What Is the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma?
From 1867 until 1906, the Cherokee Nation elected a series of Principal Chiefs. However, from 1907 until 1971, the President of the United States appointed the Principal Chief. In 1971, the Cherokee Nation elected W.W. Keeler, CEO of Phillips Petroleum, as Principal Chief.
Because of the wording of the 1906 Five Civilized Tribes Act and 1970 Five Civilized Tribes Act, which gave democracy of sorts, back to the Cherokees, the Principal Chief has only those powers provided by the organic document which created that office(the 1839 Constitution), limitation placed on the Cherokee Nation by Congress (1906 FCT Act) and those powers granted by Congress (1970 FCT Act).
The office of Principal Chief is not an inherent position. It was created by an act of the Cherokee people. That act is the adoption of the 1839 Constitution. Without that document, there could not have been a principal chief. The 1906 FCT Act provided that the Cherokee Nation shall continue, in full force and effect, in accordance with law, until such time as Congress shall deem otherwise. The only law in operation in 1906 was the Constitution of 1839 and Federal law.
The Constitution of 1839 created the office of Principal Chief. The 1906 FCT Act took democracy away from the Cherokees and handed to the U.S. President the power of appointment to fill that position. In 1970, when Congress "permitted" the Cherokee people to popularly select the individual the President had previously appointed, the only extra authority provided to the PC in that act was the power to "promulgate rules" to carry out the election.
There was no council to make election laws. That had been done away with by the Curtis Act. In carrying out the tenets of the 1970 FCT Act, W.W. Keeler promulgated rules for the 1971 and 1975 Principal Chief's election. The Constitution of 1839, which had created the office of Principal Chief, had no clear rules for carrying out an election. Since the 1906 FCT Act had made Cherokee laws unenforceable, Congress permitted the appointed Principal Chief to promulgate rules and nothing more.
Ross O. Swimmer was popularly selected by the Cherokee people in 1975 to serve a four year term as Principal Chief. He immediately began developing what he called a Constitution to be put to a vote of the Cherokee people. Since he had no authority to abrogate the 1839 Constitution which had created the office he was selected to, his so-called Constitution was nothing more than another set of rules promulgated for the popular selection of the PC to be held in 1979. Remember, as Principal Chief, he can only do what the law allows.
The CNO is nothing more than a descendancy organization established to permit us to "popularly select" our principal officer in accordance with the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act.
The reason Congress used the term "select" rather than elect becomes clearer as time passes. The descendants of the citizens of the Cherokee Nation have no authority to "elect" anyone since they are not citizens of the Cherokee Nation. Only citizens can take political actions such as carry out an election. Only the citizens of the Cherokee Nation can "elect" the principal chief.
What we have is a slight of hand in the smoke and mirrors game the U.S. has played with the Cherokees while they wait for our nation to die when the last Dawes enrollee is dead. That day is quickly approaching with less than 100 original Cherokee Dawes enrollees yet living and all now at least 100 years old.
In order for the descendants of the Cherokee citizens to disfranchise themselves through a "buy out" an act of Congress would be necessary to change the wording and intent of the 1906 FCT Act which closed the rolls and the 1970 Principal Chiefs Act which permits popular selection of the PC rather than "selection" by the President.
And for those of you who might be wondering what is the difference between popular selection and an election it lies in the political nature of the latter. A popular selection can be accomplished by any group of people authorized by Congress to carry it out. In other words Congress could have designated the Choctaws to popularly select the Cherokee chief.
On the other hand an election denotes a political act of a sovereign people to govern themselves, something Congress did not intend by the 1970 PCA. The ONLY Act of Congress that delegates the authority to take political and sovereign action by the Five Civilized Tribes is the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 which permits the tribes of Oklahoma to reorganize and remove any disabilities they may have suffered through congressional action.
By refusing to recognize the disabilities of the Cherokee Nation and creating a "pretend" government masquerading as the Cherokee Nation, the BIA, Congress and every principal chief since W.W. Keeler have stood by and watched as one by one the citizens of our Nation die and we inch closer and closer to annihilation. When the last Cherokee citizen is dead, the President, through the BIA, will look about and see no Cherokee Nation citizens and will declare the Nation extinct.
The Osages are the most recent tribe to see through the 100+ year-old Dawes Commission scheme. They had but one living original enrollee left and their Principal Chief declared an emergency. He immediately went into action to restore an authentic constitutional government and open the Osage Nation citizenship rolls. The Cherokees and Seminoles are the last of the FCT to refuse to recognize the threat to their national existence. Within ten years, perhaps less, the Cherokee Nation will cease to exist.