Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Slap in the Face of California Disenrolled Indians

(If this happens I sincerely hope, Rep. Watson will at least consider the dis-enrollments in her own State of California! If legislation comes out of this, I sincerely hope, she and the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus will at least recognize that the Cherokee Tribe ought to be Cherokee to be members of it! She has taken such a one sided approach to this matter, that the only solution might be to let the entire congress pass on it with new legislation, perhaps there are some more level headed members, who recognize Indians should be Indians and not just anyone who *lives* in Oklahoma. I remind them that we need an Indian Clinic in Orange County, CA, a far more pressing matter than whether or not a few Black slave descendants are or are not members.

The issue of whether or not the 1866 Treaty still applies and what modifications were made after that time is a matter of interpretation; so for Rep. Watson and the Congressional Black Caucus to plow ahead without consideration as to how the courts will interpret this is reckless at the least. She likewise could consider the Black Freedmen as a Band and give them their own Federal Recognition, a far better solution than trying to force them upon the Cherokee Nation. This apparently is their desire anyway, since they are seeking or sought from the Court of Claims funding for their own casino.

Perhaps a few Native Americans in the All Black Only Congressional Black Caucus is in order as well.)

BIA pressed on freedmen status

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau 7/6/2008
Last Modified: 7/6/2008 4:34 AM

A congressional hearing is apparently the goal.

WASHINGTON — Congressional critics of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma continue to press a federal agency concerning the status of the descendants of the tribe's freedmen.

One of their major goals apparently is to force the controversial issue before a congressional hearing.

The Cherokee Nation believes such a hearing should be viewed as "blatant interference'' by lawmakers if it is scheduled before pending litigation is resolved.

As part of their effort to build a record that could lead to a hearing, U.S. Reps. Diane Watson, D-Calif., the most vocal critic of the Cherokee Nation in Congress, and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, laid out a series of questions concerning the status of the freedmen and the tribe in a letter to George Skibine. Skibine is the acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Their questions range from the legal status of the freedmen and the processing of citizenship applications to the BIA's actions to protect freedmen's rights and the federal government's take on the Cherokee constitution.

Noting a March meeting with Skibine's predecessor, Carl Artman, the two lawmakers cite complaints they had passed on then that the BIA had failed to take action to protect rights of the freedmen, former slaves of Cherokees.

Watson and Conyers' letter was dated June 3, but a copy was released several days ago.
It followed a May 22 letter from Artman to them and two other key lawmakers who also were at the meeting.

In his letter, Artman, who has since left office, told the lawmakers the BIA will not take further action on the long-running freedmen controversy until the litigation is resolved.

A group of freedmen filed the lawsuit challenging a vote by the Cherokee Nation to remove freedmen descendants from tribal rolls.

Watson, who believes the Cherokee Nation would be in violation of an 1866 treaty if it expels the freedmen, made it clear she was not satisfied with Artman's response.

When asked about the letter to Skibine, Watson aide Bert Hammond said the lawmakers wanted more responses from the BIA in writing so a record could be established.

Hammond said that could lead to a congressional hearing.

The BIA did not respond to a request for a comment on the letter from Watson and Conyers.
In a written statement, the Cherokee Nation expressed opposition to scheduling a hearing before the litigation is resolved.

"With all due respect to the prerogatives of members of Congress, it is clear that a hearing would be a blatant interference by politicians in the litigation on these very issues currently in the federal and tribal courts," tribe spokesman Mike Miller said.

"No matter what your opinion is on the merits, it would be inappropriate to have a hearing before the courts decide."

Still, the tribe backed the effort to provide additional information to lawmakers.

"We think the more information that members of Congress have, the clearer it will be that the Cherokee Nation's actions have been consistent with our treaty obligations, our constitution, and federal and tribal laws and court decisions,'' Miller said.

He expressed hope that lawmakers also come to realize that Congress already has passed laws in 1902 and 1906 to remove freedmen descendants as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

Miller said the tribe is now in the position of being forced into giving non-Indian freedmen something that Congress took away more than 100 years ago.

"We also hope they understand that cutting our federal funding will take away health care, housing and education assistance for thousands of low-income Indians and non-Indian freedmen descendants who have temporarily reinstated in the tribe,'' he said.

Watson and others have pushed legislation designed to withhold federal funds as a way to force the tribe to drop its efforts on the freedmen.

A potential impasse on that issue may put at risk a housing bill supported by tribes across the country.

Jim Myers (202) 484-1424

(This also makes one wonder, if they were forced upon the Cherokee Nation, are they going to continue to run to Rep. Watson every time they don't get their own way? This could very well lead to a complete takeover of the Cherokee Nation by Rep Watson and the Blacks.

The Courts need to resolve this before congress gets into it and makes a real mess out of things.

Besides it's my understanding she has already had one congressional hearing and what happened, nothing resolved apparently and - yep, the issue raises it's ugly head again and she's having another congressional hearing - is there nothing else back there for her to do? What is another Congressional hearing going to resolve? The courts are the better to interpret the 1866 Treaty and it's subsequent modifications)