your internet resource on facebook on twitter on Google+ on soundcloud
phone: 202 630 8439
Health Coverage for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Advertise on Indianz.Com
Home > News > Headlines
Print   Subscribe
Bush administration questions Cherokees on Freedmen
Thursday, September 7, 2006

The Bush administration is again questioning whether the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma excluded the Freedmen from participating in the tribe.

In an August 30 letter, associate deputy Interior secretary Jim Cason said African-American descendants may have been wrongly denied a vote in a recent tribal election. He told Cherokee Chief Chad Smith that the rights of the Freedmen should be addressed in light of pending amendments to the tribal constitution.

The constitution was approved by Cherokee citizens in 2003. It was submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for federal review but officials questioned why the Freedmen, descendants of African slaves, were denied a vote.

At the time, Smith threatened to bring a prominent delegation of Cherokee officials, including former chief Wilma Mankiller, to Washington if the constitution wasn't approved. He sought high-level intervention because he claimed a regional official in Oklahoma showed a "patronizing and very paternalistic" attitude towards the tribe.

Three years later, Smith dropped his campaign. He said a decision from the Cherokee Nation's top court gave the tribe the ability to change its constitution "without interference from outsiders."

But in the letter, Cason refuted Smith's interpretation and said the new constitution has not received federal approval. He cited a different tribal court decision that required the Cherokee Nation to accept the Freedmen as citizens.

"The Allen decision suggests that not all persons who were entitled to membership in the nation were considered eligible to vote in the 2003 elections, which purported to adopt the constitutional amendments," Cason wrote, referring to the Freedmen ruling.

Cason's letter is significant because the BIA would have to reject the constitution if the Freedmen weren't allowed to vote. The agency was prepared to take that step until Smith, back in the summer of 2003, sought the help of former deputy Interior secretary J. Steven Griles, who was Cason's boss.

There isn't anything in the record to indicate Griles did anything to help the tribe. But Smith claims that former assistant secretary Neal McCaleb, a member of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, approved the tribal constitution.

Cason, however, said that wasn't the case either. "While we can appreciate Mr. McCaleb clarifying what he intended, his stated intention is not an adequate substitute for the necessary action of actual approval," the letter reads.

The Chickasaws also have Freedmen citizens, though not as many as the Cherokees.

The issue is crucial because the 2003 constitution would eliminate the need to submit future amendments to the BIA. The tribe could permanently block Freedmen from citizenship without recourse from federal agencies.

The Seminole Nation tried to do that with its constitution. But the BIA forced the tribe to accept its Freedmen after cutting all federal funds.

The BIA regional office in eastern Oklahoma was taking the same position on the Cherokee constitution before Smith took his complaints to Washington, where Ross Swimmer, a Cherokee citizen, holds one of the highest offices at the Interior Department.

Advocates for the Freedmen say Swimmer, when he served as chief in the late 1970s and early 1980s, also tried to keep the Freedmen from participating in the tribe.

Since the Allen decision this past March, more than 1,000 Freedmen have regained citizenship in the tribe. But some tribal members are circulating a petition to change the constitution to block the Freedmen.

The constitution does not contain a blood quantum requirement and membership is open to Cherokee, Delaware, Shawnee or Freedmen descendants whose ancestors appeared on the Dawes Roll. Smith and others have called for the Cherokees to be an "Indian" nation, by blood.

Cason Letter:
Cherokee Nation Constitution (August 30, 2006)

Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal Decision in Freedmen Case:
Allen v. Cherokee Nation (March 7, 2006)

Relevant Links:
Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes -
Freedmen Conference -

Related Stories:
Petition to oust Cherokee Freedmen submitted (08/15)
Petition seeks vote on ousting Cherokee Freedmen (07/31)
Cherokee Nation to vote on blood quantum change (6/13)
Cherokee Nation council debates blood quantum (6/12)
Cherokee Nation's top court approves constitution (6/9)
Cherokee committee approves membership proposal (05/16)
About 800 Cherokee Freedmen enrolled since decision (05/01)
Cherokee chief sued over vacant legal position (04/13)
Cherokee chief criticized for stance on Freedmen (4/6)
Two Creek Freedmen apply for citizenship after ruling (03/22)
Creek Freedmen see opening in citizenship dispute (3/21)
Cherokee chief calls for an 'Indian' Nation by blood (3/20)
Cherokee chief criticized for stance on Freedmen (3/17)
Cherokee chief wants Freedmen out of tribe (3/15)
Editorial: Victory long overdue for Cherokee Freedmen (3/10)
Cherokee Nation to enroll Freedmen descendants (3/9)
Cherokee Freedmen win tribal citizenship lawsuit (3/8)
Cherokee chief wants to sue BIA over constitution (02/15)
Freedmen descendants shut out of Cherokee Nation (11/22)
Trial concludes in Freedmen membership case (09/15)
DNA tests being used to bolster Indian heritage claims (08/30)
Ex-Cherokee councilors fined for Freedmen support (08/23)
Freedmen descendants use DNA to show Indian blood (06/03)
Column: Civilized Tribes owe reparations to slaves (03/11)
Cherokee Nation seeks role in Freedmen lawsuit (02/21)
Cherokee leaders blast Coburn for 'divisive' remarks (9/17)
Cherokee Freedmen caught in high-level dispute (8/20)
Cherokee Nation chief sworn in for another term (8/15)
Seminole Freedmen rebuffed by Supreme Court (06/29)
Cherokee Freedmen sue BIA for disenfranchisement (8/12)
Court tackles Seminole dispute (9/24)
The Seminole Nation's hanging chad (8/8)
Resolution of Seminole dispute sought in court (5/28)
Court decision rocks Seminole Nation (5/8)
Seminole's Chief Haney restored to power (5/7)
Black Seminole appeal planned (5/1)
Black Seminoles dealt setback (4/30)
Opinion: Seminole Nation always black (4/22)
A fight over funds, race (4/4)
Seminole Head Start funds OKed (2/6)
Seminole changes sought again (1/16)
Ousted Seminole leader sues tribe, BIA (12/14)
Black Seminole issue still divisive (10/29)
Suspended Seminole Chief to sue (6/27)
Seminole Chief Haney suspended (6/26)
Race part of Seminole dispute (1/29)
Seminole voters approve changes (7/7)
Seminole vote may affect Freedmen (7/7)

Copyright 2000-2006 Indianz.Com
More headlines...
Stay Connected:
On Facebook

On Twitter

On Google+

On SoundCloud
Local Links:
Federal Register | Indian Gaming | Jobs & Notices | In The Hoop | Message Board
Latest News:
Indigenous activists reclaim nation's capital in defiance of Trump (4/28)
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe ends appeal in Dakota Access lawsuit (4/28)
Ute Tribe demands 'voice' as Trump orders review of Bears Ears (4/28)
Senate panel takes up bill to bring AMBER Alert funding to tribes (4/28)
Gun Lake Tribe prepares for grand opening of casino expansion (4/28)
Arne Vainio: We lost a fluent Ojibwe speaker in Larry Smallwood (4/28)
Native Sun News Today: Runners from Standing Rock head to Ohio (4/28)
James Giago Davies: People tell me it's better to read about pets (4/28)
Harold Monteau: Supreme Court stirs smelly pot of fish head stew (4/28)
Steven Newcomb: 'Picking Fights' book is a must-read for Natives (4/28)
Whiteclay liquor stores must close temporarily amid court battle (4/28)
Disputed leaders of Nooksack Tribe hit by Supreme Court decision (4/27)
Indigenous activists make presence known for climate march in DC (4/27)
Interior Department announces $5.7M in tribal preservation grants (4/27)
Mark Trahant: Senate candidate cites Standing Rock as 'awakening' (4/27)
Native Sun News Today: Battle over Whiteclay liquor just beginning (4/27)
Ivan Star Comes Out: Why are we still dealing with racism today? (4/27)
Albert Bender: Navajo family still waiting on justice for loved one (4/27)
Whiteclay liquor stores win surprise court ruling on liquor licenses (4/27)
Dakota Access firm faces fines for two spills of drilling fluid in Ohio (4/27)
Gathering of Nations gets ready for annual powwow in new venue (4/27)
Secretary Zinke lacks leadership team more than a month into job (4/27)
Republicans seek to avoid shutdown with temporary spending bill (4/27)
Supreme Court ruling seen as benefit to casino bus crash lawsuit (4/27)
Mashantucket Tribe charges off-duty officer for assault at casino (4/27)
Trump singles out Bears Ears as an 'abuse' of government's power (4/26)
Doug George-Kanentiio: Let's call Columbus by what he truly was (4/26)
Native Sun News Today: Lakota youth set up beekeeping business (4/26)
Cronkite News: Trump seeks to hire thousands of border officers (4/26)
Doug Pibel: New film teaches us about value of indigenous seeds (4/26)
Jenn Weddle: 'Best possible result' from court in sovereignty case (4/26)
Peter d'Errico: Oneida architect offers indigenous approach to law (4/26)
Whiteclay liquor stores aim to stay open pending fight for licenses (4/26)
Support for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leads to recall in Alaska city (4/26)
Mishewal Wappo Tribe loses appeal in federal recognition lawsuit (4/26)
Police use tear gas & rubber bullets at indigenous protest in Brazil (4/26)
Mohegan Tribe wants gaming disputes resolved in judicial system (4/26)
more headlines...

Home | Arts & Entertainment | Business | Canada | Cobell Lawsuit | Education | Environment | Federal Recognition | Federal Register | Forum | Health | Humor | Indian Gaming | Indian Trust | Jack Abramoff Scandal | Jobs & Notices | Law | National | News | Opinion | Politics | Sports | Technology | World

Indianz.Com Terms of Service | Indianz.Com Privacy Policy
About Indianz.Com | Advertise on Indianz.Com

Indianz.Com is a product of Noble Savage Media, LLC and Ho-Chunk, Inc.