In a letter received this week by the Cherokee Nation, the regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs has recommended approval on the removal of oversight by the agency over the tribe’s Constitution and amendments.

The letter from BIA Regional Director Jeanette Hanna to Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith stated that the Region “…has recommended approval of the vote on removal of Secretarial oversight.”

“By removing the BIA from the process we have made our government stronger,” Smith said. “While we did not ask for the BIA’s approval to remove them from our Constitutional process, we are glad that they recognize our sovereign right to self-governance.”

In the tribe’s recent general election, voters re-affirmed to remove BIA oversight from the tribe’s Constitutional issues. The results affirmed a Constitutional amendment approved by Cherokee voters in 2003.

The move in no way affects the federal funding the Cherokee Nation receives. In a letter received by Smith on June 22, BIA Deputy Director Jerry Gidner said the department intended to continue providing federal funding to the Cherokee Nation.

Smith said the current trend by the United States government is to encourage tribes to strengthen their sovereignty, and that the U.S. is realizing it is not appropriate for the BIA to have approval authority over tribal constitutions.

In the Tribal Self-Governance Amendments of 2000 of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, the U.S. Congress found that the tribal right of self-government flowed from the inherent sovereignty of Indian tribes and nations and that the U.S. recognized a special government-to-government relationship with tribes.

“For many years we have been taking care of our own affairs, and now we are seeing Indian nations taking back the reins of their governments. This removal is a long overdue step, and I applaud our citizens for re-affirming our decision,” Smith said.

The BIA’s letters recommending approval of the Constitutional amendment and assuring continued funding can be seen on the Cherokee Nation’s web site, www.cherokee.org.

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