Chris Casteel at NEWOK has the story
Nearly four years after Cherokee Nation citizens voted to bar freedmen without tribal blood, the status of potentially thousands of descendants of former slaves still is in limbo.
And it’s not clear when and how the issue will be resolved.
The Cherokee Nation’s attorney general last week asked the tribal Supreme Court to determine whether a March 2007 constitutional amendment that bars freedmen without Cherokee blood is valid.
The tribe also filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tulsa on the question, but a judge there has deferred for now to the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., where a case has been pending for more than seven years.
Marilyn Vann, the lead freedmen plaintiff in the case filed in Washington, was on Capitol Hill last week talking with congressional staff members about ways to help the freedmen’s cause.
Vann said that wasn’t the route Cherokee freedmen want to go. She said she would prefer Congress ensure that the federal funds the tribe does receive are shared by freedmen.
Vann, of Oklahoma City, blamed Cherokee Nation officials for “stalling” the federal case, saying that the federal court case the tribe filed in Tulsa in 2009 slowed down the case that was already active in Washington.
Tribal spokesman Mike Miller said the Vann case had become entangled in other issues and that the case filed in Tulsa was an attempt to get a ruling on the core issue — whether an 1866 treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government prevented the tribe from enforcing a constitutional amendment that banned freedmen without Cherokee blood.
Vann said the case she filed presented that same question and that she was expecting a decision from the federal court in Washington soon. But any decision could be appealed by the losing side, conceivably meaning more years of the federal litigation