Obama Upholds Rights of Cherokees, All Native American Tribes (well not yet, he's just put some rain on the CBC's party - this helped to stop the bleeding of funds from the Cherokee but by no means has resolved the issue.)
By First Americans Advocate, 5/16/2008 6:21:57 AM
Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) has stated his opposition to H.R. 2824, an attempt by his fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) to sever government-to-government relations with the Cherokee Nation of (it's *in*, CN has nothing to do with Oklahoma except it resides inside it's boarders) Oklahoma because of an on-going dispute between the tribe and the "Cherokee Freedmen (non Cherokees)."
In a March 13, 2008 Letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, members of the Congressional Black Caucus stated that "members of the CBC will not support, and will actively oppose passage of NAHASDA" unless the bill contains a "provision that would prevent the Cherokee Nation of (in) Oklahoma from receiving any benefits or funding" until they extended tribal membership to the Freedmen. The letter contained the signatures of 35 CBC members, but not the signature of White House hopeful Senator Barack Obama.
Still, the Native American community began raising questions about an Obama Presidency that could potentially support CBC efforts to undermine the rights of tribal governments to determine their own membership. Asked to clearly state his position on H.R. 2824, Obama's campaign issued the following statement:
"Tribal sovereignty must mean that the place to resolve intertribal disputes is the tribe itself," Obama said. "Our nation has learned with tragic results that federal intervention in internal matters of Indian tribes is rarely productive - failed policies such as Allotment and Termination grew out of efforts to second-guess Native communities. That is not a legacy we want to continue."
With respect to the Cherokee Freedman issue, Senator Obama said that while he is opposed to unwarranted (these aren't really disenrollments, since they've never been Cherokee) tribal disenrollment, congressional interference was not warranted at this point (or any point in this case). "Discrimination anywhere is intolerable (including the Congressional Black Caucus which is a Blacks only Congressional group, they need to clean their own house before they start *forcing* others to do things), but the Cherokee are dealing with this issue in both tribal and federal courts.
As it stands, the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen are not being abrogated because there is an injunction (which the Cherokees agreed to) in place that ensures the Freedman's rights to programs during the pendency of the litigation. I do not support efforts to undermine these legal processes and impose a congressional solution. 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." (He disagrees with having an all Cherokee Tribe but belongs to an all, Blacks only Congressional Caucus - that is hypocritical)
Regarding Sen. Obama also reiterated his support for fulfilling the government's treaty obligations to tribes. "The Cherokee Freedmen issue highlights the larger issue of the unfulfilled treaty promises made by the federal government to tribes."
It is these promises that the Senator is most concerned with as the future president. Sen. Obama understands that the federal government owes a legal and moral obligation to tribes to provide health care, education and other essential services to tribes. "This is not a handout, but compensation for millions of acres of land relinquished by tribes," he said. (no, no, this is a trust responsibility think, Trust here, US is the Trustee and the Tribes are the Beneficiaries - all this forced upon the tribes over a 150 years ago, and the US has been a most neglectful Trustee - this is not a land compensation issue - Indians never lived on reservations until the US came along and rounded them up and put them on specific areas of land - and in the case of some tribes, their people were not allowed to leave the reservation, you couldn't just drive to town for groceries, they were completely dependent upon the US for everything including food, which in some cases came to them spoiled)
Those are the words of Senator Barack Obama, but what about his actions? Native Americans still concerned about an Obama presidency should research the websites of Clinton, Obama, and McCain for an indication of each candidate's interest in their community. Clinton and McCain websites have no specific links or information for Native American peoples or issues, while Senator Obama's campaign has a main page link directly to his website for "First Americans," at http://www.tribes.barackobama.com/.
Further, a look at all three candidates' campaign teams reveal that Senator Obama has a Native American Community Outreach Coordinator and a 30-member Tribal Steering Committee. If Clinton and McCain have a Native American presence on their campaign teams, it is well hidden. (don't applaud just yet, this could mean more government intervention into tribal affairs, not less)
Sen. Obama's opposition to Diane Watson's legislation will undoubtedly be met with unrest by those of his fellow members of the CBC that side with the Cherokee Freedmen, but Obama appears to be no stranger to the CBC's disaffections.
Last year, online political publication TheHill.com reported on the CBC's anger with Obama about rejecting an invitation to debate on Fox News, and added that "Obama has irked fellow CBC members by failing to respond to a request made early last year that he host a fundraiser for the Black Caucus's political action committee (PAC). [Senator Hillary] Clinton received a similar invitation and quickly followed through by headlining a CBC PAC fundraiser in March of 2006." (this could be the result of Obama, not coming from the American Black Slave background)
Perhaps this is why the CBC recruited Hillary Clinton and not Barack Obama to be the Guest Speaker at their 37th Annual Legislative Conference, prompting the Washington Times to speculate that the CBC was quietly trying to endorse her bid for the presidency.
Hopefully to the Native American community it is obvious that Obama and the CBC do not have mutual and unequivocal support for one another. He clearly opposes H.R.2824 that was introduced by Diane Watson, who -incidentally- endorsed his rival Senator Hillary Clinton and now serves as an advisor to the Clinton campaign. (this is for election purposes - but what will happen IF he is elected?) (not to mention Diane Watson is a Rep. from California with no other ties in Oklahoma - in most cases a Rep won't even talk to you unless you're a constituent from their district or area - so how come this very public interest of a California Rep and an Oklahoma issue and constituents?)
(This position does not appear on his Tribal website mentioned above)