Professor says freedmen issue a moral one

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A Harvard law professor says whether descendants of former slaves once owned by Cherokee Indians have
citizenship rights in the tribe is a moral issue.

Professor Charles Ogletree Jr. and Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith discussed the freedmen issue Thursday at the Federal Bar Association's Annual Meeting and Convention in Oklahoma City.

Cherokee voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment in March 2007 that would remove about 2,800 freedmen from the tribe's rolls. That eliminated their eligibility for medical and other tribal services.

Smith says tribal members have a sovereign right to determine eligibility for citizenship in the tribe.

But Ogletree says everyone loses when groups narrowly define citizenship. He says defining citizenship by blood ancestry may not be the best way.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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