Watson Bill, HR 2824, only compounds the injustice

As readers of this journal know, I have spoken out firmly against the banishment of the Freedmen from Cherokee citizenship, and I believe that racism had a heavy hand in passing that measure last March. But H.R. 2824, Congresswoman Diane Watson’s bill to withdraw federal funds from the tribe, only adds injustice to injustice.

After the Civil War, the Treaty of 1866 promised The Cherokee Nation certain rights, and demanded certain responsibilities, one of which was to take in our former slaves. There is no doubt that chatel slavery is among the most horrendous of conditions one group of humans can afflict upon another. Cherokee plantation owners were also slave owners, and because of this the Cherokee nation owes a debt to the descendants of those slaves, by accepting them into citizenship, as all other slave-owning nations have done.

However, there is also a big difference between the Cherokee Nation and other nations. Like the African slaves, the Cherokees also suffered a terrible tragedy at the hands of an oppressive U.S. government and society.

Is the Cherokee Nation abrogating the Treaty of 1866, as many claim? I don’t know, because I am not a legal expert, but two facts are very clear in my mind. First, the Treaty of 1866 was pushed upon a dispirited and beaten people, who had recently been forced on a journey of death and suffering, known as The Trail of Tears, and who had been further devasted by civil war.

Then, in 1877, the Dawes Act laid the groundwork for the theft of our new tribal lands by greedy white settlers. Let’s be clear, if anyone has broken promises, it is the United States government.

So, now, thanks to a couple of grandstanding politicians (I speak here of Principal Chief Chad Smith and Congresswoman Watson), two oppressed peoples are set upon each other, when we should be building alliances. I would like to remind progressives in Congress and elsewhere that it is white European ideologies and financial interests, and the complicity of the U.S. government, which has brought suffering on my people, as well as African-Americans.

Congresswoman Watson should be demanding that white America take responsibility for its role in this historical tragedy that is still unfolding today. Don’t use this ill-conceived decision by the Cherokee Nation as an excuse to take away programs for our poor. How will that help heal us?

Stacy Leeds on bill to pull Cherokee Nation federal funds

Stacy Leeds blog:

A bill was introduced in Congress today to pull our federal funds, close our casinos, and terminate our federal recognition. It’s truly a sad day for the Cherokee Nation. The rash decisions and inconsistent legal arguments of our current administration bring us to this point.

Will the bill pass? Doubtful.

Does the introduction of the bill matter? Without a doubt.

Following is the text of Stacy Leeds’ statement:

A bill was introduced in Congress today to pull our federal funds, close our casinos, and terminate our federal recognition. It’s truly a sad day for the Cherokee Nation. The rash decisions and inconsistent legal arguments of our current administration bring us to this point.

Will the bill pass? Doubtful.

Does the introduction of the bill matter? Without a doubt.

In addition to this proposed legislation, a federal court case is pending and there is on-going review by the BIA regarding the legality of the March 3rd Special Election. Now all three branches of the United States government are fully engaged in the fall out of our decision to expel a class of tribal citizens.

Why is this happening? The Cherokee people, although certainly possessing the right to redefine citizenship, were not told the whole story by the current administration. The Cherokee people were not fully advised of the legal and political consequences of the special election. Instead, the decision was rushed and public debate and deliberations were suppressed.

Why was the federal bill not introduced earlier? Principal Chief Chad Smith has been in negotiations to delay the introduction of this bill so that it would not be introduced the week before the election. He didn’t want to allow the Cherokee people the opportunity to know the seriousness of our present situation. Instead, he attempted to negotiate some undisclosed deal to keep this out of the media.

My concern is two fold: (1) The Principal Chief does not have the authority to strike a secret “deal” with the Freedmen without discussing it with the Tribal Council; and (2) exactly what were the details of Chief Smith’s “offer” to the Freedmen?

The introduction of the bill was delayed for a week based on the Principal Chief’s promises. What exactly did he promise? How much would his promise cost the Cherokee people?

I will alway support the Cherokee people’s right to make decisions, good or bad. What must end, if we are to be a healthy nation, are the half-truths and secret dealings of our present leadership.
A positive change is just around the corner . . . . vote Saturday June 23rd.

Stacy Leeds blog

Wampum: Chad Smith’s October Surprise…

From Wampum: A rumor started gaining steam yesterday over on John and David Cornsilk’s Cherokee board. Apparently, Chad Smith approached the lawyers for the Freedmen with a deal: Ask Congresswoman Watson to hold off on introducing her anti-Cherokee bill, and he would work to get the Freedmen separate “federal recognition” and gaming operations. Well, the Freedmen bit, and Watson put the bill back in her pocket for seven days.

An interesting article on the Wampum blog. It pretty much represents my opinion of the Chad Smith crowd, and what’s happening with the Cherokee Nation elections:

A rumor started gaining steam yesterday over on John and David Cornsilk’s Cherokee board. Apparently, Chad Smith approached the lawyers for the Freedmen with a deal: Ask Congresswoman Watson to hold off on introducing her anti-Cherokee bill, and he would work to get the Freedmen separate “federal recognition” and gaming operations. Well, the Freedmen bit, and Watson put the bill back in her pocket for seven days.

Of course, those seven days aren’t up until tomorrow, two days before the election, when it will be too late to have an impact on the outcome of the Cherokee election.

Read the rest: Wampum: Chad Smith’s October Surprise…

Cherokee Freedmen restored to membership

This is good news. Now let’s hope the courts make it stick. The Cherokee nation has a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to the descendants of Cherokee Slaves.

This is good news. Now let’s hope the courts make it stick. The Cherokee nation has a moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to the descendants of Cherokee Slaves.

Indianz.Com > News > Cherokee Freedmen restored to membership for now

An excerpt:

The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma has agreed to restore the citizenship rights of 2,700 African descendants pending appeals in the tribal court system.

The temporary injunction will allow the Freedmen to receive tribal services and to vote in a June 23 election. It only applies to a tribal court lawsuit and not to a federal lawsuit.

Also, a more recent article: Indianz.Com > News > Another vote on Cherokee constitution proposed

The council of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma will meet June 6 to consider another vote to amend the tribal constitution.

The tribe’s 1976 constitution requires federal approval for any changes. In 2003, voters approved an amendment to remove the federal review provision.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs on Monday rejected the 2003 amendment. Assistant secretary Carl Artman said he was concerned that the Cherokee Freemen, the descendants of African slaves who were made citizens by an 1866 treaty, weren’t allow to vote in that election.

The opponents of the Freedmen’s citizenship are painting this as a sovereignty issue: The Big Bad BIA vs. The Indians. BS. The motivation is racism. My tribe had African slaves, and we owe them. End of story.

Let’s fight the sovereignty battle on some other ground. This is not the one!

Stacy Leeds and the race for Cherokee Principal Chief

The primary issue of her election campaign to lead the Cherokee Nation, says Stacy Leeds, candidate for Principal Chief, is economic mismanagement. Of the $300 million dollars netted by Cherokee Nation Industries last year, according to Leeds, only 30 percent of the $78 million profit (less than $24 million) goes to support programs of the nation. That is less than 10% of what the CNI calls “after pay-out gross,” the only figure publicly released. This begs the question, How much is payed out to contractors and others before you arrive at the $300 million figure? No one knows, because the tribal administration will not release those figures.

The primary issue of her election campaign to lead the Cherokee Nation, says Stacy Leeds, candidate for Principal Chief, is economic mismanagement. Of the $300 million dollars netted by Cherokee Nation Industries last year, according to Leeds, only 30 percent of the $78 million profit (less than $24 million) goes to support programs of the nation. That is less than 10% of what the CNI calls “after pay-out gross,” the only figure publicly released. This begs the question, How much is payed out to contractors and others before you arrive at the $300 million figure? No one knows, because the tribal administration will not release those figures.

Mismanagement of CNI, says Leeds, could be “an Enron in the making” for the Cherokee people.

I met Stacy Leeds Tuesday evening at the Beaver Creek Cooperative Telephone Company offices in rural Oregon City, along with a half-dozen other members of the local Cherokee community. Stacy is a very warm, unassuming woman, who doesn’t seem to have an ounce of political slickness, and yet she gives the impression of being a very capable leader. For me, this was her biggest attraction, as I’ve been very wary of the corporate patina I see reflected on the Smith-Grayson crowd.

Leeds is a former justice of the Cherokee Supreme Court, the only woman to ever hold that post. She is a tenured professor of law and has held many positions dealing with tribal law, making her an expert in the complex legal issues between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government.

Leeds called the recent vote to expel the Freedmen from the tribe, “the elephant in the room no one is talking about.” The federal government, through the B.I.A., has threatened to cut off federal funds to the tribe. If they do that, she says, the tribe will become insolvent in a matter of weeks, unable to pay tribal employees. When the Seminole Tribe similarly voted to remove their Freedmen from the roles, the Feds cut the tribe off immediately, and it took three years of legal wrangling and kowtowing to get federal funds reinstated. With the Cherokee Nation there are additional threats from a seriously angry Congressional Black Caucus, and from the U.S. courts over the ongoing legality issues of the Cherokee constitution.

I asked Stacy if there wasn’t also a moral issue with the Freedmen: since they are the descendants of the slaves of wealthy Cherokees, doesn’t the tribe have an obligation to recognize them? She agreed, saying that she had voted against the expulsion, and she felt that the Cherokee people had been misled on the issue.

Would the tribe have voted so overwhelmingly to expel the Freedmen if they had understood the moral issues and the economic consequences of doing so? I think probably not.

In addition to her mismanagement charge against the Chad Smith administration, she pointed out that Smith has constantly vetoed such legislation as increasing the minimum wage, health-care benefits for poor Cherokees, and modest bonuses for tribal employees. Six years ago the Tribal Housing Authority was winning awards for its programs, and now, she says, there is no housing program for Cherokee families at all.

She and Deputy Chief candidate Raymond Vann would concentrate their energies on helping out Cherokees in need, putting competent management in charge of Cherokee enterprises, and diversifying the economy of the tribe, which is too dependent on Casino revenue.

It was a pleasure to find a candidate with many admirable qualities. I found in Stacy Leeds a very intelligent leader with the interest of the Cherokee people at her core. A true progressive who I believe will stand up to the corporatization of the Cherokee Nation.

I am very glad I attended this meeting for another reason. I have been feeling isolated as a Cherokee far away from tribal life. To my surprise, I learned that there are several dozen registered tribal voters in the Portland metro area, and many more enrolled citizens as yet not registered to vote. It is very encouraging to me to know that I am not alone.

You can check out more about Stacy Leeds and Raymond Vann at the campaign website: www.stacyleeds.com.

Some other resources:

Putting to a Vote the Question ‘Who Is Cherokee?’

Cherokee Freedmen Protest Cherokee Election