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African-Native American Genealogy Forum

Cherokee freedmen lawsuit WON

Friends, I appreciate the many well wishers on the victory won in the DC Federal courtroom. The court battle began in 2003, and prior to that of course there had been cases which were dismissed on technicalities such as the NERO case.

I wanted to respond to issues raised by Mrs Norma Edwards regarding the lawsuits themselves. Although I am the President of the Descendants of Freedmen of the Five Tribes Association, the organization is not a party to the lawsuit. NO lawsuit could have been won by trying to sue for the rights of freedmen of several tribes in one lawsuit . Some persons tried to do something similar to that by trying to become parties in the cobell lawsuit and the cases were almost instantly dismissed by the judges although the litigants took their issues to more than one court- in part because the government position was that the Chickasaw freedmen had no tribal rights.

The parties to the cherokee lawsuits include various individuals who are descended from Dawes registered Cherokee freedmen. The Seminoles, Cherokees, and Creeks, all signed a different treaty with the US government in which the wording so far as the freedmen rights to citizenship is slightly different. But in all those the freedmen admitted to citizenship received full rights to tribal membership.

The Choctaw-Chickasaw treaty was very different, those tribes had the option to adopt the freedmen and would receive money from the US government if they did so. The Choctaw/chickasaw freedmen would be limited to 40 acre allotments if the tribal lands were ever allotted. The Choctaw eventually adopted their freedmen in/about 1885; they never allowed their freedmen to hold higher office or receive annuities and the congressional bill which approved the Choctaw freedmen adopted allowed discrimination to the freedmen . The Chickasaw freedmen were held by the Federal courts about 1907 to never have been adopted and the tribe received back the value of the allotments given to the chickasaw freedmen . At one time we (the DEscendants organization) did support a case in tribal court pertaining to creek freedmen rights but that case was dismissed in tribal court about 2005. The lawyers in that creek case had a contract to work on the case for a small amount of money plus expenses. (They were paid in full by the contract terms).

We have been clear that almost all of the moneys raised through donations or fundraisers or occasional sale of times/auctions of donated blankets, flutes, etc. has been raised for the Cherokee freedmen lawsuits. The Vann/Nash cherokee cases began in 2003 and have been to the DC appeals court twice when chief smith tried to dismiss the cases on procedural issues. Hundreds of thousands of hours of legal fees have been expended on these cases. The money raised since 2003 has never been enough to come near what the attorneys have expended so far as billable time.

And by the way Mrs Edwards, the person who has donated the most personal money by far in the case is me and it has been a sacrifice to my family. Very very few attorneys who are skilled in Indian law would have considered filing a case in the creek nation without a ruling on the Cherokee case establish favorable precedent. Moneys were also expended to go to Washington dc to visit with congressmen/senators about the freedmen and ask them for help - for example to get the department of interior to litigate to protect the freedmens 1866 treaty rights.

Things can change for the better for the freedmen in the creek nation but it will not just happen with no additional action or efforts by anyone. It will take money , no question about that to get justice in the Creek nation.

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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