Frank: HUD shouldn’t give funds to Cherokees

Kenneth J. Cooper | 9/6/2011, 10:31 p.m.

The decision came about a month before a replay of a Cherokee election for chief. The first one in June between then-Chief Chad Smith and challenger Bill John Baker was so close that several counts could not determine the winner. The supreme court ordered a new vote on Sept. 24.

Smith has actively opposed freedmen citizenship. Baker has not publicly taken a side on the issue, but has the support of two blood Cherokees who are prominent advocates of freedmen rights.

Frank told Donovan and Echo Hawk he was particularly troubled because the court’s decision appeared designed to influence the election’s outcome.

Asked why he is involved with the issue, Frank replied: “From my earliest days in politics, I’ve considered race one of the single most important problems. I think fighting racism is important.”

Lawyers for freedmen descendants filed a lawsuit Sept. 2 in Washington, D.C. asking a federal judge to issue an injunction to stop the Cherokee Nation from denying their tribal rights and holding any chief’s election that excludes them as voters.

The lawsuit also seeks an injunction against Interior Secretary Ken Salazar requiring him to halt federal funding to the Cherokee Nation, withhold recognition of any chief’s election and sever sovereign relations with the tribe until it restores freedmen’s rights and until Salazar reviews its election procedures under a federal law. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is part of the Interior Department.

A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled Sept. 20, four days before the election.

 “Federal Courts have held consistently from 1895 through 2010 in the Vann decision in the D.C. Court of Appeals that the freedmen were granted citizenship under the Treaty of 1866,” said Jon Velie, lead attorney for freedmen descendants.

The Muskogee (Okla.) Phoenix quoted the Cherokee attorney general, Diane Hammons, as saying numerous issues about the court’s jurisdiction remain before the case can be heard.