TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma — The Cherokee Nation kicked out nearly 3,000 members Monday. They’re the Freedmen, descendants of black slaves once owned by Cherokee Tribal members.
The tribe’s supreme court has upheld a Constitutional amendment requiring all the Nation’s citizens to have at least one Indian ancestor on the federally-authorized Dawes Rolls.
Monday’s ruling brings an immediate end to the citizenship of around 2,800 descendants of former slaves once owned by the Cherokees.
Freedmen say they’re not finished fighting.
“It’s my humane right. This is more of a human rights issue than anything else. So this, to me, in my lifetime, this is the biggest human rights issue,” said Kenneth Payton.
Freedmen say it’s also about money. They want the medical benefits and tribal services other Cherokees enjoy.
The tribe says it’s about sovereignty, and say Cherokees should be able to decide who can be a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
In 2007, the tribe voted to amend the Constitution to allow only people with an Indian ancestor on the Dawes rolls to be citizens of the Nation.
Since that time, those 2,800 non-Indian Freedmen descendants have kept their rights of citizenship until the case could be resolved.