CNHI New Service
Cherokee Councilman Chuck Hoskin Jr. today called for the Cherokee Nation Attorney General to investigate former Principal Chief Chad Smith for an alleged “backroom deal” to reinstate descendants of Cherokee Freedman to tribal citizenship.
“Information that I have learned this week suggests that Chad Smith cut a secret deal to waive our sovereignty in a court case that allowed the Freedmen to remain citizens in exchange for federal money,” said Hoskin.
Hoskin claimed Smith struck a deal with Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank in exchange for waiving the tribe’s sovereign immunity in federal court, through the filing of a lawsuit in the Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa in 2009.
“A secret deal with a member of Congress that risks our sovereignty is unacceptable,” said Hoskin. “Smith had a duty to disclose to the council any and all agreements struck with the federal government before asking us to consent to a lawsuit we now know waived our sovereignty.”
Hoskin sent the investigation request to CN Attorney General Diane Hammons’ office Wednesday morning.
Hoskin has also served as a senior adviser to Smith’s opponent, Bill John Baker, in the upcoming race for principal chief.
District 1 Tribal Councilor Tina Glory-Jordan said she believes the situation warrants an investigation.
“What I had asked for was a tape of a [March 2009] council meeting with regard to giving up sovereign immunity,” said Glory Jordan. “I’ve been told that the answer given by [then Speaker of the Council] Meredith Frailey is that no it does not, and Chad [Smith] did not correct her. If that is so, I very much want to see what this investigation leads to. I have yet to receive the tape, and frankly, I don’t remember what we said in the meeting that happened back early on in our first term.
“ If that’s what happened, I will join in the request. It’s very serious and needs to be investigated. When a councilor makes the request, the AG’s office should follow up. Whatever it takes to get the investigation rolling, if we sold our sovereign state for federal dollars, it needs to be looked at.”
Smith responded to the allegation Wednesday, accusing Acting Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden – who ran independently of either principal chief candidate – of siding with opponent Bill John Baker on the issue.
“This is just a cheap campaign trick by Bill John Baker, trying to distract people from the real issue,” said Smith. “While Cherokee Nation attorneys argued in court to hold the election under Cherokee Nation law, Bill John Baker’s running-mate cut a last-minute deal to allow Freedmen to vote.
“It’s likely that the judge would have allowed our election to go forward under tribal law, as it did in 2007 when a similar injunction was requested, but just before the judge ruled, Baker’s running-mate made a deal to allow Baker’s supporters to vote, even though it was in violation of tribal law. Even the Freedmen’s attorney has pointed out that Freedmen support Bill John Baker. He has consistently sided with them instead of the Cherokee people, and this is another example of Baker and his team ceding the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation for his own political gain.”