Friday, August 21, 2015

Chief Baker, Prove Me Wrong.

UPDATE: August 24, 2015 a Cherokee Nation tribal council person said they would see what they can do to get Ms. Wolfe some assistance for her health care needs. We are all thankful for his efforts. I will update the blog as things progress. 

Below is a post from Thursday, January 29, 2015. This woman is still waiting for help. Her allergies are so bad, she is having numerous secondary health problems now. The day after the election, after the results were announced, I sent her a message telling her who won. She responded, "Well, I guess there's no hope for me now."

I nearly broke down in tears. As much as I wanted to tell her we could get her the help she desperately needed, I knew I couldn't promise that. 

I truly believe this woman is a national treasure. She speaks our language and has since birth. At the rate we are losing speakers of the Cherokee language, we MUST do all we can to protect those who still speak our native tongue as their first language. We MUST utilize the knowledge of these Cherokees to revitalize our language or we are going to lose it.

I would like to believe that our chief, Bill John Baker, cares enough about the people to step in and say, "We have to do something to help this sick woman." Sadly, I don't think he will do it. I don't think Baker is going to do anything to help anyone unless they worked on his campaign, donated to his campaign, or has something to offer him in exchange for his helping them. 

If Chief Baker truly cares about the people he was elected to serve, he will act to help this woman, a woman who has nothing to offer him personally, but who has much to offer us as a nation. I don't think he will do it.

The ball's in your court now, Chief Baker. Prove me wrong. 

A Voice Lost in Cherokee Nation Health Services

Linda Wolfe, a full blood Indian and speaker of the Cherokee language, has been trying to navigate the Indian Health Care system for over 5 years. At 47, she's still a fairly young woman, but because she is sick, she can no longer work. Often, she can't talk because her illness steals her voice.

After making circles in the IHS holding pattern for three years, finally, in February 2013, Linda was referred to an allergy specialist in Tahlequah. That doctor did tests, evaluated the results, and said Linda needed allergy shots.  While the clinic said they could cover the cost of the shots, Linda would be required to cover the cost of her weekly office call visits, totaling about $120 per month. The Cherokee Nation's IHS wouldn't cover that cost and Linda couldn't afford it, so she's gone without treatment. 

Linda has tried to go outside IHS to get help. She isn't eligible for Sooner Care because she has no children. She couldn't use the free clinic in Pryor, Oklahoma because they told her she was an Indian and had IHS. She can't afford "Obama Care" because Oklahoma didn't accept the Medicaid expansion. She's contacted her Cherokee Nation council person. She's contacted other council people. She's even contacted Connie Davis, executive director of Cherokee Nation Health Services. If it is an option, she's explored it, yet she's still had to go without treatment.

As time has passed and with treatment denied, Linda's health has suffered in other ways. Due to her severe allergies, headaches were no stranger to her, but the one she had several months ago was different. It was a pounding, aching headache like she'd never before experienced. She was in so much pain, she had to lay down.  As Linda rested her head on the pillow, for a moment, she thought she might die because the pain was unbearable. Then she felt a "pop" and the pressure and pounding in her head was gone. At that same moment, something ran down the side of her face. It was blood and was coming out of her ear. A subsequent trip to the doctor revealed that congestion from her allergies was so substantial, it caused her eardrum to burst from the pressure. 

Often, when problems like Linda's are brought to light, the administration's excuse is that the person fell through the cracks. We've been told this enough that it's clear, we don't just have cracks, we have very deep and wide chasms full of people. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Enough!

I don't want to hear excuses. I want to hear solutions.

I don't want to hear "we can't." I want to hear "we will."

And I don't want to hear "she'll have to wait." She's waited long enough.

It's easy for our administration to ignore a problem as long as our people aren't aware of it. They can't ignore Linda any more. Now we know about her. Now we care about her. And now we demand action. She's lost her voice, but we haven't lost ours. Each of us has a chance to become the voice of the voiceless; to speak for those who can no longer speak; and to stand with those who are standing alone. 

You have a choice. What will you do?

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading. 

*Linda Wolfe made the decision to go public with her identity so the post has been updated on 21 Aug 2015 to include it.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Andrea Smith and the battle over sovereignty

Most of you have heard the Andrea Smith story by now. She's a member of academia who like Elizabeth Warren, US Senator from Massachusetts, claims to be Cherokee. I've not done Smith's genealogy, so I can't comment on her ancestry, but to do so would detract from the real point anyway. Her false claim, like Warren's, is an assault on the sovereignty of all Indian Nations, but specifically the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. 

False claim? Can we say that without doing her genealogy? Yes because this is not about who Andrea Smith claims, but instead, who claims her. None of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes claim her, therefore she isn't Cherokee, period.

Despite this, Smith continues to disrespect Cherokees and our tribal sovereignty by saying, "My enrollment status does not impact my Cherokee identity or my continued commitment to organizing for justice for Native communities."

Justice for Native communities? It is impossible to attack our sovereignty and seek justice for us at the same time. A person does one or the other. Smith's words suggest she is taking a pro-Indian position but her actions show this is not true.

In the book,Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century” by Circe Sturm, 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. After all, we wouldn’t deny someone’s Germanness because they hate sauerkraut, nor would we have the audacity to recognize someone as German simply because they love it. German is what German does. Indian is what Indian does…

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.”

By rejecting the idea that enrollment or citizenship in an Indian Nation is a factor in who is or is not Indian, Andrea Smith is taking an anti-Indian position. That is a direct attack on tribal sovereignty. No matter what Smith says, she is not acting in our best interest. She is not our friend and she is not seeking justice for us. Instead, she's forced us to a national stage where we must defend our tribal sovereignty, and once again, battle to protect one of the only things we Cherokees have left - our identity.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Cherokee Man Hiking to Raise Awareness

Today, I met James "Trout" Armontrout, a Cherokee citizen, who is hiking from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Sandusky, Ohio in an effort to raise awareness for two non-profits; the Semper Fi Fund and the Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund.

From the webpage about his hike, The March - Forging Forward for the Fallen:

"A journey of remembrance for those who have gone on, healing from the guilt of survival, connection to those we meet along the way, and closure that we are still here and relevant. We are "Forging Forward For the Fallen" and we invite you to join this journey and remember that Freedom is a choice to forego ourselves for the benefit and livelihood of our fellow countrymen." - James Armontrout

Trout started his walk June 16 at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, paying his respects to two Marines who were killed that day - Capt. Randolph Guzman and Sgt. Benjamin Davis. The hike will conclude at the 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines Battle of Fallujah Veterans' Reunion held in Ohio between July 2nd to July 5th.

While the first five days of the hike Trout has had to travel through the rains of Tropical Depression Bill and then the heat and humidity of Oklahoma and Missouri summers, his spirit and determination remain strong. Keep our fellow Cherokee in your thoughts and prayers as he makes this hike. It won't be easy, but if anyone can do this, Trout can.

Safe travels, Trout!

Donations in support of this hike will benefit the Children of Fallen Soldiers Relief Fund and the Semper Fi Fund. To make a donation please click here. For additional information please download their flyer.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB