Frozen HUD funds released to Cherokee Nation
By WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the Cherokee Nation yesterday in a letter that it is lifting a temporary suspension of the tribe’s housing funds. HUD froze the funds in August following a ruling by the CN Supreme Court that stripped tribal citizenship from Cherokee Freedmen descendants. “We are pleased that in the second week of our term we’ve managed to work with the federal government to have this money released. It’s important we have that money so we can better take care of our people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. The $39 million in housing funds allocated to the CN is $6 million more than the CN expected to receive in August. In a letter to Baker, HUD informed the CN that based on its compliance with the Sept. 21 federal district court ruling that restored citizenship to Freedmen it is releasing the funds. “In light of these considerations and after considerable analysis of Section 801, HUD has determined that section 801 of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act does not prohibit HUD from making IHBG funding available to the tribe,” the letter from Assistant HUD Secretary Sandra B. Henriquez stated. “Consistent with previous statements made by the tribe and tribe’s actions to date, HUD expects that the tribe will continue to comply with the terms of the Nash order.” The Sept. 21 ruling for Cherokee Nation v. Nash, in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., ordered the tribe to ensure all Cherokee Freedmen descendants who were stripped of CN citizenship on Aug. 22 by the tribe’s Supreme Court be recognized as citizens again, be provided the rights and benefits of other CN citizens and be allowed to vote in the Sept. 24 special election. The Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 22 that a March 2007 constitutional amendment approved by Cherokee voters was valid. The amendment prevented Freedmen descendants without Indian blood from being CN citizens. HUD said in September that because of the court’s ruling it was suspending NAHASDA funding, and while HUD sought guidance on the ruling, housing funds would remain suspended. Previously, Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Executive Director David Southerland said a majority of the expected $33 million in NAHASDA funding, nearly $11 million, was used by Housing Services. The tribe’s commerce department received nearly $5.7 million for mortgage assistance and other housing programs; Human Services received nearly $5.2 million; and Community Services nearly $2.3 million. The remaining funds are allocated to CN Career Services, Environmental Services, the Marshal Service, Delaware Tribal Housing and indirect costs. In her letter to Baker, Henriquez added that HUD reserves the right to reassess its decision to release the tribe’s funds in the future if the tribe is deemed to be in violation of the terms of the federal court order. “Failure to adhere to a federal court could lead to sanctions, up to and including termination of the tribe’s IHBG funds,” the letter stated.
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