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Descendants of black slaves, known as freedmen, who were once owned by members of the Cherokee Nation have a right to tribal citizenship under a ruling handed down by a federal court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled Wednesday in a long-standing dispute between the Cherokee Freedmen and the second largest tribe in the United States.

Freedmen have long argued that the Treaty of 1866, signed between the U.S. government and the Tahlequah, Oklahoma-based Cherokees, gave them and their descendants "all the rights of native Cherokees." There are around 3,000 freedmen descendants today.

But Cherokee leaders have argued the tribe has the fundamental right to determine its citizens, and in 2007 more than three-fourths of Cherokee voters approved an amendment to remove the Freedmen from tribal rolls.

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