TAHLEQUAH, Okla. -- The Cherokee Nation's Supreme Court on Sept. 1 issued an order to the CN government and its offices, including Registration, to begin processing CN citizenship applications of eligible Freedmen descendants.
The order follows an Aug. 30 decision by the District Court for the District of Columbia that stated Freedmen descendants are eligible for CN citizenship based upon the Treaty of 1866 between the United States and CN governments. Article 9 of the treaty states that qualifying Freedmen have "all the rights of native Cherokees."
The Supreme Court's order also follows a Sept. 1 motion by Attorney General Todd Hembree asking the court to issue an order stating that the federal court's determinations would be binding against the CN.
"The Court...finds that the D.C. case was entered into voluntarily by the Nation, that the Nation had a full and proper presentation of its case, and that the Nation is therefore now subject to the opinion of the D.C. District Court," the Supreme Court order states. "Further, this Court recognizes that the Treaty of 1866 has been and remains fully binding upon both the Cherokee Nation and the United States, and to recognize the rights of those individuals who can trace an ancestor to the Dawes Freedmen rolls to obtain citizenship within the Nation."
Hembree said on Aug. 31 that he would not appeal the federal court's ruling and that the CN respects the rule of law.
"The Cherokee Nation respects the rule of law, and yesterday we began accepting and processing citizenship applications from Freedmen descendants. I do not intend to file an appeal," he said.
The Supreme Court's order also states that Freedmen descendants, upon registration as CN citizens shall have all the rights and duties of any other native Cherokee, including the right to run for office.
On March 24, the Supreme Court affirmed the Election Commission's decision barring CN citizen Randy White from running for the Dist. 11 Tribal Council seat against incumbent Victoria Vazquez because he is Shawnee Cherokee and not Cherokee by blood.
That opinion states that a 2007 amendment to the CN Constitution recognizes three separate groups as citizens in Article IV, Section 1. "...citizenship of the Cherokee Nation shall be limited to those originally enrolled on, or descendants of those enrolled on, the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation...as Cherokees by blood, Delaware Cherokees pursuant to Article II of the Delaware Agreements...and the Shawnee Cherokees pursuant to Article II of the Shawnee Agreement."
In 2006, the CN Judicial Appeals Tribunal ruled in the Lucy Allen v. Tribal Council case that Cherokee Delawares and Cherokee Shawnees, like Freedmen, are citizens by adoption only, not blood. The March 24 opinion quoted a portion of that case stating that "the only time a legal right, under Cherokee law, depends on Cherokee blood is when a person decides to run for elected office."
However, the Supreme Court's Sept. 1 order overturns the 2007 constitutional amendment, in which citizens voted to limit citizenship to those who could trace back to an ancestor or ancestors who had verifiable Indian blood.
"Because it violates the Treaty of 1866 between the Cherokee Nation and the United States, the 2007 amendment to the Constitution that purported to limit citizenship with the Cherokee Nation to Cherokees by blood, Delaware Cherokees and Shawnee Cherokees is held to be void and without effect."