At least two tribal attorneys hailed the compromise hatched a day earlier outside a Washington D.C. federal courtroom as a milestone for the descendants, known as freedmen, because it was the first time the Cherokee Nation admitted in a federal courtroom that the freedmen had tribal rights.
“This is why it’s such a huge day for the freedmen,” said tribal attorney Jon Velie, who represents some of the freedmen in court. “I hope this is in indicator the healing process may now begin between the Cherokee administration and the Cherokee people, and hopefully leads to the inclusion of the Cherokee freedmen in the tribe as a whole.”
Attorney Ralph Keen Jr., who also represents freedmen clients in tribal court, applauded the compromise — finally inked between the Cherokee Nation and attorneys for the freedmen Wednesday morning — but referred to the ongoing federal case that will ultimately determine who is a citizen of the nation.
“I would say the freedmen won this battle, but the war is still not over,” Keen said. “The federal court still needs to determine the matter, which is a good thing.”
Saturday’s special election for the leader of Oklahoma’s largest American Indian tribe was ordered by the tribe’s Supreme Court after recounts from a flawed election in June were reversed several times, with the longtime chief and his challenger each being declared the winner twice. Tribal experts believe the freedmen could swing the vote to new leadership of one of the country’s largest tribes.