BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH – United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians member Jeannie Tidwell has filed suit against the UKB Election Board for its September 11 decision to disqualify her from running in November’s Tribal Council Election.
“The Plaintiff seeks a judgement from the court to set aside the decision made by the UKB Election Board, Norma Jimerson, Terry Kingfisher, Robert Whitekiller, Sammy Still and Carolyn Swimmer, due to an unconstitutional 2012 Election Ordinance and the discriminatory practices of the UKB Election Board,” according to the filing.
The suit was filed September 21 with the UKB Tribal Court after Tidwell lost a September 7 appeal challenging the board’s findings that she was enrolled with Cherokee Nation and therefore “not an exclusive UKB member.”
According to the 2014 UKB Election Ordinance, candidates for district representatives must: “be at least twenty-one (21) years of age and, for a period of not less than twelve (12) months prior to the filing: (a) be a resident of the district to be represented and (b) be an exclusive member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.”
In the filing, Tidwell states that she was advised to check with CN Registration to confirm she was not a member and discovered “on or about June 19, 2018” that she was a CN member.
Tidwell states she had sought a duplicate Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card in 2012 from CN and “speculated” that she had unknowingly signed up for CN membership at that time. This information caused Tidwell to “promptly” begin the CN relinquishment process.
She argues that though she “did not intentionally sign up for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma,” it is “not another Tribe, Band or Nation” and therefore does not conflict with the UKB Enrollment Ordinance or her UKB membership.
“…Cherokee Nation does not have an official enrollment. There is only one enrollment, and it is the privilege of the Untied Keetoowah Band, not the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma,” states the filing.
Tidwell also asserts in the filing that the Election Board gave her “unequal and unfair treatment” based on two prior precedents set in the 2016 election that allowed Bronwyn Duncan and Donald Adair to run for Tribal Council regardless of not meeting the exclusivity requirement needed 12 months before filing.
The suit argues that Tidwell was not given proper notice of the board’s decision, as she received notice by certified mail on August 24 though the letter was signed on August 17 and postmarked on August 20.
This timeline, Tidwell argues, violates Section 501 (C)(2) of the Election Ordinance requiring candidates to be notified of disqualification within two (2) business days of the decision and also did not allow her the full five days allotted to file an appeal.
A spokesperson for the UKB Election Board said their office has yet to be served with the paperwork.
"Once we receive that information we will look it over with our legal team, but it is our policy not to comment on pending litigation," the board said in a statement.
The Giduwa Cherokee News will be following this story as it develops and it will be updated online at the www.ukb-nsn.gov website as more information becomes available.