Following a 14-year legal battle, the DC Federal District Court held that the Freedman, descendants of the slaves held by Cherokee Nation who were granted citizenship rights in the Treaty of 1866, following the Civil War, have a right to citizenship under the Treaty.
I am attaching the lengthy decision and including a quote from the primary attorney in the case. There is a great deal of historical coverage about this case over the years but no one has noticed the victory here in DC. I thought I would give you a heads up.
The case of Vann v. Norton was filed in 2003 following the US Decision to affirm the Seminole Treaty of 1866 for its Freedmen, but reverse its position with regard to the similarly situated Cherokees. Thereafter, a vote by the citizens of the Cherokee Nation expelled the Freedmen, resulting in further litigation where some but not all of the Freedmen held their citizenship rights until today.. The case was merged with Cherokee Nation v. Nash and had its last arguments in Washington in 2014. The Federal Court ruled today with following language in the 78 page decision.
“The Cherokee Nation can continue to define itself as it sees fit but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and the descendants of Cherokee freedmen. By interposition of Article 9 of the 1866 Treaty, neither has rights either superior or, importantly, inferior to the other. Their fates under the Cherokee Nation Constitution rise and fall equally and in tandem. In accordance with Article 9 of the 1866 Treaty, the Cherokee Freedmen have a present right to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation that is coextensive with the rights of native Cherokees.”
Lead Counsel Jon Velie of Norman, Oklahoma says, “This is a wonderful victory for the Freedmen who regained their identities as equal citizens in their nation. It is a victory against racial oppression and division. It is a win for Native Americans as the Federal Courts have enforced both treaty rights of citizenship while maintaining Tribes and elected officials rights to determine citizenship and self-determination pursuant law.
Cherokee Freedmen Lead Plaintiff and President of the Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes Association Marilyn Vann was overwhelmed today with the decision. “”I am filled with joy that my people, the Freedmen, will continue to be citizens, as our ancestors have, in the Cherokee Nation. I look forward to the healing within our proud and amazing people.”
OPL Still waiting to hear from the Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation as to their next course of action