Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Cherokee Nation Protest - Standing Witnesses-Part 8

The Cherokee Nation lawyers launched a strong protest against the Pleasant Cumiford family being enrolled by the Dawes Commission. Below is a timeline of the events that started with Cumiford's Dawes application on November 9, 1900, and concluded March 26, 1904 when the Department of the Interior made its final decision.
  • November 9, 1900 - Pleasant Cumiford applied for enrollment by the Dawes Commission. The Cherokee Nation protested and the application was held up as doubtful.
  • December 15, 1900 - Watt Christie appeared before the Commission and recanted his testimony that got Cumiford and his family admitted to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.
  • March 8, 1902 - Rehearing in the case; Cumiford failed to appear.
  • August 11, 1902 - Commission decision to admit Cumiford and family.
  • August 26, 1902 - Cherokee Nation filed a formal motion to reopen the case.
  • September 17, 1902 - Motion to reopen the case was allowed. Hearing scheduled for October 31, 1902
  • October 31, 1902 - Hearing rescheduled for November 10, 1902.
  • November 11, 1902 - Cumiford couldn't be located and delay was requested to find him.
  • January 22, 1904 - Decision of Commission - fraud and bribery not proved.
  • Between January 22, 1904 and February 8, 1904 - Cherokee Nation filed formal protest and appealed to the Department of the Interior.
  • March 26, 1904 - Final decision, Cumiford admitted under Department of Interior's interpretation of the law.
In its final protest made to the Department of the Interior, the Cherokee Nation asked, 
"[W]ill the Great Government of the United States say that it is powerless to prevent Comiford from reaping the rewards of his own bribes and corruption?"
In the protest, the Cherokee Nation summarized the case, explaining Cumiford knew nothing of the family he claimed and that he relied solely on the testimony of Watt Christie, a well known standing witness, who had later recanted his testimony in the Cumiford citizenship case and confessed he only testified because Cumiford said he'd give him, Christie, a horse.

Because the Dawes Commission previously ruled the Cherokee Nation had not proved bribery took place, the Nation's legal staff went into great detail of the bribery and perjury in their protest to the Department of the Interior. 

They explained that the clause "Omit all such as may have been placed thereon by fraud or without authority of lawful right thereto" was added to the Curtis Act, "in order that jurisdiction might be confered upon the Commission to correct frauds which had heretofore been practiced upon the Cherokee Nation ... "

They emphasized the fact Cumiford had virtually disappeared and no one could find him. 
"The records will show that when Comiford took the stand to make the first application in his own behalf on November 9, 1900, he was then charged with having given Watt Christie a horse to testify in his behalf. Since that time conscious of his own guilt, conscious that he had committed bribery, conscious that he was guilty of subordination of perjury, this same Comiford fled from the Cherokee Nation and could not be found as shown by the testimony of J.C. Starr taken before the commission November 11, 1902."
The Cherokee Nation continued by proclaiming that while it was usually difficult to prove perjury, in this instance, Watt Christie, the witness, admitted to it.
"People do not usually go over the country and herald the fact that they are bribe-givers, or perjurers, but in this case the witness comes before the Commission and confesses his own guilt and at the same time Comiford conscious of it flees the country."
They explained why the Cumiford case slipped through, 
"... this is the only case where this Cherokee Commission, so far as we can find, ever admitted an applicant on the unsupported testimony of Watt Christie, [because] the putrid stench which attached to his reputation for veracity in citizen-ship cases soon came to the judicial nostrils of this Commission ... "
In conclusion, the Cherokee Nation stated, 
"If the Government of the United States is powerless because of any technicality to correct this fraud and injustice when the proof is so plain and convincing, then we say that it would be fruitless for the Cherokee Nation to request that any applicant be rejected on the ground of fraud being practiced."
Despite this grand effort by the Cherokee Nation lawyers to protect our nation from having its lands stolen by frauds pretending to be Cherokee, the Department of the Interior ordered the enrollment of Cumiford, saying their interpretation of the fraud clause in the Curtis Act did not apply to the circumstances in the Cumiford case. 

Though the Cherokee Nation lost in their attempt to keep a fraud out of our nation and off our Final Roll, it made a powerful promise in its final protest, should the US decide to rule against them. That promise grew from the pride Cherokees felt for their nation then and from the presumed pride we would all carry with us, even if we were born years after that final roll. Our forefathers knew the ever patriotic and loyal Cherokees would never allow for such fraud to be covered up or forgotten. 
 "If this Comiford family is permitted to reap the rewards of their own criminal corruption, ... the Government of the United States will rightfully be condemned by every ... [Cherokee] ... as long as there is left one to patriotically lisp: "I am Cherokee."

While that is the end of this standing witness case, it is not the end of this series. There is much more to be said, so join me next time when I discuss why this still matters.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2014, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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