A group of Cherokee Indians now consider themselves freedom fighters, as they try to get back into the tribe that voted them out. They've won the backing of a member of Congress, who wants to cut off the tribes federal funding, unless they restore the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen. The News On 6â€™s Emory Bryan reports, at stake for the tribe is the right to do what they want, but by excluding the Freedmen they've brought congress into what was a fight in the courts.
On Monday a mixed race, but single minded audience came to hear and ask questions about the idea to financially strangle the Cherokee Nation unless it restores the Cherokee Freedmen to the tribe. Vicki Baker is one of the 2,800 Freedmen who the other Cherokees voted out of the tribe.
â€œIt's important to me about my heritage and for my children to know about their heritage,â€ said Cherokee Freedman Vicki Barker.
U.S. Representative Diane Watson wants the Cherokees to reverse the decision limiting membership to people with a documented Cherokee ancestor. The Freedmen in question were made part of the tribe by treaty.
â€œThe treaty between the United States and the Cherokee Nation says that all of the Freedmen will be taken in and part of the nation with full benefits and services,â€ said California Representative Diane Watson. â€œOnce you take a vote to deny them that you have broken the terms of the treaty.â€
Dozens of speakers supported Watson's effort, though several complained it didn't go far enough. Some brought documents showing their ancestors were once Cherokees, but didn't make it on the official rolls. Some wanted Congress to force the hand of all tribes with Freedmen. The most heated words came from people who wanted a fuller examination of Indian treaties.
The Cherokee Chief, Chad Smith, says the political talk is about race, while the actual issue is tribal sovereignty and the right to decide who is and is not a Cherokee.
â€œThe way to resolve this is through the courts, and letâ€™s see what the courts decide about the 1866 treaty,â€ said Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith.
Representative Watson and Chief Smith have not met face to face to talk over the issue.
The meeting Monday afternoon, and another Monday evening in Muskogee, are not official congressional hearings, and the full congress may not even consider the threat to cut off funding to the Cherokees. But Watson says she'll introduce the legislation sometime next month.
Watch the video: Cherokee Freedmen Battle Continues
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3/13/2007 Black Congressional Leaders Question Legality Of Cherokee Vote
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3/27/2007 Freedmen Fight For Membership Far From Over
3/31/2007 Freedmen Vote Still Being Studied
4/17/2007 Cherokees Approve Money To Defend Freedmen Vote
4/19/2007 Black Lawmaker Eyes Cutting Cherokee Funding Over Ex-Slave Vote
5/11/2007 Freedmen Appealing Cherokee Nation Vote
5/14/2007 Judge Orders Tribe To Temporarily Restore Citizenship Of Freedmen
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