In a letter sent to Acting Principal Chief Joe Crittenden, the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs warns that the Special Election for Principal Chief, scheduled for September 24th, will not be valid if the Cherokee Freedmen cannot vote.
The letter states that the U.S. Government does not recognize the 2007 Cherokee Constitutional Amendment that was upheld by the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court. The amendment maintains that Freedmen are not citizens of the Cherokee Nation tribe, and are not eligible to vote. Because the U.S. Government is not recognizing the amendment, the special election would not be valid if the Freedmen are not allowed to vote.
With 11 days until the special election is to take place, it is unclear what the tribe’s intentions are at this point. Acting Principal Chief Joe Crittenden has not responded publicly to the letter. It is unclear whether the tribe would be able to reprint ballots and send absentee ballots in time for the special election. Another delay may be likely.
The Cherokee Freedmen were stripped of their citizenship by the tribe last month. The Freedmen are descendants of slaves who were once owned by tribal members. There are about 3,000 Freedmen members who were affected by the tribe’s decision. They have asked for a federal judge to block the election for Principal Chief until their citizenship is restored.
After the decision to strip the Freedmen of their citizenship, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development withheld 33 million dollars in funding from the Cherokee Nation, arguing that the tribe did not uphold its responsibilities under federal law.