A California congresswoman was in Oklahoma Monday pushing for a bill that would sever ties between the U.S. government and the Cherokee Nation. Congresswoman Diane Watson says the Cherokees should not receive any more funding until the Freedmen, descendents of Cherokee slaves, are once again granted full citizenship.
The issue of Freedmen citizenship is complicated, rooted in a 140 year old treaty. But The News On 6â€™s Chris Wright reports the congresswoman's proposed bill is simple, readmit the Freedmen or lose your funding.
Emotions were on display from both sides during Monday's forum. The Freedmen say their exclusion from the tribe is nothing short of ethic cleansing. The Cherokee's believe Congresswoman Watson's proposed bill is a threat to their way of life.
"Anytime our Cherokee way of life, our Cherokee people are attacked, it's every Cherokee citizenâ€™s responsibility to defend our heritage, by whatever means necessary," Cherokee citizen Don Stroud said.
"There's no way the U.S. can allow these tribes to engage in ethnic cleansing and racism on American soil," said Cherokee Freedmen Verdie Triplett.
Congresswoman Watson, who hails from Los Angeles, California, has sided with the Freedmen. She says the Cherokees, by approving an amendment in March that kicked the Freedmen out of the tribe, violated an 1866 treaty. Her solution to the issue is to stop giving the tribe federal money until the Freedmen are allowed back in.
"They're gonna have to say no, no longer, it's illegal, it's unconstitutional and we're not gonna pay for their mistake," California Representative Diane Watson said.
This isn't a small amount of money at stake. The tribe is awarded roughly $300 million a year, and without it the Cherokees say they will experience nothing short of a social services crisis. Furthermore, they contend that the Freedmen's allegations of racism are unfair.
"If you've been taught who you are, if you teach your children who they are, then you're going to have pride in who you are,â€ said Stroud. â€œIf somebody else decides that's racist I think that's shortcoming on their part."
The congresswoman says even if you do take race out of the equation the Cherokee's still need to make amends. She says they signed that treaty back in 1866, they broke it and they need to make amends shortly.
Watson expects the funding bill to be voted on sometime this fall.
Watch the video: Cutting Off The Cherokee's Funding
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