Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Award Honorees
Organizations are underlined.
Marilyn Vann graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Bachelor of Science in Petroleum Engineering with Distinction. She is the first known Female having African Descent to graduate from that discipline at the University of Oklahoma. After two years of employment with Exxon Mobil as an engineer, she was employed as a Federal Government Treasury Department engineer for 32 years in Oklahoma City before retirement. This employment included 8 years as a team leader with short term management assignments. Duties included team building, training employees new to the agency, working on teams and task forces to revise government regulations and training materials, negotiations at meetings on behalf of the government, making recommendations for hiring and granting of awards to employees, research of federal law, preparing real estate and oil and gas appraisals, and writing expert reports. Upon her retirement, she received the Albert Gallatin Award, her agency’s highest career service award.
Marilyn serves as President and a director of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association, a nonprofit corporation which educates the public on the history, culture, and political rights of the African Indian peoples of the 5 nations (formerly known as the Five civilized Tribes) whose ancestors were enrolled as “freedmen” tribal members by the US government Dawes Commission approximately 100 years ago. She is also President of the African Indians Foundation, a 501c3 Corporation. She is a litigant in Federal lawsuits Vann et Al Versus Norton (now Jewell) and Cherokee Nation V Nash-Vann, which recently upheld enforcement of the 1866 treaty rights of the Cherokee Indian Freedmen Peoples tribal membership rights. Marilyn has written articles pertaining to the Indian freedmen issue which have been published in the Native American Times, the Muskogee Daily Phoenix newspaper, and the Oklahoma Eagle newspaper. Marilyn has also been featured in the Los Angeles Times, Wired Magazine, Oklahoman newspaper, New York Times, Wall Street Journal & Washington Post. Marilyn has also participated on various panels sponsored or co-sponsored by different Universities including the University of California, University of Indiana, and nonprofit or civic organizations pertaining to Native American issues, including two on Cherokee freedmen issues which were sponsored by Congresspersons Diane Watson and John Conyers at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Conference. Other presentations have been discussion of the Vann lawsuit before the Michigan State University Law Students and the Federal Bar Association Indian law section conference. Besides speaking on tribal disenrollment issues, Marilyn has also spoken on issues such as tribal services including Indian Health Service, Contract health services, and rights of tribal members and their families under the Affordable Care Act
Marilyn is a citizen of the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma. She is a descendant of Joseph Vann and Rider Fields, who were native Cherokee citizens by blood who immigrated to what is now Eastern Oklahoma prior to 1840. Her father, a member of the Cherokee nation was born in what is now Nowata County and was listed on the Dawes “Final Rolls” of Cherokee citizens, the base tribal rolls prepared and recognized by the United States government and the Cherokee nation at the term of the 20th century. She is active in her tribal community group, the Native American Fellowship based in South Coffeyville Oklahoma. She attends meetings of the Legislative Native American Caucus, the Five Tribes Intertribal Conference, and National Congress of American Indians on a regular basis as well as tribal council and community events of the Cherokee nation in August 2018, Marilyn was awarded a Statesman Award by the Cherokee Nation for her volunteerism as a Cherokee tribal member.
As a nonprofit board member, Marilyn has organized fundraisers and educational workshops on tribal history and genealogy. She organizes educational meetings throughout Eastern Oklahoma pertaining to tribal issues.