Cherokee Nation Pushes For Change In Federal Law For Freedmen Descendants’ Criminal Cases

At an event held at the Greenwood Cultural Center Friday, the Cherokee Nation announced the push for a change to federal law. 

Friday, February 16th 2024, 6:28 pm



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The Cherokee Nation is pushing for jurisdiction over descendants of Freedmen who commit crimes. Freedmen are slaves once held by the tribe.

At the same time, the Cherokee Nation is announcing its purchase of an old church in North Tulsa to be used as a community center.

After some repairs are made, a former church near 46th Street North and Peoria will be used as a hub for Cherokee citizens who live in Tulsa to give them better access to tribal services.

Now that the lease is signed, the North Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization will soon move into the former Greater Sunrise Baptist Church.

"We have a home that we can call our own now,” Waynetta Lawrie said.

Lawrie is the president of the organization, which just formed a few years ago, operating out of the Tulsa Dream Center. She said the new space will have an impact on the roughly 1300 Cherokee citizens in the area.

“They don't want to have to drive to Tahlequah so they will have services here in Tulsa, that's right at their front door,” Lawrie said.

At an event held at the Greenwood Cultural Center Friday, the Cherokee Nation also announced the push for a change to federal law. 

Right now, the Cherokee Nation says the Major Crimes Act does not allow federal prosecutors to work a case involving a Cherokee Citizen who is of Freedmen descent. While the tribe recognizes descendants of Freedmen as Cherokee citizens, it argues the United States does not, under this law.

"As we speak, if a Cherokee citizen of Freedmen descent is accused of a crime, he can and will be hauled into state court. His status as a Cherokee Nation citizen will be completely ignored. Our message today is that this is simply intolerable,” Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

He said the Cherokee Nation will push Congress and the courts to make a change.

"We will not rest until the United States and its backwards laws on Cherokee Freedmen Descendants catches up with the order of equality here at the Cherokee Nation,” he said.

The Cherokee Nation said it has reached out to leaders of other tribes to notify them of the Cherokee Nation’s intent and have started reaching out to members of Congress and federal officials.

Chief Hoskin also proclaimed February as Black History Month for the Cherokee Nation. The community center is expected to open sometime before the end of the year.

The Cherokee Nation said it has more than 15,000 citizens of Freedmen descent enrolled.

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