Editorial: Groups in Tennessee lack the heritage for recognition
"In Ten­nessee, six groups were recently acknowl­edged by the Ten­nessee Com­mis­sion of Indian Affairs as hav­ing tribe sta­tus. They range from the Chero­kee Wolf Clan near Jack­son to the Cen­tral Band of Chero­kee, based in Lawrence­burg, to the United East­ern Lenape Nation in East Tennessee.

The Oklahoma-based Chero­kee Nation, how­ever, quickly filed suit in David­son County Chancery Court in Nashville to ask the state to reverse the deci­sion. These groups con­sist of descen­dants of Indi­ans who hid their racial iden­tity to avoid being relo­cated to reser­va­tions. Estab­lished tribes say mem­bers of these groups often are only remotely related to Native Amer­i­cans, while the new groups con­tend that a drop of Native Amer­i­can blood is enough.

This dis­pute is dif­fi­cult enough, but it has become entan­gled with money. With the state recog­ni­tion, the “tribes’’ can iden­tify them­selves as Native Amer­i­cans on loan and job appli­ca­tions. It also pro­vides an inter­me­di­ate step to fed­eral recog­ni­tion that would qual­ify them for health care, edu­ca­tion and job grants.

Mark Greene, a Ten­nessean who lob­bies for the Chero­kee Nation, is the plain­tiff in the case and con­tends that such groups only dilute the amount of fed­eral aid that rightly should go to estab­lished tribes. It’s hard to argue with that asser­tion. If you con­sider what con­sti­tutes a tribe, with a long, unbro­ken line of descen­dants, cus­toms and tra­di­tions, the Ten­nessee groups come up lack­ing. They have been rejected by the Chero­kee Nation so have sought recog­ni­tion through an end run."

Get the Story:
Editorial: Groups lack heritage that makes a tribe (The Tennessean 7/9)

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