Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Cherokee Nation Tribal Supreme Court Kicks Out Black Freedmen Tribal Members

The Cherokee Nation, who once dragged their slaves on the Trail of Tears as property, now a hand-selected Chad Smith court sends their descendents on their own trail of tears.

A Press Release from the Cherokee Freedmen:

On August 22, 2011, the Cherokee nation tribal Supreme Court ruled that changes to the tribal constitution which effectively removed tribal citizenship from Cherokee freedmen in 2007 were valid.

The Cherokee Supreme Court’s Decision to eliminate the Cherokee people who were granted freedom and citizenship under the Treaty of 1866 is bad law done for a bad reason and is being delivered to assist a former chief just beaten in an election, to eliminate most of the black people from voting in the new election, says Marilyn Vann, a Cherokee Freedmen, whose citizenship has just been terminated based on this ruling. Now, I, nor any Cherokee Freedmen can vote in the next chief election next month. This is timely for Chad Smith, who lost the election and the recount, but was granted a second chance for election by this same Supreme Court. It should also not be forgotten, that following the Cherokee Nation’s highest court, the Judicial Appeals Tribunal’s decision that the Freedmen were entitled to citizenship in 2006, Chad Smith, then Chief, dismantled the Court and established this Supreme Court in its place and selected new judges. It is obvious this decision is the tool he is using to regain his position as Chief and deliver the blow to eliminate my citizenship and other Cherokees who have held this status since 1866.” Despite Federal and Tribal Court rulings stating the Freedmen enjoy all the rights of Cherokee citizenship, The Smith administration has kept out 90% of the Freedmen. Only about 2,800 citizens have been holding on by a thread. As the tribal Court ordered principal chief election nears, the remainder of Freedmen, understandably not Smith supporters, have been stripped of citizenship and will not be able to vote and affects rights to services such as NAHASDA (Indian Housing) services under HR 2786 passed in 2008.

The most troubling statement in the Cherokee Court case, according to Jon Velie, attorney for the Freedmen in two still ongoing Federal lawsuits in Washington D.C , is the statement “the Cherokee Freedmen were never afforded citizenship in the Cherokee Nation by the Treaty of 1866.”   This language conflicts with the undisturbed line of Federal Court cases from 1895 through now. Velie represents Marilyn Vann and several other freedmen in one of the Federal court cases. In July 2008, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held in Vann, “The Cherokee Nation simply has no interest in protecting sovereignty concerns that have been taken away by the United States..The Thirteenth Amendment and the 1866 Treaty whittled away the Tribe’s sovereignty with regard to slavery and left it powerless to discriminate against the Freedmen ……. “
Marilyn Vann added, Mr. Smith’s hand selected Courts decision to do whatever it takes to reinstall him as Chief is dangerous for all of Indian Country as it holds the people of a nation can simply vote the rights of a Treaty away. Does that mean US citizens could vote away our treaty rights or Oklahomans could vote Cherokees out of state citizenship rights?  My nation and the nation of my ancestors has expelled us on our trail of tears, over a century after our ancestors carried baggage on the original Trail. It is a dark day for Cherokee Nation, for Indian Country and for mankind. The freedmen will continue to fight for justice.

Emergency meeting for Cherokee freedmen and their supporters is set for Saturday August 27th, 2011 at the Martin Luther King Center, 627 N 3rd, Street, Muskogee, Okla. at 2pm.

Cherokee Freedmen and supporters will demonstrate outside the Bureau of Indian Affairs Building, Friday September 2, 2011, 3100 West Peak Boulevard, Muskogee, Okla. 2:30pm. Freedmen and supporters will also publicize their plight during the Cherokee Holiday on September 3rd during the morning parade.
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