Sullivan introduces bill to reestablish federal recognition of Delaware Tribe
By E-E Staff Report
U.S. Representative John Sullivan has introduced a bill in Congress that seeks to provide a monetary settlement to the Bartlesville-based Delaware Tribe of Indians and would, in the eyes of tribal officials, help reestablish the tribe’s federal status.
In a long-running dispute with the Cherokee Nation based in Tahlequah, the Delaware seek to restore the federal recognition granted to the tribe then subsequently stripped through a series of court decisions culminating in 2004.
The Cherokees have maintained that the tribe has jurisdiction and control over federal money via a long-standing treaty with the U.S. government.
Sullivan’s bill, filed on Friday as Congress recessed for a summer break, would “provide for the settlement of claims arising from the use and distribution of judgment funds previously awarded and provided to the Delaware Tribe of Indians, the Delaware Nation, the Kansas Delaware Tribe of Indians, Incorporated, and the Delawares of Idaho, Incorporated, to correct underpayment of certain funds, to provide for the settlement of accounting claims arising from, and otherwise achieve the requirements of, certain litigation, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Natural Resources, and in addition to the Committee on Ways and Means, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned,” according to the Congressional record.
According to a joint statement issued Monday, the legislation is the result of cooperative efforts among Sullivan’s office, the Delaware Tribe and the Cherokee Nation.
“After three years of working with the Delaware tribe, the Cherokee Nation, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, I am pleased to introduce legislation which will help restore the rightful federal recognition of the Delaware Tribe,” Sullivan said in a statement. “In addition, my legislation also incorporates mechanisms for the Delaware Tribe and the Cherokee Nation to resolve their economic and jurisdictional issues in North Eastern Oklahoma amicably. I applaud the cooperation of these two tribes in reaching this historic agreement.”
According to tribal officials, the Delaware were previously recognized by the federal government throughout the 20 century until it was terminated by the Department of the Interior in 1979.
The department rescinded that decision in 1996 and the tribe was again recognized until 2004 when a Tenth Circuit Court decision ended the federal recognition.
The U.S. Solicitor General stated to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Tenth Circuit decision to end status of the tribe resulted in the need for Congress to pass legislation restoring the Delaware Tribe’s full standing with the federal government.
In response to Sullivan’s’ legislation, Delaware Chief Jerry Douglas issued a statement Monday on behalf of the tribe, tribal council and the tribal trust board.
“We are pleased and appreciative of the spirit of cooperation between the two tribes, Delawares and Cherokees, which has enabled us to arrive at a point that legislation to restore our federal recognition has been reached. Chief Smith and Congressman John Sullivan have been instrumental in assisting with the mechanics of getting our legislation drafted and introduced before Congress,” said Douglas. “I certainly don’t want to minimize the cooperation and assistance from the members of the Cherokee Nation tribal council. We are looking forward to working with members of Congress and particularly the Oklahoma delegation in getting this bill moved through both houses.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith of the Cherokee Nation pointed to the bill’s potential to reach a compromise that would satisfy both tribes.
“We thank Congressman Sullivan for working with both the Cherokee Nation and the Delawares to bring forward a bill that will preserve Cherokee Nation sovereignty while still allowing the Delawares to re-organize their tribal government,” said Smith. “I especially want to thank Chief Douglas for his efforts on behalf of his people and his hard work to make sure that this bill is introduced.”