Cherokee Nation

When he started working as a bartender a few years ago in Seattle, Howie Echo-Hawk says he began experiencing discrimination. First, a bar manager told him to get a respectable haircut.

"I had a Mohawk, which is the traditional style of my people and I wore it because of that," he said. Echo-Hawk is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma.

Rather than argue, Echo-Hawk cut his hair. Then, a few months later, he broke his ankle and had to take some time off.

Following the unrest in Charlottesville, many cities and towns across the country are taking down their Confederate monuments. Members of the Cherokee Nation are also grappling with their Civil War history.

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Allison Herrera/PRI 

Marilyn Vann always knew her background and where her family came from. She knew she was a Cherokee Freedman, a descendant of former slaves, and that she deserved to have full tribal citizenship, just like other native Cherokees.

That's why she was surprised to get a rejection letter when she tried to enroll more than a decade ago. After all, her father was an original enrollee on the Dawes Roll, a historical US government record of tribal members. That meant, she said, she was eligible for citizenship into the tribe.

A judge ruled Wednesday that the descendants of enslaved people who were owned by members of the Cherokee Nation — known as Cherokee Freedmen — have citizenship rights.

"The Cherokee Nation can continue to define itself as it sees fit," U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan wrote in his ruling, "but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen."

Allison Herrera

A case that helps determine whether or not the descendants of Cherokee slaves have the full citizenship rights of native Cherokees was decided in United States Federal District Court Wednesday.

After nearly three years, Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan in his ruling said the paramount question to be considered is whether an 1866 treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the United States granted the Cherokee Freedmen, or the descendants of slaves, "all the rights of native Cherokees."

As the nation’s opioid addiction and overdose crisis grows, the Cherokee Nation is launching the first-ever lawsuit against drug distributors that will be litigated in a tribal court.

The suit takes on companies including pharmacies CVS Health, Walgreens and Wal-Mart, and drug distributors Cardinal Health, Inc. and McKesson Corporation, alleging that they didn’t properly monitor prescription painkillers, which eventually “flooded” every Cherokee county.

The Cherokee Nation is suing top drug distributors and pharmacies — including Wal-Mart — alleging they profited greatly by "flooding" communities in Oklahoma with prescription painkillers, leading to the deaths of hundreds of tribal members.

Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Before the Cherokee people were forced from their lands in the eastern U.S. along the Trail of Tears, the tribe grew varieties of crops now nearly lost. But at the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank in Tahlequah, Okla., a vital part of the tribe’s history is kept frozen.

Deep underground on a Norwegian island in the remote arctic, the Global Seed Vault shelters seeds from around the globe, protecting them from natural disaster, nuclear catastrophe or any apocalypse that might bring humans to the brink.

The Cherokee Nation now recognizes same-sex marriages under an opinion issued Friday by the tribe's attorney general.

As a sovereign nation, the Cherokees and other tribes weren’t bound by a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made same sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

“Gov. Mary Fallin and the state’s tribal governments have not always seen eye-to-eye,” The Tulsa World’s Randy Krehbiel and Curtis Killman report, “but that apparently is not preventing at least some of the tribes from giving Fallin their unreserved support for secretary of the interior in President-elect Donald Trump’s new administration.”

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