Yesterday afternoon, the NY Times covered Governor Kevin Stitt’s bungled, poorly-executed attempt to secure the state a bigger chunk of gaming revenue from Oklahoma tribal casinos. A lot of what the Times reported has already been extensively covered in the local media, but one revelation stuck out like a colorful circle of chevrons.
According to the Times, Kevin Stitt’s lone ancestral connection to the Cherokee Nation – a man by the name of Francis Dawson – may have bribed his way into becoming a Cherokee in the early 1900s. If true, and it probably is, it would mean that Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt – a member of the Cherokee Nation – may not have any Cherokee ancestry in his bloodline. Imagine That!
Here are details via The NY Times:
In an outgrowth of the dispute, several citizens of Mr. Stitt’s own tribe have voiced doubts about the governor’s family background, raising questions as to whether the governor has any Cherokee ancestry at all.
According to tribal membership documents from 1900 reviewed by The New York Times and High Country News, Cherokee Nation lawyers fought the tribal enrollment of Mr. Stitt’s ancestor, Francis Dawson, who they claimed pretended to be a Cherokee and bribed Cherokee commissioners.
Aside from Francis Dawson, Mr. Stitt has no documented Cherokee ancestry, according to David Cornsilk, a genealogist for the Cherokee Nation who did not speak on its behalf. The lawyer who assisted the Dawsons was later convicted and imprisoned for fraud. When the Cherokee Nation’s lawyers tried to remove the Dawsons from the tribe’s membership rolls, American officials overruled them.
Cherokee Nation citizenship is not based on race, and Mr. Stitt is a citizen under the tribe’s law. When asked about the research of genealogists in connection to his family’s history, Mr. Stitt called the findings “unsubstantiated slander.”
Unsubstantiated slander? That’s a strong accusation. Perhaps Kevin Stitt should take a DNA test to prove…wait. The last time a politician from Oklahoma with questionable Native American heritage tried something like that, it didn’t work out very well.
Plus, as the Times mention, just because you don’t have Native American DNA on Your 23 and Me doesn’t mean you can’t be a citizen of a tribal nation. We actually talked about that topic in detail with Chuck Hoskin Jr., Chief of the Cherokee Nation, on The Lost Ogle Show back in December. We also talked about the whole tribal gaming dispute. It was an informative conversation, and you should listen to it.
In the meantime, can someone from OETA get Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the phone and get him to Oklahoma? I think we could have one very interesting episode of Finding Your Roots.