By Kevin Bogardus
Posted: 05/09/08 01:19 PM [ET]
Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, has weighed in against legislation proposed by the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that would punish the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.
CBC lawmakers have proposed a number of provisions this year that would cut off federal funding to the tribe because of its decision in March 2007 to remove the Freedmen — descendants of freed slaves once owned by tribe members — from Cherokee membership.
But Obama disagrees with those measures. In a statement to The Hill provided by his Senate office, the Illinois Democrat said that although he opposes unwarranted tribal disenrollment, Capitol Hill should not get involved.
“Discrimination anywhere is intolerable, but the Cherokee are dealing with this issue in both tribal and federal courts . . . I do not support efforts to undermine these legal processes and impose a congressional solution,” said Obama. “Tribes have a right to be self-governing and we need to respect that, even if we disagree, which I do in this case. We must have restraint in asserting federal power in such circumstances.” (so he's for waiting for the court to rule however then gives the green light to the CBC)
Obama’s position on the Freedmen issue was first reported by the blog NowPublic.com and has since been confirmed by The Hill.
Representatives for the Cherokee have made a similar argument in that the complicated issue needs to be resolved in court, not by Congress. Until that litigation is settled, the Freedmen still have tribal citizenship rights.
Members of the CBC have said the tribe betrayed an agreement it signed with the U.S. government by removing the Freedmen. The Treaty of 1866 gave tribal citizenship rights to the group, according to the CBC. (so where is their outrage when ALL the provisions of the 1866 Treaty are not enforced)
The Cherokee disagree, however, pointing to legislation passed by Congress in the early 1900s and court rulings that revoked citizenship rights for Freedmen descendants. (apparently some of these self ID'd *Freedmen* weren't even included on the Dawes Freedmen Roll - I say open the Congressional Black Caucus to Native Americans, or let the CBC bow out of the controversy as a racial discriminating congressional group)
Nevertheless, lawmakers have offered measures to stop federal funding for the tribe until the Freedmen are accepted back into the Cherokees' ranks.
For example, Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.) has sponsored a bill that would cut off roughly $300 million in federal funds to the Cherokee. Plus, Rep. Mel Watt (D-N.C.) passed an amendment to a Native American housing bill that would halt federal housing assistance to the tribe.
Watt, who has endorsed Obama for president, downplayed any difference the senator has with the CBC on the battle over the Freedmen. (ah, more spin, well is Obama for or against the CBC action)
“This is not a fight between us and Barack. I think he is on our side,” said Watt. “This is a fight between the Congressional Black Caucus and the Cherokee.” (this really isn't a fight between the CBC and the Cherokee, it's a fight between the Congressional Black Caucus and the U.S. governments Indian Policy of over 100 years)
In a March letter, Watt, Watson and other CBC members warned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that Watt’s funding ban for the Cherokee must be included in the Senate version of the Native American housing bill. Otherwise, the caucus would lobby against the bill.
Thirty-five CBC members signed that letter. Obama was not one of them. (agreement by silence, perhaps Obama should send a letter to Reid stating he does not support the CBC action, which is straight out of the 1950s Tribal Termination Policy)
read the full story:
http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/obama-weighs-in-against-cbc-legislation-on-cherokees-2008-05-09.html(my vote goes to McCain)