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Questions for Obama

The Native people of North Carolina and the rest of Indian country have a dilemma on their hands. Sen. Barack Obama won the state primary. He seems to appeal to the minorities of America in a way that white liberals can only dream of. But more importantly, he is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which is joined against the Cherokee Nation for their apparently abominable crime of determining who is eligible to be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

California Rep. Diane Watson introduced legislation, House Bill 2824, that would strip the Cherokee Nation of federal funding if they don't bow to her and the CBC's efforts to readmit the Cherokee freedmen to the membership rolls. This is essentially termination. The bill is designed to take the tribe's sovereign rights away, which effectively terminate that tribe's status. And once started, termination is impossible to stop without casualties. What right does the U.S. Congress have trying to control tribal enrollment?

Where was Rep. Watson when California tribes voted to control their membership rolls and oust members? If this is an issue of fairness, then shouldn't everyone be treated equally? Shouldn't she be screeching outrage over all disenrollments? Or is it just a Black America versus Native America issue?

Where does Sen. Obama stand on this issue? He has been quiet on this issue because no one is asking the question. I have written to his campaign asking for clarity and have gotten silence. No one in his campaign wants this issue to rear its head now because he is counting on the Native vote.

So, Indian America, what do we do? Indian nations need to reserve their rights to determine their own membership, Native blood and ancestry has to be a determining factor, or anyone could claim to be Native because it seems to be profitable to be Native these days.

We need and deserve answers to our questions. Now.

- William Ledford

Eastern Band of CherokeesAlbuquerque, N.M.