Below is a message from Acting Principal Chief Joe Crittenden in response to a letter from the BIA regarding our upcoming special election for Principal Chief and the citizenship status of freedmen in the Cherokee Nation.
"Yesterday, I received a letter from the United States Department of Interior which asserts that the United States will not recognize the results of the September 24, 2011 election for Principal Chief if the freedmen are denied the right to vote. I am disheartened by the Department of the Interior’s actions. I received no prior notification of the letter, and the federal government did not consult with me before sending their letter. In the future, I will insist on an open and transparent dialogue with the federal government.
The Department of Interior’s letter asserts that several amendments to the prior Cherokee Nation constitution were implemented in violation of tribal and federal law. This assertion, if not handled properly, could lead to additional losses of federal funding and severe hardship for the most vulnerable Cherokees.
The Cherokee people were not fully apprised of the methods or consequences of moving forward with proposed constitutional amendments, nor where they told of potential legal complications in having the amendments recognized externally. Such things will not occur during my administration.
When I was sworn into office, I pledged to maintain the status quo leading up the September 24, 2011 election. However, I have inherited issues that can’t wait until a new Principal Chief is elected, and recent events have put me in a position where I must act to protect the Cherokee Nation’s interests. Through this process, I will keep the Cherokee People informed and I intend to take actions in an open and transparent fashion. I will demand that the Department of Interior deals with the Cherokee Nation in an open and bi-lateral fashion. I will insist there will be no more behind the scenes letters from congressmen, and no more secret dealings behind the Cherokee People’s backs. I will demand of the federal government that we conduct the Nation’s business openly, and only after consultation.
The Cherokee Nation is a party to a lawsuit in Washington, DC regarding the legality of various constitutional amendments. I have caused briefs to be filed strongly defending the Cherokee Nation. I will continue to faithfully follow my oath of office and legally defend the Cherokee Nation. I am also pursuing political remedies that are in the best interest of the Cherokee Nation. I will do my best to quickly resolve this issue and I have mobilized all resources to quickly resolve this matter so that services to our people and the operation of the tribal government are protected. I will also do my best to ensure that services will not be interrupted and the election will occur timely. The Cherokee Nation will emerge stronger because we will act quickly.
I hereby re-pledge to the Cherokee People that I will be transparent and truthful. I re-pledge that my administration will not be negligent in performing its duties. I re-pledge I will take every necessary step to ensure that proper policies are followed and completed. The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA. We will hold our election and continue our long legacy of responsible self-governance."