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Cherokee Freedmen Celebrate Tribal Citizenship, Culture

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MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -

A federal judge recently ruled the descendants of slaves once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation have the right to tribal citizenship.

9/8/2017 Relates Story: Cherokee Nation Processing Freedmen Descendant Citizenship Applications

On Friday, they were able to learn more about what it takes to become a citizen.

Hundreds of Freedmen came out to learn more about citizenship in the Cherokee Nation and to celebrate what it took to get to this point.

“It took constant effort to keep things going when some people never thought it was going to happen,” said Marilyn Vann, Cherokee Freedmen.

A federal judge recently ruled the descendants of slaves once owned by the Cherokee Nation can become citizens of the tribe. But they have to prove their family ties.

“As long as you can prove from you to your mother and father to their mother and father to somebody that signed the Dawes roll then you can be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation,” said Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker.  

It can be a confusing process for some because they have to be able to prove they are directly related. 

“Twin brothers before the Dawes roll … one of them signed the Dawes roll and one of them didn’t. Identical DNA but at the end of the day, all of the descendants of the one brother can be citizens. All of the descendants of the other brother cannot,” Baker said.

They were also able to learn more about healthcare, voting and what comes along with being a part of Cherokee Nation. 

“It’s up to each person how active they want to be in community organizations or their home community … we just want to be like other Cherokees we want to build our nation up,” Vann said.

“We use every advantage that the Cherokee Nation has and there is an advantage to having Freedmen citizens in our tribe,” Baker said.

If you couldn't make it to the meeting or have more questions about if you could be a descendant, you can visit the Freedmen Association website

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