A new bill will sever relations between the Cherokee Nation and the United States, cutting off $270 million in government funding to the tribe, "until such time that they return the Freedmen to full citizenship status," Rep. Diane Watson, D-California, said Tuesday at the state Capitol.
Watson, a high-ranking member of the congressional black caucus, said her proposed legislation confronts the Cherokee expulsion of the Freedmen, the black descendents of former slaves of the tribe.
She said a March 3 vote by the tribe removing citizenship status of the Freedmen Cherokee violated an 1866 treaty in which the Cherokee agreed they would free their slaves following the American Civil War and give them equal status in the tribe.
"When they took the vote of the 3rd of March, it was an abridgement of that agreement," Watson said.
The tribe issued a press release Tuesday saying the tribe would cut health and social services to poor tribal members if Watson's bill is successfully passed.
"Rather than allowing the Tribal Court system to legally decide the 2,867 Freedmen descendants' citizenship status, a California Congresswoman would penalize the poorest of the Cherokee Nation through her legislation, Principal Chief Chad Smith said today," the release reads. "If Congress passes the Watson bill and zero-funding amendments, the Cherokee Nation will lose $270 million in federal funding for FY 2008 along with 6,500 jobs " both affecting elderly citizens, working families, and children." "Ben Fenwick