From the Seminole Producer…

Black Seminoles Lose Appeal Of Federal Suit against BIA

By KAREN ANSON
Managing Editor

The division between the Seminole Nation and the Black Seminoles, or Freedmen, grew wider Wednesday with a 10th Circuit Court decision. As the Seminole Nation begins their annual festival at Mekusukey Mission, and as the Black Seminoles ready for their annual festival in Brackettville, Texas next weekend, the Associated Press is reporting the denial of the Black Seminoles’ appeal of a lawsuit asking for tribal benefits.

Several years ago the Black Seminoles, represented by Jonathan Velie of Norman, filed a lawsuit in federal court asking the Bureau of Indian Affairs to force the Seminoles to give them the same social services, such as school clothing and burial expenses, that other tribal members receive. Basically the suit would have given the Black Seminoles full recognition as members of the
Seminole Nation.

The Black Seminoles, or Freedmen, were originally slaves who escaped to Florida and joined the Seminoles in the 1800s. For a time they were held as
slaves – in name only in most cases – but later were integrated into the tribe.
Many of the Seminole Nation members believe services should be denied unless the Black Seminoles can provide proof of Indian blood.

US District Judge Vicki Miles LaGrange threw the case out of court, ruling that the Black Seminoles should sue the Seminole Nation to receive the services.
She ruled that the tribe’s sovereign status makes them immune to a federal court lawsuit.

Wednesday the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld LaGrange’s decision.
The three-judge panel released a 27-page decision on the matter. “That is very sad and surprising,” Velie was quoted as saying to the Associated Press.
“This is quite a blow.”

I’ll look up a copy of this decision and post it on Monday online.