FROM THE ARCHIVE

Black Seminole issue still divisive

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MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2001

For more than a year now, the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma has been without a government recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

That's because former Assistant Secretary Kevin Gover last September refused to accept the validity of the tribe's council after voters and officials moved to strip the Seminole Freedmen of tribal membership. As a result, the BIA may take over much of the tribe's governmental programs.

The Seminole Freedmen are descendants of African slaves. They were officially made citizens of the tribe by a post-Civil War treaty.

Depending on who is consulted, though, the action was a mere recognition of the fact that Africans lived with and alongside the Indian Seminoles since their days in Florida. But that has been disputed by the tribe, which says a $23 million land claim fund can't be used for descendants of African Seminoles.

The dispute raged when last year voters approved a constitution that stripped the Freedmen of tribal membership unless they could show they had at least 1/8th Indian blood. Gover refused to recognize the change, leading the tribe to sue in federal court -- a case the tribe lost.

Adding to the dispute is that the tribe kicked out Chief Jerry Haney, whom the BIA still considers the legitimate leader. And the Freedmen have their own lawsuit against the Interior, seeking full BIA privileges and access to the fund.

60 Minutes II has been preparing a feature on the subject.

Get the Story:
Agency could seize Seminole programs (The Daily Oklahoman 10/27)

Related Stories:
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)