Cherokee vow to press on with expulsion of 3,000 descendants of black slaves from tribal rolls, despite Washington opposition.
In 2007 the Cherokee passed an amendment to its constitution that required members to have Cherokee blood.
The US government has stepped into a bitter ethnic dispute between a powerful Native American tribe and the descendants of black slaves the tribe used to own.
The argument touches on some of the most difficult and heartbreaking chapters in American history, encompassing the brutal treatment of Native Americans as well as the bitter legacy of slavery.
The fight centres on the tribal membership of the Cherokee nation, a Native American group who were kicked out of their ancestral lands in south-eastern America and forced to relocate to Oklahoma.
For a long time, the tribe has included among its members people who called themselves ‘freedmen’, who were descendants of the black slaves that the tribe used to own, but who were given their liberty after the American civil war. Being a member of the tribe gives certain rights and benefits around tribal-run healthcare schemes, and the spending of money the tribe earns from casino operations.