Author Topic: Northern Cherokee of Missouri & Arkansas  (Read 1517 times)

Offline educatedindian

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Northern Cherokee of Missouri & Arkansas
« on: October 16, 2018, 01:00:21 pm »
They've been mentioned in a number of threads, but it's surprising they don't have their own thread. Fraud of theirs made the news.

The Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake was among the federal agencies that awarded contracts to a company whose owner belongs to the "Northern Cherokee Nation," The Los Angeles Times reported.

Man from 'Northern Cherokee Nation' landed $7.6 million in government contracts     
Monday, October 15, 2018 
A man who belongs to the Northern Cherokee Nation, a group that is considered illegitimate by Cherokee people, landed $7.6 million in federal government contracts, The Los Angeles Times reports.
The group lacks federal recognition and state recognition. But the Small Business Administration did not question whether William Wages was actually Native American when it determined that his company qualified for the disadvantaged contracting program, the paper said.
“It’s very much a con,” David Cornsilk, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, told the paper. Cornsilk, who is a well-known genealogist, did not find any of Wages' ancestors on any Cherokee rolls.
Wages happens to be the brother-in-law of Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-California), who serves as the Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. His company won more than $4 million in contracts at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, which is in the congressman's district, the paper reported.
Still, there was no direct evidence that Wages and his company, which is known as Vortex Construction, benefited from the family connection, based on what has been reported so far by The Times.
“But other than a batting cage we owned and operated together in our 20s I haven’t had interactions with Bill on any of his subsequent business pursuits,” McCarthy told the paper.
McCarthy also said that he always knew that his wife, Judy, who is Wages' sister, claimed Native ancestry "along with other nationalities as well,” the paper reported.
As the Majority Leader in the House, McCarthy has control over which bills come up for passage in the chamber. Since the start of the 115th Congress in January 2018, he has helped a number of pro-tribal measures win approval, almost always without controversy.
None of the Indian bills addressed the 8(a) program at the Small Business Administration. Most dealt with tribal homelands, economic development and related issues.
The Northern Cherokee Nation is based in Missouri. The Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians do not consider the group to be legitimate.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s family benefited from U.S. program for minorities based on disputed ancestry By PAUL PRINGLE  and ADAM ELMAHREK OCT 14, 2018
....A company owned by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s in-laws won more than $7 million in no-bid and other federal contracts at U.S. military installations and other government properties in California based on a dubious claim of Native American identity by McCarthy’s brother-in-law, a Times investigation has found.
The prime contracts, awarded through a federal program designed to help disadvantaged minorities, were mostly for construction projects at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in McCarthy’s Bakersfield-based district, and the Naval Air Station Lemoore in nearby Kings County.
Vortex Construction, whose principal owner is William Wages, the brother of McCarthy’s wife, Judy, received a total of $7.6 million in no-bid and other prime federal contracts since 2000, The Times found.
The Bakersfield company is co-owned by McCarthy’s mother-in-law and employs his father-in-law and sister-in-law, Wages said. McCarthy’s wife was a partner in Vortex in the early 1990s.

Vortex faced no competitive bids for most of the contracts because the Small Business Administration accepted Wages’ claim in 1998 that he is a Cherokee Indian. Under the SBA program, his company became eligible for federal contracts set aside for economically and socially disadvantaged members of minority groups, a boon to its business.

Wages says he is one-eighth Cherokee. An examination of government and tribal records by The Times and a leading Cherokee genealogist casts doubt on that claim, however. He is a member of a group called the Northern Cherokee Nation, which has no federal or state recognition as a legitimate tribe. It is considered a fraud by leaders of tribes that have federal recognition.

....In an interview at the Vortex office, Wages said he did nothing wrong and followed the SBA’s rules in getting Vortex certified for the minority contracting program. He said he submitted a membership card from the Northern Cherokee Nation — then known as the Northern Cherokee Nation of Missouri and Arkansas — to qualify. He said he would be “very surprised” to learn he is not of Cherokee descent.

....Following The Times’ inquiries, the designation of Vortex as a Native American-owned company also was removed from the SBA’s public database. SBA officials declined to say who made the change or why, or to answer other questions.

The SBA did not require membership in a recognized tribe until 2011, about 3 1/2 years after Wages left the program. But the regulations did require applicants, if asked by the agency, to “demonstrate that he or she has held himself or herself out, and is currently identified by others,” as Native American.

All three Cherokee tribes with federal recognition consider the Northern Cherokee group illegitimate.
“It’s very much a con,” said David Cornsilk, the Cherokee genealogist and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, the largest of the recognized Cherokee tribes.

At The Times’ request, Cornsilk cross-checked Wages and his ancestors against census records and the membership rolls of the recognized Cherokee tribes. Neither Wages nor any of his known ancestors appear on the rolls, which date to the early 19th century, Cornsilk said.

A Times examination of census, birth, death, marriage and other available public records show Wages’ ancestors were identified as white. He is listed as white on his birth certificate.

“It’s disheartening to see this,” Cornsilk said. Native Americans are “the poorest people in the United States,” and “the poverty gets worse” if there are abuses in the SBA program, he added.

Cherokee leaders said the Northern Cherokee group is one of many masquerading as bona fide tribes. Chuck Hoskin Jr., secretary of state for the Cherokee Nation, said “it is particularly disturbing” when minority set-aside contracts are granted to members of “a group that is posing as a tribe.”

....Wages said he similarly has avoided discussing his Cherokee heritage with McCarthy or his sister, who has worked for several years for the state Republican Party. She declined to be interviewed.

Wages acknowledged he never took part in Native American culture growing up.

After learning The Times was pursuing this story, Wages said he considered having his DNA tested to prove his Cherokee heritage. He said he opted not to because the tests are unreliable for Native Americans.

Experts say commercial DNA tests can be less accurate for Native American ancestry than for other populations because the genetic data readily available for Native Americans can be more limited.

Wages said a cousin informed him in 1998 that his paternal great-grandmother was of Cherokee descent and they were eligible for membership in a group then called the Northern Cherokee Nation — or sometimes the Northern Cherokee Tribe — of Missouri and Arkansas.

In a subsequent email, Torchinsky said Wages’ paternal great-great grandparents were “100% Northern Cherokee.”

“As such, Mr. Wages is a legitimate and recognized member of the Northern Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri,” he said, misstating the former name of the group.

Wages said the tip from his cousin, who has since died, sparked the idea that would propel Vortex’s success. He said he realized he could be certified as a minority contractor if he joined the Northern Cherokee group.

“We saw it as an avenue to use,” Wages said.

He said he mailed his family tree to the Northern Cherokee group. It sent him a card stating he was one-eighth Cherokee, and he then used that card to apply to the SBA program for minority contractors — and was accepted, he said.

Wages said he believed the group was legally recognized by Missouri and California. Neither state has done so.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the SBA office in Fresno, which covers Bakersfield, said Wages’ application previously had been destroyed as part of the agency’s normal purging of older documents.

Based in Clinton, Mo., the Northern Cherokee group has registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit.

In a telephone interview, the group’s chief, Kenn “Grey Elk” Descombes acknowledged that neither the federal government nor Missouri legally recognizes his organization as a tribe. But he said its members should qualify for minority contracting work.

Descombes, who works in trucking, said the group verifies a person’s Cherokee lineage through a process that is 90% based on family stories. He said the federally recognized Cherokee tribes unfairly criticize his group because they don’t want competition for minority set-aside contracts and other government benefits.

The Northern Cherokee group has asserted on its website and on identification cards that it secured recognition in Missouri through proclamations by two governors, and in a bill and resolutions by the state’s Legislature.

However, the governors’ proclamations and the legislative resolutions carried no legal force, said Nick Omland, spokesman for the Missouri secretary of state’s office. In 1985, a bill passed by the Missouri House of Representatives would have granted the group recognition. The state Senate never voted on the House bill, and it died without becoming law, Omland said. Later that year, then-Gov. John Ashcroft vetoed another bill that would have recognized the group.

Torchinsky said in his email that Wages “reviewed a letter from the governor of Missouri at the time of his SBA application recognizing the Northern Cherokee Nation as a legitimate Native American tribe.” He did not provide a copy and did not respond to follow-up questions.

Wages also claimed membership in the Northern Cherokee organization to pursue contracts through the state of California that are designated for minority-owned businesses.

In 2009, he submitted an undated letter from the Northern Cherokee Nation of Missouri and Arkansas to the Department of Transportation in Sacramento to qualify Vortex for minority-owned status, according to department records officer Marcy Freer.

Based on the letter and an affidavit that Wages signed — under penalty of perjury — that said he had been “subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice or cultural bias, or have suffered the effects of discrimination, because of my identity” as a Native American, the state approved Vortex as a disadvantaged minority-owned business.

The letter includes a scan of the ID card that says Wages is one-eighth Cherokee. It bears an image that appears to replicate the state of Missouri’s seal and falsely claims the group is “officially recognize [sic] as a Cherokee nation by the sovereign state of Missouri” and cites the House bill without noting that the measure had died.

The California Department of Transportation certified Vortex as a disadvantaged, minority-owned business. Vortex renewed its certification each year until this August, when it didn’t submit the required filing, according to department spokesman Mark Dinger. That was after The Times began asking questions about Wages’ minority status.

....Wages said he had been “struggling” due to his Cherokee background, particularly in the early stages of his contracting career.

Wages and his father, Harvey Wages, who joined him in the interview, said they believe they once were turned down for a bank loan because the lending officer suspected they were Native American.

Harvey Wages said he also has an ID card from the Northern Cherokee group. He said his family had long thought they had Cherokee ancestors in Arkansas, particularly his grandmother, Delana Wages, who died in 1972.

He said she might have passed herself off as white to avoid discrimination. Census records list her and her parents as white.

Sean Nordwall, executive director of tribal operations and federal programs for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, one of the three federally recognized tribes, said accounts of Native American ancestors posing as white are almost entirely mythical.

“How were we supposed to do that? Put on face paint?” Nordwall said.

In his email, Torchinsky said, “At least some Northern Cherokee documented themselves as white in order to protect their families and property from both stigma and confiscation.” He said The Times’ “assertions … about Mr. Wages and his family drip with the same kind of racism from which the Northern Cherokee and other Native Americans sought relief.”

The Times asked Wages and Torchinsky to authorize the Northern Cherokee group to release the material the organization used to approve his application for membership.

....McCarthy’s official biography makes no mention that Judy McCarthy, who is Wages’ birth sister, has Native American ancestors. As best can be determined, they never publicly claimed a Cherokee heritage.

....McCarthy said in his written response to The Times that he didn’t recall ever discussing in public his wife’s Native American background. “Since growing up I understood Judy’s family to have some Native American heritage — along with other nationalities as well,” he said.

In all, it won about $7.6 million in federal contracts — the vast majority as no-bid and other contracts reserved for minority-owned firms, federal contracting records show....

Offline educatedindian

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Re: Northern Cherokee of Missouri & Arkansas
« Reply #1 on: June 26, 2019, 10:55:01 pm »
Even bigger thieves than before.

'It’s infuriating': Fake 'Cherokee' busineses land millions of dollars in contracts
Wednesday, June 26, 2019 
The Los Angeles Times on Wednesday published an explosive account of how businesses owned by fake "Cherokee" entrepreneurs have landed more than $300 million in local, state and federal contracts by exploiting lax rules and oversight.

The biggest offenders by far are people who belong to the "Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory," The Times investigation found. These businesses have received $269.2 million in government contracts since 2000 even though the group is not considered legitimate.

“I have nothing to say to you,” Billy Boyce Jr., the owner of a company that is considered a "minority" contractor in Missouri, told The Times when asked about his family's alleged Indian ancestry, which they have used over two generations to land work. “Get off my property.”

Businesses owned by people from "Northern Cherokee Nation" received $31.5 million in government contractors while those from the "Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri" secured $3.1 million, The Times found. Both groups, also based in Missouri, lack legitimacy.

“It’s infuriating,” State Rep. Rocky Miller (R), who is a citizen of the federally recognized Cherokee Nation, told The Times. “They’re enriching themselves based on a nonexistent recognition.” The Times traces much of the problem to lax oversight in Missouri. Businesses claiming minority status don't have to do much to show they are owned by someone who is a citizen of a federally recognized tribe or a legitimate Indian nation.

But the U.S. Small Business Administration also plays a role in perpetuating the situation, The Times found. When officials questioned whether the Boyce family is legitimate, their concerns were "dismissed" by the federal agency, the paper reported. “It was very frustrating,” Sharon Taegel, who was the civil rights administrator with the Missouri Transportation Department at the time, told the paper. “The SBA … they didn’t like to be questioned.”

Still, there are signs of change. Five fake "Cherokee" businesses stand to lose their minority contracting status in St. Louis as a result of the paper's inquiries about the program in the city. The Business Diversity Development Department at the St. Louis Lambert International Airport serves as the certifying body for the city's Minority and/or Women Business Enterprise program. The agency's fiscal year 2018 report identifies 15 certified firms owned by "Native American" entrepreneurs.

Other than that, there is little public information about the businesses landing the contracts and whether the owners are legitimately Cherokee. Kenn “Grey Elk” Descombes, the chief of the Northern Cherokee Nation, wants to keep it that way.
“We would never let anyone get their hands on it," Descombes told The Times when asked to see a copy of the group's "secret Cherokee ancestry roll," which is apparently locked up in a bank vault. “It’s not for white people.”

Offline educatedindian

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Re: Northern Cherokee of Missouri & Arkansas
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2019, 01:51:28 am »
Minority contractors claiming to be ‘Native American’ to undergo nationwide review
SEP. 18, 2019 3 AM
Federal, state and local authorities are intensifying scrutiny of minority contracting programs across the country in the wake of a Times investigation that found that companies received more than $300 million in government contracts based on unsubstantiated claims by the firms’ owners to be Native American.

As two House committees prepare to examine the matter, the U.S. Department of Transportation has called for a review of all Native American companies in its minority contracting program nationwide to weed out firms whose owners do not belong to state- or federally recognized Native American tribes.

At the same time, officials in California and five other states have begun stripping minority status from a number of companies highlighted in The Times report. The newspaper determined that government contracts were awarded to those companies and several others because the owners were members of one of three self-described Cherokee groups that have no government recognition and are considered fraudulent by recognized Cherokee tribes.

City officials in St. Louis said they have decertified five firms that received contracts set aside for minority-owned businesses. State contracting officials in Oklahoma and Kansas said they have removed the minority certification from two companies or intend to do so. As of this week, the two firms were still listed as certified in Kansas’ minority contractor database. Caltrans earlier lifted the minority designation of one company.

State officials in Illinois and Arkansas said they have started the process of decertifying one company in each of the states. A third business voluntarily has withdrawn from the minority contracting programs in both states, the officials said.

All of the businesses won certification as minority contractors even though birth, census and other government records reviewed by The Times identified the firms’ owners or their ancestors as white. The contracts were doled out in at least 18 states.

The chairwoman of a House oversight committee said it will take up The Times’ findings, published in June, during a hearing next month....

Last month, the Transportation Department’s civil rights office sent a memo to those agencies asking them to review all companies classified as Native American-owned, according to a copy obtained by The Times. The memo noted that a 2014 rule change required that contractors claiming to be Native American belong to a government-recognized tribe.

Contractors with membership in a such a tribe are presumed to be socially disadvantaged, a key qualification for the minority contracting program.

“It has come to the department’s attention that some certified DBE firms may have relied on the owner(s)’ membership in Indian tribes that are not federally or state recognized,” the memo states. “It is important to the integrity of the DBE Program that only firms meeting all eligibility standards of the regulation, including social disadvantage, are allowed to participate in the program.”

The memo says that if the business owners are not members of government recognized tribes, “you must initiate proceedings to remove the firm’s DBE eligibility.”

In applying for minority status, the contractors The Times investigated cited membership in the Northern Cherokee Nation, based in Clinton, Mo.; the Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri, headquartered in Mansfield, Mo.; or the Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory, located in Columbia, Mo.

The SBA and other agencies granted minority certifications despite the groups’ lack of federal recognition as legitimate Native American tribes. The Times found that the certification process was often spotty, with officials accepting flimsy documentation of Native American heritage or unverified accounts that the contractors suffered discrimination because of their ethnicity.

One of the companies got a contract from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for work at a Native American university the agency runs.

The SBA has asked its Office of Inspector General to investigate The Times’ findings. The office conducts probes into possible fraud or other wrongdoing.

The minority contracts are reserved for companies whose owners can demonstrate social and economic disadvantages because of their race or ethnicity.

The combined value of government work awarded to contractors with questionable Native American ancestry is almost certainly much greater than $300 million.

Officials for many state and local agencies told The Times that they did not request proof of tribal enrollment when certifying Native American businesses as minority-owned. Some of those agencies also frequently destroy records of certifications or refuse to release them.

The SBA discards such records six years after companies graduate out of its program.

The Times reported that one of the companies, Missouri-based Bell Contracting Inc., received about $112 million in federal contracts earmarked for Native Americans or other minorities, according to government contracting records. A Texas company, AFCO Technologies Inc., was granted about $90 million in such contracts, the records show.

The owners of those companies and the others either said they are indeed Native American and thus rightfully qualify for the contracting programs or did not respond to interview requests.

Last year, The Times found that a company owned by in-laws of then-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) received more than $7 million in federal contracts because of his >>>brother-in-law’s<<< membership in the Northern Cherokee Nation.

Most of the work awarded to the company, Vortex Construction, was for military projects in and around McCarthy’s district, including projects he supported in Congress.

McCarthy, now the House minority leader, and the brother-in-law, William Wages, said they did nothing wrong. Wages, whose sister is married to McCarthy, said he is one-eighth Cherokee. Census and birth records available to The Times dating to 1850 show no Cherokees among his ancestors.

Wages stopped identifying his company as Native American-owned in government records and allowed his firm’s participation in California’s minority contracting program to expire without renewal after The Times started asking questions about the business.