Congress moving to return 76 acres of TN land to Cherokees

A congressional bill seeking to return 76 acres of tribal land along the Little Tennessee River to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is making its way through a U.S. House subcommittee, reports the Times-Free Press.

Since its introduction on Sept. 24, House Bill 3599, called the Eastern Band Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act, was referred first to the House Committee on Natural Resources, then in October was referred to the subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs, according to congressional records.

That subcommittee held early hearings on the bill that seeks to place the land in trust status on Feb. 24, according to bill sponsor U.S. House Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn. The bill was “received well” in committee, and state officials and TVA “do not oppose the bill,” according to Fleischmann, who noted the bill also contains an anti-gaming provision.

“The only potential changes are minor and technical in nature,” Fleischmann spokeswoman Maria Dill said. “We aren’t sure about the timing of a markup [revisions] yet.”

If passed, the land of two former Cherokee capitals on the Little Tennessee River that was flooded when the Tellico Dam was built almost 40 years ago would be returned to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for the establishment of museums, memorials and interpretive trails. The “reacquisition of land” is part of an agreement between the Cherokee and TVA that allowed the federal utility to use some of the Cherokee land with the promise it would be returned someday.

The House bill represents that “someday.”