Tahlequah Daily Press

August 23, 2013

Freedmen case heads back to D.C.

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — tsnell@tahlequahdailypress.com

U.S. District Judge Terence Kern decided recently the Cherokee Nation’s case against the Freedmen will best be decided in Washington, D.C.

In the case, Cherokee Nation v. Raymond Nash, et al, the tribe is claiming that descendants of individuals listed on the Freedmen Rolls do not have citizenship. This case was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

The Freedmen descendants filed a counterclaim against the tribe, which is similar to claims asserted by Freedmen plaintiffs, including Marilyn Vann, who sought relief in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Freedmen have long claimed they are to be considered Cherokee citizens under the Treaty of 1866. Conversely, the Cherokee Nation requires citizens to prove a biological link to a member of the Dawes Rolls before granting citizenship.

In his ruling, Kern determined the two cases present “identical underlying questions” about the meaning of the  of the Treaty of 1866 and the rights of the Freedmen descendants.

“Ideally, these questions would have been resolved years ago in a forum agreeable to the Cherokee Nation, the federal defendants and the Freedmen,” wrote Kern. “Instead, this court and the D.C. court have been forced to resolve questions related to immunity and venue, delaying any meaningful progress on the underlying issues.”

Kern concluded the D.C. court should have discretion in deciding the case, and granted the Freedmen’s motion to transfer to the case back to the nation’s capitol.