Cherokee Nation News Release
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Cherokee Nation Director of Communications@cherokee.org
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September 29, 2008
Both Houses of Congress Vote to Let Courts Decide Freedmen Issue
Washington, D.C.— Both the United States Senate and House of Representatives have passed measures preserving Cherokee Nation’s federal funding for housing services, as long as a court order allowing citizenship for non-Indian Freedmen descendants remains in place throughout the tribal court case that will determine their eligibility for citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.
“The language in the bill is a sign that Congress recognizes the sovereignty and authority of tribal courts to settle internal disputes, which should be considered a victory for not only the Cherokee Nation but all tribes,” said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.
The provision was included in the Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act reauthorization passed by the Congress late last week. Currently, more than 300 non-Indian descendants of Freedmen are suing the Cherokee Nation in tribal district court over a constitutional amendment passed by Cherokee voters in March 2007 that restricted citizenship to people who have an Indian ancestor listed on the Cherokee Nation’s base roll. That amendment effectively ended a one-year period in which non-Indians were allowed to register as citizens based on a 2006 tribal court ruling. Those non-Indian Freedmen whose citizenship is in question have full citizenship rights, including access to social services and the right to vote, because of a May 2007 tribal court order that continues citizenship while the case is pending.
“While it is unfortunate that Congress voted to single out an Indian tribe over a disagreement about the tribe’s internal citizenship criteria, it is a good sign that they have decided that this is a matter that should be decided by the courts and not by politics,” Smith said. “I want to thank Senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Lisa Murkowski (D-Alaska), as well as Congressmen Dan Boren (D-Okla.), Melvin Watt (D-N.C.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Dale Kildee (D-Mich.) and Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) for their leadership and for proposing a solution that is not punitive to Cherokees who need housing assistance, since the matter is still being decided in a court of law.” (our Chief is far to gracious to Rep Watt, Waters and Frank - they indeed took far too long to stand up and speak up for the Cherokee People! Let's see an END to that behind closed doors CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS! Let's see some transparency to this Congressional Black Caucus!)
More information on the Cherokee Nation and the issue of non-Indian Freedmen citizenship is available online at
http://www.cherokeenationfacts.org/ and http://www.meetthecherokee.org/.