- Lani Hansen
UKB District Court rules Tidwell eligible
Updated: Oct 24, 2018
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH – United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians member Jeannie Tidwell has been found eligible to run in November’s Tribal Council Election for the Cooweescoowee District following a Oct. 19 ruling by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians District Court.
“I’m really, really happy with the court’s decision,” said Tidwell. “"I represented myself. I hope (voters) take this as an example. If I fight this hard just to try and be a candidate, that's what they're going to get from me. I'll fight for them in any way that I can."
Tidwell said Judge Dewayne Littlejohn ruled in her favor because the burden of proof was on the UKB Election Board to prove she was not an exclusive UKB member. She said this requirement was “not met” because the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma “cannot” rule on “who is and is not UKB exclusive” by simply confirming or denying to the UKB Election Board if someone is registered CNO.
“As a sovereign nation, we do not accept their rulings that someone is dual. Only our own,” she said.
Tidwell originally filed suit against the Election Board for its Sept. 11 decision to disqualify her from running after losing an appeal that challenged the board’s findings she was enrolled with CNO and therefore “not an exclusive UKB member.”
Tidwell’s suit stated she had been disqualified “due to an unconstitutional 2012 Election Ordinance and the discriminatory practices of the UKB Election Board.”
According to the 2014 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 her filing, Tidwell states that she was advised to check with CNO Registration to confirm she was not a member and discovered “on or about June 19, 2018” that she was a CNO member.
She states she had sought a duplicate Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card in 2012 from CNO and “speculated” that she had unknowingly signed up for CNO membership at that time. This information caused Tidwell to “promptly” begin the CNO 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.
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.
Tidwell said she is "eager" to begin campaigning, but blames the Election Board for her shortened time frame to do so.
I’ve lost a lot of time," she said. "I blame it on the Election Board because none of this was necessary. I feel as though they’ve compromised my ability to be able to get out there and campaign. I have basically three weeks to get out there and meet, greet, try to pull something together. All the other candidates, they’ve had that opportunity already.”
The Giduwa Cherokee News has reached out to Littlejohn and the Election Board for further comment and this story will be updated as information becomes available.
Tidwell will challenge incumbent Clifford Wofford for the Cooweescoowee District seat on Nov. 5.