Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Congress seeks BIA freedmen clarification

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau3/19/2008

WASHINGTON -- Members of Congress are seeking clarification from the Bureau of Indian Affairs on the current status of the Cherokee Nation freedmen descendants and why the agency has not done more to end that long-running controversy. (The Dawes tried to end the controversy long ago - but the Freedmen either sued or raised such a ruckus for land allotments, that the Dawes then added them as Freedmen - Actually it looks like the Curtis Act did take care of this issue - Congresswoman Watson just refuses to accept that - Freedmen are listed with no blood quantum)

Four lawmakers, including two House committee chair men, met with BIA director Carl Artman last week.

U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., the most vocal congressional critic of the Cherokee Nation and its efforts to deny citizenship to descendants of former slaves, said both the tribe and the BIA need more oversight on the issue.

Watson expressed concern that freedmen descendants now are being treated as temporary members of the Cherokee Nation.

They are not being issued cards they could use to receive certain benefits, she said. "From what I understand they haven't issued one," Watson said. (Which card?...there's a blue tribal card and a white BIA all means let's create more divisiveness in the Nation.)

Another issue raised at last week's meeting with Artman involved what some see as different approaches by the BIA on the issue with the Cherokee and Seminole nations.

Watson has introduced legislation to strip the Cherokee Nation of its federal funding to get the tribe to give up on its efforts to rescind citizenship of the freedmen descendants.

Others at that meeting included Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee; and Mel Watt, D-N.C., a key player on the issue for the Congressional Black Caucus.

Watson said a letter will be sent to Artman to get his responses in writing.

Frank and Conyers did not respond to requests for comment.

Nedra Darling, a spokes woman for Artman, confirmed that the meeting with the four lawmakers took place but said some of the issues raised by the lawmakers should be addressed by the Cherokee Nation. (Cherokee Chief, Chad Smith, has invited Congresswoman Watson to meet with him long before this meeting, she has neither accepted nor responded to sit down and discuss these issues.)

On the issue involving the Seminole Nation, Darling said that tribe sued the BIA over the freedmen descendants issue and did not have its own court system, unlike the Cherokee Nation.
"There lies the difference," she said.

Last year, Artman said an 1866 treaty between the U.S. and the Cherokee Nation affirmed the citizenship rights of the freedmen, adding that the government would consider taking the tribe to court to make sure it lives up to that treaty. (you need to read Angie Debo's book to see what happened to all the Cherokee land...I mean, let's live up to those treaties....:))

Mike Miller, a spokesman for the Cherokee Nation, issued comments Tuesday offering assurances again that the 2,867 freedmen descendants who were reinstated last year pending the outcome of ongoing litigation continue to receive health care and other services provided to tribal members. They also have the right to vote, Miller said.

"CDIB cards are given out by the U.S. government," he said. "Only people who can show documentation of degrees of Indian blood can receive them by federal law."

Miller also urged Congress members to avoid a rush to judgment based on misinformation. "We are a diverse and open tribe," he said. "We have thousands of African-Americans and more than 1,500 descendants of former slaves who are citizens."

Jim Myers (202) 484-1424

(my comments in redish brown)

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