African American News and Genealogy

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Councilor’s legislation would keep Freedmen from citizenship

By Donna Hales Phoenix Staff Writer Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Jackie Bob Martin is proposing legislation to amend the constitution that would keep Freedmen from being Cherokee citizens. The proposal calls for limiting citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to individuals:• Who appear on the Dawes Commission Rolls or their descendants, including the Delaware Cherokees of Article II of the Delaware Agreement of May 1967 and the Shawnee Cherokees as of Article III of the Shawnee Agreement of June 1869 and their descendants who can prove a certified degree of Indian blood.That would exclude the Freedmen, confirmed Todd Hembree, council attorney who authored the legislation at Martin’s request. Cherokee Freedmen are descendants of freed slaves who joined the Cherokees in the 1800s.Marilyn Vann, president of the Descendants of Freedmen, said it would be a travesty of justice for the council to approve any proposed constitutional amendments in which very few of the Freedmen would be able to vote on.Tribal Communications Director Mike Miller said Freedmen would have every opportunity to vote in any special election, should one be called.The Freedmen have not voted in any tribal election since 1983, Vann said.The tribe’s highest court recently ruled under the prevailing constitution that Freedmen are eligible for tribal citizenship and allowed to vote in tribal elections.But even Freedmen who hold their tribal membership cards have been forced to reapply as tribal members and new voters since March 7, Vann said.“A backlog to process tribal membership cards is now seven months,” Vann said.There are reportedly as many as 25,000 Freedmen eligible to request tribal membership, according to David Cornsilk, Cherokee historian.Miller said Freedmen would be allowed to vote in any special election.Martin also is proposing legislation that would eliminate “by blood” as a requirement to hold elective office within the Cherokee Nation.As the constitution stands, Cherokee citizens who are Delaware, Shawnee or Freedmen may not be elected tribal officials because they are not Cherokee by blood, Hembree confirmed.“I find it appalling that at the very time that the Shawnee and Delaware tribal members will be restored to full citizenship rights, including the rights of holding office (if both proposed amendments pass), even the limited rights that the Cherokee Freedmen people have fought for so hard to be restored since 1983 are in danger of being taken away — again with little or no input from them, the affected people.” Full Story:


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