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Opinion
Opinion: Cherokee Nation ignores own treaty


"For years, those of us in Oklahoma government have stood with Native American tribes to protect their sovereignty under treaties with the federal government.

But given Cherokee Nation members’ recent decision to ignore provisions of their own treaty, I wonder how long the rest of us can be expected to defend it.

This month, members of the Cherokee Nation voted overwhelmingly to strip the descendents of former slaves of their place on tribal rolls. The freedmen have been citizens of the Cherokee Nation for more than 140 years thanks to the terms of a treaty signed by the Cherokee Nation in 1866 that admitted former slaves as tribal members.

Now, with one vote, the tribe has essentially said, “Treaties be damned.” Given the history of Native American dealings with the federal government, that stance is unbelievable.

I am very disturbed by the Cherokee Nation vote to oust the freedmen from tribal rolls. I’m disappointed the vote took place at all. We are talking about a very minute percentage of tribal members at a time when the Cherokee Nation is rolling in cash from its casinos and other businesses. Heck, the Cherokee Nation is one of Oklahoma's biggest employers with more than 6,000 people on the payroll.

Yet the tribe still voted to yank people off the rolls, not because of hardship, but … well, I don’t think anyone has a good explanation for their decision."

Get the Story:
Mike Shelton: Freedmen vote may haunt Cherokees in the future (The Muskogee Phoenix 3/12)

Sovereign Immunity Court Decision:
Vann v. Kempthorne (December 19, 2006)

Jim 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:
Cherokee Nation - http://www.cherokee.org
Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes - http://www.freedmen5tribes.com
Freedmen Conference - http://www.freedmenconference.com

Related Stories:
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Column: Cherokee Nation loses moral ground with vote (3/9)
Editorial: Ouster of Freedmen a low point for Cherokees (3/8)
Freedmen to challenge ouster, Cherokee funding (3/7)
Commentary: Cherokee blood spread far and wide (3/7)
Slate: What's so good about being Cherokee? (3/6)
Cherokee Nation kicks out Freedmen descendants (3/5)
Cherokee Nation heads to polls to decide on Freedmen (3/2)
Chad Smith: Cherokee Nation not based on race (3/2)
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Voice of America: Cherokees to vote on Freedmen (2/27)
Judge won't halt Cherokee Freedmen vote (2/22)
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