Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation is at major odds with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).  At issue is the expulsion of 2,800 African-Americans from the Cherokee rolls.  Joe Crittenden, the tribe’s acting principal chief,  said in a statement responding to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, “The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA.”

The reaction follows a letter the tribe received on Monday from BIA Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, who warned that the results of the September 24 Cherokee election for principal chief will not be recognized by the U.S. government if the ousted members, known to some as “Cherokee Freedmen,” are not allowed to vote.

Members of the Cherokee Nation owned slaves who worked on their plantations in the South.  In 1830, the Cherokee were forced to move to Oklahoma and many took their slaves with them.  Those slaves went on to become the Cherokee Freedmen.  When the Civil War broke out the Cherokee fought on the side of the South.

In 1866, after the war, the Cherokee signed a treaty that gave guaranteed citizenship for freed slaves.

Last month the Cherokee Supreme Court voted that the members had the right to change their constitution with regard to citizenship as they saw fit.  So, when the Cherokee Freedmen were unable to prove that they are Cherokee blood relation, they lost their citizenship.  As a citizen you are allowed to vote in tribal elections and to also receive benefits.

The BIA is going in with strong-arm tactics.  They want the Cherokee to keep the conclusion of the 1866 Treaty alive.  So, to that end, the U.S. Dept of Housing and Urban Development is withholding $33 million from the Cherokee.  The Washington Attorneys in a federal lawsuit are asking a judge to restore voting rights for the ousted Cherokee Freedmen in time for the September 24 tribal election for Principal Chief.

Now, in doing some research for this particular case, I came upon a very important ruling from 1981:

A 1981 case, Montana v U.S., clarified that tribal nations possess inherent power over their internal affairs, and civil authority over non-members within tribal lands to the extent necessary to protect health, welfare, economic interests or political integrity of the tribal nation.

If the Cherokee Nation has the inherent power over their internal affairs, then the lawsuit filed by the un-named Congressmen has no validity and it is wrong to withhold the $33 million.

I also found this little gem:

  In the 1970s Native American self-determination replaced Indian termination policy as the official United States policy towards Native Americans.[14]Self-determination promoted the ability of tribes to self-govern and make decisions concerning their people.

This is a fascinating case that is building at an astronomical rate.  The African-Americans believe that the Cherokee owe them reparations for the years of unpaid labor and that they need to hold stead-fast to the Treaty.  The Cherokee believe that they have paid enough and to continue to pay the descendants of the Freedmen does not change the fact that some of their members owned slaves.  They believe they have apologized enough and it’s time for the guilt payments to come to an end.  Now, the U.S. Government who has staunchly resisted the idea of reparations, is forcing a sovereign group to pay them through sanctions of withholding funding.  There is an election coming up in the Cherokee Nation and I wonder what, if anything, that has to do with it all.  It will be interesting to see how this issue ends.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Political correctness come full circle « kansas reflections

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