Friday, June 8, 2007

Shame of the Cherokee Nation

It's the same shame that should be written about the Pechanga Tribe of Temecula. 2800 descendents is about less than 1/2 of one percent of the Cherokee Tribe. Pechanga shamefully eliminated 25% of their tribe.

New York Times June 8, 2007 Editorial

The Shame of the Cherokee Nation

Many members of Congress were rightly outraged by the Cherokee Nation’s decision earlier this year to revoke the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 descendants of slaves once owned by the tribe. The tribe’s leaders have since tried to avoid any punishment by restoring partial rights to some black members. Congress should disregard that ruse and move ahead with legislation that would force the Cherokee to comply with their treaty obligations and court decisions that guarantee black members full citizenship rights, including the right to vote and hold tribal office. This dispute dates back to the 19th century, when Cherokee, Seminole and Creek signed treaties with the federal government that required them to accept their freedmen — many of whom had mixed black and Indian parentage — as full tribal members in return for recognition as sovereign nations.

The tribes have repeatedly sought to abridge black Indian rights, but the treaties have been repeatedly upheld in federal court. Black tribal rights were also upheld last year in the Cherokee tribe’s own supreme court. Then the tribe voted to expel black members. This could potentially deprive them of their cherished tribal identities, along with access to medical, housing and tribal benefits. Representative Diane Watson, Democrat of California, is circulating a draft of a bill that would strip the Cherokee of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid, and suspend the tribe’s gaming rights, until it returns black members to full citizenship. The bill would also require the Department of the Interior — which has dragged its feet on this issue — to report to Congress on the status of freedmen’s rights in all tribes. It is shameful that the Cherokee have to be pressured into restoring the rights of their own black citizens. But that clearly is what is needed.

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