A group of freedmen is asking U.S. courts to restore their voting rights – in time for the Chief’s election in two weeks. The freedman voted in the first election – but as of now – cannot vote in the new election.
The issue of what to do with the freedman dates back to the civil war and it’s more unsettled now than ever. The freedmen, descendents of the tribe’s slaves, finally lost their citizenship last month after four years of legal arguments.
The Cherokee Supreme Court approved the tribe’s vote to expel the freedmen, even though their citizenship was established by treaty. The Cherokee nation argues only the tribe can define a member and for them – it’s a simple question of having bloodline back to the members on the Dawes Roll.
“You just have to have one Indian ancestor on the Dawes roll. It doesn’t matter what you look like,” said Diane Hammons, Cherokee Attorney General.
The Freedmen have now appealed their citizenship case to U.S. Courts, with a new urgency. They were allowed to vote in the chief’s election this summer, but won’t be allowed in the re-vote, unless the courts intervene.
For now, preparations for the election haven’t changed, and while some freedmen can vote – about 1300 people cannot.
“The tribal courts ruling does not affect any Freedmen descendent who has a member on the Dawes rolls. It only affects those with no Indian ancestor on the Dawes roll,” Hammons said.