Posted on October 2, 2023

Judge Sides With US Slave Descendants in Indigenous Citizenship Dispute

Associated Press, September 28, 2023

In the United States, a judge for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation (MCN) has ruled in favour of citizenship for two descendants of Black slaves once owned by tribal members, potentially paving the way for hundreds of other descendants, known as freedmen.

Late on Wednesday, District Judge Denette Mouser, based in the tribe’s headquarters in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, sided with two Black Muscogee Nation freedmen, Rhonda Grayson and Jeff Kennedy, who sued the tribe’s citizenship board for denying their applications.

Mouser reversed the board’s decision and ordered it to reconsider the applications in accordance with the tribe’s Treaty of 1866, which provides that descendants of those listed on the Creek Freedmen Roll are eligible for tribal citizenship.

Freedman citizenship has been a difficult issue for tribes, as the US reckons with its history of racism. The Cherokee Nation has granted full citizenship to its freedmen, while other tribes, like the Muscogee Nation, have argued that sovereignty allows tribes to make their own decisions about who qualifies for citizenship.

Muscogee Nation Attorney General Geri Wisner said in a statement that the tribe plans to immediately appeal the ruling to the Muscogee Nation’s Supreme Court.

{snip} “The MCN Constitution, which we are duty-bound to follow, makes no provisions for citizenship for non-Creek individuals. {snip}”


The plaintiffs’ lawyer Damario Solomon-Simmons said the judge’s ruling has special meaning to him because one of his own ancestors, Cow-Tom, was among those who signed the Treaty of 1866 and ensured it included a provision guaranteeing citizenship for tribal members of African descent.

“It’s an amazing feeling to know we finally got a judge to look at the law and apply the law as written,” he said. “This is a victory against anti-Black racial discrimination, for the rule of law and for the sanctity of Indian treaties.”