Tag Archives: Obama

Obama: A full partnership with Indian country

http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/33211544.html

By Barack Obama
Story Published: Oct 24, 2008
For 20 months now, I’ve traveled this country, often talking about how the needs of the American people are going unmet by Washington. And the truth is, few have been ignored by Washington for as long as American Indians. Too often, Washington pays lip service to working with tribes while taking a one-size-fits-all approach with tribal communities across the nation.

That will change if I am honored to serve as president of the United States.

My American Indian policy begins with creating a bond between an Obama administration and the tribal nations all across this country. We need more than just a government-to-government relationship; we need a nation-to-nation relationship, and I will make sure that tribal nations have a voice in the White House.

I’ll appoint an American Indian policy adviser to my senior White House staff to work with tribes, and host an annual summit at the White House with tribal leaders to come up with an agenda that works for tribal communities. That’s how we’ll make sure you have a seat at the table when important decisions are being made about your lives, about your nations and about your people. That’ll be a priority when I am president.

Here’s what else we’re going to do. We’re going to end nearly a century of mismanagement of the Indian trusts. We’re going to work together to settle unresolved cases, figure out how the trusts ought to operate and make sure that they’re being managed responsibly – today, tomorrow and always.

Now, I understand the tragic history between the United States and tribal nations. Our government hasn’t always been honest and truthful in our dealings. And we’ve got to acknowledge that if we’re going to move forward in a fair and honest way.

Indian nations have never asked much of the United States – only for what was promised by the treaty obligations made to their forebears. So let me be absolutely clear – I believe treaty commitments are paramount law, and I will fulfill those commitments as president of the United States.

That means working with tribal governments to ensure that all American Indians receive affordable, accessible health care services. That’s why I’ve cosponsored the Indian Health Care Improvement Act in the U.S. Senate, and that’s why I’ve fought to ensure full funding of the IHS so that it has the resources it needs.

It also means guaranteeing a world-class education for all our children. I’ll work with tribal nations to reform No Child Left Behind and create opportunities for tribal citizens to become teachers so you can be free to educate your children the way you know best. We’ll increase funding for tribal colleges. And I will make Native language preservation and education a priority.

To give families in our tribal communities every chance to succeed in a 21st century economy, I will cut taxes for 95 percent of all workers, invest in job training and small business development, and put people back to work rebuilding our crumbling roads, schools and bridges.

And I will never forget the service and sacrifice that generations of American Indians have given to this country. We have to keep our sacred trust with Indian veterans by making sure that no veteran falls into homelessness, and that all our veterans get the benefits and support they have earned.

Let me just close by saying this. I was born to a teenage mother. My father left when I was 2 years old, so I never knew him well. I was raised in Hawaii by a single mother and my grandparents, and we didn’t have a lot of money – we even turned to food stamps at one point just to get by.

Where I grew up, there weren’t many black families. So I know what it feels like to be viewed as an outsider. I know what it’s like to not always have been respected or to have been ignored. I know what it’s like to struggle.

Every president is shaped by his own experience. These have been mine. And so I want you to know that I will never forget you. The American Indians I have met across this country will be on my mind each day that I am in the White House. You deserve a president who is committed to being a full partner with you; to respecting you, honoring you and working with you every day. That is the commitment I will make to you as president of the United States.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is the Democratic candidate for president.

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Another Alaska Native Speaks Out About Palin

Story Published: Sep 26, 2008
Story Updated: Sep 25, 2008
http://www.indiancountrytoday.com/opinion/letters/29766074.html
Unlike Mr. [Ben Nighthorse] Campbell, who remarks that he is Northern Cheyenne, a former senator, and a leader in the McCain campaign, I am an Athabascan Indian, I have lived in Alaska all my life, and I actually know firsthand what Gov. Sarah Palin has done.

Contrary to the former senator’s remarks, Alaska subsistence hunting and fishing issues are not complicated. As the former senator concedes, however, they are deeply “political.” My point exactly: consistently, Sarah Palin has politicized subsistence and sought to advantage urban hunters and fishers over the rural people who actually live a subsistence way of life. It is a stunning hostility, given that subsistence fishing, as one example, consumes a mere 2 percent of all consumptive uses of fish in our state.

Nor are Alaska Native people “divided” on this issue. To the contrary, in the late 1990s Alaska Natives held a special statewide convention in Alaska and overwhelmingly reaffirmed their support for rural subsistence.

Palin cannot dodge her responsibility for continuing lawsuits that her predecessor began. She is against federal agency protection for subsistence. She is against subsistence fishing in many navigable waters that are critical to Native people. She is against subsistence hunting in many areas our Native people depend upon for their survival. She is against subsistence rights that prefer rural users as the federal law favored by Alaska Natives demands over urban users.

It is true that Alaska is disabled by its own constitution from extending rural subsistence rights to state lands and waters. But a governor committed to Alaska Native people would press the federal government to do everything in its power to protect those subsistence rights as broadly as possible on federal lands and waters. Instead, Palin has chosen to attack those rights with lawsuits – and “attack” is indeed the fair word here. How else to characterize Palin’s lawsuit brought to defeat subsistence? And how else to explain Alaska Natives’ overwhelming support for the Obama/Biden ticket?

Sarah Palin has built a solid record opposing subsistence and tribal sovereignty in Alaska. That truth may be inconvenient to the former senator, but that does not change it.

Alaskan Natives Speak Out Against Palin

By Evon Peter
evonpeter@mac.com
9/8/2008

My name is Evon Peter; I am a former Chief of the Neetsaii Gwich’in tribe from Arctic Village, Alaska and the current Executive Director of Native Movement. My organization provides culturally based leadership development through offices in Alaska and Arizona. My wife, who is Navajo, and I have been based out of Flagstaff, Arizona for the past few years, although I travel home to Alaska in support of our initiatives there as well. It is interesting to me that my wife and I find ourselves as Indigenous people from the two states where McCain and Palin originate in their leadership.

I am writing this letter to raise awareness about the ongoing colonization and violation of human rights being carried out against Alaska Native peoples in the name of unsustainable progress, with a particular emphasis on the role of Sarah Palin and the Republican leadership. My hope is that it helps to elevate truth about the nature of Alaskan politics in relation to Alaska Native peoples and that it lays a framework for our path to justice.

Ever since the Russian claim to Alaska and the subsequent sale to the United States through the Treaty of Cession in 1867, the attitude and treatment towards Alaska Native peoples has been fairly consistent. We were initially referred to as less than human “uncivilized tribes”, so we were excluded from any dialogues and decisions regarding our lands, lives, and status. The dominating attitude within the Unites States at the time was called Manifest Destiny; that God had given Americans this great land to take from the Indians because they were non-Christian and incapable of self-government. Over the years since that time, this framework for relating to Alaska Native peoples has become entrenched in the United States legislative and legal systems in an ongoing direct violation of our human rights.

What does this mean? Allow me to share an analogy. If a group of people were to arrive in your city and tell you their people had made laws, among which were:

1. What were once your home and land now belong to them (although you could live in the garage or backyard)

2. Forced you to send your children to boarding schools to learn their language and be acculturated into their ways with leaders who touted “Kill the American, save the man” (based on the original statement made by US Captain Richard H. Pratt in regards to Native American education “Kill the Indian, save the man.”)

3. Supported missionaries and government agents to forcefully (for example, with poisons placed on the tongues of your children and withheld vaccines) convince you that your Jesus, Buddha, Torah, or Mohammed was actually an agent of evil and that salvation in the afterlife could only be found through believing otherwise

4. Made it illegal for you to continue to do your job to support your family, except under strict oversight and through extensive regulation

5. Made it illegal for you to own any land or run a business as an individual and did not allow you to participate in any form of their government, which controlled your life (voting or otherwise)

How would this make you feel? What if you also knew that if you were to retaliate, that you would be swiftly killed or incarcerated? How long do you think it would take for you to forget or would you be sure to share this history with your children with the hope that justice could one day prevail for your descendents? And most importantly to our conversation, how American does this sound to you?

To put this into perspective, my grandfather who helped to raise me in Arctic Village was born in 1904, just thirty-seven years after the United States laid claim to Alaska. If my grandfather had unjustly stolen your grandfathers home and I was still living in the house and watching you live outdoors, would you feel a change was in order? Congress unilaterally passed most of the major US legislation that affect our people in my grandfathers’ lifetime. There has never been a Treaty between Alaska Native Peoples and the United States over these injustices. Each time that Alaska Native people stand up for our rights, the US responds with token shifts in its laws and policies to appease the building discontent, yet avoiding the underlying injustice that I believe can be resolved if leadership in the United States would be willing to acknowledge the underlying injustice of its control over Alaska Native peoples, our lands, and our ways of life.

United States legal history in relation to Alaska Natives has been based on one major platform – minimize the potential for Alaska Native people to regain control of their lives, lands, and resources and maximize benefit to the Unites States government and its corporations. While the rest of the world, following World War II, was seeking to return African and European Nations to their rightful owners, the United States pushed in the opposite direction by pulling the then Territory of Alaska out of the United Nations dialogues and pushing for Statehood into the Union. Why is it that Alaska Native Nations are still perceived as being incapable of governing our own lands, lives, and resources differently than African, Asian, and European nations?

Let me get specific about what is at stake and how this relates to Palin and the Republican leadership in Alaska and across this country. To this day, Alaska Native peoples are among the only Indigenous peoples in all of North America whose Indigenous Hunting and Fishing Rights have been extinguished by federal legislation and yet we are the most dependent people on this way of life. Most of our villages have no roads that connect them to cities; many live with poverty level incomes, and all rely to varying degrees on traditional hunting, fishing, and harvesting for survival. This has become known as the debate on Alaska Native Subsistence.

As Alaska Governor, Palin has continued the path of her predecessor Frank Murkowski in challenging attempts by Alaska Native people to regain their human right to their traditional way of life through subsistence.

The same piece of unilateral federal legislation, known as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971, that extinguished our hunting and fishing rights, also extinguished all federal Alaska Native land claims and my Tribe’s reservation status. In the continental United States, this sort of legislation is referred to as ‘termination legislation’ because it takes the rights of self-government away from Tribes. It is based in the same age-old idea that we are not capable of governing our people, lands, and resources. To justify these terminations, ANCSA also created Alaska Native led forprofit corporations (which were provided the remaining lands not taken by the government and a one time payment the equivalent of about 1/20th of the annual profits made by corporations in Alaska each year) with a mission of exploiting the land in partnership with the US government and outside corporations. It was a brilliant piece of legislation for the legal termination and cultural assimilation of Alaska Natives under the guise of progress.

Since the passage of ANCSA, political leaders in Alaska, with a few exceptions, have maintained that, as stated by indicted Senator Ted Stevens, “Tribes have never existed in Alaska.” They maintain this position out of fear that the real injustice being carried out upon Alaska Natives may break into mainstream awareness and lead to a re-opening of due treaty dialogues between Alaska Native leaders and the federal government. At the same time the federal government chose to list Alaska Native tribes in the list of federally recognized tribes in 1993. Governor Palin maintains that tribes were federally recognized but that they do not have the same rights as the tribes in the continental United States to sovereignty and self-governance, even to the extent of legally challenging our Tribes rights pursuant to the Indian Child Welfare Act. What good are governments that can’t make decisions concerning their own land and people?

The colonial mentality in and towards Alaska is to exploit the land and resources for profits and power, at the expense of Alaska Native people. Governor Palin reflects this attitude and perspective in her words and leadership. She comes from an area within Alaska that was settled by relocated agricultural families from the continental United States in the second half of the last century. It is striking that a leader from that particular area feels she has a right, considering all of the injustices to Alaska Native people, to offer Alaskan oil and resources in an attempt to solve the national energy crisis at the Republican Convention. Palin also chose not to mention the connection between oil development and global warming, which is wreaking havoc on Alaska Native villages, forcing some to begin the process of relocation at a cost sure to reach into the hundreds of millions.

Our tribes depend on healthy and abundant land and animals for our survival. For example, my people depend on the Porcupine Caribou herd, which migrates into the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge each spring to birth their young. Any disruption and contamination will directly impact the health and capacity for my people to continue to live in a homeland we have been blessed to live in for over 10,000 years.

This is the sacrifice Palin offered to the nation. The worst part of it is that there are viable alternatives to addressing the energy crisis in the United States, yet Palin chooses options that very well may result in the extinguishment of some of the last remaining intact ecosystems and original cultures in all of North America. Palin is also promoting off shore oil drilling and increased mining in sensitive areas of Alaska, all of which would have a lifespan of far fewer years than my grandfather walked on this earth and which would not even make a smidgen of an impact on national consumption rates or longer term sustainability. McCain was once a champion of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and it is sad to see, that with Palin on board, he is no longer vocal and perhaps even giving up on what he believes in to satisfy Palin’s position.

While I have much more to say, this is my current offering to elevate the conversation about what is at stake in Alaska and for Alaska Native peoples. Please share this offering with others and help us to make this an election that brings out honest dialogue. We have an opportunity to bring lasting change, but only if we can be open to hearing the truth about our situations and facing the challenges that arise.

Many thanks to all those who are taking stands for a just and sustainable future for all of our future generations,

*This essay is a personal reflection and should not be attributed to my tribe or organization

McCain-Palin? No, thank you!

FIRST AMERICANS TAKE A PASS ON THE MCCAIN- PALIN TICKET; TRIBAL LEADERS RESPOND TO ABRAMOFF CRONY FUNDRAISING FOR MCCAIN
Reed Fundraiser Today Follows Pattern of McCain Putting the Special Interests Ahead of the Native American Community
Chicago, IL– Today, leaders in tribal communities responded to Senator John McCain’s decision to accept fundraising help from Jack Abramoff crony Ralph Reed.  Later today, Ralph Reed, who has close ties to corrupt Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, is scheduled to host a fundraiser for Senator John McCain in Atlanta, GA.  Reed, on behalf of a firm, received more than $5 million from Abramoff, now serving a six-year prison term for his corrupt activities defrauding Indian tribes and others.  
“John McCain’s decision to cozy up to one of the central figures in the Republican culture of corruption shows how far he is willing to go to win,” said Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. “Despite all of his rhetoric about reform, McCain’s willingness to accept money raised by tainted Abramoff cronies like Ralph Reed shows that McCain simply cannot be trusted to bring change to Washington politics.”
Many in the Native American community expressed dismay at McCain’s decision to work closely with Reed as well.  “I’m not sure how he justifies this in his own mind.  After all, McCain more than most understands that Reed profited and supported Abramoff’s defrauding activities which devastated numerous tribes – devastation that they are still reeling from. I think for a lot of Native people, this will send a loud and clear message that Senator McCain is not on our side,” said Suzan Harjo, President of the Morning Star Institute and former Executive Director of the National Congress of American Indians. 
Jonathan Windy Boy of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe of Rocky Boy Reservation in Montana said, “I think a lot of people in Indian Country, with increased frequency over the last couple of years have asked ‘who is this John McCain?’  It’s not the same guy we thought we knew.  Abramoff hurt all of Indian Country and because of the scandal, we were often locked out of the political process since. It doesn’t make sense to me that you can claim to be for tribes and associate yourself with those who defrauded us.”  
“It is profoundly disturbing and it adds insult to injury that McCain has refused to accept tribal contributions but has actively sought out contributions from those who lobby on behalf of tribes,” added Wizi Garriott, Obama campaign First Americans Director.  “Senator McCain has it 100% backwards.  The Abramoff scandal happened with the willing participation of men like Ralph Reed, and tribes were the victims.  Yet he locks out tribes from supporting him and at the same time actively seeks the support of Washington lobbyist and men like Reed.  Senator Obama doesn’t take a dime from Washington lobbyists.  This just further shows that the Obama campaign is about people at the grassroots – not the special interests.”
Garriott added:  “Senator Obama has a comprehensive plan to strengthen our tribal communities and make this campaign about bringing all people into the process.  Senator Obama understands that when we reject the old politics of lobbyist money and special interests running the show, we can bring positive change and break the cycle of partisan ideology.  American Indians are painfully aware of the need for change. Tribes have experienced firsthand the lack of progress under prior administrations, but together we can bring the kind of change we need in our tribal communities and across the country.”
See more about Obama’s Tribal Communities plan here: http://tribes.barackobama.com/page/content/firstamshome

The candidate I support is:
 
–The candidate who has been endorsed by both Principal Chief Chad Smith and Former Chief Wilma Mankiller.

–The only candidate whose campaign includes Native American advisers; specifically a Native American Outreach Coordinator and a 30-member Tribal Steering Committee comprised of tribal leaders from across the nation.
–The only candidate who has plans to include a Native American as part of the Presidential cabinet.
–The only candidate whose website has direct and obvious links to information and specific plans for the Native American community.
–The only candidate who consistently makes reference to and speaks directly to Native Americans during campaign speeches.
–The only candidate whose campaign with literature specifically for the Native American community.
–The only candidate whose autobiography expresses concern for the Native American community and tribal sovereignty.
–The candidate who met with leaders of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation in the infancy of his campaign, to listen to their concerns and discuss improvements to the community going forward.
–The candidate who is an original co-sponsor of specific amendments to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, and who called for passage of the act that has been stalled in congress for 14-years.

I support Barack Obama.

BIA Pressed on Freedmen Status

CRITICS OF CHEROKEES
U.S. Reps. Diane Watson: As part of the effort to build a record that could lead to a hearing, they have laid out a series of questions in a letter concerning the status of the freedmen and the tribe.

By JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
7/6/2008
Last Modified: 7/6/2008 4:34 AM

A congressional hearing is apparently the goal.WASHINGTON — Congressional critics of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma continue to press a federal agency concerning the status of the descendants of the tribe’s freedmen.

One of their major goals apparently is to force the controversial issue before a congressional hearing.

The Cherokee Nation believes such a hearing should be viewed as “blatant interference” by lawmakers if it is scheduled before pending litigation is resolved.

As part of their effort to build a record that could lead to a hearing, U.S. Reps. Diane Watson, D-Calif., the most vocal critic of the Cherokee Nation in Congress, and John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, laid out a series of questions concerning the status of the freedmen and the tribe in a letter to George Skibine. Skibine is the acting head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Their questions range from the legal status of the freedmen and the processing of citizenship applications to the BIA’s actions to protect freedmen’s rights and the federal government’s take on the Cherokee constitution.

Noting a March meeting with Skibine’s predecessor, Carl Artman, the two lawmakers cite complaints they had passed on then that the BIA had failed to take action to protect rights of the freedmen, former slaves of Cherokees.

Watson and Conyers’ letter was dated June 3, but a copy was released several days ago.

It followed a May 22 letter from Artman to them and two other key lawmakers who also were at the meeting.

In his letter, Artman, who has since left office, told the lawmakers the BIA will not take further action on the long-running freedmen controversy until the litigation is resolved.

A group of freedmen filed the lawsuit challenging a vote by the Cherokee Nation to remove freedmen descendants from tribal rolls.

Watson, who believes the Cherokee Nation would be in violation of an 1866 treaty if it expels the freedmen, made it clear she was not satisfied with Artman’s response.

When asked about the letter to Skibine, Watson aide Bert Hammond said the lawmakers wanted more responses from the BIA in writing so a record could be established.

Hammond said that could lead to a congressional hearing.

The BIA did not respond to a request for a comment on the letter from Watson and Conyers.

In a written statement, the Cherokee Nation expressed opposition to scheduling a hearing before the litigation is resolved.

“With all due respect to the prerogatives of members of Congress, it is clear that a hearing would be a blatant interference by politicians in the litigation on these very issues currently in the federal and tribal courts,” tribe spokesman Mike Miller said.

“No matter what your opinion is on the merits, it would be inappropriate to have a hearing before the courts decide.”

Still, the tribe backed the effort to provide additional information to lawmakers.

“We think the more information that members of Congress have, the clearer it will be that the Cherokee Nation’s actions have been consistent with our treaty obligations, our constitution, and federal and tribal laws and court decisions,” Miller said.

He expressed hope that lawmakers also come to realize that Congress already has passed laws in 1902 and 1906 to remove freedmen descendants as citizens of the Cherokee Nation.

Miller said the tribe is now in the position of being forced into giving non-Indian freedmen something that Congress took away more than 100 years ago.

“We also hope they understand that cutting our federal funding will take away health care, housing and education assistance for thousands of low-income Indians and non-Indian freedmen descendants who have temporarily reinstated in the tribe,” he said.

Watson and others have pushed legislation designed to withhold federal funds as a way to force the tribe to drop its efforts on the freedmen.

A potential impasse on that issue may put at risk a housing bill supported by tribes across the country.

——————————————————————————–

Jim Myers (202) 484-1424
jim.myers@tulsaworld.com

King: Race, Affiliation, and Sovereignty ’08

King: Race, affiliation and sovereignty ’08       
Posted: June 24, 2008
by: Keegan King
Race has been and will continue to be an issue in this year’s national elections. But now it seems that tribal affiliation can be added to the list of candidate policy positions. It was recently reported that Sen. Barack Obama attempted to clarify his position on the rights and affiliation of Cherokee freedmen. Freedmen, the descendants of mixed Indian and freed African people, have filed an injunction to prohibit the Cherokee tribe from ousting them from tribal rolls.Sen. Obama made it clear that in the dispute between the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee freedmen, he supports the tribe’s right to determine tribal affiliation. He also said that he did not agree with the decision, but ”tribal sovereignty must mean that the place to resolve intertribal disputes is the tribe itself.” This is just the latest iteration of a storied battle for tribal self-determination within the Cherokee Nation. The conflict resulted from the Congressional Black Caucus attempting to get presumptive Democratic nominee Obama to support their efforts to prohibit the Cherokee Nation from disenrolling freedmen by withholding treaty obligations.

House Bill 2824, a bill that seeks to ”sever United States’ government relations with the Cherokee Nation” until full tribal citizenship is restored to Cherokee freedmen, was introduced in 2007. Supported by 35 members of the CBC, H.R. 2824 was a reaction to Cherokee freedmen’s appeals to U.S. lawmakers to weigh in on their removal from the Cherokee tribal roll. This new conflict over tribal sovereignty and what it means to be part of a tribe finds its roots in the relocation and allotment policies of the 19th century.

During the mid-1800s, the Cherokee people were forcibly removed from their homelands in the Southeastern U.S. in what is known as the Trail of Tears. Their expulsion to reservation territory in Oklahoma was a policy implemented to make land available in the East for European settlers. During the removal, the Civil War was raging and several tribes had sided with either Confederate or Union forces. New treaties were forged between the U.S. government and newly relocated tribes during Reconstruction. And tribes that had kept African slaves up until then were forced to free them. With the freeing of slaves, who had been deeply involved in the culture of traditional Cherokee life and who spoke the language, there were many marital unions formed between Cherokees and blacks.

As it had been for hundreds of years, the Cherokee accepted these new in-laws and children of mixed heritage as full members of the tribe regardless of the foreign concept of ”race.” Formalized through treaty documents, the self-determination of tribes in matters of enrollment were left to the tribal governments. During this time, Cherokee ”freedmen” became prominent business owners and leaders within the tribe. The age-old system of adoption and cultural inclusion was successful and functioned as it always had.

But as Indian policy morphed from removal to assimilation, the U.S. government introduced a new paradigm – blood quantum. Quantum was an attempt to influence tribal self-determination. By and large, the tribes had been fairly homogeneous; and in cases like that of the freedmen, the Cherokee Nation had accepted outsiders that had already been initiated into tribal culture. But by introducing this new concept of race, a system based solely upon ancestry, the U.S. government had devised a way to whittle down the tribes and their subsequent obligations to them over time.

Faced with what appeared to be an arbitrary requirement, the tribes adopted blood quantum requirements. And at the time, many tribes required that individuals have one-quarter or one-half ”Indian blood” to be a tribal member. In this way, the criteria for tribal enrollment came to be based solely on ancestry.

The fallacy of blood quantum has had tremendous repercussions over the last century. In many ways, it has divided tribes and created a class system where a person’s degree of ”Indian blood” is what determines their status in a community. Before quantum, tribal members were accepted based on their willingness to sacrifice for and support the tribe and leaders were chosen because of their values and character rather than racial purity.

Due in no small part to the assimilation policy of blood quantum, the Cherokee Nation first started discussing whether Cherokee freedmen should have rights as citizens in the early 1980s. The combination of a forced paradigm shift, off-reservation populations that weren’t as connected to the cultural aspect of the tribe, and a century of racist federal policy targeting blacks and dwindling resources culminated in the 1990s with the first real attempts to oust Cherokee freedmen from the rolls. And in 2007, the Cherokee Nation, through an election fraught with voter disenfranchisement, passed a referendum that prohibited Cherokees designated as freedmen from being enrolled members.

The CBC and other lawmakers have attempted to make the case that this is a treaty issue and not one of sovereignty. They believe that because freedmen were ”granted” the same rights as Cherokees in treaty documents, this should carry through to their descendants today. I find it humorous that the same government that has implemented these policies is now trying to find fault with them.

I agree with Sen. Obama in that the Cherokee freedmen should continue to be recognized by the tribe but that the decision should come from the Cherokee Nation. He put it this way: ”Our nation has learned with tragic results that federal intervention in internal matters of Indian tribes is rarely productive – failed policies such as allotment and termination grew out of efforts to second-guess Native communities. That is not a legacy we want to continue.”

As our world becomes smaller, tribal nations will find that we have tribal members with African, European, American and even Asian descent. Tribal sovereignty must be respected and, as Sen. Obama has said, the tribes must not be interfered with in their process of determining membership. But the termination policies of the past, including blood quantum, must be abolished or they will continue to divide and conquer our communities, family by family.

It is time for us to make a change. It is time to for our tribal nations to evolve, back.

Keegan King, Acoma Pueblo, is the director of New Mexico Youth Organized, an organization that gets young people involved in politics in the state. He can be reached at keegank@gmail.com.

Cherokee Chief Chad Smith Supports Obama

http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Opinion/Opinion.aspx?StoryID=2886

By Principal Chief Chad Smith

Recently, presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Barack Obama was asked to reconcile his open support for tribal sovereignty with his membership in the Congressional Black Caucus. A handful of members of that organization are actively attempting to terminate the Cherokee Nation’s federal recognition and funding, which would eliminate more than 6,500 jobs, strand more than 126,000 people without healthcare, cut off meals to more than 700 elders per week and leave thousands of tribal citizens without housing. In response, his campaign issued the following statement that I would like to share here:
 
“Barack Obama has reiterated his support for tribal sovereignty. Senator Obama said, ‘Tribal sovereignty must mean that the place to resolve intertribal disputes is the tribe itself. Our nation has learned with tragic results that federal intervention in internal matters of Indian tribes is rarely productive – failed policies such as Allotment and Termination grew out of efforts to second-guess Native communities.  That is not a legacy we want to continue.’
 
With respect to the Cherokee Freedman issue, Senator Obama said that while he is opposed to unwarranted tribal disenrollment, congressional interference was not warranted at this point. ‘Discrimination anywhere is intolerable, but the Cherokee are dealing with this issue in both tribal and federal courts. As it stands, the rights of the Cherokee Freedmen are not being abrogated because there is an injunction in place that ensures the Freedmen’s rights to programs during the pendency of the litigation. I do not support efforts to undermine these legal processes and impose a congressional solution. Tribes have a right to be self governing and we need to respect that, even if we disagree, which I do in this case. We must have restraint in asserting federal power in such circumstances.’
 
Obama also reiterated his support for fulfilling the treaty obligations to tribes. ‘The Cherokee Freedmen issue highlights the larger issue of the unfulfilled treaty promises made by the federal government to tribes. It is these promises that Barack is most concerned with as the future president. Barack understands that the federal government owes a legal and moral obligation to tribes to provide health care, education and other essential services to tribes. This is not a handout, but compensation for millions of acres of land relinquished by tribes.’”
 
Senator Obama is right. As an indigenous nation, our sovereignty is inherent and the U.S. government has a legal obligation to recognize our sovereignty.  Treaties are the historical record of that recognition, and show clear proof of an ongoing government to government relationship. 
 
It’s called “federal recognition,” not “federal permission to exist.” We already have a right guaranteed by tribal, federal and international law to exist as a distinct people.
 
And I am also glad that Senator Obama differentiates in his statement between a “handout” and “compensation” for our historical losses as a people. California Congresswoman Diane Watson, who is leading the charge in the CBC to disenfranchise our Nation, seems to want to “stop payment” on compensation owed to us by the U.S. government because she doesn’t approve of a citizenship decision our people had every legal right to make. In the real world, her actions would be considered a violation of the first obligation of the United States in our first treaty in 1785, a government to government relationship. The fact is, Watson refuses to recognize that Congress itself closed the rolls to Freedmen descendants one hundred years ago, and now she wants to coerce Cherokees into granting those descendants today what Congress took away.
 
Reading Obama’s statement makes me hopeful. It is good to know that others can thoughtfully analyze this complex situation and come to the same simple conclusions that we have: Tribes have the inherent right to self-governance, congressional interference is not an appropriate answer, and the place to resolve tribal disputes is the tribe itself.
 
In contrast, much of Watson’s and the CBC’s unwarranted attempts to intervene in our government stem from misinformation. To that end, we have tried to make as much information as possible available so that our citizens and others can read, analyze and make informed decisions based on facts, not emotion. Besides the Cherokee citizenship information that has always been and continues to be updated regularly on http://www.cherokee.org we have also created two new Web sites intended to provide facts about the issue: www.cherokeenationfacts.org and www.meetthecherokee.org.
 
On these sites, you will find a historical timeline, legal documents, videos, opinions from citizens and links to take action to ask Congress to cease any further legislation that will hurt our Nation and our people. I hope you will visit, read the facts and make the decision to support our inherent, legal rights.