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Friday, May 24, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Black Cherokees Lose 13th Amendment Battle

WASHINGTON (CN) - The descendants of former slaves once owned by Cherokees cannot add the tribe as a defendant in their federal lawsuit that claims the chief conspired with the secretary of the interior to disenfranchise them.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy dismissed the motion filed by the Freedmen Band of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, which also sought to have its case consolidated with Cherokee Nation v. Nash, in which the Cherokees wanted an Oklahoma federal court to declare that the Freedmen have no citizenship rights with the Cherokee Nation and the benefits derived from such citizenship.

"The Freedmen contend that the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, with the approval of the secretary [of the Department of the Interior], has disenfranchised the Freedmen in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Treaty of 1866, and that the Federal Defendants have also violated those laws and others by failing to protect the Freedmen's citizen and voting rights," according to Kennedy's summary of the the Freedmen's case against the Cherokee Nation and the Ken Salazar.

The Freedmen are composed of the direct descendants of former slaves of Cherokees and the free blacks who intermarried with Cherokees, who were made citizens of the Cherokee Nation in the 1860s century and stayed that way until the tribe amended its membership rules over a hundred years later.

Kennedy ruled that the Cherokee Nation has sovereign immunity against the Freedmen's claims, and granted the tribe's motion to dismiss.

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