Monday, January 17, 2011

Ethics, Law and Citizenship in the Cherokee Nation

It was interesting to read the Court Order issued by the District Court of the Cherokee Nation the other day. The judge who wrote the order took great care to recite the history about how the former slaves and their descendants received citizenship in the Cherokee Nation. Of all the factors he cited in support of citizenship for the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen, I was most impressed with his ethical argument for citizenship.

The Cherokee Nation and I would add the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole Nations have a moral obligation as well as one based in law that requires them NOT to “descend into such manner of action and disregard their pledges and agreements.”

Clearly the lower court saw through the smoke screen and rhetoric by the Cherokee Nation leaders that sought to invoke their rights to determine citizenship based “on blood.” That course of action is not applicable in this situation because of a treaty obligation!

The District Court understood the legal argument that Freedmen and their descendants received citizenship by way of a treaty that had not been annulled, destroyed, revoked, or cancelled by Congress.

Again, the treaty was specific in its language about the “status” of former slaves and their descendants; they “shall have all the rights of native Cherokees.” This was upheld by the decision of the Cherokee Nations Supreme Courts several years ago which prompted the “Chief Who Shall Not Be Named” to mount a campaign to circumvent the treaty and Constitution of the United States.

The campaign to keep freedmen descendants from receiving citizenship in the nation of their ancestor’s birth was sophisticated and slick but it lacked the legal and moral high ground on which it attempted to convey. And now, the Cherokee Freedmen have another decision that supports their position that they are entitled to citizenship in the Nation should they so desire.

In the coming days and weeks it will be interesting to watch as the Cherokee Nation responds to this decision. We know from the past actions much has changed in that nations Supreme Court and whether the Cherokee Freedmen and their descendants can receive justice in that court might be in question.

There is an election coming up soon in the Cherokee Nation, will those who have waited almost five years for citizenship be allowed to vote? Will the election be valid if the freedmen are not granted citizenship in time to vote?

If the so called Five Civilized Tribes want to consider themselves as “Nations” they should honor their agreements if there is any honor left in the nation or their leaders.

Stay tuned; film at eleven!

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