Cherokee Nation councilors vote to back the tribe’s regaining its federal
TAHLEQUAH — The Delaware Tribe of Indians moved one step closer to
reclaiming its federal status after Cherokee Nation councilors voted Monday to
support the tribe’s recognition.
The Bartlesville-based tribe lost its federal recognition in 2005 after
losing a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision to the Cherokee Nation over
With the Cherokee tribal resolution’s approval, a memorandum of understanding
will be forwarded to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, officials said. The
Cherokee resolution authorizes Chief Chad Smith to advocate for the
The 17-member Cherokee council’s approval was key for the Delawares, said the
tribe’s chief, Jerry Douglas, who added that he hopes to get federal
recognition within a year.
“Everyone told me that the Cherokee Nation and the Delaware needed to come to
an agreement because our Oklahoma (congressional) delegation would view it
favorably,” he said.
The 10,000-member Delaware Tribe is seeking the sponsorship of a
congressional bill that would return its federal recognition.
Douglas said his group has House sponsorship from U.S. Rep. John Sullivan,
R-Okla., and is hoping for Senate sponsorship from Oklahoma Republicans Tom
Coburn or Jim Inhofe.
In a memorandum to Cherokee tribal councilors before the vote, tribal
Secretary of State Melanie Knight said the core of the agreement is federal
recognition for the Delawares while preserving the Cherokee Nation’s sovereign
“Although negotiations . . . have been attempted over the years, none have
been as fruitful as these,” she said.
The deal would allow the Delawares to seek to put land into trust outside of
the Cherokees’ 14-county jurisdiction.
It also provides that the Delaware Tribe run social service programs for its
members, although some funds will go through the Cherokee Nation for
distribution, a draft of the memorandum of understanding states.
Wayne Stull, the Delaware Tribe’s economic development board member, said a
majority of the tribe’s members supports the agreement, although some want to
bring it before a vote.
“We have to get our federal recognition back; if we don’t, we will just be a
glorified Indian club,” he said.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
S.E. Ruckman is a staff writer for the Tulsa World Newspaper. Contact the author at 581-8462 or