- 2002: Ron Graham and Fred Johnson continue trying to apply for citizenship and to educate the Creek Nation before applying again. National Council, quickly and without notice, amends the citizenship code again “to close the door” to applicants for Creek citizenship who base their lineal descent on an ancestor listed on the Creek Freedman Roll of 1906; the passage of the amendment is rushed through, without the usual ten day waiting period, and becomes effective nine days prior to new applications being submitted.
Again, the final outcome is at least four weeks off, and even then we know that both sides plan to appeal any ruling adverse to them. Yet, without a doubt, based on the above facts in evidence we strongly believe we proved: 1) Plaintiffs were wrongfully denied citizenship by the Creek Nation; 2) Article II of the Creek Treaty of 1866, which guarantees Creeks of African descent full citizenship, is still valid; and 3) Plaintiffs and other similarly situated Creek Freedmen are entitled to citizenship in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
In closing, remember to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Lastly, when you get the opportunity, please do not be afraid to stand for righteousness, stand for justice, stand for your community, and stand for humanity. If not you, then who? If not now, then when?