Sen. Nunn Clashing With Alleged Indian Tribe in Texas
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A powerful senator investigating insurance fraud is tangling with the Sovereign Cherokee Nation Tejas, a ″warrior society″ in Dallas that the federal government doesn’t recognize as a legitimate tribe.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., chairman of the Senate Government Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations, says he may pursue criminal contempt of Congress charges if the officials don’t cooperate in turning over tribal records.
But the group’s leaders, Chief Bear Who Walks Softly, also known as William Frye, and Chief Justice Screaming Eagle, also known as Gary Deer, contend the Sovereign Cherokee Nation Tejas is a country and is not subject to Nunn’s subpoena powers.
Nunn is seeking numerous records from the Tejas tribe because of questions about its dealings in the reinsurance industry. According to documents, certain offshore reinsurance companies have listed assets of $22 million in treasury bills issued by the Sovereign Cherokee Nation Tejas.
With a ″heart of sorrow,″ Chief Bear has complained to President Bush that actions by the U.S. Marshals Service in serving a Senate subpoena at the tribe’s headquarters in a north Dallas office complex ″are tantamount to an invasion by your government of our nation.″
The Marshals Service, however, has referred the matter to the U.S. attorney’s office in Dallas. Agents serving the subpoena said they found Lone Wolf (Ricky G. Frye, William’s son,) carrying a gun and identification indicating he is a ″federal marshal,″ said Marshals spokesman Bill Dempsey.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs said the Cherokee Nation Tejas is not a federally recognized tribe. And Nunn told his committee that it appears to be ″masquerading as an Indian tribe in an effort to insulate itself from lawful process and confuse individuals with whom it deals.″
The tribe’s spokeswoman, Voice That Talks Softly on the Wind, or Mary Catherine Monaghan, said the tribe has approximately 1,500 members and that anyone with a drop of Indian blood can belong.
Officials of the two federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, N.C., and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in Tahlequah, say they have no ties to the Texas organization.
Frank P. Hernandez, attorney for the group, said the bonds were issued in connection with the offshore reinsurance business.
″Everything that has been done is absolutely legal, as far as I know, to date,″ Hernandez said.
Asked about the BIA’s refusal to consider the nation a federally recognized tribe, he replied: ″The BIA can say whatever they want. They don’t determine who a sovereign nation is.″
This is not the first time tribal officials have tangled with the law, according to the Texas attorney general’s office.
Everette Jobe, head of the office’s insurance, banking and securities section, said the Texas Banking Commission shut down the organization’s American National Trust Co. two years ago after discovering it did not have the required capital. The tribe was failing to honor letters of credit it was issuing through the trust company.
Jobe said the tribe still is apparently issuing letters of credit directly, which is not in violation of the law, and may be charging as much as $25,000 for a ″background check.″
″They haven’t on a large scale hurt the consuming public; rather, it’s been these business people looking for easy money,″ Jobe said.
Monaghan and Hernandez said the tribe wants to cooperate with Nunn, but that it must be treated as a sovereign nation. The spokeswoman said the tribe wants federal officials to be photographed and fingerprinted before they enter its headquarters.
Hernandez said he hopes to meet ″lawyer-to-lawyer″ this week with Eleanore Hill, chief counsel of Nunn’s subcommittee.
Although Chief Bear and Chief Screaming Eagle refused a subpoena to appear April 17, they are scheduled to give depositions May 13 in Washington. The tribe also refused another subpoena ordering it to produce numerous documents on April 2.