He is supposed to be a Cherokee man, a warrior, one who protects the women of his nation. Instead, he betrayed American Indian women, including the women of the Cherokee Nation, when he voted against the passage of the Violence Against Women Act.
Apparently he has forgotten, or maybe he never knew, from whom he descends. If I have managed to trace his Cherokee ancestry correctly, which I strongly believe I have*, then he descends through Dawes enrollee, Bert Morris (#1613). Bert was the son of Dawes enrollees, (Susan) Fannie Cleveland (#1610) and John Morris (#1609.) Through Fannie’s line, Mullin's ancestry goes back to Richard Bark Foreman, a Cherokee healer known as “The Cherokee Physician.”
Richard Bark Foreman’s contribution to knowledge of Cherokee medicines is invaluable, not only because of his documentation of use, but also the documentation of Cherokee names for plants and diseases. He was a very much known medicine man and so good that even white people used him because of his extensive knowledge of herbs. He was a widely respected man who brought healing to people.
Passage of the VAWA was needed to protect American Indian women who are victims of assault or rape on tribal lands. Too many times in the past, offenders of such crimes went free to harm Native women again and again. Because the VAWA passed, now tribes have the authority to charge and prosecute offenders and give Native women hope for justice. This is important because without justice, how can one ever heal from such horrific crimes?
Markwayne Mullin could have played an important role in helping women, not just Indian women, but all women, get justice after these crimes have been committed against them. He had the opportunity to follow in his great great great great grandfather’s footsteps and vote to do something that would help people heal. He made the decision not to do that.
Whether he likes it or not, Mullin has a responsibility to Indian people, not just Cherokees, but all Indians, to do the right thing. It is not an option, it is an obligation.
Obligation, you say? Yes, obligation. Mullin didn't have a problem embracing his heritage when he used Indian preference to get jobs for his business. He didn't have a problem embracing his heritage when he was presented with a blanket from the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. He didn't even have a problem embracing his heritage and listing himself as an American Indian in the US House of Representatives. But, when he had to make a choice between embracing his heritage or clinging to his political party, he dropped that Cherokee identity like a hot potato and strictly became "a Republican" and then voted against something that would help American Indian women.
Mullin is in a position to actually make a difference now, to be a voice for American Indians, but up to this point, he has seriously failed in this role. To a degree, he reminds me of someone else Cherokees are upset with, but this time, it is more troubling.
It wasn't that long ago we were watching as a woman, a fake, use a Cherokee identity when it benefited her and then as she tossed it aside when she no longer needed it. As bad as that was and as much as that angered a lot of Cherokee people, it did not upset us as much as a real Cherokee doing the same thing. For most of us, "Cherokee first" means we are Cherokee first, and all other things, like being members of a US political party, come after that. For Markwayne Mullin, it seems "Cherokee first" only means he gets to cut to the front of the line for a job that has Indian preference.
Twila Barnes, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has a degree in CIS – Programming and Data Analysis. She is a genealogist and writes the blog, Thoughts from Polly's Granddaughter.