Descendants of freed slaves of Seminole Indians say they are entitled to a share of a $50-million government settlement to the Seminoles, and the NAACP says it will help them get it.
"This group is being treated as second-class citizens and are denied the rights others get every day," said D. Marcus Ranger, regional director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "The tribe should do justice to all its citizens."
The NAACP will give legal help to descendants of the Seminole's black slaves, still known as freedmen, Ranger said.
The settlement is compensation for Florida land the U.S. government took in 1823. About $38- million is to go to Oklahoma Seminoles, with the rest going to Seminole bands in Florida.
The Oklahoma Seminole tribe has 14 bands, two of which are exclusively freedmen.
Oklahoma Seminole Chief Jerry Haney contends the freedmen did not own any land in 1823 to be compensated for now.
And Congress counted only Indians, not freedmen, when deciding how to split the money between Oklahoma and Florida tribes, Haney said.
"If we share with the freedmen, it is unfair to the Indians, because our share is diluted," Haney said.
Lawrence Cudjoe, a descendant of a freedman, serves on the Seminole Nation Council but says he and other freedmen receive none of the benefits granted to Seminole Indians.
"We consider ourselves a part of the Seminole Nation," Cudjoe said. "We want no more than what they get. We want to be included as members of the tribe."