Gene Lewis Perry

If life were like fairy tales, I'd have been devoured by trolls already.

Cherokee Freedmen update

Posted on | January 22, 2008 | 1 Comment

The Cherokee Freedmen issue hasn’t been much in the news lately, but it’s still going on. The Hill has an update:

A dispute between the Cherokee Nation and members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) looks likely to continue despite a lobbying push that the tribe had hoped would resolve the issue.


The Cherokees hired the Podesta Group, a firm with strong Democratic ties, in July and signed on McBee Strategic Consulting in October. Several Native American groups have passed resolutions condemning the bill. More than 6,000 letters have also been sent to Congress in opposition to the legislation, according to an attorney for the Cherokees.

Meanwhile, CBC lawmakers, who have joined Watson in protesting the Cherokees’ decision, plan to meet with the Department of the Interior’s assistant secretary of Indian Affairs, Carl Artman, to discuss the Freedmen in the coming weeks, according to a Watson aide.

To respond to something that’s been popping up in comments here, several of you have argued that the Cherokees are their own nation, with the right to do what they want, and “outsiders” should keep out of it. But since when are nations exempted from criticism? If the Cherokees want to be treated like grown-ups in the community of nations, they have to be ready for the attention, both positive and negative, that comes with the position. And if a nation pursues a policy that others see as an extreme injustice, it’s not unprecedented for the international community to take action.

Take for example the sanctions against South Africa during Apartheid or against Iran to stop them from pursuing nuclear weapons. You can argue for against those actions for individual cases, but you don’t get to claim nationhood and then walk away free of all claims.

Is it unfair that the United States has done far worse in its past, and in some ways its present, but is too strong to be challenged by an outside power? Of course. But that is a rather flimsy excuse for the Cherokees’ own bad behavior.

Update: I don’t want this to be misunderstood. I am not saying the actions regarding the Cherokee Freedmen are anywhere as bad as Apartheid, even if they are discriminatory. Nor are they half as bad as what the U.S. has done to American Indians. But being a victim of discrimination does not justify turning further discrimination against another disenfranchised group. And whether or not a sovereign Indian Nation has the right to do it, it is wrong.


One Response to “Cherokee Freedmen update”

  1. Original Pechanga
    April 16th, 2008 @ 3:39 pm

    Excellent points.

    I discussed how to reconcile moral outrage while respecting sovereignty here:

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