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Law
Cherokee chief criticized for stance on Freedmen


Cherokee Nation Chad Smith is being criticized for seeking to deny citizenship to the Freedmen.

Last week, the tribe's highest court ruled that the Freedmen, the descendants of African slaves, retained their citizenship. In response, the tribe said it would begin to enroll Freedmen whose ancestors appeared on the Dawes Roll.

But in his State of the Nation address on Monday, Smith said the court went too far. He said the tribe's 1975 constitution meant to deny citizenship to the Freedmen because they are not Indian and haven't helped to build the nation.

Critics say Smith is wrong to seek changes to the constitution after the court made its ruling. “I think he appealed — the court’s ruled — he doesn’t like it, so now it needs to be a vote of the people?” Cherokee Nation Councilor Bill John Baker told The Muskogee Phoenix.

Marilyn Vann, the president of the Descendants of Freedmen Association, attended Monday's address. “I see the Cherokee Nation as a nation, not a race," she told the paper.

David Cornsilk, the Cherokee lawyer who represented the Freedmen, called Smith "a racist" for suggesting the Freedmen aren't entitled to citizenship.

Audio and video of Smith's March 13 speech can be found at http://www.cherokee.org/home.aspx?section=councilminutes.

Get the Story:
Chief not ready to end fight to keep out Freedmen (The Muskogee Phoenix 3/16)
Tribe's High Court Rules Law Is Unconstitutional (The Sequoyah County Times 3/16)

Judicial Appeals Tribunal Decision:
Allen v. Cherokee Nation (March 7, 2006)

Related Story:
Freedmen to become Cherokee citizens (The Oklahoman 3/9)
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Relevant Links:
Freedmen Of The Five Civilized Tribes - http://www.freedmen5tribes.com
Freedmen Conference - http://www.freedmenconference.com
Cherokee Nation - http://www.cherokee.org

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