AG says tribe will not appeal Freedmen decision

US Rules Descendants of Cherokees' Former Slaves Have Full Tribal Rights

US Rules Descendants of Cherokees' Former Slaves Have Full Tribal Rights

The issue has been litigated since then by the Cherokee Nation and groups representing the Freedmen's descendants, along with the U.S. Department of the Interior, which supervises relations between the federal government and all Native American groups.

The tribe eventually amended its rules and required that citizens be directly descended from an ancestor listed on the Cherokee By Blood section of the Dawes Rolls, a list of individuals who were deemed eligible for tribal membership by a federal commission in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. After all, her father was an original enrollee on the Dawes Roll, a historical USA government record of tribal members.

"The Cherokee Nation can continue to define itself as it sees fit", U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan wrote in his ruling, "but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen".

According to court filings, the Cherokee Nation freed all of its slaves after the Civil War and signed a treaty that gave rights to those freedmen. By interposition of Article 9 of the 1866 Treaty, neither has rights either superior or, importantly, inferior to the other.

"While the U.S. District Court ruled against the Cherokee Nation, I do not see it as a defeat", said Hembree.

The Cherokee Freedmen's lead counsel, Jon Velie of Norman, Oklahoma, also put out a statement: "This is a wonderful victory for the Freedmen who regained their identities as equal citizens in their nation".

Plaintiffs in the case are overjoyed. "I think the judge made it clear that the freedmen people have rights just like the rest of the citizens have rights, and we can't be removed at the whim of this chief or that chief. I look forward to the healing within our proud and fantastic people".

There's plenty of excitement and anticipation for what this means for the Cherokee Freedmen's future. "My office will work tirelessly to thoroughly review this decision and its legal ramifications, and will move forward in a way that best serves the interests of the Cherokee Nation and its citizens, including Freedmen descendants". Some estimates say that there are 28,000 Freedmen waiting to get their tribal citizenship.

A U.S. District Court judge ruled Wednesday in favor of Cherokee Freedmen descendants, saying they have a right to tribal citizenship a decade after Cherokee Nation rescinded those rights.

"The most important thing right now to me is just the right to vote and that feeling of belonging", Vann said.

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