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Acting Cherokee Nation leader vows to protect tribe's interests

The acting leader of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma says the tribe won't be "governed" by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Acting chief Joe Crittenden struck back at the Obama administration, which has already cut housing funds to the tribe and has warned that an upcoming election might not be valid. At issue are the citizenship rights of the Freedmen, who are the descendants of former African slaves held within the Cherokee Nation.

In a letter, Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk said an 1866 treaty protects the Freedmen. Crittenden didn't directly address the issue but said he will do everything in his power to protect the tribe's rights.

"I am disheartened by the Department of the Interior’s actions, Crittenden said in a statement. "I received no prior notification of the letter, and the federal government did not consult with me before sending their letter. In the future, I will insist on an open and transparent dialogue with the federal government."

"The Cherokee Nation will not be governed by the BIA," Crittenden added. "We will hold our election and continue our long legacy of responsible self-governance."

The tribe is set to vote on September 24 in a make-up election between incumbent Chad Smith and challenger Bill John Baker. The Freedmen have asked a federal judge to ensure they can participate.

Judge Henry Kennedy will hold a hearing in the case on September 20 at 2pm in Courtroom 27A - 6th Floor of the federal court in Washington, D.C. Echo Hawk's letter was filed as part of the lawsuit, Vann v. Salazar.

Get the Story:
US official cautions Cherokees (The Muskogee Phoenix 9/14)
Acting Cherokee chief hopes to resolve freedmen issue so election for new chief can be held (The Oklahoman 9/14)
Issues could delay new Cherokee election date (The Tulsa World 9/14)
New Cherokee principal chief election to be independently observed (The Tulsa World 9/14)

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Decision:
Cherokee Nation Registrar v. Nash (August 22, 2011)

Related Stories:
BIA warns Cherokee Nation about disenrollment of Freedmen (9/13)
Lawmakers want HUD to restore funding to Cherokee Nation (9/12)
HUD won't release funds to Cherokee Nation in Freedmen flap (9/8)
Judge sets hearing on Freedmen motion for Cherokee election (9/6)
Freedmen eye lawsuit in federal court over Cherokee election (8/30)
Freedmen seek appeal for loss of Cherokee Nation citizenship (8/29)
Jay Tavare: Divide and conquer -- disenrollment among tribes (8/25)
Turtle Talk: Tribal courts, treaty rights and treaty rights disputes (8/25)
Cherokee Freedmen lose right to vote in upcoming chief election (8/24)
Decision allows Cherokee Nation to remove Freedmen from rolls (8/23)

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