Thursday, July 14, 2016

Did Warren invent the story of racist grandparents?

In 2012, while running for the US Senate, reporters at the Boston Herald discovered Elizabeth Warren had listed herself as a minority in law directories that were often used for hiring purposes. It's believed by many that Warren listed herself as such in order to game the system and take advantage of affirmative action. Those beliefs are supported by the fact Harvard used her for diversity purposes and considered her Harvard Law's first "woman of color."

When questioned about listing herself as a minority, Warren said she was Native American and she further elaborated by proclaiming that her parents had to elope because her father's parents despised Indians so much, they refused to allow him to marry her mother, a purported Indian.


The problem with Warren's story is that none of the evidence supports it. Her genealogy shows no indication of Cherokee ancestry. Her parents' wedding doesn't resemble an elopement. And additional evidence doesn't show any indication of her Herring grandparents being Indian haters.

In 1937, Elizabeth Warren's paternal grandparents, Grant and Ethel Herring, made the one and a half hour trip from their home in Wetumka, Oklahoma to Sallisaw, Oklahoma to visit Grant's brother, Frank Herring. Later all of them made a thirty minute drive to Fort Smith, Arkansas to visit Frank's brother-in-law, Carnall Wheeler, and his family. While the women stayed at the Wheeler home to visit, the men spent the day playing golf at the Hardscrabble Country Club.

Democrat American, Sallisaw, Oklahoma, September 30, 1937. Click to enlarge.

That snippet from the Society Pages may seem rather mundane and insignificant but it isn't. While Warren has repeatedly said her paternal grandparents disliked Indians, this news clipping indicates otherwise. The man Warren's paternal grandpa spent the day playing golf with, Carnall Wheeler, was an Indian and listed as one-fourth Cherokee by blood on the Dawes Roll.

Dawes Census Card 999 - Carnall Wheeler outlined in green - Click to enlarge
Section of Dawes Census Card 999 - Carnall Wheeler - Click to enlarge

It was no secret that Carnall Wheeler was an Indian. Upon his graduation from the Virginia Military Institute in 1909, his biography referred to him as an "Aboriginal" and there were biting references to war-whoops and the green-corn dance (rats appear to be new students.) One of his nicknames was listed as "Squaw."

Virginia Military Institute Yearbook, Bomb, 1909

Wheeler's biography is uncomfortable to read because there are racist remarks included but it leaves no doubt that people knew he was an Indian.

The golf outing was not the first time Warren's paternal grandparents met Wheeler. He was in attendance at the 25th wedding anniversary party for Frank and Kitty Herring in October 1936. Warren's paternal grandparents attended that party so they knew who he was. They made a conscious decision to accompany Frank to Wheeler's house in 1937. They could have excused themselves from the visit in a number of ways, but they chose not to do so.

Clearly, Wheeler experienced some degree of racism in his life due to his being Indian. Despite this, there is one person we know who did not have a problem associating with him -- Grant Herring, the grandfather of Elizabeth Warren, the same grandfather she claims was racist against Indians.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading. 

copyright 2016, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why won't Chief Baker hold Elizabeth Warren accountable?

In a recent Associated Press article that has been widely distributed, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker is quoted as saying the attacks on Elizabeth Warren by Trump and his supporters are "incredibly offensive and distasteful."

While I agree with Baker that Trump and his supporters are doing and saying incredibly offensive and distasteful things, I also believe Warren should be held accountable for her role in the fiasco. Baker’s failure to address the issue of Warren’s fraudulent claims of Cherokee ancestry troubles people and they wonder if he is more concerned about helping the Democratic Party than he is in defending the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation. His past actions may offer the answer to that question.

On April 8, 2016 at the Carl Albert Dinner during the OklahomaState Democratic Convention, Bill John Baker was the keynote speaker. “He gave a stirring speech highlighting ... his commitment to the Democratic Party.”

Click to Enlarge
Recent examples of that commitment are shown in the following two images.

February 27, 2016, while campaigning for his wife, Hillary, Bill Clinton was introduced by Chief Baker who also presented him with a ceremonial blanket.

Click to Enlarge
In June 2016, Chief Baker and the Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. met with Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Senator who falsely claims to be Cherokee, and Baker tweeted that she is a champion of the people.

Click to Enlarge
And, in 2012, despite the fact that citizens from the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians were speaking out against Warren’s false claim of Cherokee identity, Baker excused it and said he wished everyone felt such a kinship to us.

Because he’s the chief of the Cherokee Nation, concerning the issue of Cherokee identity politics, Baker should be taking a pro-Indian position but he isn’t.

Anthropologist Michael Lambert, a citizen of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians described Cherokee identity politics as a “battle over sovereignty”:

"One of the terrains on which this is being fought is that of how we define “Indian.” The current effort to define Indian as a racial/cultural group is an effort to extinguish Indian sovereignty.  The only way for Indian nations to defend and expand their sovereignty is to make exclusive claim to defining who is Indian and what it means to be Indian. If Indians have sovereignty, then culture, behavior, and belief should have nothing to do with who is or is not Indian. … What does this have to do with non-enrolled Cherokees identifying as such? I see the basis of claims to Indian identity to be political acts. This is, and has been, a battle over sovereignty. One who bases their claim to Indian identity on any basis other than sovereignty is not taking a pro-Indian position.” [Emphasis mine]

Despite her meeting with Chief Baker, Warren has never apologized or retracted her false claim to a Cherokee/Indian identity. Warren has committed, and is continuing to commit, a political act that challenges tribal sovereignty. By ignoring the fact that citizenship in an Indian Nation is a factor in who is or is not Indian, Bill John Baker is allowing a direct attack on tribal sovereignty while offering no defense against the attack. He is not acting in our best interest or in the interest of Indian Country as a whole. Instead, he’s abusing his office to try to influence U.S. politics.

Baker has twice taken the Oath of Office swearing to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation. Our Constitution includes the law for determining who is and who isn’t Cherokee. Baker is not defending our Constitution when he turns a blind eye to Warren’s challenge to our sovereignty. Some view his defense and support of Warren as a willful neglect of his duties and as a violation of his oath of office.

Making stereotypical war whoops and using our ancestors’ names to taunt someone is unacceptable, but so is engaging in ethnic fraud and undermining tribal sovereignty. The Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker, had the opportunity to denounce the actions of members of both political parties while also educating the American public about why all of these things matter. Sadly, he failed to do so because it would have required him to put the Cherokee Nation’s interests above his own personal political loyalties. Instead of remaining neutral, he chose a side. If there was any doubt before, there should not be any now. He is “Bill John Baker, Democrat” first and “Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation Bill John Baker” second.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading

Michael Lambert quote source -
Sturm, Circe. Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century. School for Advanced Research Press, 2011.

copyright 2016, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Trail of Tears through Waynesville, Missouri

A sign at the Waynesville, Missouri Trail of Tears Encampment Historic Site

June 17, 2016, the town of Waynesville, Missouri will commemorate the Trail of Tears and celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service at 9 am at Laughlin Park at the Cherokee Encampment National Historic Site. The following brief history is in honor of our ancestors who passed through Waynesville in the detachment led by Richard Taylor and to coincide with the commemoration ceremony.


At the end of May 1838, the United States invaded the Cherokee Nation; rounded up all of the citizens; and imprisoned them in concentration camps. They were held in those concentration camps with little to no shelter until they were divided into detachments and systematically sent west, beyond the Mississippi River into Indian Territory.

One of those detachments was led by Richard Taylor. They left for the west on November 1, 1838. No records have been found that indicate how Taylor felt as he led his detachment out of their homeland, but there is a letter written by George Hicks, the conductor of another detachment that left about the same time as Taylor. The excerpt from Hicks' letter offers insight into how all the Cherokees, including those in Taylor's detachment, might have felt as they were forced out of their homeland. 
"We are now about to take our final leave and kind farewell to our native land the country that the Great Spirit gave our Fathers, We are on the eve of leaving that Country that gave us birth. It is the land of our fathers and sons, and it is (with sorrow) that we are forced by the authority of the white man to quit the scenes of our childhood, but stern necessity says we must go, and we bid a final farewell to it and all we hold dear East of the Father of Waters, the Majestic Mississippi; ..."

Traveling with Taylor's detachment was Rev. Daniel S. Butrick, a missionary to the Cherokees. The journal Butrick kept during the journey is considered the best first hand account of the forced removal.

Representative of the horrific journey are two passages made at the close of the year, 1838:
Friday  Saturday [December 28th & 29th].
     "...It is distressing to reflect on the situation of the nation. One detachment stopped at the Ohio River, two at the Mississippi, one four miles this side, one 16 miles this side, one 18 miles, and one 3 miles behind us. In all these detachments, comprising about 8,000 souls, there is now a vast amount of sickness, and many deaths. Six have died within a short time in Maj. Brown's company, and in this detachment. Of Mr. Taylor's there are more or less affected with sickness in almost every tent; and yet all are houseless and homeless in a strange land, and in a cold region exposed to weather almost unknown in their native country. ..."
Monday, Dec. 31.
     "...O what a sweeping wind has gone over, and carried its thousands into the grave; while thousands of others have been tortured and scarcely survive...
And why?...For what crime then was this whole nation doomed to this perpetual death? This almost unheard of suffering? Simply because they would not agree to a principle which would be at once death to their national existence,..."
Nearly a month later, the Taylor detachment was able to start crossing the Mississippi River. A timeline of notable events as the group entered and passed through Missouri follows:
  • January 26, 1839 - Butrick and his wife crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri. Many others in their detachment were still on the other side of the river.
  • January 27, 1839 - Only a few families in the detachment had been able to get across the river.
  • January 28, 1839 - Cape Girardeau, MO - Many families still remained on the other side of the river.
  • February 5, 1839* - More Cherokees had crossed the river and they hoped to be able to move forward (with the detachment) on February 14.
  • February 21, 1839* - Drowning Bear died.
  • Feb 26, 1839* - A young Cherokee, Lewis Purdue, died.
  • Feb 28, 1839* - Butrick visited with a few sick children. An old man, Bird, and a child, Mary Fields, died.
  • March 1, 1839* - Two children, aged 2-3 years old, died. That night, they camped on the banks of the Little Piney River.
  • March 4, 1839* - A Cherokee woman died and was buried on the banks of the Big Piney River.
  • March 5, 1839* - The Taylor Detachment traveled to Port Royal (believed to be Waynesville, Missouri) and camped on the banks of the "Rubedoo" (Roubidoux.)
  • March 8, 1839* - A Cherokee man who had been sick with consumption died and was buried the next morning.
  • March 9, 1839* - An aged, sick Cherokee man fell behind during the leg of the trip and did not make it into the camp that night. (Later found and reunited with the group.)
  • March 10, 1839* - A boy, about 11-12 years old, died.
  • March 14, 1839* - A sick woman died.
It took them nearly two months to get from the Mississippi River to half way across the state of Missouri. They were tired. They were sick. They were in mourning.

The week before they reached Port Royal (believed to be Waynesville, MO), there were six deaths in the detachment. There were three more deaths in the ten days that followed. Those people are buried in the surrounding area though their graves are unmarked.

Because of the devastating loss, not just of our Nation's homeland, but also the loss of our people, many Cherokees view the Trail of Tears as hallowed ground. It is not just a path. It's a cemetery. It's the final resting place for many of our ancestors and should always be treated as such.

While it is likely we will never know the names of every person who traveled in the Taylor detachment and through Waynesville, Missouri, we do know some names, usually the heads of families. Though the memory of the Trail of Tears often overshadows the memory of the individuals who experienced it, we know these Cherokees were mothers and fathers and husbands and wives and sons and daughters and grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers and cousins. They were loved and they loved in return. They were people. Without these people, the marking of such historical sites would not happen. The glory belongs to them.

In memory of the Cherokees in the Richard Taylor detachment. May they never be forgotten.

A new wa ka 2
Ah nah 4
Alfred Cloud 3
All taskey 3
Ar sa Ky 5
Archie Fields
Bear out run him 9
Betsy Downing 8
Big Kettle 10
Ca tay o ha 5
Charles Manning 3
Che coo se 5
Chutesty 1
Col lon u has hee
Coo tee 4
Coo ti ha
Darney Downing 1
Dave Buffington 3
David England 10
David Sanders 8
Di al los sa 4
Dirt Jug 2
Ellick Mills 3
Eu chu se ker lan 3
Eu ne ca lune he 3
Fish Hawk 5
Following Along
Frying Fop
George Blair
George Dick 9
George McPherson 4
Glory 6
Going Down Stream 2
Goose 8
Issac Backbone
J Bolone 8
Jack Woodward 9
James Timpson 7
Jay Bird 4
Jesse Stevens 4
Jinny 3
Jinny 5
John Baldridge 
John Hog 8
John McPherson 11
John Red bird 8
Johnson    11
Johnson Reece
Ka lon ton ne
Kas u gee
Ka ta wat te 2
Katy  9
La che cha 2
Leaf 6
Little Meat 7
Little Tarrapin 8
Lowry 6
Lucy Gordon 4
Na ky 5
Nancy Bornse 6
Nanny Faught 1
Ne ku ta 2
Nettles 5
No Mistake 4
Noise water 1
Old Turkey 9
Oo la as ek 3
Oo ler Ka ne/Oo ler kun ne 1
Oo le car ha ske 9
Oo ne cha sy 8
Oo see nah lee 5
Oos yu kah 8
Ou ta la gis ka 1
Pan Malry
Peggy 3
Pheasant 5
Polly Dougherty 1
Red bird 8
Rising Fawn 3
Robin McLemore 2
Sally 2
Sally 3
Scrape Shin 3
Shell 1
Six Killer 5
Spring Frog 6
Spring Frog 7
Steven 10
Stop 1
Stop 3
Sweet Water 9
Ta chi cha 2
Ta la suy 2
Tah law se ya 1
Tassel 6
Tay ka 5
Tee sis ka 6
Tees se ska 3
Ter lur ku ey 2
Three Killer 7
Tom Littlemeat 5
Tom Pritchet 5
Too Nigh
Tuls ca we
Two Fathom
Ty yer hah
War Club
Wallace Vann
Washington 1
Wattie 2
Wee lee gioli 7
Wee loo ka 6
Wildcat 1
William Holms 10
Wilson    4
Wilson Dick 2
Wu lu gah 7
Young bird 5
Young bird 4

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading. 

*The dates in the transcribed Butrick Journal appear to be off by one week beginning in Feb. 1839.  The dates were not included in Butrick's original journal so it appears to be a transcription error. Based on comparisons with other documentation, the dates above are correct.

**The information in this post is based on numerous documents that were used to construct the history as accurately as possible. Supporting documents are available upon request.

***The numbers beside the names of the heads of households are the number in the family/household. There may be duplicates, but when there was nothing to distinguish whether a duplicate or not, I chose to add both entries because I'd rather include a Cherokee family on the list twice rather than risk excluding a family that should be on the list.
copyright 2016, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB