Thursday, April 24, 2008

In Support Of Fake Tribes

It’s amazing why real Indians continue to provide nourishment and support to known fraudulent “tribes”. In doing so, they are pounding nails into the coffin of the American Indian, assisting in the revision of American Indian history, furthering the destruction of tribal traditions, and legitimizing the victimization of those who are seeking a connection with an American Indian ancestry.

It would be hard to speculate what actually drives a certain Indian individual or group to prostitute themselves in support of pretend tribes. Is it merely for money, or perhaps an ego trip? Is it because they are unaware of the true nature of the organization they are supporting? Or, perhaps it is because these folks just plain do not care about, or consider, the damage that they strew?

Earlier this month I received a letter from an American Indian who associated with, and supported, an organization called the “Northern Cherokee of Missouri and Arkansas“. It was very apparent that he had not one inkling of an idea about the real history of the organization and was unable to tell the difference from fabricated claims and actuality. Although his case can be described as resulting from being woefully uninformed, it is nevertheless just as damaging. He might be excused for his past support of the Northern Cherokee, but any continued support after receiving factual information would be inexcusable.

A more recent example of an Indian group supporting a pretend tribe occurred on 19 April at Dardanelle, Arkansas. The Arkansas Cherokee Nation aka Chickamauga Cherokee of Arkansas held a ceremony at the Veterans Memorial Riverfront Park.

The Arkansas Cherokee Nation was formed this past fall as a breakaway faction of the “Lost Cherokee of Arkansas and Missouri“. The “Lost Cherokee” is the organization that was involved in the fraudulent OIE Title VII grants to 21 Arkansas school districts that had no Indian students. Part of the manipulation of these fraudulent grants included false information being given to families of students and pressure to join the Lost Cherokee at $30 per family member. The organization also attempted to illegally charge a 5% administration fee for assisting in obtaining the grants, and also attempted to illegally remove student records from the school district and charging a maintenance fee.

The Lost Cherokee split into two factions after it came under federal investigation for it’s part in the scam. One faction is operated out of Conway, Arkansas by Cliff Bishop, the other out of Dover by Doug Maxwell. Both the Bishop and Maxwell groups claim to be the original “Lost Cherokee”.

Maxwell, the original incorporator, then went on to dissolve the original Lost Cherokee of Arkansas and Missouri and filed a new organization with the state, the “Lost Cherokee Tribal Association, Inc”, on 08/07/2006. Maxwell operates his “Lost Cherokee tribe” under the Association. Meanwhile, Bishop is believed to operate his “Lost Cherokee tribe” under the umbrella of the “Missionary Church of the Lost Cherokee Nation, which he started in 2003.

Their split resulted in several court cases between the two groups concerning their membership rolls and associated documents. Maxwell claims that Bishop took and hid the membership documents. This caused a third faction to be formed, the “Lost Cherokee Oversight Committee”, headed by Doyle Turner of Palo Cedro, California.

It was about this time that the Lost Cherokee became involved in bilking the estate of eighty-nine year old Opal Southerland Gefon, of Heber Springs, Arkansas, to a tune of almost three quarters of a million dollars. Both the Bishop and Maxwell factions fought over this money, with the Bishop faction winning.

Now, Harold Hilton, an individual who was heavily involved with the Lost Cherokee, has started his own group, “The Arkansas Cherokee Nation aka Chickamauga Cherokee of Arkansas “. This group is also in Conway and is actively soliciting other Lost Cherokee members to join them. For their 19 April ceremony, among those invited was the Manatidie Society from the Apache Tribe in Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Despite a letter written directly to Apache Tribal Chairman Alonzo Chalepah, giving information on the background of the Arkansas Cherokee Nation and asking the Tribe to reconsider any participation in the ceremony, the Manatidie Society attended with nine dancers, five singers, and seven drummers. According to the “Arkansas Cherokee Nation”, the Society “performed dances for nearly 4 hours including a special dance to honor the Arkansas Cherokee Nation Chiefs and a dance to honor all U.S. Veterans.”

As a retired Army veteran with 20 years of active service and an additional seven years with the National Guard and Reserve, I consider any dance that the Society did with the Arkansas Cherokee Nation to “honor veterans” a dishonor, not an honor. It’s a poke in the eye to legitimate Indian veterans everywhere.

Why Apache Tribe members attended the ceremonies might be an enigma, especially after the Chairman had been informed of the nature of the Arkansas Cherokee Nation. The excuse of not knowing the history behind the organization cannot be used. This can only give to the conjecture that those who attended are among the American Indians who - in the long run - don’t care a whit about the damage they do in supporting fabricated “tribes”.

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