Recommendation backs Cherokee opposition to federal review

MUSKOGEE Okla.
A federal official has recommended that a Cherokee Nation
vote to remove federal oversight from the tribe’s constitution and amendments
be approved.

On June 23, tribal voters affirmed a 2003 constitutional
amendment that removed a federal approval requirement from the Cherokee Nation
Constitution.

In a letter to Principal Chief Chad Smith, Jeanette Hanna of
the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office said her office
had reviewed the election and forwarded its recommendation to Carl Artman, the
assistant secretary for Indian affairs at the Department of the Interior.

BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling said Friday that Hanna’s
letter was only a recommendation and that Artman would have to make the final
decision.

“From my understanding, it’s to be done pretty quickly,
too,” she said. “Mr. Artman is looking it over and moving toward a
decision.”

Smith said in a statement released Friday that the tribe was
made stronger by having the federal oversight removed.

“While we did not ask for the BIA’s approval to remove
them from our constitutional process, we are glad that they recognize our
sovereign right to self-governance,” he said.

The tribe and the federal agency have visited the question
of federal oversight several times. Tribal officials maintained that they did
not need to remove oversight again because Cherokees had decided the issue in
the 2003 tribal election.

The Cherokee Nation submitted the 2003 election results for
secretarial approval but did not receive it. The tribe’s high court later ruled
that the approval requirement was removed and no longer needed.

Despite that position, Cherokee Nation voters again were
asked to approve the question in the June election. At that time, they also
re-elected Smith and selected 15 of 17 tribal council members.

Removing federal oversight would not affect the
tribe’s federal funding, according to a Cherokee Nation press release issued
Friday. The tribe receives about $300 million annually in federal funding.

Information from: Tulsa World, http://www.tulsaworld.com

– Associated Press



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