spy games

This is a week old, but there’s a long article in my hometown paper about reactions to the bill to sever relations with the Cherokee Nation that has serious problems. It quotes a lot of people involved but does little to make the issue any clearer, and in some ways even adds confusion.

According to the article, Rep. Watson is going ahead with her legislation, but Oklahoma Representatives want it delayed until courts have more opportunity to resolve the issue. And then there’s this:

Tahlequah attorney Nathan H. Young III represents more than 300 non-Indian Freedmen appealing their citizenship status in Cherokee tribal court.

“This bill is unnecessary and based on erroneous information,” Young said. “The facts are that the Freedmen have been restored to full citizenship status. You’d think [Congress] would do some fact-finding before introducing that bill.”

Young believes Watson is being used by people with ulterior motives, and says her bill hurts the Freedmen as much as anyone else.

Leave aside that the reporter Bob Gibbins called them “non-Indian Freedmen”, which puts his own neutrality into question.

But how can you throw in a quote like that, from someone who is at least nominally working for the Freedmen, without any more explanation? Somehow I doubt that this was all a big misunderstanding, and everything would be hunky-dory if Congress had only done some “fact-finding”? And who are the “people with ulterior motives”? What do they want? There’s no way to know or even guess that from this article.

Later Gibbins writes that:

Smith said the BIA stood by the Cherokee Nation’s side to argue against terminating funding for the tribe.

I’ve seen Smith trying to put the BIA on his side in several stories, but his claims might be overreaching. The letter from the BIA that is available at the Cherokee Nation homepage reads simply:

This letter is in response to your inquiry regarding whether the Department of the Interior intends to continue providing Federal funding to the Cherokee Nation, in light of the activities in Vann v. Kempthome, Civil Action 03w01711 (HHK), (D. DC).

The Department intends to continue providing Federal funding to the Cherokee Nation, unless otherwise directed by a Federal court or Federal legislation. The Department’s position has been expressed in the United States Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs’ Motion for a Preliminary Injunction filed May 29, 2007, in Vann. and accepted by the district court’s decision dated June 13, 2007.

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. It sounds more like the BIA will do whatever the courts and Congress tell them, which is precisely what they should do. It’s presumptuous for Smith to claim them as allies.

But we don’t know the real position of the BIA, even if they do support Smith, because no BIA representative is quoted in the story.

And more from the department of unexplained charges:

O’Leary, who chairs the tribal council’s Executive Finance Committee, said she was told Smith offered to sponsor a casino for the Freedmen and also agreed to provide the group with a land base in the tribe’s Canadian District.

“He’s not [legally] capable of making that promise,” O’Leary said. “He’s kept the council in the dark on this.”

Smith denied any such offer was made, as did Wayne Thompson, a Freedmen negotiator.

I’m sure it was difficult for the reporter to sift through all the rumors and accusations cropping up around this issue. But he doesn’t even seem to try, and in many case makes it worse.

Photo by Flickr user jovike obtained under a Creative Commons license.

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