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The ‘Freedmen’ Black Native Americans still not recognised as ‘Indians’
In the recent Supreme Court ruling it has been noticed in the restriction within Oklahoma regarding prosecution of Native Americans committing crimes in their tribal land.
This judgement has not been applied for ‘Black’ tribal members, who are still prosecuted due to lack of ‘Indian blood’.
Michael J. Hill, a member of the Cherokee Nation and citizen of Oklahoma has been recognised to be prosecuted within state court for not being a legally approved Indian.
In 2020, Michael J. Hill called the police due to a sudden occurrence of banging of his home windows. Later, he realised it was some of his friends.
However, the police came and arrested one of Hill’s friends, Aaron R. Wilson, for an outstanding warrant. This led to Hill getting into an altercation with the officers that resulted in him being arrested.
Both Hill and Wilson are black racially and have the citizenship of Native American tribes within Oklahoma.
Both Hill and Wilson have been observed to have moved their case for the purpose of dismissal. They argued that they are tribal members within the tribal land and are outside the jurisdiction of the State.
Wilson’s case was dismissed and Hill’s request was denied by the State Court.
The key difference between the two men is ‘race’. The small degree that has led to this circumstance is ‘Indian Blood’ recognised by US legal justice systems.
Wilson is one sixth fourth of Creek Indian. On the other hand, Hill is a citizen of Cherokee Nation through ancestry of ‘Freedman’. They are black individuals enslaved by Native tribes.
Due to this, Hill has been found not to have presence of Indian blood that led to him being prosecuted by the State Court.
Like Hill, there is a large population of Freedman within the Oklahoma tribal territory who are in constant feud with the State of Oklahoma and Tribal Nations after the Supreme Court ruling of 2020.
The dilemma starts regarding the feud that arises regarding the federal ruling regarding what it means to be considered as an ‘Indian’ in the eyes of the US justice system.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case ‘McGirt v. Oklahoma’ led to many tribal natives of the US to have dismissal of their criminal cases.
The ruling prevented the State from interfering with the crimes that are committed by Natives within their tribal land. Instead, such offences could only be tried by tribal authorities and federal jurisdictions.
However, State prosecutors have been adamant regarding the prosecution of Freedmen within native regions across the United States.
Judges in the state courts have been observed to deny the dismissal of criminal charges that are brought about by Freedmen.
Defence brought out by Freedmen in state courts are dismissed with the view they are not considered to have ‘Indian Blood’.
The state of Oklahoma argues that the decision has resulted in an unequal legal system within the region. Along with this, the decision has also vested special privileges to tribal individuals of the region.
This has led to rise in freeing tribal members committing crimes to be free, which increases the probability of crime rates within tribal regions of the State.
So, it could be stated that the US justice system makes changes in such biassed laws and regulations that are resulting in increased tensions for black freedmen of tribal regions.
As they are facing anxiety and fear to conduct any activities regarding the unequal laws that are restricting them the right to equality enshrined in the US Constitution.
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By Jyoti Jha03 Oct 2023