GRAPEVINE, Texas – On the September day that ended Grapefest, a wine festival in Grapevine, outside Dallas, Mayor William Tate pulled up the brim of his cowboy hat and addressed the crowd gathered for the unveiling of a new public artwork: “Circle of Peace”.
“It’s important that the story be correct,” Tate said of the 11 bronze statues made to commemorate the peace negotiation in 1843 between 10 Native American leaders and Sam Houston, the President of the Republic of Texas.
One of the statues was included after the Mount Tabor Indian community advocated for it, depicts Cherokee Chief Devereaux Jarrett Bell. According to city officials of Mount Tabor and Grapevine, Bell signed the treaty under the pseudonym “Chicken Trotter.”
For leaders of the Mount Tabor Indian Community, a group of a few hundred members based in northeast Texas, the inclusion of the towering bronze figure is a long-awaited public recognition of the man who them, led their tribe during one of its darkest chapters. .
However, according to Cherokee historians, genealogists and representatives of federally recognized tribes, the historical claims of the Mount Tabor Indian community are not true.
Cherokee researchers say the alleged Mount Tabor chief who signed the treaty of 1843, identified in the Circle of Peace sculpture as Devereaux Jarrett “Chicken Trotter” Bell, is actually two separate people: Bell, a well-documented figure. of Cherokee history who is not known to have lived in Texas, and Chicken Trotter, a Cherokee of whom little is known beyond his signing on the treaty.
“It is a shame for the history of this person,” said Catherine Gray, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and one of the tribe’s historians. “Devereaux Jarrett Bell deserves his legacy and history told properly, as does Chicken Trotter. They both deserve it, and their descendants deserve it.
The Indian community of Mount Tabor claims to be descended from the Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws and Muscogees who arrived in Texas in the 19th century. But the group is not officially recognized as a tribal nation by the federal government, and it has not been able to document its claims. Federally recognized tribes, including CN, have accused Mount Tabor of being one of many organizations that have attempted to fabricate claims of tribal status, co-opt Indigenous identity, and position themselves to derive it. profit.
Cherokee officials say there is no evidence to suggest that the Cherokees who lived in the Republic of Texas in the mid-1800s ever formed a tribal government, which would be necessary to demonstrate under any claim that the Mount Tabor could do with tribal status today.
“They are part of a lot of organizations across the country that pose as Indian tribes and seek some form of recognition,” said Chuck Hoskin Jr., senior chief of CN.
Mount Tabor president Cheryl Giordano has denied CN’s accusations and defended the group’s legitimacy. Mount Tabor has twice started the process of applying for federal recognition as a tribal nation – stopping only because of a lack of funding to complete the application, the group said.
“We feel like we’ve already met the criteria and we just need to get the United States to recognize it,” Giordano said.
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