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.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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