Cherokee Nation News Release
(918) 207-3896 Fax (918) 458-6181
September 25, 2008
U.S. Senate Agrees to Let Courts Decide Freedmen Issue
Washington, D.C.— The United States Senate passed a measure today preserving Cherokee Nation’s federal funding for housing services as long as a tribal 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 Senate today. 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 had 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,” said Smith. “I want to thank Senators Coburn, Dorgan and Murkowski (Republican, Democrat, Republican, I think) for their leadership and for proposing this solution in a way that is not punitive to Cherokees who need housing assistance, since the matter is still being decided in a court of law.” (considering Fanny Mae, Fredie Mac and all those Wall Street firms holding toxic mortages for houses in or going into foreclosure - I'd say every Cherokee in the US ought to have at least a 2 story house - no income needed.)
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/.
(this went to the House Floor on 9/27/2008 and I'm not sure if just the amendment passed, to wait for a court decision in the freedmen case or the entire bill H.B. 2786 passed)
from the House web site:
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The text of H.B. 2786 has not yet been received from GPOBills are generally sent to the Library of Congress from the Government Printing Office a day or two after they are introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there are a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed.
to track the bill: