Oklahoma tribal court overturns Cherokee amendment

By Rochelle Hines
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (AP) January 2011

A Cherokee Nation judge has overturned an amendment to the tribal constitution that denies citizenship to non-Native American descendants of tribal members’ former black slaves.

Tribal District Court Judge John Cripps ruled last week that Native American tribes can determine membership based on lineage unless that right is limited by law or a treaty.

Cripps says a 145-year-old treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the U.S. government provided that freed slaves and their descendants were to be Cherokee Nation citizens, making the amendment void.

The amendment was approved in 2007, and more than 200 people filed appeals when told their citizenship would be terminated. The appeals were treated as one case.

The Oklahoma-based tribe’s attorney general says it may appeal to the tribe’s Supreme Court.

Similar challenges are in federal court.