TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) _ The Cherokee Nation plans to abide by a tribal court ruling that allowed it to remove the Bureau of Indian Affairs' authority to approve changes to the tribal constitution, Principal Chief Chad Smith said Monday.
In a letter dated Monday to Smith, Carl J. Artmann, assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, wrote that after a thorough analysis, Interior Department officials had decided to reject a 2003 amendment to the Cherokee constitution that would remove the requirement that the Interior Secretary approve all amendments for them to be effective.
``I do not make the decision to disapprove the 2003 amendment lightly,'' Artmann wrote in the letter. ``I recognize the Cherokee Nation as a sovereign nation capable of managing its government without oversight of the federal government. I also recognize that the United States 1866 treatment with the Cherokee Nation was somewhat unusual in its requirement that the Cherokee Nation recognize the rights of the individual freedmen in exchange for amnesty and the continuation of the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the (Cherokee) Nation.''
Artmann went on to say in the letter that he was concerned that approving the 2003 amendment now ``would be used by some as a validation or evidence of legitimacy of the Cherokee Nation's removal of its Freedmen members from the tribe in apparent violation of the 1866 treaty.''
In a statement, Smith said the tribe wasn't seeking approval from the BIA of the amendment and said the Cherokee Supreme Court had ruled that the tribe could take away the approval authority it had granted the federal government.
``If the BIA had its way, the Cherokee Nation cannot even amend our own constitution,'' This is contrary to federal policy and court decisions handed down time after time over the last 30 years.
``It is insulting and wrong, and we will take all appropriate step to defend our nationhood and right to self-determination.''