WASHINGTON (AP) _ Oklahoma black Seminoles lost a Supreme Court appeal Monday over their claim that they've been cheated out of social service benefits because of their African ancestry.
The court refused without comment to consider reinstating their lawsuit against the federal government.
A judge had ruled that their lawsuit could not move ahead unless the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma was part of it. But that's not possible because the tribe's sovereign status protects it from federal lawsuits.
The lawyer for the black Seminoles, members of two of 14 bands within the tribe, said that the lawsuit was their only option to get a share of benefits that are being enjoyed by other Seminoles.
At issue is $56 million the tribe received from the federal government in 1990 as compensation for the 1823 taking of Seminole lands in Florida.
The money funds social service programs, but those are generally reserved for Seminoles descended from a member of the tribe as it existed in Florida in 1823.
Black Seminoles were not recognized as tribal members until a 1866 treaty. They are descendants of escaped slaves who began living among the tribe in Florida.
The Bush administration had urged the court to reject the appeal. The federal government's task is releasing money, not deciding who gets it, government lawyers said.
The case is Davis v. United States of America, 03-1313.