Just a week ago this Monday, the Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court ruled that the tribe may revoke the citizenship rights of black members. The case stemmed from a 2007 vote in which the Nation amended its constitution to allow the expulsion of the descendants of Cherokee-held slaves; this inspired a lawsuit by the “Freedmen,” as the black Cherokee are known. A district court found in favor of the Freedmen, but the Supreme Court overturned that ruling, arguing that the Cherokee alone have a right to determine who is and is not a fellow tribesman. The result is that these erstwhile Cherokees, approximately 3,000 strong, will now be denied benefits that inclusion in the tribe affords, such as free healthcare and education, and voting and housing rights.
The Freedman had enjoyed Cherokee citizenship status ever since it was granted through a treaty with the U.S. government after the War Between the States.
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Graphic: Cherokee Nation flag