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Background on Baby Veronica story

Published: July 7, 2013

Regarding “Father's custody fight is Cherokees' fight, too” (Point of View, June 30): Bill John Baker, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, can say Baby Veronica's father is Cherokee because the Cherokee Nation has no “blood quantum” requirement (how much tribal blood someone has), although two Cherokee sub-tribes do. DNA tests are accurate, but tribes use flawed old Dawes Commission records to determine membership. They voted out the black Cherokees in 2007, defying a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that they were legitimate members of the tribe.

Cherokees lived principally in Georgia. Some 10 percent of them owned black slaves, the same percentage as among whites. Intermarriage with whites and blacks was common. About 15,000 black slaves accompanied the Cherokees on the Trail of Tears. The federal government freed them in 1866. During the Civil War, the Cherokees, prosperous slave owners, fought for the Confederacy.

Baby Veronica's biological parents, Dusten Brown (a Fort Sill soldier) and Christina Maldonado never married. Pregnant, Maldonado broke their engagement in May 2009. Before the baby's birth, Brown (by then serving in Iraq) signed the adoption papers, then reneged. A South Carolina couple nurtured Baby Veronica for two years. Then the South Carolina Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision, ordered her returned. Dissenting Justice John Kittredge noted that Brown paid nothing toward pre-birth expenses and stated he would not, and that Maldonado informed her attorney and the adoption agency of the child's Cherokee heritage.

Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, remanded the case to South Carolina courts. That's “the rest of the story.”

Elliott Doane, Oklahoma City