TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - Chad Smith won re-election to a third term as the chief of the Cherokee Nation on Saturday in an election held as the tribe deals with controversy generated after an earlier vote to rescind the tribal membership of the descendants of its slaves.
After more than 13,600 ballots had been counted, Smith had won 58.8 percent of the vote, while his opponent, former Cherokee Supreme Court Justice Stacy Leeds, received 41.2 percent of the vote.
Smith first was elected as Cherokee chief in 1999 and was re-elected in 2003.
Joe Grayson Jr., the tribe's current deputy chief, also won re-election, receiving 61.3 percent to challenger Raymond Vann's 38.7 percent.
By a 2-1 margin, tribal members also approved a resolution concerning an amendment to remove federal oversight of the tribe's constitution. Voters approved the amendment in 2003, but the federal government never approved the election.
During a special election in March, tribal members voted overwhelmingly to take away tribal citizenship from about 2,800 descendants of tribal 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 federal courts and has caught the attention of some members of Congress. Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., introduced legislation on Thursday to cut millions of dollars in federal funding to the Cherokee Nation.
The tribe said Friday that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has told the tribe it has no plans to cut off federal funding.
The Cherokee Nation is the second-largest American Indian tribe in the United States, with about 250,000 members.