Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cherokee Supreme Court to hear Freedmen case

Tribe files appeal in Freedmen decision

Tahlequah Daily Press
Tahlequah, OK

Teddye Snell

TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation Attorney General Diane Hammons on Tuesday filed an appeal of a tribal district court decision that called for re-instating Freedmen descendants as citizens.

The tribal district court nullified a Constitutional amendment requiring tribal citizens to have an Indian ancestor listed on the federally recognized Dawes Roll. That ruling affirmed the citizenship status of approximately 2,800 Freedmen descendants, and requires the tribe to begin processing citizenship applications within 30 days.

Tribal District Court Judge John Cripps overturned the amendment of 2007 on Jan. 14, citing the tribe’s Treaty of 1866, which states that Freedmen and their descendants “shall have all the rights of native Cherokees.”

The Cherokee Nation has also filed an application for a delay in the implementation of the district court ruling until the appeal is finalized. The delay would retain all citizenship rights for the 2,800 Freedmen descendants who are citizens today, but would delay the processing of additional non-Indian citizenship applications until the final decision of the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court.

“A constitutional case of this magnitude should be decided by the Cherokee Nation’s highest court,” Hammons said in a press release. “The district court failed to follow our highest court’s precedent, set in the 2006 case which allowed for non -Indian citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. In that case, our high court said, ‘The Cherokee citizenry has the ultimate authority to define tribal citizenship,’ and the people did that with an amendment to the Constitution which passed with 77 percent of the vote. The district court also failed to address or recognize any of the cited federal statutes or cases that have construed that pertinent portion of the 1866 treaty, in which the U.S. government limited the treaty rights of non- Indians.”

During the 2007 special election on the Constitutional amendment, 8,733 votes were cast, compared to a total tribal enrollment of approximately 225,000. Of the 8,733 votes cast, 77 percent were in favor of blood requirement as it pertains
to citizenship.