Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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American Indians in Tennessee government volunteer service
TN Archaeological Advisory Council
mandated 3 Native American representatives
  • Michael Lynch, West Tennessee (2008-12)
         member, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
  • Pat Cummins, Middle Tennessee (2004-08)
         descendant, Cherokee
  • Mark Cantrell, Middle Tennessee (2010-14)
         unknown tribal affiliation
  •   TN Historical Commission
    mandated inclusion of person/s
    of Native American ancestry

  • Brent A. Cox (2008-2012)
    444 Cades Atwood Road
    Milan, Tennessee 38358
    731-723-9994

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    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee


    Issues Affecting American Indians in Tennessee
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    Help us Fight Tennessee H.B. 1692

    Thursday, January 14, 2010 P.O. Box 948 Tahlequah, OK 74465 (918) 453-5000 / Contact Us
    Help us Fight Tennessee H.B. 1692
    Dear Tribal Citizen,


    On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, I want to inform you of Tennessee House Bill #1692 and ask for your help in opposing this bill that will harm the inherent sovereignty of all tribes. The Cherokee Nation supports the existing federal recognition process and strongly opposes state recognition of any “so called” Cherokee tribe, band, or nation, including this bill and other similar pieces of legislation. We encourage you to learn about what is happening in Tennessee and actively join us to fight state recognition.


    Why would a state be interested in granting tribal recognition? Tribal recognition offers a unique status and can provide select immunities and privileges.


    What is federal recognition? Cherokee Nation and other federally recognized tribes have inherent sovereign (self-governing) powers recognized by the U.S. government, like a separate country. The federal government has a government-to-government relationship with federally recognized American Indian nations based on a long history of treaties, legislation, executive orders and the U.S. Constitution. The United States explains the process as “The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs has an administrative process by which a group may establish itself as an Indian tribe and become eligible for the services and benefits accorded Indian tribes under federal law. The process requires extensive documentation, including verification of continuous existence as an Indian tribe since 1900, and generally takes considerable time.” The federal recognition application can be viewed at http://lieberman.senate.gov/documents/crs/indianaffairs.pdf


    States do not have such a relationship. Historically and legally, states have been excluded from dealing with Indian nations. The foundation for state exclusion is rooted in the Constitution of the United States, effectively making state recognition unconstitutional.


    There are over 200 groups across the United States claiming Cherokee culture and heritage as their own. These groups cannot meet the requirements set forth by the Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Acknowledgement and Research. There are only three legitimate, federally recognized Cherokee entities: The Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (both headquartered in Tahlequah, Oklahoma), and the Eastern Band of Cherokees in Cherokee, North Carolina.


    Heritage is different from citizenship. Many people with genuine Indian heritage will never meet the qualifications to become citizens in a federally recognized tribe. The Cherokee Nation does not question anyone’s claims of heritage or ancestry, but merely points out the significant difference between claiming heritage and having citizenship in a federally recognized Indian tribe. We encourage people of Cherokee heritage to take pride in and become active in heritage and cultural organizations even if they are not eligible for citizenship.


    Ancestors of Cherokee Nation citizens were forcibly removed from their homes in Tennessee and the southeast to the Indian Territory in 1838-39 and the Cherokee Nation contends that no Cherokee clans, bands, tribes or nations were left behind or have continued to exist in Tennessee. We vigorously contest any notion that any group of Cherokee descendants has maintained a tribal status within the borders of Tennessee or anywhere else except in Oklahoma and North Carolina. We respectfully request that the State of Tennessee defer to the federal government in matters pertaining to the recognition of any group or individual as Native American.


    I encourage you to call your State Legislators and let them know that you are a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized Indian tribe and that you oppose HB1692 or similar piece of legislation. Further, if you are available and are in the Nashville area, I urge you to attend the committee meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 26, 2009 at 3:00 p.m. Below are the legislators who will be sitting on the committee on Tuesday along with their contact information:



    SENATE COMMITTEE OFFICERS:


    Bill Ketron, Chair, Office: 615-741-6853

    Murfreesboro: 615-896-5440


    Lowe Finney, Vice-Chair Office: 615-741-1810

    Jackson: 731-988-3991/731-664-1340


    Joe Haynes, Secretary, Office: 615-741-6679

    Goodlettsville: 615-859-1328/615-859-3529




    SENATE MEMBERS:



    Tim Burchett, Office: 615-741-1766; Knoxville: 865-693-1902

    Mike Faulk, Office: 615-741-2061; Church Hill: 423-357-8088

    Thelma Harper, Office: 615-741-2453; Nashville: 615-876-3466

    Mark Norris, Office: 615-741-1967; Memphis: 901-524-5279

    Jim Tracy, Office: 615-741-1066; Shelbyville: 931-684-8589

    Ken Yager, Office: 615-741-1449

    For more information, you may contact Ginger Brown, Cherokee Nation Government Relations Officer at ginger-brown@cherokee.org.

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to phone or email your local legislator and ask him/her to vote “no” for state recognition of these tribes.


    Sincerely,



    Chad Smith

    Principal Chief

    Cherokee Nation

    Re: Help us Fight Tennessee H.B. 1692

    This bill would be worse for the state of Tennessee than for the federal tribes. Those idiot reps are just too blind to see!

    Re: Help us Fight Tennessee H.B. 1692

    They do not have the slightest idea of what is going to crawl out of that can of worms if they open it.

    You got that right!


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