By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, Inc., a state-recognized tribe in Georgia, does not meet the criteria for federal recognition according to a notice posted in the Federal Register on Friday, May 13. The group, which received state recognition in 2001 according to the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns, was denied federal recognition in a 97-page “Proposed Finding Against Acknowledgment” signed by Larry Rogers, Acting Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs.
The group did not meet three of the seven criteria for federal recognition including being an established Indian entity since 1900, being a distinct Indian community, and maintaining political influence over its members.
“The Petitioner claims to have evolved from the pre-Removal Cherokee Nation, once located in present-day north Georgia and bordering states, before the United States forced the Nation to remove west,” the notice states. “The petitioner implies it remained part of the Nation until about 1900, but provides little evidence to show its ancestors continued as part of the Nation, or that they evolved to become a distinct community in Georgia after the final Removal in 1838 or after 1900.”
The group sent a request to apply for federal recognition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs on Dec. 3, 1978. It was received at the Bureau on Jan. 1, 1979, and the group, known then as “Petitioner #41”, sent petition materials on Feb. 5, 1980.
In the years that followed, other groups contacted the Bureau claiming to be factions or parts of the group. According to the notice, “…a group led by Mrs. Mary Ann Cain represented a faction of Petitioner #41 and filed a separate letter of intent to petition as the ‘Cane Break Band of Eastern Cherokee’ on Jan. 9, 1979. The Department designated the Cane Break group ‘Petitioner #41A’. By the early 1990s, the Department began to receive letters from other individuals claiming to represent Petitioner #41, including ‘The Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, Inc.’, the ‘Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee’, ‘Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee – Echota Fire’, and the ‘Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee Echota Fire UKB’.”
The group known as Petitioner #41 is the only one dealt with in this current ruling. “The petitioner claims to have evolved from the pre-Removal Cherokee and to represent a specific Cherokee family that did not remove westward with the Nation in the 19th century. The vast majority of petitioner’s members identify descent from Daniel Davis and his Cherokee wife, Rachel Martin, and primarily their three children who remained near Dahlonega, Ga., after the Cherokee Nation removed to Indian Territory in the 1830s.”
The notice further states, “The Department’s analysis finds that the petitioner does not represent an entity that existed within the Cherokee Nation that evolved over time to form a distinct Cherokee community in Georgia.”
An abridged version of the notice that appears in the federal register states, “The evidence demonstrates that petitioner’s ancestors were active participants in Cherokee society before 1838. There is no evidence, however, that after the Cherokee Removal the petitioner’s ancestors established a separate and distinct community of other Cherokee who did not remove, but remained in Georgia, and there is no evidence that they continued to participate in Cherokee society in Indian territory.”
There is a 180-day comment period from the day the notice was posted (May 6) during which interested parties may comment on the petition ruling. Following the comment period, the Department will issue its final determination.
Attempts to reach officials of the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokees were unsuccessful. The website link on their Facebook page (GateCherokee.com) is currently for sale, and a message left at their tribal headquarters was not returned by press time.