The descendants of Oklahoma Cherokee slaves filed an injunction in federal court in Washington, D.C., Tuesday asking a judge to throw out the tribe’s recent decision to remove their citizenship and voting rights in the Indian nation.
Filed by Freedmen Association President Marilynn Vann and her attorney, Jon Velie of Norman, the injunction asks for the court to restore their citizenship.
“There simply can be no doubt that plaintiffs will suffer immediate and irreparable harm if the Cherokee Nation strips them of their citizenship rights. Without injunctive relief, plaintiffs will be deprived of the most sacred right of citizenship ” the right to participate in government”¦” the motion states.
The freedmen were removed from the Cherokee tribe in March by a vote in which only 3 percent of the tribe voted. Velie told OklahomaGazette that Principal Chief Chad Smith removed the freedmen because he believed they would vote against him in elections.
Smith told Gazette that the freedmen were removed because they weren’t able to prove Indian ancestry.
Velie said there is more than his opinion to support his claim that Smith sought help via (pictured) Abramoff’s illegal political networking to broker the vote to get the descendants kicked out of the tribe, including:
” meetings between Smith and Abramoff cronies at the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and
” documents showing Smith and the Cherokee Nation’s connection to Griles and Abramoff.
“The reality of it, is the gaming arm of the Cherokee retained and paid Abramoff $120,000. So, Abramoff is retained by the casino money,” Velie said.
Senate lobbying reports show two $60,000 payments made in 2003 to Abramoff and his lobbying firm by Cherokee Nation Enterprises, which operates the tribe’s casinos.
Election records also show Abramoff contributed $1,500 to Smith’s tribal re-election campaign in 2002.
Smith called the accusation “desperate.” – Ben Fenwick