April 04, 2008

Blacks vs. Cherokees

CBC warns Reid on Cherokee fundsMembers of the Congressional Black Caucus have promised Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) that they will try to block a Native American housing assistance bill if the measure does not include language that prevents the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma from receiving any of the benefits.

The House included such a prohibition in its Indian housing assistance bill passed in September. But the Senate version does not include similar language.

“We are writing to advise you that members of the CBC will not support, and will actively oppose, passage of a [Native American housing assistance] bill that does not include this limitation,” the CBC stated in a letter sent to Reid on March 13.

The dispute between the CBC and the Cherokee Nation arose last year after the tribe amended its constitution to exclude the Freedmen—a group of freed slaves who have been members since the Civil-War era—from tribal membership. Black lawmakers have charged the tribe is ignoring the Treaty of 1886, an agreement the Cherokees signed with the U.S. government that gave tribal citizenship to the Freedmen.

“We must send the unequivocal message to the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma that failure to provide full citizenship rights to the Cherokee Freedmen will have severe consequences,” CBC members wrote Reid.

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