Judge Rules that Cherokee Freedmen Have Right to Tribal Citizenship

Kat Chow, NPR, August 31, 2017

A judge ruled Wednesday that the descendants of enslaved people who were owned by members of the Cherokee Nation — known as Cherokee Freedmen — have citizenship rights.

“The Cherokee Nation can continue to define itself as it sees fit,” U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan wrote in his ruling, “but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen.”

After Emancipation, the Cherokee Nation granted its former slaves tribal citizenship as part of a treaty with the U.S. government in 1866. But in 2007, Cherokee members voted overwhelmingly to strip 2,800 Freedmen of their membership, defining tribal citizenship as “by blood.”

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Now, the fight over citizenship has come to an end.

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The tribe’s attorney general, Todd Hembree, said in a statement Thursday evening that the Cherokee Nation does not intend to appeal the decision.

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