Mary Riley is a Paulina Hunter descendant, one who has worked very hard for the family in fighting for what is right Thank you Mary.
AIRRO speaks during Town Hall Meeting on Cherokee Freedmen
Muskogee, OK- A member of the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization ("AIRRO") gave a prepared speech to Congresswoman Watson (D- CA) and other elected officials on the growing problem of rights violations in Indian Country.
The Muskogee meeting was one of two meetings in which Congresswoman Watson invited the public to attend and comment on the "…this important issue of law" which affects all people, not just Cherokee or Freedmen.
Mary Riley, a Pechanga/Temecula Indian whose family was stripped of their tribal citizenship by Pechanga tribal officials in 2006, expressed the support she and many others, including AIRRO, have for the Cherokee Freedmen.
Ms. Riley called the issue one of civil rights, "Not because the Freedmen are descendants of slaves, it is a civil rights issue because the Freedmen are Indian as well."
In addition, Ms. Riley reminded those present that the Freedmen are not the only Indians suffering from human and civil rights abuses. Thousands of individual Indian people from throughout Indian Country have been victimized by arbitrary and unjust acts of tribal officials. OP: Pechanga is responsible for 500 victims, Chukchansi over 700.
Along with the Cherokee Freedmen, California Indians seem to be the hardest hit as the spread of human and civil rights violations seem to coincidence with the passage of ballot initiatives that legalized Indian casinos in California.
Ms. Riley concluded her remarks by calling for the acknowledgement and enforcement of the Freedmen's rights as a step to meaningful enforcement of the rights of all Indian people.
For additional information on the Cherokee Freedmen issue please visit: http://www.freedmen5tribes.com/index.html
For more information or to join the American Indian Rights and Resources Organization please visit http://www.airro.org/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE: Mary Riley from OK's speech
Presentation at Town Hall Meeting Regarding the Cherokee Freedmen
Monday, August 20, 2007
Congresswoman Watson welcome to Oklahoma. My name is Mary Riley, I am a Pechanga/Temecula Indian of California and I live here in Oklahoma.
I came here today to listen to what you had to say and offer my support in this battle for civil rights. And, make no mistake about it, this is a civil rights issue. Not because the Freedmen are descendants of slaves, it is a civil rights issue because the Freedmen are Indian as well.
For several years I have watched the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma violate the rights of its Freedmen members. As an Indian person, it saddened me because I know their pain.
Congresswoman Watson, the Freedmen are not the only Indians suffering from human and civil rights abuses. Throughout Indian Country, the rights of individual Indian people are being violated by arbitrary and unjust acts similar to those committed by Cherokee officials.
In your own state of California, nearly three thousand (3000) Indian individuals have been stripped of their tribal identity and many more have been denied their birthright to be a member of their tribe. And, it is no coincidence that these actions have taken place since the passage of ballot initiatives that legalized Indian casinos in California.
My tribe, the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Riverside County, California has stripped nearly 400 members of their tribal citizenship in the last 3 years. And it has denied membership to many hundreds more in an attempt to limit the number of members who will benefit from tribal gaming. (OP: Via an illegal moratorium against the tribe's constitution)
Unfortunately, what is happening at Pechanga and with the Cherokee Freedmen are not isolated incidents. Individual Indians from throughout Indian Country have had their human and civil rights violated by tribal officials.
And, even though the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 specifically prohibited tribal governments from acting to deny certain rights, tribal officials have escaped prosecution for violations of the ICRA and other laws by hiding behind sovereign immunity.
Whether it be the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the Pechanga Band of California, or one of the many other tribes, the outcome is the same- the individual Indian is being made to suffer as her basic rights, rights enjoyed by all other United States citizens, are trampled on. As a result, our identity is taken, necessary health care services are cut-off; elder and child benefits are halted; education assistance stops; and many other benefits are denied.
Congresswoman Watson, I and many others offer our support to you and our Freedmen brothers and sisters. We believe that a meaningful resolution of the Cherokee Freedmen issue, where their rights are protected, preserved, and enforced, is the first step in securing and enforcing the rights of all Indian people.