IHS Determines That Seminole Freedmen are Eligible for Health Services at IHS, THP, and UIO Facilities

On October 5, 2021, the Indian Health Service (IHS) issued a Dear Tribal Leader and Urban Indian Organization Leader Letter to provide an update on the agency’s position on Seminole Freedmen of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma’s eligibility to receive health services from IHS, Tribal health programs, or urban Indian organizations (I/T/U). IHS determined that Seminole Freedman are eligible for health services from the I/T/U system according to IHS’ eligibility requirements.

IHS’ announcement comes after the introduction of Representative Maxine Waters’ (D-CA-43) bill on September 7, 2021, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act of 2021 (NAHASDA) (H.R. 5195), which would reauthorize NAHASDA for 5 years. The bill also directs the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to withhold funding from Tribes that are “[…] not in compliance with obligations under its 1866 treaty with the United States as it relates to the inclusion of persons who are lineal descendants of Freedmen as having the rights of the citizens of such tribes […].”

In May, Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland approved a new Constitution for the Cherokee Nation that ensures full citizenship rights for Cherokee Freedmen. Secretary Haaland called on other Tribes to amend their constitutions and similarly ensure these rights for their Freedmen.