Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Watson Wrong on Freedmen Issue - more of her same ole, same ole

Presidential candidate wrong on freedmen

Muskogee Phoenix
Muskogee, OK

On the same day that African American voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in North Carolina and Indiana, descendants of the former slaves of the Cherokee Nation (known as freedmen) fought in the federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to enforce their treaty rights guaranteeing (again she reads more into that treaty than is there) them equality and voting rights in the tribe.

Attorneys representing the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma have filed to have the case dismissed on the grounds that only U.S. Congress can enforce the treaty because the Cherokees have sovereign immunity (Supreme Court has ruled tribes have sovereign control over their membership - sorry, now who appears to be NOT following the law - Watson argues apparently that the Freedmen don't have to follow this ruling). Yet the Cherokee Nation on that same day held a conference in the U.S. Capitol on why the freedmen matter should be left to the courts.

Without a clear understanding of the issue, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has weighed in on the side of the Cherokees by publicly opposing my legislation, H.R. 2824, which suspends U.S. relations with the Cherokees until the rights of freedmen are restored. (Oh, Obama understands this - Rep Watson just wants to use her *power* to force the Cherokee Nation to accept non Cherokees as citizens)

Obama also takes exception to a recent Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) letter in which the caucus declares its opposition to Native American housing legislation if it does not include a provision that would prevent the Cherokee Nation from receiving any benefits or funding under the bill if the freedmen are expelled from the tribe. (Apparently the CBC hasn't paid any attention to him either - which makes one wonder how effective he's going to be as president)

Obama’s argument mirrors the Cherokees’ justification for freedmen termination — the freedmen issue is a matter of tribal sovereignty and should be arbitrated in the courts and not Congress. (Obama doesn't mirror anyone except the courts or at least he's willing to let the courts interpret first, no arbitration in the courts, it's interpreting the treaty and subsequent acts of congress that modified that treaty)

But what Sen. Obama fails to understand is that the freedmen issue is about treaty rights, not tribal sovereignty. What Obama probably has not been told is that the Cherokee freedmen issue tracks the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s attempt in 2002 to terminate its freedmen that was squashed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs when it halted all federal funding to the tribe and suspended the Seminoles’ federal gaming authority. (Cherokee's have their own Court System; Watson prefers to deny the Cherokee Nation Due Process in a dictatorial manner by trying to circumvent interpretation of a Cherokee Treaty, not a Seminole Treaty - Note to Watson, all the tribes are different so many of the treaties are different, this isn't a one size fits all type of thing)

Despite a long history of legal precedent favoring the freedmen, Chad Smith, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, continues to hammer at the notion that Congress should defer to the courts on the freedmen issue. It has become the rallying cry of his supporters and numerous well-paid lobbyists. (I think the only rulings favoring the Freedmen have been out of the Court of Claims and they are early 1900s cases, the most recent court of claims case involving this group of Freedmen was denied as 100 years too late - the Supreme Court has ruled that membership is up to each individual tribe)

Given Smith’s mantra that the freedmen issue should be left to the courts, it is curious that Smith’s lawyers recently argued in U.S. district court that Congress has rightful jurisdiction over the fate of the freedmen. (Chief's lawyers are correct, however, as long as Congress is following the law as interpreted by the courts - what they're trying to enforce now is outdated, ill conceived and failed Indian policies of the past - the Cherokee Nation disagrees with Watson and CBC interpretation of the law - LET THE COURTS DECIDE - if you jerk funding from the Cherokee Nation and you lose, are you going to refund all that funding? - Watson needs a more balanced view on this)

African American voters should think about how they would feel if their citizenship rights were suddenly removed because they descended from slaves. This is precisely what the Cherokee Nation wants to do in violation of its own treaty obligations. (wrong, these folks don't have a Cherokee Ancestor, they are not Cherokee - they are using the 13th Amendment to gain access to the Cherokee Nation, where they don't belong regardless of whether they were slave, pink or purple - we don't know yet if the courts are going to interpret this treaty in this manner - not to mention she left out other acts of congress that have modified this treaty - she gives only half truths - she can't enforce something that isn't clearly expressed in the treaty, without a court interpretation - the CBC is wrong to circumvent the courts ruling on these issues)

U.S. Rep. Watson, D-Calif., is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform, and Foreign Affairs, committees.

(what Rep Watson doesn't get, is the fact that we are not living in the 1830s or 1950s when she supports failed Indian policies of the past - she would place Black Human Rights over Indian Human Rights - this is not a 13th Amendment issue, it is an INDIAN issue)