Tuesday, September 13, 2011

BIA's Larry Echohawk: We Disagree with Action Against Cherokee Slave Descendent's Citizenship

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

Read more from this Tulsa World article


Anonymous said...

Comment - Part 1 - Thank-you for posting these actions. This cruel practice of "disenrollments" and "banishments" must be addressed.

The United States Government has failed miserably in living up to it's "Trust Responsibility" to Native Americans. This is my Senators response to the crisis at my tribe, the Snoqualmie Tribe, in Washington State. You will remember that 9 of us were illegally banished by our tribe and even though our banishment was overturned in Federal court and my tribal members overwhelmingly reinstated all of us, our tribal government refuses to reinstate us and has now in affect banished us again by saying we cannot hold office or vote in elections - again without due process. This is Senator Cantwell's response to these actions:

"Thank you for contacting me....."
bla,bla,bla.....to the heart of the matter:

"However, the federal government and recognized Indian tribes share a government-to-government relationship that has been established through numerous treaties, laws and court decisions. I respect this relationship and hold tribal sovereignty in the highest regard, which I believe extends to tribes' rights to define their membership and make decisions regarding enrolled members. While I understand your concerns, it is for these reasons that I encourage you to work within your tribe's legal framework for a resolution to this matter"

I guess she is unaware that our "illegal" tribal government has issued a resolution that states tribal members cannot take enrollment issues, election issues, or any issue involving the tribal government to tribal court.....that's a law that you will only see in third world countries governed by dictators. Currently our tribal government refuses to hold meetings - meetings required by our Constitution and they refuse to hold elections. The 9 banished members worked within our "legal framework" and if a tribe can ignore a Federal Judge what "framework" is there for us??? Snoqualmie9

Anonymous said...

Comment Part 2 - I believe China is a "sovereign nation" and yet our own State Department intervenes on individual's behalf:

"The Chinese Government, as Secretary Clinton said earlier this week, arrested a renowned artist, Ai Weiwei. And yesterday in commenting on that case, they said, "Oh, this is not a human rights case. This has nothing to do with human rights." No, it does. This is an individual, a peaceful dissenter who has been critical of the government. He’s a prominent artist and is well known not only in China but around the world. We’ve called for his immediate release. We will continue to do it."

Why does the United States intervene for this individual yet ignore the human rights violations happening across the country to Native Americans? Aren't we "prominent" enough?

My cousin was banished for saying a prayer that offended the tribal government.......what does our government do to countries who do this:

"The Annual Report on International Religious Freedom covers the legal status of religious freedom in more than 190 countries and territories around the world. The International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 also mandates the designation of Countries of Particular Concern. Countries of Particular Concern are governments that have engaged in, or tolerated, systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.

Remarks to the Press on the Release of the 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices"

Such hypocrites! They certainly don't respect the sovereignty of all of the countries they currently have sanctions against....what about Cuba? And yet, tribal governments across the nation can banish and disenroll tribal members at will - not even States are allowed to do this.

"The individual states of the United States do not possess the powers of external sovereignty, such as the right to deport undesirable persons....." and yet they allow tribes to practice this every day in the name of "sovereignty".......

And finally, the United States spends millions of dollars every year defending the civil rights of it's citizens......isn't the United States sovereign? How is it that it's sovereignty isn't threatened by enforcing it's citizens civil rights and yet the United States hasn't spent a single dollar to defend our Native American civil rights......

How does being a sovereign nation give you the right to deport undesirable citizens (as in banishment or disenrollments) or give you the right to violate the human rights of your own citizens? Why are our civil rights less important than the individual in China? Why do they continue to turn a blind eye to the civil and human rights violations happening in this country? Why don't they protect our rights? Perhaps we just are not prominent enough!!!! Snoqualmie9

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments. Didn't Germany have a right to imprison Jews? Or South Africa a right to keep Blacks separate or give partial rights to colored?

Didn't we stand up for Jews and Black South Africans?

Anonymous said...

looks like you gotta protest the BIA office.

Anonymous said...

Federal Government only upholds tribal government which in MOST cases go against the direct will of the tribe. There is no current justice in Indian country for any Native American citizens as long as tribal governments refuse to acknowledge rights of the people. This may pertain to enrollment issues now, but if the tribal citizens rights are being denied here where will it end. All Native Americans must stand up for their rights before they lose them all.

Anonymous said...


stand your ground said...

Don't trust Echo Hawke to do the right thing and get involved with other tribes who did the same Evil.
The Black Caucus is pressuring and that is the ONLY reason he is sort of speaking out.
I fit where not for them and the power they hold he would do NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

Great comments. We must stand up for all Native Americans whose civil rights are being violated. We need a change in the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 to include enforcement of these rights. Right now a tribe can just ignor these as there is nothing an individual can do, even if they take a tribe to court and win the tribe can just ignor a Federal Court order....look at the Snoqualmie people.

Anonymous said...

When you have tribes that don't follow their own constitution, you have anarchy, such as Pechanga.