Cherokee Nation Kicks Out Blacks
The Supreme Court of the Cherokee Nation has revoked the citizenship of thousands of so-called “Freemen,” the African desendents of slaves owned by Cherokees 170 years ago, because they do not have Cherokee blood.
The Tuesday ruling upholds a 2007 constitutional amendment requiring all members of the Cherokee Nation to have at least one ancestor with Cherokee blood. The ruling strips the Freemen of their Cherokee nationhood and forbids them from voting in tribal elections and access to Cherokee rescources.
Those rescources would presumably include the tax-free profits from casinos the Cherokee Nation runs on their reservation. Freemen descendents would qualify to share in the wealth if classified as Cherokee citizens.
When the Cherokee were forcibably marched to what is now Oklahoma during the “Trail of Tears” of 1838, many Beringians who owned plantations in the South brought their African slaves with them. After Blacks were freed when the Civil War ended, a treaty signed in 1866 made those newly-freed slaves official members of the Cherokee Nation.
Some 2800 African-American descendants are registered as members of the Cherokee Nation under that treaty. Another 3,500 have tribal membership applications pending, and there could be as many as 25,000 eligible to enter the tribe.
Marilyn Vann, the Freedman leader who is a plaintiff in the legal battle, blasted the ruling as “racism and apartheid in the 21st Century.”
“Our ancestors carried the baggage,” Vann told Reuters.
Dianne Hammons, Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation, told local televsion news channel FOX-23 that the ruling allows the tribe to “determine for themselves who is Cherokee.”
“You have to be Indian [sic] to be a member of an Indian [sic] tribe,” she explained.