"Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Texas Cherokees"

128th General Assembly

54th Thompson Reunion Committee

Establishment of the Choctaw-Chickasaw Indians of the Mount Tabor Community as a distinct entity from the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands

Choctaw Act of 1999

01-61299

PURPOSE

Section 1. Ethnological Distinctions

The Choctaw Indians having formed distinct communities within the Republic of Mexico's state of Texas and Coahuila in 1835, having been included by Duwali and the Texas Cherokees as a party to the Treaty of February 23, 1836, having been specifically identified by the Republic of Texas as Yawani Choctaws in 1837 and having been in the present geographical location near the community of Overton, Texas since 1851, do continue to maintain a tribal community. Our Choctaw people having close ties by geography and blood relation to the Cherokee Indians of the Mount Tabor Community have been overshadowed by the Cherokee community, although the Choctaws have been dominant numerically in Texas since before 1900. The Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands, established as a political entity after the Civil War by William Penn Adair, operated in both the Cherokee Nation and Texas as one group, without distinction from 1871 to 1975. Our Choctaw people were a small minority within said Associate Bands. With the adoption of the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1975, the TCAB ceased to exist within the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. While the group has continued to exist in the state of Texas, the Choctaw part of said Associate Bands has continued to grow into a dominant majority of the band in Texas. The assimilation and relocation of many Mount Tabor Cherokee descendants, leaving only a small minority within the historical area have further added to this. At present time, there are nearly ten times more Choctaws than Cherokees within the band.

There are three additional distinctions that the General Assembly wishes to note. First, that following the initial settlement of Choctaws among the Cherokees in 1851, the Choctaws removed to a position eight miles to the southwest of the main Cherokee Community. This established the Choctaws mainly in Smith County. However, Cherokee families did go with these Choctaws, such as the Harnage, Cooper and later Dupree (Bell) families. This extension of the Mount Tabor Community continues to exist between Overton and Wright City, Texas. These Cherokee families did not remain in the area and by 1900 most had relocated into the Cherokee Nation. Secondly, the common language of the two groups being English, as Cherokee was spoken near Laird Hill as documented in the book Cherokee Cavaliers and Choctaw was spoken in Smith County as documented in the case records of William C. Thompson et al vs. Choctaw Nation. Finally, during the Civil War, the two groups fought under different commands. Nearly all the Cherokees fought under the command of General Stand Watie's Cherokee Mounted Rifles, whereas the Choctaws generally enrolled in Company D, 14th Texas Infantry, led by Choctaw Lieutenant John Thurston Thompson or the 20th Mississippi Regiment under Choctaw Lieutenant Colonel William Clyde Thompson. Additionally, nearly all Cherokee action was in Indian Territory, whereas the Choctaws saw most of their action in Mississippi. Therefore, while the two tribes acted together for the common good and some inter-marriage between the two groups took place, they also managed a semi-autonomous relationship as well. This therefore, demonstrates a degree of recognized distinct ethnography.

Section 2. Need for the Choctaws to be a Distinct Entity

Prior to 1975, the Choctaw community had a degree of services available in connection with the Cherokees. After this period, all Mount Tabor Indian descendants were cut off from the Federal relationship without ever having been given the chance to respond or vote on the issue. The Cherokee leadership of the Texas Cherokees and Associate Bands did not see the need to aggressively address this issue prior to 1988. Since no services were available in east Texas and with the Cherokee leadership in an age group that saw little need for pursuing a case against the Bureau of Indian Affairs for negligence. However, such was not the case with the Choctaw dominated General Assembly. In 1988, the band saw the first Chairman of Choctaw-Chickasaw and Cherokee descent elected and a federal acknowledgment project put in place. Conflicts arose as the group tried to redefine itself in 1990 with a new proposed constitution and incorporation into the state of Texas. The internal conflicts were so intense that the entire project was put on hold in 1992. Although by 1993 the Executive Committee had a majority of Choctaw members, the issue of historicity of the TCAB and connections to the Cherokee Thompson's stopped most activity save the reunions which had continued since 1946 as a Choctaw event. In 1995 with the formation of the Thompson-McCoy Chickasaw and Choctaw Descendants Association laid the groundwork for re-organization. Prior to the 1996 and 1997 General Assemblies, the Mount Tabor Cherokee leadership was encouraged to participate in an effort to save the TCAB. However, none were involved in either of those two years. In 1998 a new constitution was drafted the officially recognized the Choctaws as the Angelina River Choctaws, suggesting the continuation of a semi-autonomous relationship. Further, a new Chairman Wendell Potts, was selected who was Cherokee, with hopes that the community would re-unify and again push for acknowledgment. When that didn't happen, Potts resigned and was replaced by Terry Easterly, the first woman and the first individual who was not Cherokee, but rather Choctaw only, to hold that position. An effort was made to bring in some Cherokees, whose ancestral ties to the band were questionable in order to stabilize the Cherokee part of the band. This proved to have the opposite effect of the intended results as there were efforts to let in those just claiming to be Cherokee. Such would lead to a social organization rather than the historical band and was stopped by the General Assembly before damage could be done. This has led to the current resolution within the General Assembly in seeing the need, albeit with regret, for the separation of the Choctaws from the TCAB effective July 1, 1999.

Section 3. Determination

That the Choctaw people and its leadership have for many years tried to accommodate the minority Cherokee community on the basis of shared tribal history and blood ties. This has been to the detriment of the Choctaw Indians of the Mount Tabor Community by losing services and other benefits that come from maintenance of the federal relationship. Therefore, the following is the determination of the General Assembly:

 

Section 3-Subsection a. Name of Organization

The name of the organization shall be the Texas Band of Choctaw Indians of the Mount Tabor Community, in short Texas Band of Choctaw Indians.

Section 3-Subsection b. Incorporation

The Texas Choctaws shall maintain the incorporation of 1990 as it was this issue that led too much of the internal strife of 1990-1992. Said charter shall be altered to reflect the name change in subsection a.

Section 3-Subsection c. Federal Acknowledgment

By virtue of this Act, during the re-organization process and until such is stable, the Thompson-McCoy Chickasaw & Choctaw Descendants Association shall act for the band to pursue Federal Acknowledgment in behalf of the Choctaw people of Smith and Rusk Counties.

Section 3-Subsection d. Executive Committee Name Change

The Executive Committee, shall by this Act be from now on known as the Choctaw Business Committee.

Section 3-Subsection f. Constitution

The Chairman of the Thompson-McCoy Chickasaw and Choctaw Descendants Association shall draft a constitution for initial submission to the Choctaw Business Committee for approval. Said Committee shall then present the document to the General Assembly for ratification at the first possible meting.

Section 4 Be It Resolved

The General Assembly of the Texas Cherokees hereby is resolved to accept these changes and declare the constitution of 1998 null and void. All future meetings of this body after July 1, 1999 will be under the title of the Choctaw General Assembly. Any continuation of the TCAB and General Assembly beyond July 1, 1999 shall be at the discretion of the Pine Hill Community under the leadership of Marilyn Dunn-Jenkins.

So approved by unanimous consent June 12, 1999.

 

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