The United States has filed a countersuit against the Cherokee Nation in the ongoing federal case to determine Freedmen descendants eligibility for tribal citizenship.
The suit, filed Monday with the Northern District of Oklahoma, requests a decision that would allow the Freedmen descendants to retain their tribal citizenship rights and prohibit the Cherokee Nation from denying eligible Freedmen descendants those same privileges.
“Now we can move forward on this issue,” said CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We will have everyone at the table, and all issues will be presented so we can get a definitive ruling.”
In March 2007, the Cherokee Nation voted to amend its constitution to restrict tribal citizenship to people who could prove they were a descendant of at least one person listed as Indian on the Dawes Rolls. A federal court order has kept the citiznship of about 2,800 Freedmen descendants intact, pending the lawsuit’s outcome. A hearing date has not been set for the counter-suit.
“I look forward to having all interested parties in the same courtroom and getting a definitive resolution to this matter,” said CN Attorney General Todd Hembree. “Now, we can finally get to the merits of the case and resolve it once and for all.”
In the filing, federal officials assert the Interior Department’s “position is, and has been, that the 1866 Treaty ... vested Cherokee Freedmen with rights of citizenship in the nation, including the right of suffrage.” Federal officials state nothing has abrogated the terms of that treaty.
The tribe contends the treaty provided Freedmen and their descendants no guarantee “eternal unimpeachable rights.”
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