U.S.: Cherokee Vote Out Descendants of Southern Slave Trade

Last week the Cherokee nation Supreme Court ruled that a 2007 tribal decision to kick the so-called “Freedmen” out of the tribe was proper.

 

Removal from the membership rolls means the Freedmen will no longer be eligible for free health care and other benefits such as education concessions.

 

This latest decision comes as just another footnote in the tragic, brutal history of the United States’ treatment of its native peoples. Many Indians were forced to move to what later became Oklahoma from the eastern U.S. in 1838, some who had owned plantations in the South, who brought along their slaves.  Known as the “Trail of Tears,” some 4,000 Indians died during the forced march in this especially dark moment in American history.

 

“And our ancestors carried the baggage,” said Marilyn Vann, the Freedman leader who is a plaintiff in the legal battle.  There are officially about 2,800 Freedmen. There are another 3,500 who maintain tribal membership applications that are pending. According to Vann, there could be as many as 25,000 eligible to enter the tribe.

 

The tribal court decision was announced shortly before absentee ballots were to be mailed in the election of the Cherokee Principal Chief.

 

“This is racism and apartheid in the 21st Century,” Vann, an engineer who lives in Oklahoma City declared.

 

The move to exclude the Freedmen has irritated some African American members of Congress, which has jurisdiction over all Native American tribes in the country.  A lawsuit challenging the Freedman’s removal from the tribe has been pending for six years in the federal court in Washington.

 

As a sovereign nation, Cherokee Nation officials maintain that the tribe has the right to amend its constitutional membership requirements.

 

Click here for more information on the Cherokee Freedman controversy.

Click here for link to an organization representing the interest of Cherokee Freedman.

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