New Cherokee nation born in Andover

By Stephanie Bloyd
J-A Staff

ANDOVER, Kan. (Sept. 17) - Andover is going to be the focal point for a brand new nation of the Cherokee Indian Tribe, thanks to the efforts of one local couple. Chief Randy Two Bears Standing and ShaunaSay Whitefeather Tate, Andover residents, are building the groundwork for the New Red Nation of the Cherokee, which will base its activities in the Andover community. "We're opening an opportunity for people who are of Native American Descent," said Whitefeather. "We're going back to the basics, returning to spiritual pow-wows, a family atmosphere, a place for people to learn their language and tribal regalia."

The Tates said they want to move away from the strain of pow-wows in which contestants compete for cash prizes and those with untraced bloodlines are often ridiculed and discouraged. "I'm fortunate because I can trace my unbroken lineage back to seven chiefs on both sides of my family," Two Bears Standing said. "We wish to open this nation for true blood natives and to offer the opportunity for those who've been snubbed," added Whitefeather.

Two Bears Standing gained the blessings of elders from the western Cherokee Tribe, based in Oklahoma, and the eastern Cherokee Tribe based in North Carolina, the homeland of their people. North Carolina was the starting point of the Trail of Tears that led the tribe to Oklahoma. "It is my birthright to start this nation," said Two Bears Standing. "And I will use my birthright to call our family together." Two Bears Standing has traced his bloodline back to Chief Moytoy, a leader of the Cherokee people in 1645.

History and tradition are as deeply embedded in the Cherokee culture as their lineage. "Everything we have and do is symbolic, right down to the colors in our beadwork," said Whitefeather. "Our regalia is still a living part of our history."

She stressed that by teaching "mixed bloods," or those with percentages of Native American blood, the tribe may keep traditions alive and in practice. Although, the Native American community as a whole is divided on the topic of telling age-old secrets to those who are not card-carrying, federally registered Indians. "We are going to be an independent nation, we're not going to be federally recognized," said Whitefeather. "We won't be all about casinos or politics. We're not looking for funds, this is not a money thing." After the tribe holds its first birthday party on September 26, the Tate's will apply for non-profit organization status, and any funds the tribe receives will go to a special account established at their bank in Andover.

The Tates said they have received much positive feedback for their tribe thus far. Two Bears Standing's fellow employees at Raytheon have donated more than $2,000 toward the purchase of a tribal drum to be used in youth drum circles. And the couple used the Internet to spread the word about the new tribe, receiving responses from as far away as Canada and Montana from people wishing to become members. "We've had a landslide of positive responses," said Whitefeather. "Families have been given a chance where none was given."

The newly formed tribe will also bring new business and tourists to the Andover community, according to the Tates. "We want to thank the Andover community because they have opened their hearts to us," said Two Bears Standing. "We couldn't do this without them." He said the tribe currently meets in the basement of the National Bank of Andover.

The Tates are not new to the area. Two Bears Standing said his father moved to the area from Oklahoma during World War II to work in factories supporting the war effort. He attended both Andover and Augusta High Schools, saying that the dividing lines for the district changed during his school years. Whitefeather was raised on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina. She and Two Bears Standing were married on their property just outside of Andover. Their marriage was the first full Cherokee wedding ceremony held in this area for more than 200 years. An 86-year old elder of the tribe presided over the ceremony.

Whitefeather stressed the Native American religion is not a pagan one. Her people believe in one true creator, and his son, whom they call the "enlightened one."

"When we dance in circles it's not a pagan thing, it's our church" she said. "The whole world is our church; every step we take, every breath we take, we're in our church." Whitefeather also wanted to make clear that Native Americans don't worship animals or nature, they respect it. "We're tired of the Hollywood image of our people as killers and drunkards," added Two Bears Standing. "We're from all walks of life."

A main point of the tribal laws for the New Red Nation of the Cherokee will be the absence of drugs and alcohol from tribal activities. "Drugs and alcohol have destroyed our families," said Two Bears Standing. The Tates hope to reestablish family values with the new tribe. "The young people have lost responsibility &emdash; nobody sits down and has family dinners anymore," said Whitefeather. "By helping our youth, and adults, gain responsibility and self esteem we can restructure our families. We can do it, but it has to start somewhere."

The first birthday party for the New Red Nation of the Cherokee is scheduled for 6 p.m. on September 26 at Andover City Park. A family dinner will be held, then various tribal elders will speak. At approximately 9:30 p.m. the group will adjourn to Santa Fe Lake for a bonfire dance. Drugs and alcohol are prohibited at the events. All people of Native American descent, especially Cherokee, are invited to attend. "We really believe this is going to work," said Whitefeather. "We're going to do the best we can."

 

Andover couple sparks debate in Native American community

By Stephanie Bloyd
J-A Staff

ANDOVER, Kan. (Oct. 8) - The Andover couple responsible for starting the New Red Nation of the Cherokee has caused a stir in the Cherokee community; a community that is still churning from recent turmoil surrounding its own tribal leadership. Much controversy has stemmed from Andover resident Randy Tate's declaration that he has a blood right to call himself a Cherokee chief. "Our chiefs are appointed by elections, not by saying we have a birth right," said Randy Brown, a member of the traditional Cherokee Nation at a press conference hosted by the Mid-America All Indian Center on Sept. 30 in Wichita.

Cherokee Chief Joe Byrd was slated to appear at the press conference, but his plane was grounded because of thunderstorms near the Oklahoma border. The Cherokee Nation is currently undergoing a federal audit, after complaints were raised against Byrd's alleged misappropriations of tribal funds. Some $1.1 million is in question, according to a recent report in the Tulsa World newspaper.

According to Randy Tate, the Cherokee people began electing officials after it was ordered to do so by the federal government. "At the end of the Trail of Tears, the government installed chiefs and the electoral process," Tate said. "I'm a direct descendant of the Cherokee Chiefs, I can trace my heritage back to 1645." Debate within the Native American community has surfaced questioning the Tate's authenticity as Cherokee descendants. "We went as far as bringing our paperwork, although we don't believe we have to produce anything, because we're not frauds," said ShaunaSay Tate at the group's celebration for its new Cherokee Nation held in Andover City Park on Sept. 26. "On the Trail of Tears, the fraction of Indian blood you had just didn't matter. We have not said anything bad against the Indian Center, they've waged war on us."

The Indian Center itself remains a neutral entity in the debate, merely providing a forum for discussion, according to its leaders. But some Cherokee people are taking the matter personally, and are upset with what they perceive is a mockery of their traditions. "I attended the Tate's gathering as I was asked to by certain tribal members," said Brown. "My brother and I were upset when we talked to a woman from Montana who told us she needed a tribal card to obtain her eagle feathers (from the federal government.) She traveled such a long distance to come and get nothing. I don't think they're purposefully trying to step on the Cherokee Nation's toes. What they're doing is fine as long as they don't hurt anyone doing it."

The Tates have said their nation is an independent, spiritual one, and will have no involvement with the federal government, or its funding for Native American groups. They have denied accusations that they are selling membership cards over the Internet for $10. "I can see why they would want to form a group, they may have been shunned from the Wichita Indian culture," said Brown. "But when people come from across the United States for a card, that's misleading. There's only one Cherokee Nation."

But the Tates and their backers feel the Cherokee Nation has needed a change for quite some time. They say more than 700 people showed their support on Sept. 26, Clifford Alford, one of the Oklahoma delegates at the Tate's function, told how the recent native holidays were celebrated in Tallequa, Okla. in a manner, which in his mind, was a far cry from their Cherokee roots. "People used to come together in unity, this year we had a circus with vendors," Alford said. "There was nothing spiritual about it whatsoever."

According to Brown, tribes still have some traditional dances set aside for spiritual purposes. "We do set some dances aside," he said. "They're dignified spiritual dances and you have to be known in the community and invited. But at most powwows, vendors are allowed. They do need money to operate."

Alford said he is upset with the extent to which the current Cherokee Nation has "sold out." "Most of our people are Christian, and are selling out our culture more and more to get money from the federal government," said Alford. "The people speaking out against us are violating our right to freedom of religion, whether we approve of the federal government or not, we still have that first amendment right. This is a spiritual nation . . . I'll see them in court."

As heated as the debate has become, both sides remain fairly civil. "We're praying for them to turn around and find a right way to do things," said Brown. As of yet, no action has been taken legally to prevent the Tates from using the Cherokee name in its title. The Indian Center is expected to schedule another press conference with Chief Byrd soon, allowing the chief to voice the Cherokee Nation's stance on the issue.

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