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Federal Legislation Would Sanction Muscogee Creek Nation Until Freedmen Get Citizenship

Matt Trotter

New federal legislation calls on the U.S. government to sever ties with the Muscogee (Creek) Nation until it gives full citizenship to the descendants of black Creeks known as freedmen.

H.R. 1514 would cut off federal funding for education, housing and other programs until Congress is satisfied freedmen have the same rights as Creek citizens, like voting.

"Why should the Creek Nation receive the benefit of the services that the United States government provides, which is funded by these same Creek freedmen — the thousands, the tens of thousands of Creek freedmen across this nation. It’s unconscionable to force this group of individuals to do that," said Damario Solomon-Simmons, an attorney representing the Muscogee Creek Indian Freedmen Band in a federal lawsuit to win their citizenship.

The legislation, by Illinois Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, would also suspend the Creek Nation's gaming rights. It has been endorsed by the NAACP, and Solomon-Simmons said there will also be a boycott effort.

"We will be working with our national partners to call for all individuals of good faith, and particularly African-Americans, to stop doing any business with the Creek Nation until they do right by black Creek Indians," Solomon-Simmons said.

Cherokee and Seminole freedmen have won citizenship in their tribes. Solomon-Simmons said the Creek freedmen know it will be a long fight.

"We’re not going anywhere. This organization’s not going anywhere. Our history’s not going anywhere. And we owe it to our ancestors, many of those who built the Creek Nation. If it was not for many of our ancestors, the Creek Nation would not be here today," Solomon-Simmons said.

The tribe’s constitution says only Creeks by blood are eligible for citizenship, which disenfranchises freedmen.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.