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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tribal Citizenship: Update

The Tulsa World reports on a case involving tribal citizenship:
Despite having one of their federal court cases dismissed Friday, the Cherokee freedmen descendants are not giving up their fight.

"The freedmen people whose ancestors suffered slavery, and the horrors of the Trail of Tears in the past; in modern times, have suffered discrimination in voting rights, tribal services and uncertainty as to our tribal status," said Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen Association.

"We want to be treated as other tribal members, free from uncertainty and harassment."

On Friday evening, U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy in Washington, D.C., dismissed a lawsuit from five freedmen descendants against the Cherokee Nation, the tribe's principal chief and the Secretary of the Interior, filed after freedmen were not allowed to vote in the tribe's 2003 election.

In his decision, Kennedy wrote that the Cherokee Nation, as a sovereign entity, cannot be sued unless it waives its immunity.

Like states, a tribe cannot be sued in federal court unless its government agrees to it.

"The nation is free to litigate ... in the federal action of its choosing or not at all," Kennedy wrote.

A second lawsuit, filed by the Cherokee Nation against five freedmen descendants in 2009, is still pending. Kennedy transferred the suit to the Northern U.S. District Court of Oklahoma, located in Tulsa.

While the second lawsuit is still pending, an agreement reached last week between the Cherokee Nation and the freedmen will remain in place.

That agreement reinstated the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 freedmen descendants and the voting rights of more than 1,200 people.