Friday, June 13, 2008

BIA enters the Freedmen vs Cherokee Nation Fray

BIA tells lawmakers Freedman court case should be settled before taking further action

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
6/12/2008 12:46 PM
Last Modified: 6/12/2008 12:46 PM

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Indian Affairs has told key lawmakers it will wait for a pending court case to be settled before taking further action on the long-running controversy over the status of Cherokee Nation Freedmen.

“The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has before it a case that will help determine the status and the rights of the Freedmen,” states a May 22 letter from then-BIA head Carl Artman.

“The Department will await the final outcome of this case prior to taking any further action with regards to the Freedmen.”

Artman’s letter went to Democratic U.S. Reps. Diane Watson of California, Mel Watt of North Carolina, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and John Conyers of Michigan.

Those four lawmakers met with Artman in March to have him clarify the BIA’s position on the status of the Freedmen. Artman has since resigned the BIA post.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith on Thursday welcomed Artman’s letter.

“Since the Cherokee Nation has fully complied with the Treaty of 1866, it’s the right thing to do,” Smith said.

He believes Artman’s letter is consistent with the historic practice of the BIA acknowledging the Cherokee Nation’s right to require that citizens have an Indian ancestor on the Dawes Rolls of the Cherokee Nation, a federal census that concluded in 1906.

“We hope Congress follows the BIA’s example of waiting for the courts to decide before taking premature punitive action against the Cherokee Nation that will cut nearly $300 million in federal funding for elderly, young, infirm and low-income Indians,” Smith said.

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau