Just catching up with this interesting story from a couple of days ago by Clifton Adcock of the Tulsa (Okla.) World:
A federal lawsuit filed in Tulsa by the Cherokee Nation seeking a declaration that the descendants of freedmen are not entitled to membership in the tribe has been ordered transferred to Washington, D.C., where a similar lawsuit is pending against tribal leaders and the federal government.
The Cherokee Nation filed its suit last year against the U.S. Department of the Interior and five descendants of freedmen — former slaves that had been owned by tribal members. The freedmens’ descendants had obtained tribal membership before Cherokees voted in 2007 to restrict Cherokee citizenship by excluding people whose ancestors were not listed on the Dawes Rolls as having a percentage of American Indian blood.
U.S. District Judge Henry H. Kennedy gets the case. He’s also hearing a lawsuit brought in 2003 by Marilyn Vann, who heads Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association. That case names Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith and the Interior Department, which includes the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
“We eagerly await the day when all descendants of Dawes-enrolled Cherokee freedmen can register/reregister as Cherokee Nation tribal members, vote and run for tribal political office, as promised our ancestors by the U.S. government and tribal officials in 1866,” says Vann.
But Cherokee Attorney General Diane Hammons tells Adcock, “The record clearly shows that the federal government itself has extinguished any rights non-Indian freedmen descendants had under the treaty.”