Published On: Tue, Sep 7th, 2010
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Tennessee Tribes lose State Recognition

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

Just over two months after six groups in Tennessee cheered garnering state recognition they have now lost it – probably for good.  According to court documents released by the Tennessee Attorney General’s office, a violation of the Tennessee Open Meetings Act may have been the downfall in the situation.

The now-defunct Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs (TCIA) recognized the six groups during a meeting on June 19 – one that has been ruled illegal according to an agreement order filed in Davidson County Court.   That order states the TCIA “violated the Tennessee Open Meetings Act by failing to give adequate public notices of its June 19, 2010 meeting and by deliberating in secret prior to that meeting.” 

Two weeks after the meeting, Mark Greene, a lobbyist for the Cherokee Nation, filed suit against the TCIA.  The two parties came to an agreement last week whereby the TCIA admitted the violation of the meetings law thus declaring the actions of the June 19 meeting illegal. 

“The actions taken at the June 19, 2010 meeting by the Defendant (TCIA) in adopting Standing Rule 14 and in awarded state recognition as an Indian Tribe to the Remnant Yuchi Nation; United Eastern Lenape Nation of Winfield, Tennessee; Chikamaka Band; Central Band of Cherokee; Cherokee Wolf Clan; and Tanasi Council are declared void and of no effect,” states the agreement. 

Bob Tuke, Greene’s attorney, commented, “The point of the lawsuit was to nullify what was done in a derogation of the law.”  He said because the TCIA is now a defunct organization there is no chance for an appeal in the case. 

“The underlying idea of recognizing these bands of people who don’t qualify as tribes under federal law or traditional notions of tribes has always been a bad idea,” he said.  “It creates confusion.  It creates groups of people who don’t have clear status.” 

Tuke pointed to the Central Band of Cherokee who lost their recognition in Tennessee as a result of the lawsuit.  That group was turned down recently for federal recognition by the BIA. 

“That’s precisely why there needs to be one set of criteria and one set of laws that governs the recognition of tribes in the nation and that’s the federal government.” 

Tuke said recognizing any groups such as the Central Band of Cherokee as tribes is an insult to the tribes that have been established and have histories dating back thousands of years. 

The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.) reported that Joe Sitting Owl White, principal chief of Central Band of Cherokee, read from a prepared statement on Friday, Aug. 27, “It is tragic that the leaders of the State of Tennessee is again committing treason against the State of Tennessee constitution, the United States Constitution and genocide on the U.N. law against genocide.  The tribes in Tennessee have treaties and what they are doing is treason … We are asking that the U.S. Marshals step in and put a stop to what’s going on.”

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