Saturday, December 9, 2017

Walkingstick steps up, pays a heavy price for trying to defend tribal sovereignty

As reported in the Cherokee Phoenix, Councilor David Walkingstick has proposed legislation to require the Attorney General Todd Hembree to appeal the recent court decision on the Freedmen citizenship issue. The Act is titled "2017 Sovereignty Protection Act" and is on the agenda for the Cherokee Tribal Council Rules Committee meeting, December 11, 2017.

The full text of the proposed Act clearly explains it is in defense of tribal sovereignty, not just for the Cherokee Nation, but all federally recognized tribes. Walkingstick has also explained that each elected official and the appointed Attorney General have taken an oath of office to defend the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation and that the failure to appeal the federal court ruling that is in direct conflict with the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation puts all of the elected officials in an impeachable position.

Though Walkingstick has repeatedly explained his motivation for introducing this Act, some people are willing to overlook the fact all of our elected officials and the AG took an oath to defend the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation. Instead, they are trying to turn this into a racially motivated act. If people were just calling Walkingstick a racist, that would be one thing, but some have started a petition against him, concerning his private job outside of tribal affairs, accusing him of racism and trying to force him to resign. Others have started rumors on social media claiming he's not Cherokee by blood and was only given a Certificate Degree of Indian Blood because of a corrupt BIA, which is not true.

The attacks on social media against Walkingstick have become a witch hunt. In my humble opinion, the people launching these attacks against him are nothing more than bullies who are trying to gain support for their agenda by promoting hate against him. It appears they believe it is easier to play the "chronic victim" and evoke an emotional reaction from people than it is to work to repeal the Constitutional amendment that is at the heart of this legislation.

Every person on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council took the following Oath of Office:
I do solemnly swear, or affirm, that I will faithfully execute the duties of ___________ of the Cherokee Nation, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitutions of the Cherokee Nation, and the United States of America. I swear or affirm further, that I will do everything within my power to promote the culture, heritage and traditions of the Cherokee Nation. [emphasis mine]

The Cherokee people voted to require that one must be by blood to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Though AG Hembree could have appealed the federal judge's ruling, he didn't. Instead, he asked the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court to void the 2007 amendment. Additionally, he requested the court allow the Freedmen the right to run for office. That was not part of the 2007 amendment. That was decided in the Constitutional Convention. The framers of the Constitution decided one had to be by blood to run for office.

Is this clear? ONE MAN decided to override the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation and not just on the 2007 amendment, but also on sections that were approved in the 1999 Constitutional Convention by the framers of our Constitution. This is concerning to me. It should be concerning to anyone who is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. If this happens once, what will keep it from happening again? Our Constitution and laws mean nothing if one person can change whatever he deems necessary, without the input of anyone else, especially without the input of our legislative branch, the tribal council.

Your tribal councilors work for you. They are your voice. No matter your stance on this issue, they need to hear from you, but they MUST hear from you if you believe they should stand by their oath of office and defend our Constitution. It never hurts to remind them that you put them in office and you can remove them from it. While impeachment is in the hands of the Tribal Council, the Cherokee people have the right to petition to recall an elected official. With emotions currently running high on this issue, it might not be as difficult to get signatures on a petition or votes in a recall election as it has been in the past.

No matter what happens on Monday, don't expect this to be the end of it. There's a lot more going on concerning the Freedmen descendants and their new demands, but that discussion is for another time.

Click the following link to find your tribal councilor's contact information. LINK

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

*There are lots of links in this post. Please click on them for more information.

copyright 2017, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Rider Fields and the Freedmen - Part 3

"Thorough research, I would argue, is not just "looking everywhere." It's not "a search in all logical places" for the one document that answers a specific question. That's just a search. But a search is only one step in the research process. It's not even the first step. And no conclusion should ever be based on one document." (Elizabeth Shown Mills)

That's worth repeating. Thorough research is not a search for the one document that answers a specific question and no conclusion should ever be based on only one document. Understanding this, every effort has been made to thoroughly research the lives of Rider Fields and Katie Vann. Not only were the documents and records made during their lifetimes reviewed, but also some that were created after they both died.

Ben Vann was not the only living child of Katie Vann at the time of allotment. Martha Johnson and Chick Vann, sisters of Ben, both applied and were enrolled by the Dawes Commission. One would expect the information they gave on their mother to match the information Ben provided about her. It didn't.

Martha Johnson, Ben's sister, listed George Fields, not Rider Fields, as the owner of her mother. Was this George Fields the father of Rider? It's possible, but there were several Cherokee men named George Fields so we don't know. What we do know is Martha indicated her mother was a slave and that she was owned by someone other than Rider Fields.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Card for Five Civilized Tribes, Martha Johnson, F341.

Chick Vann, another sister of Ben Vann, said Katie Vann (daughter of Ave Vann and Cherokee by blood) was the owner of her mother, Katie Vann, a slave. The siblings agree that Ave Vann or his daughter Katie was the owner of their father but the name of their mother's owner is still in question. While neither of Ben's sisters gave information that would support the answers of each other, neither offered information that supported the answer Ben gave either.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Dawes Census Card for Five Civilized Tribes, Dunk Vann, F850.

Results from the exhaustive search indicated Catherine Fields, daughter of Rider Fields, was listed by name in only one record during her lifetime. Despite this, we do have additional information on her. She is mentioned in at least three Eastern Cherokee applications filed by the grandchildren of Rider Fields. Randolph Ballard, Susie Mayes, and Elizabeth Montgall included Catherine Fields as a sibling to their parent and said she died without descent.

Eastern Cherokee Applications, Susie Mayes, 2221,
Eastern Cherokee Applications, Randolph Ballard, 2143,
Eastern Cherokee Applications, Elizabeth Montgall, 17483,
These grandchildren descended from two different daughters of Rider Fields and grew up in different nations; one in the Creek Nation, the others in the Cherokee Nation, yet the information they individually provided on Catherine Fields is corroborated by the others. Catherine Fields never had children. This makes it clear that Catherine Fields, daughter of Rider Fields, was not the same person as Katie Vann, the slave and mother of Ben Vann. Rider Fields has no descendants through his daughter Catherine.

Rider Fields did own slaves. One was named Andy Fields. The Dawes Census cards for Andy's sons reveal something interesting.

Dawes Census Cards, Freedmen, Jackson Fields, D771,
Dawes Census Cards, Freedmen, Calvin Ross, D777,
Andy Fields, former slave of Rider Fields, was considered a CREEK Freedmen. Though Rider Fields was a "Cherokee by blood", he surrendered his Cherokee Nation citizenship when he moved to the Creek Nation. Any slave of his would have been considered a Creek Freedmen. Katie Vann was a Cherokee Freedmen. She would not have had rights to Cherokee citizenship if she'd have been Rider's slave. He didn't return to the Cherokee Nation until two years after the Cherokee slaves had been set free.

None of the evidence uncovered at this point in time substantiates Ben Vann's testimony given in his Eastern Cherokee application. In fact, the evidence uncovered at this point in time contradicts Ben's testimony.
  • Ben Vann was a slave, as indicated on his Dawes Census Card and other Cherokee Nation rolls where he is listed as "adopted colored."
  • Katie Vann, mother of Ben Vann, was a slave, as indicated by three of her children on their Dawes Census Cards and other Cherokee Nation rolls where she was listed as a "Freed Person" or "adopted colored."
  • Richard Fields was the brother of Rider Fields, not the father. Therefore, even if Rider was the father of Katie Vann, Richard would not be Ben Vann's great grandfather.
  • Katie Vann, mother of Ben Vann, might not have had any siblings, but Catherine, daughter of Rider Fields, had at least 6 sisters and that fact is well documented.

As genealogists, we must weigh each source for its quality, credibility, and strength against other sources, information, and evidence. How much weight should we give to the testimony Ben Vann gave in his Eastern Cherokee application? That testimony by its very nature is not unbiased. Ben was a claimant and had something to gain. Having something to gain does not automatically make him dishonest, but it does mean we must use the information provided in context with why that information was given. It was given in an attempt to get money. Ben's testimony was only a claim. It is not evidence proving a claim. In order to conclude that Rider Fields was the father of Katie Vann, evidence to support that claim independent of Ben Vann's testimony is needed. There is none.

After reviewing hundreds of records that provided direct, indirect, and negative evidence, it appears the only conflicting information uncovered during the exhaustive research is the testimony of Ben Vann. Let me repeat that. The only conflicting evidence to hundreds of other documents and sources is the testimony of Ben Vann. The only reason anyone claims Rider Fields was the father of Katie Vann is because Ben Vann said it. Had he not made the claim, no one would have anything else upon which to base their belief and this story  would likely not be prevalent today. Someone found one document that supported what they wanted to believe and that was the end of their "research."

To quote the premier genealogist of our time, Elizabeth Shown Mills, "Finding random documents to support what we want to believe is not research. It's self-delusion. Family tales, beloved or otherwise, carry no credibility unless they meet common standards for family history research..."

If Katie Vann's descendants want to make the claim that they descend from Rider Fields, then they are responsible for providing proof of that claim. This family tale only carries credibility if it meets the common standards for family history research. At this point, it does not. There is no credible evidence to support the claim that Katie Vann, Cherokee Freedmen, was the slave or daughter of Rider Fields, Cherokee by blood.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

*click to enlarge images

Rider Fields and the Freedmen - Part 1 The Story
Rider Fields and the Freedmen - Part 2 The Evidence and Evaluation
copyright 2017, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Monday, November 13, 2017

Rider Fields and the Freedmen - Part 2

A group of historical documents form a body of evidence which allows us to draw conclusions about events and relationships in a person's life, even when those things are not directly recorded in any document. The following includes direct, indirect, and negative evidence that allows us to put together a narrative of the lives of Rider Fields and Katie Vann.

In 1824, Rider Fields filed a claim against the U.S. for property lost four years earlier. Because he was old enough to own property in 1820, yet too young to fight in the Creek War of 1813-14, he was likely born about 1800. This estimation is supported by the fact his daughter, Susan, gave birth to his grandchild, Jane, about 1839.

Based on the ages listed for Katie Vann in various U.S. and Cherokee records, she was born circa 1833. According to Ben Vann, Katie's oldest child was born in 1847. Katie Vann would have only been fourteen years old when she gave birth to that child if the estimation of her age is correct. Based on the projected age at the time of that child's birth, we can presume Katie might have been born earlier than 1833 but it is unlikely that she was born after that year.
Eastern Cherokee Applications, Benjamin Vann, 44082, p.5,

The first time Rider Fields was found on a record that included information about his family was in 1835 on the Cherokee Nation census. He was living in Jackson County, Alabama (the old Cherokee Nation) and had 8 in his family, all quarter-bloods, with a breakdown of one male over 18, one female over 16, and 6 females under 16. There were no mixed Negroes (an actual question on the census) and Rider Fields had no slaves. If Katie Vann, the mother of Ben Vann, was the daughter of Rider Fields, she should have been found in his household on this census since she was a child at this time. She wasn't.

The Trail of Tears Association, 1835 Cherokee Census, Monograph Two, Park Hill, OK. 2002

In 1837, Rider Fields received payments for subsistence and transportation for voluntary removal to Indian Territory. He collected money for seven people; his family included six Indians plus he had one slave with him. We cannot determine if Rider owned this slave. We cannot determine if the slave was male or female. All we know is Rider had a slave with him when he removed to Indian Territory. He received a small payment for the use of a wagon, team, and teamster (someone to drive the wagon) during the voluntary removal. Perhaps that is why he had a slave with him. All we know for certain is Rider Fields had a slave with him in 1837 that was not with him in 1835 nor with him in 1839 when he again received subsistence and transportation money, but only collected for five people, no slaves.

In 1847, the year Katie Vann gave birth to her first child, Rider Fields was living in the Cherokee Nation and filed a claim for improvements and spoliation. Two years later, Katie Vann gave birth to her second child (listed in the records by the names Julia, Juna, and Chick.) That same year, the Cherokee Advocate twice published information about Rider Fields. In July, there was a cholera outbreak near Rider's home on the Verdigris and in September, he was the administrator of the estate of his father, George Fields.

Cherokee Advocate, July 23, 1849. Tahlequah, OK. p2.

Cherokee Advocate, September 24, 1849. Tahlequah, OK. p3.
When the Drennen Roll was made in 1851-52, Katie Vann had already given birth to her third child. Rider Fields was enrolled by Drennen and living in Saline District with his daughters, Ellen, Rachel, and Catherine. If Katie Vann, the mother of Ben Vann, was the same person as Catherine Fields and she was living in Rider's household when the Drennen Roll was prepared, her children should have been listed too. They weren't. This is strong evidence indicating that Catherine Fields and Katie Vann are not the same person. Katie Vann was not listed on the Drennen Roll in her own household either, suggesting she was not considered a citizen of the Cherokee Nation at that time.
Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959, Drennen Roll, Rider Fields, Saline 663,

By January 7, 1852, Rider Fields was living in the Creek Nation. His daughter, Susan, died about 1850 leaving minor children. Based on later records, it is possible Rider moved to the Creek Nation to take care of her children. Despite Rider's move to another nation, Katie Vann remained in the Cherokee Nation. If she would have been the slave of Rider Fields, one would assume he would have taken her with him to the Creek Nation. He didn't.

Katie Vann had two children born in the Cherokee Nation between 1852 and 1857. One of those children was Ben Vann. Rider Fields was still in the Creek Nation after the birth of those two children. He was listed on the 1857-59 Creek Roll with Billy, Peggy, and Bluford (his grandson) in his household.
Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959. Creek Rolls, 1857-1859.

Katie Vann gave birth to her sixth child in the Cherokee Nation in 1859. The next year, Rider Fields was listed on the U.S. Slave Schedule, still living in the Creek Nation, and as the owner of two slaves. Both slaves were male, aged 45 and 5 years old. Clearly Katie Vann was not his slave at this time.

1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules,

Katie Vann had another child, Ruthie, about 1861. Two years later, in 1863, the Cherokee Nation freed their slaves. At this time, Rider Fields was still a citizen of the Creek Nation. He did not become a citizen of the Cherokee Nation again until 1865 when he and his family were readmitted by an Act of the Tribal Council. That year, Katie Vann and her family were found on the Kansas State census and living there.
Laws of the Cherokee Nation passed during the years 1839-1867, p. 114.

1865 Kansas Territory Census,

In 1867, while Rider was found on the Tompkins Roll as a "Half breed" Cherokee and living in the Illinois District, Katie Vann and her family were found listed as Freed People, "Colored", and living in Saline District. After this, Rider disappears from records so it is presumed he died between 1867 and 1880.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959. Tompkins Roll.

In 1880, Katie Vann was listed on the Census of the Cherokee Nation as adopted colored. Her household included William, Rachel, and Jane.

Oklahoma and Indian Territory, Indian Censuses and Rolls, 1851-1959. 1880 Cherokee Nation Census.

Katie Vann was listed on the Wallace Roll for the Authenticated Cherokee Freedmen (1888-89) living in Cooweescoowee District. This roll was only for Freedmen. Native Cherokees were not listed on it.

In 1891, Katie Vann died, according to her son, Ben Vann.

In documents, we never see the lives of Rider Fields and Katie Vann intersect. They are never found on any record or in any source together. In fact, while Katie was still a slave and having babies in the Cherokee Nation, Rider Fields was living in the Creek Nation. For thirteen years, from 1852 to 1865, Rider Fields and Katie Vann were not living in the same nation. When Rider Fields is found in the Creek Nation, Katie Vann is found in the Cherokee Nation. When Rider returned to the Cherokee Nation, Katie was found in the United States living in Kansas.

Documents show that Rider Fields had no "mixed blood Negroes" in his household in 1835 nor any slaves. When Rider's daughter, Catherine, was living with him in 1851-52, Katie Vann was married and having babies. When Rider was living in the Creek Nation, Katie Vann, still a slave of someone, was living in the Cherokee Nation. Every document found on Katie Vann indicates she was black, "colored", or a "Freed person." At this point, only Ben Vann's testimony suggests she had Indian blood.

Stay tuned for more conflicting evidence and a conclusion to this genealogical mystery concerning this widely accepted Cherokee lineage. Rider Fields and The Freedmen - Part 3, The Conclusion coming soon.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

*click to enlarge images
Rider Fields and the Freedmen - Part 1, The Story
Rider Fields and the Freedmen - Part 3, The Conclusion (coming soon)

*additional sources available upon request

copyright 2017, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB