Freedmen Can Sue Chief

Dec 14, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A federal appeals court says descendants of slaves owned by members of the Cherokee Nation can sue the current chief in an attempt to restore their tribal memberships.

A lower court said previously that the Cherokee Nation itself had sovereign immunity and could not be sued. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia said Friday that the descendants could sue the chief to press their claim.

The court noted an 1866 treaty granted the former slaves known as Cherokee Freedmen all tribal rights, including the right to vote.

Over time, the Freedmen's descendants were no longer considered tribal members. They say the chief — and through him the sovereign tribe — is breaking federal law by not honoring the treaty. There are 2,800 descendants.