TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) An Oklahoma Indian tribe has taken the federal government to court in a dispute over $800,000 in housing funds.
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees filed a lawsuit on December 8th after the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denied an earlier appeal.
HUD informed the United Keetoowah Band in February that the Cherokee Nation opposed the allocation because of a question about geographic jurisdictional area.
Both tribes claim the same 14-county jurisdictional area, but the Keetoowahs are considered a landless tribe, although they own land purchased after receiving federal recognition in the 1950s.
Assistant HUD Secretary Orlando Cabrera told Keetoowah Chief George Wickliffe in a November 3rd letter that the tribe had lost its appeal because it failed to meet HUD's qualifications for a formula area.
``The denial was based upon the jurisdictional problems and the potential conflicts of land use that would arise if both tribes could assert jurisdiction over the same land,'' he said.
The money in question comes from federal Indian Housing Block Grant or Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act funds that HUD allocates to tribes.
James McMillen, the Keetoowahs' counsel, said HUD rules stipulate that Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act funds are for federally recognized tribes, of which the Keetoowah Band is one.
McMillen said in the filing that Cabrera's actions are capricious and arbitrary and violate the Indian housing self-determination act, which does not outline jurisdiction as necessary for a tribe to exercise housing services.
Wickliffe, the Keetoowah chief, said a court examination of HUD regulations should validate the Keetoowahs' right to providing tribal housing assistance to qualifying citizens.
``Taxpayers should question why (the Cherokee Nation) leadership is fighting so hard to take away half a million in federal funds from such a small tribe while they receive $30 million in HUD monies,'' he said.
Cherokee officials said HUD fairly interpreted its rules and appropriately denied the funds.
``The decision is sound one, in short, because the (United Keetoowah Band of Cherokees) has never had treaties or trust land in the past and to this day,'' Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller said.
``NAHASDA funds are designed for tribes who exercise jurisdiction over Indian land.''