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Cherokee Nation seeks role in Freedmen lawsuit

The Cherokee Nation is seeking to intervene in a lawsuit between the Cherokee Freedmen and the federal government.

The Freedmen, descendants of African slaves who were made members of the tribe after the Civil War, sued after they were denied the right to vote in a May 2003 election. They had asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to reject the election, in which Chief Chad Smith was re-elected and a new tribal constitution was adopted.

The BIA was prepared to reject the election until tribal leaders protested. Senior Interior Department officials in Washington, D.C., overruled the BIA's Eastern Oklahoma regional director, who questioned why the Freedmen were excluded.

The Cherokee Nation says voting and other membership rights are open to anyone who can demonstrate Cherokee ancestry.

Get the Story:
Cherokee committee seeks voice in lawsuit (The Oklahoman 2/19)

Relevant Documents:
Jeanette Hanna Letter (July 11, 2003)| Chad Smith to Jeannette Hanna (July 14, 2003) | Chad Smith to Gale Norton (July 14, 2003) | Jeanette Hanna Letter (July 25, 2003) | Hastings Shade Letter (August 5, 2003)

Relevant Links:
Cherokee Nation -

Related Stories:
Cherokee Freedmen caught in high-level dispute (8/20)
Tribes not always following treaties on Freedmen (2/18)Cherokee Freedmen sue BIA for disenfranchisement (8/12)