TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation tribal council in Tahlequah voted 17-0 Wednesday to allow voters to decide whether federal approval should be needed to amend its constitution.
Voters will go to the polls June 23. The amendment is similar to one approved in 2003. However, that amendment was just denied by the federal government. The Bureau of Indian Affairs denied approval in May of a Cherokee Nation constitutional amendment that precipitated the tribe's vote to exclude descendants of freed slaves. The 2003 amendment gave the nation the power to make changes to its constitution without approval from the secretary of the interior. In a May letter, Carl Artman, assistant secretary for the BIA, wrote, "After thorough analysis, the department hereby disapproves the 2003 amendment.” The ruling didn't vacate the results of the March freedmen election, but puts the final decision on Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.