Thursday, September 7, 2017

Freedmen Descendants Apply for Tribal Citizenship After Lengthy Legal Battle

Associate Tribal Registrar Justin Godwin, left, answers questions for Marilyn Vann, right, in the tribe’s registration office. Vann often spoke on behalf of the freedmen descendants as they sought citizenship in the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation registration office is processing tribal citizenship applications for Cherokee freedmen descendants following resolution of a decades-long legal struggle.

“We’re happy and relieved this long-standing case is finally resolved, and now we are moving forward processing applications as quickly as possible,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree.

The application process includes submitting necessary paperwork such as birth and death certificates, current and correct addresses, and other up-to-date information. Submitting incorrect or incomplete information may slow the registration process. The Cherokee Nation receives about 1,200 new citizenship applications per month and recently cleared a three-year backlog.

The Cherokee Nation registration office has staff set aside and ready to work on new and pending freedmen descendant applications and answer questions for those who may be unfamiliar with the registration process.

The registration office expects to continue to process all applications in a timely manner, notwithstanding the additional caseload of freedman descendant applications.

Omara Griffin, 37, of Muskogee, visited the tribe’s registration office Friday to learn what was needed to complete her application.

“It’s exciting to be able to register after waiting all these years,” she said. “I feel a part of the tribe going forward.”

Marilyn Vann of Muskogee, who was a litigant in the case, also delivered paperwork for her family on Friday. She said her family is relieved for the case to be resolved after so many years.

“I’m grateful to Chief Baker and Attorney General Hembree. We see this as a great Nation and a coming together,” Vann said.

The Cherokee Nation registration office is located in the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Park Hill, just south of Tahlequah, at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. It is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and can be reached by calling 918-458-6980. Applications may be downloaded online at

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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