Cherokees react to Watson's Freedmen Bill

Oklahoma City (AP) _ A California congresswoman who wants to strip the Cherokee Nation of federal funding says the tribe forfeited its right to benefits when it disenfranchised the freedmen.  Congresswoman Diane Watson was in Oklahoma City Tuesday to discuss her proposed measure, which cost the tribe about $300 million.

Principal Chief Chad Smith says eliminating funding would eradicate the legal existence of the tribe and lead to a loss of about 6,500 jobs and cuts in medical services.  Tribal members voted in march to strip the membership of 2,800 Freedmen, who are descendants of slaves once owned by Cherokees.

The issue is on hold pending an appeal.

Watson -- who says she has indian blood -- says she doesn't understand how the vote was taken, since the tribe accepted the descendants of former slaves as a protected class in 1866.  Tribal officials believe the vote is legal.

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