Freedmen descendants decry tribal court ruling
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON World Correspondent
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
8/24/11 at 8:33 AM
TAHLEQUAH — Despite a ruling
Monday by the Cherokee Nation
Supreme Court that expelled
them from the tribe, Cherokee
freedmen descendants are not accepting
their fate quietly.
Marilyn Vann, president of the
Descendants of Freedmen of Five
Civilized Tribes Association, announced
Tuesday that the organization
will stage a protest Sept. 2
outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs’
eastern Oklahoma regional
office in Muskogee in response to
the court’s decision to strip about
2,800 freedmen descendants of
their tribal citizenship.
Vann also said the freedmen descendants
and their supporters
would be on hand during the Cherokee
National Holiday parade Sept.
3 to “publicize their plight."
“My nation and the nation of my
ancestors has expelled us on our
Trail of Tears over a century after
our ancestors carried baggage on
the original trail,” she said.
“It is a dark day for the Cherokee
Nation, for Indian Country and for
The Supreme Court’s decision
Monday overturned and vacated a
decision by the tribe’s district court
that voided a 2007 referendum that
amended the Cherokee Nation constitution
to require tribal members
to have at least one Indian ancestor
on the Dawes rolls.
The tribe requires an applicant
for citizenship to show documentation that he or she is a lineal
descendant of at least one
person listed as a Cherokee
with a blood degree on the
tribe’s Dawes Rolls, which list
members of the Five Civilized
Tribes — including the Cherokees
— as kept by a commission
from 1898 to 1914.
The ruling also vacated a
temporary injunction implemented
by the court that
allowed the freedmen descendants
to retain their
citizenship during litigation
within the tribe’s judicial system,
including the right to
vote in next month’s election
for principal chief.
Stilwell attorney Ralph Keen Jr., the lead attorney
for the 386 freedmen descendants
in the class action lawsuit,
said Tuesday: “On behalf
of the Cherokee freedmen,
I am both disappointed and
saddened at the court’s ruling
handed down yesterday.
Because the Cherokee Nation
justice system has failed
them, the Cherokee freedmen
have no option to resort
to the federal courts or the
halls of Congress for the vindication
of their rights."
Two lawsuits regarding
the rights and citizenship of
Cherokee freedmen descendants
are still pending in
federal court in Washington,
FREEDMEN DESCENDANTS ADVOCATE
Marilyn Vann: “It is a dark day for the Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country and for mankind.”