In another example of inconsistency, The Bureau of Indian Affairs has come out against the expulsion of the Cherokee Freedmen. They were silent on Pechanga disenrollments, stood up for a Cheyenne woman in her disenrollment action and again, were silent on Picayune disenrollments , SUPPORTED Robinson Rancheria terminations and rewarded the Enterprise Rancheria with a casino, a tribe which violated the civil and human rights of its people. Let's hope this correct move can make a difference.
I urge you to consider carefully the Nation's next steps in proceeding with an election that does not comply with federal law," Assistant Interior Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk stated in a letter to S. Joe Crittenden, the tribe's acting principal chief.
"The Department's position is, and has been that the 1866 Treaty between the United States and the Cherokee Nation vested Cherokee Freedmen with rights of citizenship in the Nation, including the right of suffrage."
Echo Hawk also stated the agency disagrees with a recent tribal court's decision against freedmen citizenship.
He said the tribal court's decision appears to be based on a misunderstanding that changes made in the tribal constitution in 2003 and 2007 that would make freedmen ineligible for citizenship are valid.
"The Department has never approved these amendments to the Cherokee Constitution as required by the Cherokee Constitution itself," Echo Hawk stated.
Although the requirement for such approval by the department was removed in 2007, he said, that decision is not retroactive.
Last month, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court reversed and vacated a district court decision in the freedmen case, terminating the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 non-Indians.
The 4-1 ruling states that because a 2007 referendum that amended the Cherokee constitution to exclude freedmen descendants from tribal citizenship was conducted in compliance with the tribe's laws, the court does not have the authority to overturn its results.
Claiming a lack of jurisdiction for either court, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court also terminated all temporary injunctions in the case and instructed the district court to dismiss the lawsuit.
Cherokee Nation District Judge John Cripps had ruled in January in favor of the freedmen descendants, citing an 1866 treaty between the United States and the tribe that granted equal rights to the freedmen - former slaves who had been owned by Cherokees.
The tribe's supreme court maintained that citizenship was extended to the freedmen by an 1866 Cherokee constitutional amendment - not the treaty
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