Cherokee Freedmen dispute threatens NAHASDA
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Meanwhile, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to hear another Freedmen case on May 6. The tribe is trying to protect its sovereign immunity from a lawsuit that was originally brought against the Interior Department.
Final decisions in the tribal and federal courts could be months away. Rather than wait, members of the Congressional Black Caucus on the House side have been attaching provisions to Indian bills in order to punish the tribe for removing the Freedmen.
"They will attach it to every single Indian proposal," Cherokee Chief Chad Smith said at an Indian law conference earlier this month.
According to Smith, the Freedmen at one point were citizens of the tribe. "We were truly a republic," Smith said at the 33rd annual Indian law conference hosted by the Federal Bar Association.
But he said acts of Congress in the early 1900s terminated the Freedmen's rights under an 1866 treaty that is commonly cited by CBC members in their push to restore the Freedmen to citizenship. Now that the tribe has reorganized itself following federal policies of assimilation and termination, Smith argues the tribe has a right to determine its membership.