[lg policy] Second-largest U.S. Indian tribe expels slave descendants
haroldfs at GMAIL.COM
Wed Aug 24 15:51:10 UTC 2011
Second-largest U.S. Indian tribe expels slave descendants
By Steve Olafson | Reuters – 14 hrs ago
OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - The nation's second-largest Indian tribe
formally booted from membership thousands of descendants of black
slaves who were brought to Oklahoma more than 170 years ago by Native
The Cherokee nation voted after the Civil War to admit the slave
descendants to the tribe.
But on Monday, the Cherokee nation Supreme Court ruled that a 2007
tribal decision to kick the so-called "Freedmen" out of the tribe was
The controversy stems from a footnote in the brutal history of U.S.
treatment of Native Americans. When many Indians were forced to move
to what later became Oklahoma from the eastern U.S. in 1838, some who
had owned plantations in the South brought along their slaves.
Some 4,000 Indians died during the forced march, which became known as
the "Trail of Tears."
"And our ancestors carried the baggage," said Marilyn Vann, the
Freedman leader who is a plaintiff in the legal battle.
Officially, there are about 2,800 Freedmen, but another 3,500 have
tribal membership applications pending, and there could be as many as
25,000 eligible to enter the tribe, according to Vann.
The tribal court decision was announced one day before absentee
ballots were to be mailed in the election of the Cherokee Principal
"This is racism and apartheid in the 21st Century," said Vann, an
engineer who lives in Oklahoma City.
Spokesmen for the tribe did not respond when asked to comment.
The move to exclude the Freedmen has rankled some African American
members of Congress, which has jurisdiction over all Native American
tribes in the country.
A lawsuit challenging the Freedman's removal from the tribe has been
pending in federal court in Washington, for about six years.
As a sovereign nation, Cherokee Nation officials maintain that the
tribe has the right to amend its constitutional membership
Removal from the membership rolls means the Freedmen will no longer be
eligible for free health care and other benefits such as education
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Greg McCune)
Harold F. Schiffman
Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138
Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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