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Chad Smith elected to third term as chief of Cherokee Nation 6-24-07

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma (AP) - Chad Smith was elected to a third term as chief of the Cherokee Nation as the American Indian tribe deals with controversy surrounding a vote to rescind the tribal membership of the descendants of its slaves.

With more than 13,600 ballots counted Saturday, Smith had won 58.8 percent of the vote, while his opponent, former Cherokee Supreme Court Justice Stacy Leeds, received 41.2 percent.

Smith was elected chief in 1999 and re-elected in 2003.

In a special election in March, tribal members voted overwhelmingly to remove tribal citizenship for about 2,800 descendants of tribal black slaves, who are commonly known as freedmen.

In May, a tribal court issued a temporary injunction allowing the freedmen to maintain their citizenship while they appeal the constitutionality of the March election.

It is not known how many freedmen voted in Saturday's election.

The matter is being argued in both tribal and U.S. federal courts and has caught the attention of Congress. Democratic Rep. Diane Watson introduced legislation Thursday to cut millions of dollars in federal funding to the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation is the second-largest American Indian tribe in the U.S., with about 250,000 members.
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