By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
There are three federally recognized Cherokee tribes in the United States including the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (NC), the Cherokee Nation (OK) and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (OK). According to a list compiled in March by the Cherokee Nation, there are 212 fabricated groups claiming to be Cherokee tribes. “Fraud List” compiled by Cherokee Nation
Some of those groups are from areas thousands of miles from traditional Cherokee territory including the Northwest Cherokee Deer Clan in Oregon. And, several aren’t even in the United States at all such as the Chewah Cherokee Nation in Manitoba, Canada.
The EBCI Tribal Council passed a resolution – No. 6 (2011) – during annual council on Thursday, Oct. 13 to establish the Cherokee Identity Protection Committee.
“It’s something that we’ve had an ongoing issue with and it’s something that’s important,” said Big Cove Rep. Perry Shell who submitted the resolution passed on Thursday. “Many times people are taking our identity.”
The resolution states in part, “the ongoing and growing problem of these fabricated Cherokee groups has resulted in the need to better coordinate internally to better assist Cherokee Nation on this shared issue of continuing concern…”
According to the resolution, the Committee will consist of Rep. Shell, Big Cove Rep. Bo Taylor, Painttown Rep. Terri Henry, Birdtown Rep. Tunney Crowe as well as representatives from the EBCI Legal Department, Tribal Historic Preservation Office and the public relations department. Myrtle D. Johnson will serve on the Committee as a fluent speaker of the Cherokee language and Marie Junaluska will serve as her alternate.
The two tribes have worked previously on this issue and passed “A Resolution Opposing Fabricated Cherokee ‘Tribes’ and ‘Indians’” during a Joint Council session held in April 2008. That resolution states, “the sovereignty and reputation of the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, as well as members of the general public continue to be in jeopardy due to the acts of individuals who organize and administer fabricated Cherokee tribes.”
Upon hearing of the passage of the legislation on Thursday, Cara Cowan Watts, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, said, “I am pleased Eastern Band has formalized our partnership on fighting groups and individuals fraudulently claiming Cherokee identity and creating false ‘Tribes’. Fraudulent Cherokee identity is a direct attack on our Tribal sovereignty and an affront to our culture and traditions. We must protect our elders and traditionalists by stopping these groups and individuals from appropriating our culture, language and traditions.”
James Billy Chance is the leader of the Indian Creek Chickamaugan Tribal Nation, a group based in Deltona, Fla. which claims Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Shawnee bloodlines.
He said the United States Constitution grants people the right to “be who they are and to say what their history is and to use their religion and history.”
“The Oklahoma and North Carolina Cherokee cannot change the Constitution of the United States,” Chance related, “no matter how hard they may wish to try.”
Lamar Sneed, of the state-recognized Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, commented, “I, too, am opposed to unregulated state recognition of fake wannabe Indians. The State of Georgia did not adopt any criteria for a group to be state-recognized. As such, many fake groups exist in Georgia.”
Sneed said his great-grandfather is buried on the Qualla Boundary and he has many cousins who are EBCI tribal members. “I personally do not support the resolution just passed, but I do support that any legitimate group meet all of the requirements of the BIA for recognition. State politics should not be involved. None in Georgia, at the present time, can do that.”