WASHINGTON, D.C.  – On June 13, the Federal District Court denied a motion to halt the June 23 Cherokee election.

Six Cherokee Freedmen filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in the Federal District Court in the District of Columbia on March 8, 2007 against U.S. Officials and the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. The Freedmen were stripped of their Cherokee citizenship earlier that month.

Jon Velie, an attorney for the case said “The motion to block the election served its purpose. The Freedmen were reinstated as Cherokee citizens and will get to exercise their right to vote–a right they’ve had since the Treaty of 1866. This doesn’t affect the rest of the case. We aren’t disappointed.”


“We did not win the right to hold office as promised under the Treaty, but we did get our right to vote,” said Marilyn Vann, Principal Chief of the Freedmen Band of the Cherokee Nation. “We will exercise the rights we have, but not stop fighting for full equality.”

The Freedmen were recently reinstated as citizens, and will be allowed to vote in the June 23 election. They were given an 11-day registration period.

“This doesn’t change the fact that the registration period was not adequate and that they haven’t opened up citizenship applications,” said Ms. Vann.

“There are Freedmen applications from August that haven’t been considered,” said Mr. Velie. “The actions of the Cherokee have reduced the Freedmen number of eligible voters. It’s clear that Freedmen are not allowed to participate adequately in this electoral process. Only 1,000 of the 25,000 Freedmen who are eligible for citizenship will get to vote.”

Recently, the council of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma voted unanimously to include a tribal constitutional amendment on the June 23 ballot. The tribe’s 1976 constitution requires federal approval for any changes. In 2003, voters approved an amendment to remove the federal review provision.

In a letter dated May 21, The Bureau of Indian Affairs rejected the 2003 amendment. Assistant Secretary Carl Artman said he was concerned that the Cherokee Freedmen, the descendants of African slaves who were made citizens by an 1866 treaty, were not allowed to vote in that election.

Ms. Vann said, “The election will go forward, but the fight for equality will also.”