Tag Archives: Indians

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.”

Bill would return 76 acres in East TN to Cherokees

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians could get back 76 acres of original homeland in East Tennessee, including sites where the tribe once was headquartered, under legislation proposed by U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, reports the Times-Free Press.

The Tanasi Memorial, built to mark the Cherokee capital that now lies under the Tellico Reservoir and other sites are targeted in Fleischmann’s bill. Tribal leaders began discussions with federal officials earlier this year.

Patrick Lambert, the principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, said the Eastern Band Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act would be historic for the descendants of the Overhill Cherokee — so named for crossing the Appalachians to live in East Tennessee and the Little Tennessee River Valley.

In the mid-1980s, “the Eastern Band of Cherokees were deliberating with TVA about securing certain tracts of land that would become Tellico Lake shoreline,” Lambert said. “These were lands that held special value to the Tribe because of their special cultural significance.”

The bill seeks to place the land in trust status, a designation Lambert said has been used by other tribes for similar purposes.

“This would be a very meaningful action, allowing the lands to again become tribal reservation,” he said. “They would be under our control and ownership as official homelands of the Overhill Cherokee once again. This would, in fact, represent the official and formal return of the Cherokee to their homeland — to what is now known as Tennessee.”

The bill stipulates gambling operations cannot be established on the land, and any shoreline work would be subject to TVA approval.

Lawsuit seeks $36M for ‘de-recognition’ as TN Indian tribes

Leaders of three Tennessee groups briefly recognized as Indian tribes in 2010 have filed a federal lawsuit that seeks more than $36 million in damages, contending that the loss of recognition violated tribe members’ civil rights and blocked them from obtaining various benefits under federal law.

The three plaintiffs — the Remnant Yuchi Nation, the Tanasi Tribe and the United Lenape Tribe — were among six groups granted state recognition as Indian tribes by the Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs in June of 2010 — just days before the commission ceased to exist.

Subsequently, representatives of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, which opposed recognition of the groups, filed a Davidson County Chancery Court lawsuit declaring the commission violated Tennessee’s Open Meetings Act, also known as the “sunshine law,” in the session in which the recognition was approved.

The lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court in Knoxville names as defendants former state Attorney General Bob Cooper and Deputy Attorney General Janet Kleinfelter, who signed off on an “agreed order” declaring the commission’s recognition of the six tribes “void and of no effect.”

That resolved the Chancery Court lawsuit brought by the Cherokees by eliminating the recognition that was granted and, since the commission no longer exists, any possibility of the commission holding another meeting on the matter. Bills in the state Legislature to grant recognition to some tribes have failed, including a 2013 measure that only called for a study of recognition.

The federal lawsuit, filed by Knoxville attorney William J. Taylor, contends the “de-recognition” amounted to “intentional discrimination” under “color of law” and as a result members of the tribes “lost their status as legal, identifiable minorities and the protections afforded therefrom.” The benefits lost range from ability to market products as being made by American Indians to eligibility for federal community block grants available to recognized Indians, the lawsuit says.

Listed as lead plaintiffs are Lee Vest of Kingsport, identified as a chief of the Remnant Yuchi Nation; Alice Gwin Henry of Memphis, leader of the Tanasi Tribe; and Bonnie Knuckles of Corbin, Ky., chief of the Lenape Tribe. They are acting on behalf of all tribe members.

For each of the three tribes, the lawsuit asks for $50,000 in compensatory damages, $10,000 in punitive damages and $12 million in “expectancy damages.”

Note: A copy of the lawsuit is available by clicking on this link: remnantyuchi

Andrew Jackson ‘Knew How to Play Politics’

A University of Tennessee historical research team has recently published the eighth of a planned 16-volume series on the papers of Andrew Jackson that sheds more light on Jackson’s views toward American Indian removal and other topics, reports the News Sentinel.
The papers uncovered include a treaty Jackson personally negotiated with the Choctaw Nation and submitted to the Senate, which rejected it on grounds Jackson was being too generous.
But otherwise, says Professor Daniel Feller: “One thing you could construct was that he was willing to use any means, including threats, bribery, and large inducements of payments,…. Jackson knew how to play politics.”
The four (researchers) enjoy the rich historical immersion.
“You find all sorts of interesting glimmers that your standard history textbook never gives you,” said Moss.
During the recent process, they have found additional documents, such as lost letters on newly digitized newspapers from the 1800s. They also have discovered documents for sale online that they realized were stolen.
In part for security reasons – a Jackson letter might be sold for as much as $10,000 – the Hoskins office stores primary documents only long enough to photocopy them.
The office has occasionally had to field calls seeking specific information about Jackson’s quotes or thoughts from people ranging from television news networks to a plaintiff who was trying to get “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance, Feller said.