TAHLEQUAH — Federal housing authorities are suspending payments to the Cherokee Nation until a funding law can be reviewed in the wake of a court decision that terminated tribal citizenship for about 2,800 descendants of tribal members' former slaves, a Cherokee official said late Wednesday.
The Cherokee Nation has enough funding to last for a few months without affecting services or employment positions related to funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, tribal acting principal chief Joe Crittenden said in a written statement.
"The attorney general for the Cherokee Nation and my legal team are working aggressively to resolve this matter, including defending and resolving the ongoing litigation in Washington, D.C.," Crittenden said.
Deputy Assistant Secretary Jereon Brown said the funding freeze was related to an "unclear statute" involving the "freedmen," whose ancestors were the slaves of members of the Cherokee Nation, the Tulsa World reported.
The tribe's Supreme Court last month overturned a lower tribal court decision that nullified a 2007 constitutional amendment that required a person have a Cherokee ancestor listed on the Dawes Rolls in order to be a member. The Dawes Rolls were lists created in the 1890s to assign land allotted to Native American tribal members.
The tribal district court ruled earlier this year that the amendment violated an 1866 treaty between the federal government and the tribe that said the freedmen and their descendants "shall have all the rights of native Cherokees."
Litigation over the descendants' membership also is pending in federal court in Washington D.C.
A call made after hours by The Associated Press to HUD's office in Washington seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.
Crittenden said the tribe is in compliance with HUD provisions and officials have presented legal arguments to officials at the department.
"We are confident that future federal funding will continue once the issues are resolved," Crittenden said in the statement.