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Cherokees defend right to kick Freedmen out of tribe

A Cherokee Nation lawmaker and a "proud Cherokee citizen" are defending the tribe's push to deny citizenship to the Freedmen, the descendants of African slaves.

Cara Cowan Watts, the tribe's District 7 representative, and tribal member Ron Murray wrote letters to The Native American Times. They said the tribe has a right to define its membership criteria, even if that means disenrolling the Freedmen over the potential objections of the federal government.

Their letters were prompted by another letter to the paper from Thomas Cade. He said the Cherokee Nation is trying to sanction the removal of the Freedmen by inserting provisions into an unrelated bill that would recognize the Delaware Tribe.

The bill, according to Cade, would ratify the Cherokee Nation's constitution even though the Bureau of Indian Affairs has expressed concerns that the Freedmen weren't allowed to vote on it.

The tribe's highest court has said the Freedmen are entitled to citizenship if they have an ancestor on the Dawes Roll. Some tribal officials and members now want to change the constitution to remove Freedmen who can't prove they have "Indian" blood.

Get the Story:
Flap over Cherokee letter (The Native American Times 9/20)

10th Circuit Decision:
Cherokee Nation v. Norton (November 16, 2004)

Lower Court Decision:
Cherokee Nation v. DOI (7/23)

Relevant Documents:
Federal Register Notice/Ada Deer Announcement (September 1996)

Relevant Links:
Delaware Tribe of Indians -
Cherokee Nation -

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