Cherokee Nation processing freedmen citizenship applications

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation has started processing tribal citizen applications for the descendants of black slaves once owned by tribal members.

A federal court in Washington, D.C., ended a longstanding fight last week by ruling that descendants of the slaves, known as freedmen, have the right to tribal citizenship.

Tribal spokeswoman Amanda Clinton tells the Tulsa World the tribe has begun processing about 3,000 applications that had been on hold. She says the tribe’s registration office in Oklahoma received about 75 visits and hundreds of phone calls after the ruling.

The ruling ended a legal dispute that began in 2003. Some tribal members argued that freedmen shouldn’t be considered members unless they could show proof of Native American blood.

The Cherokee Nation is the country’s second largest tribe, with more than 317,000 citizens.