TAHLEQUAH, OK - In a controversial decision, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court has ruled to expel from membership thousands of descendants of black slaves who were brought to Oklahoma more than 170 years ago by Native American owners.
The nation's second-largest Indian tribe voted after the Civil War to admit the slave descendants to the tribe.
But on Monday, the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court ruled that a 2007 tribal decision to kick the so-called "Freedmen" out of the tribe was proper.
Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen of Five Civilized Tribes Association, announced today that the organization will stage a protest Sept. 2 outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ eastern Oklahoma regional office in Muskogee in response to the court’s decision to strip about 2,800 freedmen descendants of their tribal citizenship.
Vann also said the freedmen descendants and their supporters would be on hand during the Cherokee National Holiday parade Sept. 3 to “publicize their plight."
Vann said, “My nation and the nation of my ancestors has expelled us on our Trail of Tears over a century after our ancestors carried baggage on the original trail. It is a dark day for the Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country and for mankind."
The ruling also vacated a temporary injunction implemented by the court that allowed the freedmen descendants to retain their citizenship during litigation within the tribe’s judicial system, including the right to vote in next month’s election for principal chief.
“On behalf of the Cherokee freedmen, I am both disappointed and saddened at the court’s ruling handed down yesterday. Because the Cherokee Nation justice system has failed them, the Cherokee freedmen have no option to resort to the federal courts or the halls of Congress for the vindication of their rights," said Ralph Keen Jr., lead attorney for the 386 freedman descendants in the class action lawsuit.