Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

May 6, 2014

Cherokee Nation, Freedmen reps begin arguments before D.C. judge

WASHINGTON — Representatives of the Cherokee Nation and Freedmen presented oral arguments Monday in front of Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan in the long-standing Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit.

About 2,800 Freedmen are seeking citizenship rights within the tribe. In 2007, the Cherokee Nation passed a constitutional amendment requiring tribal citizens to have at least one Indian ancestor on the federally authorized Dawes rolls.

Freedmen claim the Treaty of 1866 between the U.S. and the Cherokee Nation created citizenship for the slaves and their descendants. Since 2007, Freedmen have been prevented from enjoying rights of other Cherokees.

CN Attorney General Todd Hembree, in a written statement, said the tribe looks forward to having the issue resolved.

“After 11 long years of litigation, the Cherokee Nation is looking forward to having a judge decide the long-standing issue of what rights, if any, the Freedmen descendants are granted under the Treaty of 1866,” said Hembree. “The Cherokee Nation believes strongly in treaty rights and believes the correct interpretations of the treaty would allow the Cherokee people to determine who is a Cherokee citizen.”

Hembree also stated the tribe has a vested interest in furthering human rights.

“The Cherokee people have been a champion for human rights, having experienced cruelty firsthand during our forced removal from our original homelands in the Southeast along the Trail of Tears,” said Hembree. “For the Cherokee people, this issue has never been about race. As a sovereign nation, it’s always been about Cherokees determining who our citizens ought to be.”

Marilyn Vann, president of the Freedmen Association, posted to her Facebook page Monday about the hearing.

“[The] Freedmen hearing was today in D.C. federal court,” wrote Vann.

“I was there. The judge asked some great questions. Team Freedmen had great answers and an amazing, well-researched and reasoned presentation. History was made today, and I pray that a positive ruling for the Freedmen will allow the Cherokees to finally put the Civil War, Jim Crow and disenrollment behind us.”

tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

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