Descendants of black slaves once owned by some members of the Cherokee Nation — joined by the 320,000-member tribe itself — are both asking a federal court to decide whether the slaves’ descendants have citizenship rights in Oklahoma’s largest Indian tribe.
The rare, seven-page request by both parties was filed Friday in a Washington federal court and follows years of nasty court battles between the descendants, known as freedmen, and the Cherokees.
The freedmen have argued that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Cherokees, gave the freedmen and their descendants “all the rights of native Cherokees.”
There are around 3,000 freedmen descendants.
A 2007 vote by tribal citizens kicked the freedmen out of the tribe and cut off benefits such as health care.