TAHLEQUAH (AP) — The Department of the Interior says certain descendants of black slaves once owned by some members of the Cherokee Nation should be afforded tribal citizenship rights.
The Tahlequah Daily Press reports that U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell filed the motion Friday in federal court in the longstanding case between the descendants, known as freedmen, and the Cherokees.
The Interior Department believes the federal court should declare that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Cherokees, gives certain freedmen and their descendants the same rights of native Cherokees.
About 2,800 freedmen are seeking citizenship rights.
A 2007 tribal vote kicked the freedmen out of the tribe and cut off benefits including health care.
A tribal spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment.