Cherokee Nation restores citizenship for black freedmen

The Kansas City StarSeptember 21, 2011 

Black Cherokees in Kansas City were ecstatic Tuesday after learning that the tribal citizenship they’d been fighting years for has been restored.

Their citizenship is regained through an agreement made in federal court between the Cherokee Nation and black Cherokees known as freedmen, an attorney said Tuesday.

“This is not temporary, where the Cherokee Nation gives freedmen citizenship until after the election and then tries to change it,” said Jon Velie, who was in court Tuesday on behalf of the freedmen.

The agreement came during a hearing in federal court in Washington. The parties have until this morning to submit a written agreement to the judge.

The agreement gives 2,800 freedmen all the benefits available to the Cherokee tribe, including tribal voting rights. And it extends the voting period for the upcoming election for principal chief to Oct. 8. Before Tuesday, that election was to take place this week.

“We have been vindicated,” said Willadine Johnson, whose ancestors, like other freedmen, were held as slaves by Cherokees. After the Civil War, Cherokees signed a treaty freeing its slaves and granting them full Cherokee citizenship.

“This is the way it always should have been,” Johnson said. “You can’t take my citizenship from me.”

In 2007 the nation stripped freedmen of their citizenship and suffrage rights, saying bloodline determined citizenship.

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