Law | National | Politics

NYT: Tribal rights vs. racial justice in Cherokee Freedmen battle





"When the Cherokee were relocated from the South to present-day Oklahoma in the 1830s, their black slaves were moved with them. Though an 1866 treaty gave the descendants of the slaves full rights as tribal citizens, regardless of ancestry, the Cherokee Nation has tried to expel them because they lack "Indian blood."

The battle has been long fought. A recent ruling by the Cherokee Supreme Court upheld the tribe's right to oust 2,800 Freedmen, as they are known, and cut off their health care, food stipends and other aid in the process.

But federal officials told the tribe that they would not recognize the results of a tribal election later this month if the citizenship of the black members was not restored. Faced with a cutoff of federal aid, a tribal commission this week offered the Freedmen provisional ballots, a half-step denounced by the black members.

Is the effort to expel of people of African descent from Indian tribes an exercise of tribal sovereignty, as tribal leaders claim, or a reversion to Jim Crow, as the Freedmen argue? Kevin Noble Maillard, a professor of law at Syracuse University and a member of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma, organized this discussion of the issue."

Get the Story:
Tribal Rights vs. Racial Justice (The New York Times 9/15)

Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Decision:
Cherokee Nation Registrar v. Nash (August 22, 2011)

Related Stories:
Cherokee Nation to allow Freedmen to cast provisional ballots (9/15)
Editorial: Cherokee Nation faces pressure on fate of Freedmen (9/15)
Acting Cherokee Nation chief vows to protect tribe's interests (9/14)
BIA warns Cherokee Nation about disenrollment of Freedmen (9/13)
Lawmakers want HUD to restore funding to Cherokee Nation (9/12)
HUD won't release funds to Cherokee Nation in Freedmen flap (9/8)
Judge sets hearing on Freedmen motion for Cherokee election (9/6)
Freedmen eye lawsuit in federal court over Cherokee election (8/30)
Freedmen seek appeal for loss of Cherokee Nation citizenship (8/29)
Jay Tavare: Divide and conquer -- disenrollment among tribes (8/25)
Turtle Talk: Tribal courts, treaty rights and treaty rights disputes (8/25)
Cherokee Freedmen lose right to vote in upcoming chief election (8/24)
Decision allows Cherokee Nation to remove Freedmen from rolls (8/23)