Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Delimma of the Unenrolled American Indian, Part 1 of 4

The Delimma of the Unenrolled American Indian

It never occurred to me I'd uncover anything beyond the ordinary when I started this project. My little project to try to learn just why the Cherokee Nation hated state recognized organizations has taken a disturbing turn. It has ended in discovering some people who would go to any lengths to discredit others. It is sad because there ARE fakes and phonies, but these people are looking for them in the wrong places. This is the first of four blog entries on this topic. I never thought I'd be the person doing this. A decade ago I might have been on the other side of this issue. Parts two, three, and four are found here, respectively --,, and
Heres a photo's of Grandma, and school photo's of two of her brothers.
School photos of 2 great uncles

blow up of 2 of dad's uncles, grandma's brothers taken 1909-1910. Here's uncle Otho Richey

And here's uncle Hoten Richey, both taken from that school picture --

I remember occasionally when I was a child people would ask Dad if he was Indian. His response was always the same. He’d say, “Oh, I have a little Indian blood, not much.” I remember asking dad (1915-1992) about his Indian blood, and he’d start by talking about the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. He talked about him and several other boys going out to west Texas to pick cotton. He said they took turns riding on the running board, as the model T was full.  Dad was born here in Oklahoma, and I can trace my first ancestor in Oklahoma back to about 1832. Dad said the other boys teased him about being Indian, and he gave an example. They sometimes worked with Mexicans in the cotton fields. His friends, those boys travelling with him, would warn the Mexicans, saying, “You better watch Alphie (dad), He’s Indian. Be careful around him.” Of course dad was harmless. Dad also talked about when he was in the army during WW2, and his Army buddies gave him the nickname "Chief”, when talking to him and he kind of liked that. I once told this story online, and someone was wanting to correct me saying Dad wasn’t a chief . . . blab bla bla. Well of course he wasn’t! I knew that! It was just a bunch of guys from all over the country who thought dad was some exotic creature because he looked Indian and was from Oklahoma, so they gave him the nickname, “Chief” – that’s all. Some people think it is their job to correct what is said, some kind of “word police”. But what Dad never told his Army buddies in the 40s, or his fellow cotton pickers in the 1930s, was that he wasn’t enrolled in any tribe. Family story goes his grandparents went to sign up for Dawes as Cherokee, but something happened, no family member knows what, something upset them, and they just walked out, and didn’t sign up. So we’re not on the accepted or the rejected rolls.
Dad passed away in '92 and mama in 2002. When she passed away, I found 2 of dad's old drivers license in a file cabinet, and brought them home.

It’s not easy to be rejected by people because you’re not one thing or the other. I remember when I was about 20 years old a friend walking up to me and saying; “You look like a White Indian”. I answered right back; “Well, that’s what I am;” with some pride in my voice. But there were other encounters that I still remember to this day that were not as friendly. I’m not proud of the fact that when I was a young man I did drink too much beer, but I did. Now I haven’t drunk anything for 30 years. As I said that wasn’t always the case. Once in Lawton, Oklahoma, I was drinking in an Indian bar, and this large fullblood looked at me, then walked over to get a closer look, staring at me, got in my face, and with a loud voice said; “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU!?” I ignored his question, and said, “Sit down, help me finish this pitcher.” Fortunately for me he did, as he was twice my size. I recall having a similar conversation with this White guy from Missouri who was also drunk, telling me how much he hated American Indians. I don’t know if he realized I was mixed-blood or not, I suspect he did though, and that was why he was doing this. Well, nothing happened that time either, he was just a loud mouth. The only reason I bring up these incidents is that a person wants a place “to belong.” I wanted to find that place, and wasn't having too much luck.

This is me -- the White Indian -- I know, I'm the one people make fun of and call "wannabe".

Once the internet came out, I started looking up genealogy sites, as I wanted to discover more about my heritage. In doing this, I became aware of many sites online calling themselves “Cherokee/Tsalagi/Chickamauga Tribe/Nation/Band of Name a State, River, or Mountain Range. These groups were all over the internet! Some of them I contacted, others just sounded weird, and I left them alone. This would have been in the 1990s. Ask people who knew me back then – I was skeptical and wary of these groups, yet I was still interested in them. I wanted “to belong”. There were times I warned people about “fake tribes”. Finially one day, after I had done research on my family, I went with a cousin, and together we travelled to where we found our ancestors in North Central/East Alabama. To my surprise there was a state recognized Cherokee tribe based in that area. There were even people who I was related to who were members of that tribe. They were known as the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama. Many more years went by, and I kept researching the origins of the Indian side of my family. I also found some family that were Catawba in the Carolinas and Virginia.
One guy who was one of the judges who determined who was a “fake Indian” and who wasn’t became friends with me on face book for a short while. I showed him old family photos, et cetera. He seemed to accept we might be Cherokee. But he remarked something, I think it was about “Freedmen” not being allowed to go to Indian hospitals. I remarked I had a friend who was a Choctaw freedman and he went to the Indian hospital in Lawton. He shot back, “No way!” He didn’t take into account that his ancestors were both freedmen and Choctaw. But my friend described himself to me as a Freedman so that’s what I said to this self-proclaimed “judge” who thinks he knows who is mixed race and who is a liar. I drove my friend to the Indian Hospital just off I-44 myself and picked him up a few hours later. And his surname was very Choctaw (Maytubby). Some of these self-proclaimed judges accept you if you sit in the background and pretend you know nothing. But the moment you speak up they jump on you without mercy. I quickly unfriended him. I don’t want everything I say to be picked apart because I forget to say something that I assume they probably already know, or because of something that they think I probably don’t know.

 Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama

There was no state or federally recognized Catawba group to which I was eligible for membership. For a long time I didn’t think I was eligible to join the Alabama state recognized tribes either, for I didn’t live in Alabama. I knew my home state of Oklahoma wouldn’t accept me – we’re not on Dawes. Like I said though, I had proof of my ancestors. Again, many years went by. Almost by accident, I received more information about this group, Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama. I knew my ancestors did live in the area where they originated. I submitted an application for membership, and I was accepted. There are NO financial benefits in joining, state recognized tribes receive no federal funding. I have been a member for under two years now, and I have few issues as of today.  I haven’t made “being Indian” a way to make money. I did write a book “Finding Our Indian Blood”, but I will never see the money I spent ($4,500) in getting it published. I can barely pay my bills and I feel the publisher took advantage of me. I think the book helped me get my state recognition, and it was worth it for that.  However I am looking all over the internet, and there are people calling the Echota Cherokee of Alabama “fake Indians”. Why? I want to get to the bottom of these threats! I take such talk as a personal insult. I firmly believe one day some members of our organization will meet with and sit down with members of the Cherokee Nation. In that day they will no longer call us “fake Indians” – I really believe this will happen. I may not be around when that day comes, I’m 64 years old, but I think it will happen. I can NOT speak for the genealogy or DNA of others, but I can humbly speak of mine. There is nothing about me that is “fake”.
This is just the beginning. I will add things as I can. Someone spoke of sixteen groups that keep a lookout for fake Indians -- here's an invitation for them to contact me or, or 1-580-379-0144. Here's your chance to contact a member of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama and tell me why you think I am a "fake" Indian. If you are a member of  State recognized tribe in Alabama, please feel free to respond, too. Many of these people say state recognized tribes in Alabama are worse than in other states.  I want to know why they say that.  If there is something that can be done to fix it, I want to see it fixed. But if their accusations are baseless, I want that exposed, too. If you want to criticize, please be specific, and not just some vague notion saying someone (unnamed) put us on a fraud list. I'll keep adding to this  blog entry as long as I keep finding new material, or as long as people, pro or con, send me material to post.
There are groups of people dedicated to the destruction of State Recognized Tribes, especially, but not exclusively, Cherokee. I was recently in contact with one such group. I post NOTHING here that I post without permission. If the author asks me to remove it, I will. Lianna and I talked over several days and I was wanting to know and understand why they were so against State Recognized tribes or tribal organizations. I understand some groups are fraud. But I also believe that groups recognized by states should have a higher standard of rigor in determining membership than those not so recognized. I tried to remain civil and succeeded most of the time. She tried to at times as well,  but in the end, the fact that I had recently been made a member of a state recognized tribe was too much for her. You read in the first part of this report my desire "to belong" -- tired of being ridiculed for my American Indian blood and tired of being judged for claiming it.
Quotes from my facebook conversations Lianna Elizabeta Costantino 
The lady mentioned here is a spokesperson for this group and gave me permission to use her name. Here is a record of much of my interview with her.

"This is going to take yet another long answer that I have written out hundreds of times. It is exhausting.  I am very busy in real life and I will have to address this when I have some time this evening. But yes, I will tell yes, I will tell you exactly why I have said what I said and I stand by every word of it. You have a lot to learn. I hope you choose to learn it. I will try to point you in the right direction.  But it will be up to you to do the work. 
"I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, but I have been living and working among the Eastern Band of Cherokee in Cherokee, North Carolina, for the past 20 years. I am the chair of the board of the Center for Native Health here and I spend every day working with members of all three of our tribes for our people. 
"If you genuinely have Cherokee ancestry, or even if you do not, and you wanted to be an ally, you are NOT relegated to this fraudulent group, even if you cannot prove your descendancy and join a real tribe. I will explain that later when I have time. 
 "But you should be associating with the legitimate Cherokee tribes and people and not frauds.  We will talk later. I have to get back to work right now. If I get slammed and forget, please feel free to tag me or send me a private message to remind me.
"I am a descendant of George Lowrey and Lucy Benge and others.
"The thing is, just because you "feel you should be able to claim the heritage" of being Cherokee doesn't actually mean you have a right to. 

"There are many legitimately Cherokee people who have chosen, for whatever reason, not to live in Tahlequah, OK, or Cherokee, NC. We do have fairly large communities of Cherokee people elsewhere. And for them we have satellite communities who get together. 

"And we have Green Corn, and national homecoming holiday, and Tri-Council meetings and speakers gatherings that culminate in the language consortium gatherings and all sorts of other things that we get together as legitimate Cherokee people to celebrate and reconnect.

"But you don't see any of them going around joining fake tribes. Yes, myself and others have caught many people who lie about their heritage and do ridiculous things that cause more harm than good."

Her Complaints About "Fakes"

"There is the Cherokee woman who goes around claiming to be a Cherokee medicine woman and beloved woman who has actually killed people in her fake ceremonies. 

"Then there's the guy who goes around claiming to be Cherokee and goes to Walmart dressed like he imagines Moytoy having dressed and goes to the UN to take selfies of himself as if he has a voice at the UN among Native people. Which he does not. 

"And people who go around claiming to be Cherokee and butchering our language trying to "teach" it or going to schools to "teach" about Cherokee culture when they have no idea what they're talking about, and the only thing they know about our culture as what they read in books or read online. 

"They've never been to a real stomp dance in their life. They did not grow up in the culture. And they have no right representing our people. As far as I'm concerned, anyone who would join a fake tribe such as the Echota group deserves to be caught in that net. A net full of wannabes and frauds. 

"If you really think you have Cherokee ancestry, you should do your genealogy properly and find out." 

Her Complaints About "Fake Tribes"

"Whether you do or not, you should have nothing to do with that culture vulture club calling itself a "tribe". 

"That group is not a tribe. Seemingly you all don't even know what that word means. 

"There is a reason why the state cannot legitimately confer tribal status on a group of people. A whole bunch of reasons. And I will explain that tomorrow.

"But here it is 10:30 at night and I've had another exhausting day and I'm not going to spend any more time explaining this right now. But I will continue it tomorrow. 

"Again, this is just exhausting to have to constantly explain to people like yourself. And it's disheartening, because I don't know how many times I have wasted my time, energy and breath explaining things to people like yourself who, rather than listening and learning and turning things around to behave like an actual Cherokee or an ally at least, they usually end up screaming and yelling at me because they can't stop pretending to be something they're not. 

"They cling to that fantasy of having Cherokee ancestry even though they have not a shred of evidence for it. 

"But if I have caught people who don't deserve to be in my net, as you put it, because they genuinely have Cherokee ancestry, I would say then that they need to get away from that culture vulture club calling itself a "tribe" and connect with actual Cherokee people . . . The thing is, just because you "feel you should be able to claim the heritage" of being Cherokee doesn't actually mean you have a right to. Groups like that do more harm than good with the misinformation they spread. And they don't even realize it. Obviously they have no idea that what they are doing is doing is wrong."

Her Opinion of State Recognized Tribes

I asked her what she thought of state recognized tribes in general, and this was her response.
"I am saying that with exceedingly rare exception, there is NO State tribe that is legitimate. The Lumbee are a complete fraud. They will never gain Federal recognition for good reason. I do not need a history lesson from you in these regards. The only thing the Echota group could do to make themselves more acceptable in my eyes would be to stop claiming to be Cherokee when most of them have absolutely no evidence whatsoever to show that they are legitimately of Cherokee ancestry."               

Her Opinion of Photographic and DNA Evidence

I asked her what she thought of state recognized tribes in general, and this was her response.
"When you say all you had to do was look at your dad to know you had Indian blood, that's ridiculous. There has indeed been too much intermarriage for us in 2017 for most of us to be able to say that, unless your father is a full-blooded Cherokee, which I certainly doubt. We can't go by looks anymore. And DNA testing doesn't mean squat. Which is why none of our tribes will even look at it. The problem between you and I would be much more than which tribe you belong to. Because I have no way of knowing whether you have a drop of Cherokee or Catawba blood at all.

I asked if it was alright for me to quote her.
"You can quote anything you like from me. I really don't care. "

My Objection

When I asked her if I could quote her, she had already written everything  above that is attributed to her. Some of what she says is valid But some of it isn't. There is a lot of fakery. But she doesn't know anything about the Lumbee, and I suspect I can extrapolate that to mean she doesn't know much about the state recognition process. 

I have 5  major objections ONE -- She confuses "evidence" with "proof". I keep them separate. She says people lack "evidence" a lot but what she means is they lack "proof". There is plenty of evidence. TWO --  Census records. Many people of mixed ancestry put on census records as "White". To have put "White" on a census record proves nothing. There were advantages to being White as opposed to mixed, Indian, Mulatto, or free people of color (FPC) before the Civil War. If they got away with saying "White" most people would have said they were "White". THREE -- They say photos mean nothing. I agree  that some photos are ambiguous. But some are obvious. To be unwilling to make an educated guess is to wear blinders. To say all photos mean nothing is a statement that can not be justified. Not all photos are ambiguous. FOUR -- they deny the value of DNA testing except for in determining paternity. For some odd reason they mention that as an acceptable use of DNA evidence, but nothing else. FIVE -- I have friends who are Lumbee and what she said about them and other state recognized tribes shows a lack of knowledge about them.

Genealogy Report
I spent much of yesterday talking to some of their genealogists.  They did some good work. In fact I'd advise people to use their services as it was fast, and it was free. But there is a price. They ignored obvious things, such as DNA evidence (which is improving every day) and similar things. Some of them also gave snobby comments and were very rude at times. If you can handle the insults, it might be an interesting experience. My DNA tests said I was triracial (Including American Indian), and still these genealogists said they saw "NO EVIDENCE" that I had Cherokee blood. There was plenty of evidence. Had they said "NO PROOF" that would have been less of a . . . misstatement of facts. I would have argued that with all the circumstantial evidence as well as the DNA Proof of N.A, genetic material, we have out proof. But by choosing to ignore DNA evidence or photographs, it makes it easier to reject us. We lived on lands by Cherokee lands a lot yet they reported we didn't.  That coupled with DNA evidence and photographic evidence is convincing.  I'd hoped they would look at John Brown found on the Reservation Rolls, and I don't think they did. If they did I didn't see it. I didn't see where they looked at what my great uncle wrote either, when coupled with what his grand daughter wrote. Oh, also there was a freedman who said he was a grandson of John Brown and a slave woman. One of his relatives married my great-great grandma's half-sister. Since my g-g-grandma married a son of a man named "John Brown" I think that that would have been relevant. The Miller-Guion people rejected him and said this John Brown wasn't on the right previous rolls, just like my family wasn't. I don't think these "genealogists"  looked at that material. They only looked an hour. I've looked over 20 years.  I mentioned many things that they ignored.
They can't seem to understand that the people they are insulting are right there listening to their insuts. Maybe saying this in public will get them to be more polite, but I'm not holdin' my breath.


Both the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama and the Lumbee were insulted in this statement. I am a member of one and have friends that are the other. If anyone wants to respond, please feel free to do so. I have tried to be as objective as I can be, under these circumstances.

First Response
Someone I had never spoken to on facebook wrote the following to me, after they read what these people had said to me:

"Good morning, I have been reading your post interactions with the other members of the Cherokee Indian Research page. I've been following them for about a week and have become very disheartened. The way they attacked you is the way they've treated countless others. 95% of what I've read on there is them coming together like a pack & piling on people. I'm afraid to ask them anything. I really hope they're not representative of the majority of Cherokee. They're in complete denial of any Natives marrying in with Whites and then simply "passing", or that there were many along the way during removal that managed to break away and run off. There was such a group in Livingston Co, Ky. All the locals knew who they were and that they were hiding up in the hills. After YEARS they finally started slowly mixing in with local Whites.  . . . This group definitely has a chip on their shoulders."

Well, after posting that comment I notice Lianna went on and on, still commenting. Now I see she went to my facebook page and copied my Echota membership card and says this person is a fraud.  Why? The things I quoted were fairly kind. She keeps going on and on . . . I have really TRIED to be kind to her . . . I will ask her kindly to remove it.  Here is what she just, as I write, posted --

Lianna Elizabeta Constantino said --
"I don't give a rat's patoot that you've posted your ignorant blog." 

I forwarded her links to three books that might help her learn more about the Lumbee and State Recognized tribes. -- and I did it in a very friendly manner; those three books being -- "Lumbee Indians in the Jim Crow South", by Malinda Maynor Lowery; "The Lumbee Problem, the Making of an American Indian People", by Karen I, Blu: and "The Other Movement, Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South", by Denise E. Bates. Her reply is below;

"I read books written by legitimate scholars and by Cherokee people themselves. I do not read books written by, for or about wannabes and frauds trying to steal my ancestors and culture.
That is a complete waste of my time, as speaking with you has been."

As for one of the Authors, Karen I. Blu, her book was published by the Nebraska University Press. This website says she's a retired Associate Professor of Anthropology --

As for a second of the three authors, Denise E. Bates, PhD, she’s an Assistant Professor of History, at Arizona state University per

The third author, Malinda Maynor Lowery, is also well known in the academic world . It says of her here, the following:
Associate Professor, Director, Southern Oral History Program; AB Harvard 1995, MA Stanford 1997, MA University of North Carolina 2002, PhD University of North Carolina 2005.

When she said she only read books by “legitimate scholars”. Well, that speaks for itself.

She then went and stole my membership card and put it up on her facebook page. If she takes down all will be forgiven on my part.  I noticed yesterday, 20 August 2017, it looks like they have deleted our entire conversation.


  1. Back when I had a Facebook, I was in a Shawnee ancestry group. Some people where asking about heritage, and a lady would always come back with a retort "If they lived in Kentucky/Pennsylvania/Illinois/Ohio etc., they couldn't have been Shawnee. Nice to know Shawnee never lived in their historical homeland.

    1. ha ha -- I have documents mentioning my family in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) as early as 1832 -- living in Oklahoma doesn't help, either with some of these jokers! :) I once lived in Little Axe --west of Tecumseh in Oklahoma maybe 20 miles. Lots of "Absentee Shawnee" living there. They are the Shawnee who went to Arkansas and then Northeast Texas. Much is written about the Texas Cherokee, but there were also Shawnee, Delaware, and Kickapoo who went to Texas as well.

  2. And it appears that you have deleted the comments I have posted here on your blog refuting your BS. Typical.

    WE have NOT deleted any of your comments or any of our conversations.

    And your membership card from a that culture vulture group calling itself a "tribe" will remain on the fraud page just as you will remain on the Cherokee Wall of Shame where you belong.

  3. Most children stop "playing Indian" when they are in grade school, Vance.

    So your obsession with being someone you are not appears to be a form of mental illness.