Cherokee Freedmen’s Legal Battle


Saturday, March 24th 2007, 5:09 pm
By: News On 6


Descendants of the Cherokee Freedmen say they will fight to get back in. The descendents of the freed slaves crowded into the Rusidill Library Saturday afternoon. Three weeks ago more than three-fourths of voters opted to amend the tribal constitution. Now, membership in the tribe is limited to blood descendants of Cherokees. The News On 6’s Chris Wright reports the ousted Freedmen have hired a team of lawyers, and are determined to be readmitted into the Cherokee Nation.

Members of the Freedmen have had three weeks to stew over the special election that stripped them of their Cherokee membership, and many are still angry.

"We're gonna fight because it's not right, it's not right," Freedmen descendant Mary Crain said.

"We're showing solidarity because this issue definitely needs to be addressed," said Freedmen Verde Triplett.

The Freedmen's lawyer told the crowd he's in the process of contesting the election. He believes the constitutional amendment limiting membership to those with Cherokee blood violates an 1866 treaty. He says that treaty guarantees Freedmen and their descendant’s tribal membership and benefits.

The head of the Descendants of Freedmen says violating that treaty is unacceptable.

"We do not accept the illegality of this vote, which was led by the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, pretending to the people that the Freedmen don't have treaty rights," Marilyn Vann, President of the Descendants of Freedmen said.

Those in attendance at Saturday’s meeting agree, saying they are being unfairly persecuted because of their race.

"They're doing the Freedmen just what was done to them years ago, it's not right," Crain said.

The Descendants of Freedmen say there will be more meetings like Saturday’s and their fight for re-admittance into the tribe is far from over.

"We are confident because of the law, justice and God on our side," said Vann.

The Freedmen have also scheduled a series of protests. On Tuesday, they will picket a fundraiser for Cherokee Chief Chad Smith in Oklahoma City, and a protest is planned at the outside of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Building in Muskogee on April 6th.

Related Stories:

3/21/2006 Creek Nation Tribal Court Issues Ruling On Freedmen

4/27/2006 Cherokee Nation Freedmen Fighting To Remain Part Of The Tribe

8/10/2006 Creek Freedmen Fight To Become Full Members

10/10/2006 Cherokee Freedmen To Challenge Special Election

11/16/2006 Cherokee Nation Tribal Court Slates Trial On Blood Requirement Issue

12/20/06 - Federal Court Sides With Freedmen

12/29/2006 Cherokee Chief Delays Special Election To March 3

12/31/2006 Cherokees Set Vote On Freedmen Issue

2/22/2007 Judge Keeps Special Election On Track

3/2/2007 Cherokee Nation Special Election

3/4/2007 Cherokee Freedmen Ready For Court Battle

3/6/2007 Freedmen Challenge Special Election

3/13/2007 Black Congressional Leaders Question Legality Of Cherokee Vote

3/24/2007 Cherokee Freedmen Descendants Schedule Protest