Monday, May 19, 2008

Senator Obama VS the Freedmen: Politics as USUAL says Congresswoman DIane Watson

Congresswoman Diane Watson educates Senator Obama on the Freedmen issue. Good work, Rep. Watson. Please continue to press on for the Freedmen and also, consider looking into the civil rights violations of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in our own state of California. Oh, don't forget Picayune, Redding, Enterprise and others that can be found at

Sen. Barack Obama and the Cherokee Freedmen: Politics as usual

By Rep. Diane Watson (D-Calif.)
Posted: 05/13/08 05:29 PM [ET]

On the same day that African American voters went to the polls to cast their ballots in North Carolina and Indiana, descendants of the former slaves of the Cherokee Nation (known as Freedmen) fought in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., to enforce their treaty rights guaranteeing them equality and voting rights in the tribe. Attorneys representing the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma have filed to have the case dismissed on the grounds that only Congress can enforce the treaty because the Cherokees have sovereign immunity. Yet the Cherokee Nation on that same day held a conference in the U.S. Capitol on why the Freedmen matter should be left to the courts.

Without a clear understanding of the issue, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has weighed in on the side of the Cherokees by publicly opposing my legislation, H.R. 2824, which suspends U.S. relations with the Cherokees until the rights of Freedmen are restored. Sen. Obama also takes exception to a recent Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in which the caucus declares its opposition to Native American housing legislation if it does not include a provision that would prevent the Cherokee Nation from receiving any benefits or funding under the bill if the Freedmen are expelled from the tribe.

Thirty-five CBC members signed the letter, including its chairwoman, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.).


Article IX of the Treaty of 1866 states that Cherokee Freedmen shall have “all the rights” of Cherokees. The language in the treaty has been interpreted on more than one occasion by the courts as that “all rights” include the right of Freedmen citizenship.


The Cherokee Nation lost its sovereign right to engage in slavery upon enactment of the 13th Amendment and to determine the citizenship of the descendants of its former slaves upon ratification of the Treaty of 1866. Over the past several decades, our nation has stood up for the rights of indigenous minorities, as has the U.S. Congress through its Helsinki Commission as well as other congressional forums. Defending any government’s right to commit gross acts of discrimination under the guise of sovereign immunity is a non-starter. It is as unsupportable in South Africa, China, Zimbabwe and Bosnia as it is in the Cherokee Nation, arguably even more so in the Cherokee Nation since it is located within the continental U.S. and its sovereignty on the issue at hand has already been abrogated by Congress.

African American voters should think about how they would feel if their citizenship rights were suddenly removed because they descended from slaves. This is precisely what the Cherokee Nation wants to do in violation of its own treaty obligations.

It is morally repugnant and legally wrong.Watson is a member of the House Oversight and Government Reform, and Foreign Affairs, com



Anonymous said...

I have been and will continuously be on the side of those Native Americans that were removed from their tribes based on anything other than them being considered Native American. I howeve disagree totally with your support for the freedmen. They are not and have never been Native American, it is true that a treaty signed with the U.S. gave them citizenship. However I do think it kind of hypocritical that people are up in arms over a tribe breaking a treaty but not one mention of the thousands that the same government has broken. While I applaud you for standing up for the Freedmen, isn't it ironic that they are considered newsworthy and high profile while real Native American's that were removed don't even rate mentioning even in passing. This issue is an issue of race alright, because it is a black issue it has merit and carries weight. Since this is a black issue it is at the forefront and it has the potential to affect all the rest of us. I do not support the Freedmen in any way, shape or form, I am saddened that they were removed after 100+ years of membership, however they should never have been members.

OPechanga said...

The Freedmen's descendents never should have been slaves either, but the Cherokee kept them as such, through the "trail of tears".

100 years of membership is more than enough to make them members.

Pechanga, has thrown out blood members, keeping adopted people and their issue. Support for those whose human and civil rights have been violated is CRUCIAL.

I've sent letters to Diane Watson asking her to focus on her own states problem with Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

I agree that they should never have been slaves, and I do feel sad that they were removed. My main issue is that because they have turned this into a black issue it has jumped to the forefront of the news.

As far as I have read this is not necessarily a race issue as there are members that are black and in fact there are members that are mixed with many other races. The key issue is that the Freedmen that cannot trace their ancestry to a Cherokee are not eligible for membership. What I do find most interesting is that when Indians are kicked out of their tribes they are told that membership is an internal tribal matter and there is NOTHING that can be done. Yet when blacks are kicked out of a tribe, a tribe that they are not actually descendants of, they have bills introduced and everyone up in arms.

OPechanga said...

Splixx, that's just jealousy on our part that we don't have anyone to stand up for us in the numbers that the CBC does.

Squeaky wheel gets the grease. We can't even get all our families involved, much less some in Congress.

The Freedmen have worked VERY hard for YEARS before Diane Watson and the CBC took notice. And, by their very mandate, the CBC is into caring about what happens to blacks. Of course, the Hunter family has black relatives too, who were thrown forcibly out of the tribal school

Anonymous said...

I agree with Splixx. The individuals in question are not Native American, it's simple they are not and never were. The fact that they were slaves is horrible but using that logic all descendants slaves should receive something from their respective government. Additionally, I don't believe that anyone alive today was an actual experienced slavery, which means the individuals that suffered aren't getting anything. Many races have been mistreated over the years and at some point we have to put things behind us, if it didn’t actually affect us. On the flip side I do support the US in allowing tribes to be independent and self reliant and own casinos so that they have the funding to restore their culture and reservation.

My next point is that there are members of Pechanga that are not blood Native American and most people think that they should not be a part of the tribe even though their family member was adopted into the tribe 70 plus years ago. My feeling is that it is a shame what has happened, but that does change the fact you should actually be Native American if you are a member of tribe.

OPechanga said...

All descendent slaves of the United States HAVE received something, citizenship and voting rights. The Cherokee agreed to give the same to their slaves and now they want to take it away from their descendents.