Rep. Diane Watson was at the Cherokee Freedmen's Meeting this past weekend.
The Honorable California Congresswoman Diane Watson of California was the keynote speaker at the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association annual conference which was held at the Oklahoma City Langston University campus on June 7th 2008. The Congresswoman exhorted the freedmen people to continue to fight on for their treaty rights. She spoke of the oversight role of Congress in determining how federal funds are spent. Her speech pointed out that the leadership of the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma has spent more than $10 million dollars in lobbying and legal costs to remove the tribal citizenship of the 2800 Cherokee freedmen tribal members whose ancestors were enslaved by Cherokee Indians.
She also spoke of how the tribe has shut down enrollment of Cherokee freedmen tribal members and how the descendants of the recognized black Cherokee freedmen tribal members are unable to access benefits. She spoke of her concern for elderly freedmen such as Mrs. Riggs, a relative of Cherokee Will Rogers who are currently being denied benefits available for other Cherokee citizens due to her status as a Cherokee freedman.
Congresswoman Watson discussed the bill which she introduced in Congress in June 2007, HR2824 which if passed will deny federal funding(which is currently about 300 million ) to the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma until the tribe comes into legal compliance regarding the continuation of the tribal membership of the freedmen tribal members who have a treaty right to tribal membership. She spoke of her support for hearings to be held on the bill by the House Judiciary and the Natural Resources Committees. She emphasized the fact that the bill HR 2824 is not a termination bill of the tribe’s government to government relationship with the United States.
She also discussed why myths which have been put out as fact by the Cherokee nation are not true – such as the tribal administration statements that Cherokees did not own slaves.
She spoke of the Cherokee tribe’s passing of brutal laws encouraging the oppression of people of African ancestry, of tribal laws passed protecting the institution of slavery during the 19th century and the brutal suppression of a slave revolt in 1842 by the tribal government.
She exhorted the freedmen people to continue to lobby members of Congress, tribal leaders, and local legislators for support of freedmen rights and warned the freedmen that the Cherokee leadership’s goal is to just outlast the freedmen and their allies.