by Edward F. Mouss II
You’ll be hard pressed to find
anyone at all who knows what Muscogee Law actually says. You’ll sooner find a hundred people who have an interpretation of what they “think” the law says. For those of you who can’t afford to shell out hundreds of dollars for the Muscogee (Creek) Code Annotated books and have no access to what the law books say, you have to go to the National Council Office and request a copy of a particular law. Unfortunately, sometimes, even after you are able to access these laws, the laws themself seem convoluted, unjust or otherwise just don’t make much sense. These issues should raise concern to Muscogee citizens and other American Indians who are subject to the Muscogee government’s jurisdiction and interpretation of these laws. And furthermore, as a citizen you should at least have a basic understanding of what the law says to be able to hold tribal officials accountable to these laws as well. This series of articles are intended to give you a layperson’s perspective on Muscogee Laws and raise questions as to whether or not these laws are being violated, are just, or if they make sense to the non-attorney Creek citizen.
Since it’s campaign season, the first law examined in this series will be MCNCA Title 37, § 6-106. According to the 2010 Second Edition of Muscogee (Creek) Nation Code Annotated, Title 37 covers the subject of Tribal Government and Chapter 6 is entitled “Political Pressure.” Here is the complete text of MCNCA Title 37, § 6-106.:
§ 6-106. Use of Tribal Property for political campaign purposes
Any person who uses or causes to be used any equipment, supplies or other property of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, its agencies, authorities or boards, for political campaign purposes to support any candidate, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by confinement in jail for a period not to exceed sixty (60) days, or a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both such confinement and fine.
The first thing noticed is that the law is literally one sentence in length. The intent and meaning behind this law seems to be to prohibit people from using government property for campaign purposes. The law does seem to be a bit redundant. Some words seem like they could be omitted and the law would retain its intent and meaning. To demonstrate what I mean I will omit the words “equipment, supplies or other” and the words “its agencies, authorities or boards” from the one sentence law. The revised law would look like this:
§ 6-106. Use of Tribal Property for political campaign purposes (Revised version. Not actual language. For educational purposes only.)
Any person who uses or causes to be used any … property of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation … for political campaign purposes to support any candidate, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by confinement in jail for a period not to exceed sixty (60) days, or a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by both such confinement and fine.
As you may see by the example above, the meaning of the law appears a lot clearer by taking out the words “equipment, supplies or other” and the words “its agencies, authorities or boards”. The law also seems to retain its meaning and intent without those words. From my personal experience, most people get lost in all the wordiness when you try to read some Muscogee law to them. And many more Muscogee Laws contain that same language which almost always seems to make things more complicated than necessary.
So is this law being violated?
It would seem this law is definitely
being violated. Money is an asset of the tribal government and is considered property. Recently, a TV commercial was aired that featured all seven Principal Chief candidates as well as the current Principal Chief A.D. Ellis. Who do you think footed the bill for the commercial that supported not just one candidate but all the Principal Chief candidates? And if the commercial was produced through the tribal government’s Communication’s department then that is also a violation for using the tribe’s equipment for campaign purposes. The tribe’s Communication’s Department did, in fact, showcase every single political candidate running for office this year in a special edition of the Muscogee Nation News paper. This should also raise the issue of using assets of the tribe to attend the California Creeks Association political campaign rally. And also to the fact that the Mound building, which is tribal property, was used this year for a political campaign forum.
And even the Communities seem to be unwittingly violating this law. After all, it has been determined that the Communities are property of the tribal government. And many Communities are holding political campaign forums this year and have in many previous elections. This law has been in effect since 1991. This particular law does not exclude the Communities from legal compliance.
During the first two impeachment petitions against Principal Chief A.D. Ellis this particular law was used to keep petitioners from circulating the petitions at the Communities.
This particular law was also cited by former Attorney General Roger Wiley to keep petitioners from circulating petitions on the Creek Festival fairgrounds. At the request of A.D. Ellis, former Attorney General Roger Wiley issued an opinion and contended that the petitioners were “campaigning” to remove A.D. Ellis from office. Wiley therefore concluded that circulating the petition on tribal property was prohibited because it was a form of campaigning. Wiley’s Opinion was later sent by a Muscogee citizen to the Department of Justice for review for a possible violation of Federal Civil Rights Statutes.
On the surface it would seem that this law is only enforced some of the time. Citizens of the Muscogee Nation have had to struggle with this law when attempting to exercise their right to petition their own government. A right not only protected by Muscogee Constitution and Law, but the Indian Civil Rights Act and the U.S Constitution. On the other hand, when it comes to putting people into political office (and keeping them there), it seems perfectly okay for this particular law to be broken on their way to the top.