A federal court in Washington, D.C., denied a motion Wednesday by six Cherokee Freedmen to halt the June 23 Cherokee election.
The freedmen filed for the injunction five days after they were stripped of their Cherokee citizenship during a special election March 3.
A Cherokee Nation District Court later reinstated their citizenship and ruled they could vote in the June 23 tribal election.
U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy denied the injunction based on that tribal court reinstatement.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith said Wednesday that the freedmen group’s effort to stop the election was a remedy in search of a wrong, because they were going to be allowed to vote in the tribal election.
“We did not win the right to hold office, as promised under the Treaty of 1866, but we did get our right to vote,” said Marilyn Vann, spokeswoman for the Freedmen Band of the Cherokee Nation. “We will exercise the rights we have but not stop fighting for full equality.”
Vann decried the fact the freedmen were given an 11-day registration period, which she called inadequate.
Jon Velie, a freedmen attorney, said there are freedmen applications for tribal membership from August that haven’t been considered.
“The actions of the Cherokee have reduced the freedmen number of eligible voters,” he said. “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.”
Vann said the election will go forward, “but the fight for equality will also.”
David Cornsilk, a Cherokee lay advocate for the freedmen, who aided them earlier in tribal court, said: “It (tribal court temporarily reinstating freedmen) is just a ruse. It’s more evidence of what kind of administration we have.
“They are not concerned about the rights of people — they are only concerned about staying in power.”
Cornsilk has repeatedly said the move to disenfranchise the freedmen is a racial issue.
Smith said the issue has nothing to do with race and everything to do with who can be an Indian in an Indian tribe and the proper exercise of Cherokee sovereignty to define Cherokee citizens.
Smith said black citizens with Cherokee ancestry have been and will continue to be citizens of the Cherokee Nation.
Smith said Cherokees are pleased that Kennedy’s decision “respects our tribal court decisions and the more than 300 non-Indian freedmen who won a ruling in our tribal court to participate in the June 23 election.
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