In a fit of ethnic cleansing, the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma have voted 77 per cent to 23 per cent to disenfranchise black descendants of Cherokee slaves, called Freedmen.

They adopted an amendment to their constitution that strips the rights and membership of their black brethren, who until now were considered Cherokee.

“The Cherokee people exercised the most basic democratic right, the right to vote,” Chad Smith, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, said in a statement. “Their voice is clear as to who should be citizens of the Cherokee Nation. No one else has the right to make that determination.”

Opponents of the amendment say it was a racist tactic designed to deny the distribution of U.S. government funds and tribal revenue to those with African-American heritage, many of whom also have some Cherokee blood.

Advocates of changing the 141-year-old treaty rules defining who is a Cherokee say the tribal nation has a sovereign right to decide citizenship and that other tribes base membership on blood lines.

The Cherokee Nation, which ranks as the second-largest tribe behind the Navajo, has 250,000 to 270,000 members and is growing rapidly.

Cherokees, along with several other tribes, held black slaves and allied themselves with the Confederacy during the U.S. Civil War. The slaves were freed after the war but many continued living in Cherokee communities.

In 1983, the Cherokee Nation expelled many descendants of slaves as members, but a Cherokee tribunal ruled last year that the Freedmen were fully fledged citizens with voting rights. That court decision prompted the special vote.