Freedmen issue – Congress not waiting on the courts?

Indian Country Today printed an Associated Press report that the “dispute involving race and tribal identity that was supposed to play out in the courts now seems headed for Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers want the country’s second-largest Indian tribe stripped of $300 million in federal money.

U.S. Rep. Diane Watson, a California Democrat who claims Indian heritage and ties to Oklahoma, is demanding the Cherokee Nation reinstate 2,800 descendants of the tribe’s former black slaves, known as freedmen. She calls a March election that booted the freedmen descendants from the tribe ”ethnic cleansing” and doesn’t want to wait on the courts to decide the matter, a process that could take years.

The tribe is digging in to fight the legislation, and its principal chief, Chad Smith, has called Watson’s bill a ”scorched-earth” policy aimed at hurting the poorest and sickest of the nation’s 270,000 members. Neither side shows signs of giving up ground as lawmakers are expected to have a hearing on the matter soon in Washington.”

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