Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Indian Housing Bill Passes!

NAHASDA Funds Continue

Last week was eventful in our defense of the Cherokee Nation. We have been defending our sovereign right to self-determination, defending our citizenship laws which removed non-Indian eligibility. We were standing up to Congresswoman Diane Watson from California and others who have tried to attach language to laws that would forbid Cherokee Nation from receiving federal funds. Our main messages about this issues has been that we are a sovereign Nation that has the right to decide citizenship laws and that any conflicts with our laws can and should be decided in a court of law, not by the federal government.

The United States Senate and House of Representatives passed measures last Thursday and Saturday preserving Cherokee Nation’s federal funding for housing services (Native American Housing and Self-Determination Act reauthorization, NAHASDA). The language of the measure stipulated that Cherokee Nation would receive these funds 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.

I see the language in the bill as 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.

It is unfortunate that Congress voted to single out an Indian tribe over a disagreement about the tribe’s internal citizenship criteria, but I consider it a good sign that they have decided that this is a matter that should be decided by the courts and not by politics. There are several elected officials who helped us defend our tribal sovereignty: 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.). I thank them for their leadership and for proposing a solution that is not punitive to Cherokee citizens who need housing assistance.

Here is some background information on this issue: 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.

If you would like to read about the facts of the citizenship issue of non-Indian Freedmen, you can look it up online at www.cherokeenationfacts.org and www.meetthecherokee.org.

Chad Smith
Principal Chief

(well, considering the current crisis - the Congressional Black Caucus, along with Frank, Watt and Waters who were promoting and supporting Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with toxic home mortgages, which the Fed eventually took over in the last couple of weeks, starting the current crisis - was trying to prevent Indians from getting treaty housing rights all for the sake of 300 Non Indian Freedmen! - disgusting at the very least! and one last point Obama is a member of the Congressional Black Causus! so no free ride for these Dems that should have stood up long before a crisis had to remind them - there are Indians without adequate housing who need funds as well!)