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Cherokee chief wants to sue BIA over constitution

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith is asking the tribal council for authorization to sue the Bureau of Indian Affairs for failing to approve the tribe's constitution.

Smith accuses the BIA of treating the tribe like a "stepchild." A council member who proposed the lawsuit says the BIA needs to give the tribe an answer one way or the other. The council, however, voted to postpone the issue.

The constitution, approved by Cherokee voters, eliminates the need for future BIA approval of constitutional changes. But because Cherokee Freedmen may have been denied a chance to vote, the BIA held back approval in 2003, with the main objection coming from Jeanette Hanna, the BIA's director for the Eastern Oklahoma region.

Hanna is now backing the constitution, The Oklahoman reported. She said she sent her recommendation to the BIA's central office in July 2004, and it's been waiting there ever since.

Get the Story:
Cherokees postpone filing suit against U.S. (The Oklahoman 2/14)

Relevant Documents:
Jeanette Hanna Letter (July 11, 2003)| Chad Smith to Jeannette Hanna (July 14, 2003) | Chad Smith to Gale Norton (July 14, 2003) | Jeanette Hanna Letter (July 25, 2003) | Hastings Shade Letter (August 5, 2003)

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

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Freedmen descendants shut out of Cherokee Nation (11/22)
Ex-Cherokee councilors fined for Freedmen support (08/23)
Cherokee Nation seeks role in Freedmen lawsuit (02/21)
Cherokee Freedmen caught in high-level dispute (8/20)
Cherokee Nation chief sworn in for another term (8/15)
Cherokee Freedmen sue BIA for disenfranchisement (8/12)