TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) — The U.S. Department of the Interior is asking a federal court to grant tribal citizenship rights to certain descendants of black slaves once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell filed the motion Friday in federal court in the longstanding case between the descendants, known as freedmen, and the Cherokees, The Tahlequah Daily Press reported (http://bit.ly/1esQ61K).
The Interior Department believes the federal court should declare that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Cherokees, gives certain freedmen and their descendants the same rights of native Cherokees.
"This court should declare that the Treaty of 1866 between the Cherokee Nation and the United States guaranteed certain Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants 'all the rights of native Cherokees,' including the right to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, and that this treaty provision continues to guarantee descendants of eligible Freedmen with citizenship and all other rights of 'native' Cherokees," the motion states.
The Interior Department said that a 2007 constitutional amendment kicking the freedmen out of the tribe and cutting off their benefits is inconsistent with the treaty, and the Cherokee Nation should be enjoined from denying tribal membership rights to the descendants of freedmen.
About 2,800 freedmen are seeking citizenship rights.
A spokeswoman for the Cherokee Nation says the brief was filed in response to the tribe's brief filed in November.
Oral arguments in the case are scheduled for April 28 in Washington, D.C.
Information from: Tahlequah Daily Press, http://www.tahlequahdaailypress.com