Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Cherokee District Court Ruling

January 14, 2011

Tribal District Court Rules Citizenship Amendment Invalid

In a lower court ruling today, Cherokee Nation District Court Judge John Cripps overturned an amendment to the Cherokee Nation Constitution passed by the Cherokee people with 77% of the vote in 2007, which denied citizenship to about 2,800 non-Indian freedmen descendants who had gained citizenship since a previous court ruling in 2006.

“We have received the district court decision with which we respectfully disagree,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons. “We believe that the Cherokee people can change our Constitution, and that the Cherokee citizenry clearly and lawfully enunciated their intentions to do so in the 2007 Amendment. We are considering all options, including our right to appeal to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court."

"We believe that there are some legal decisions affecting the interpretation of the 1866 Treaty which the District Judge ignored, but no decision on an appeal has been made yet. As a practical matter, the order maintains the status quo for up to 30 days, pending further legal action, if any," said Hammons.

"I agree with the Attorney General and we¹ll abide by the final decision of the courts, whether it is decided on the district level or whether it is appealed," said Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation.

"Also major interpretations and decisions of law are generally based on the ruling of the Supreme Court not lower courts. This is a major decision that may warrant the review of our highest court," Smith said.

Read Judge Cripps’ decision. (