CBO releases cost estimate on EBCI Historic Lands Reacquisition Act

by Feb 28, 2022NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments



One Feather Staff


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has released its report on a piece of legislation that would place 76 acres of land and another 19.9 acres in easements of land containing several historic sites in eastern Tennessee in trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI).  The Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act (H.R. 2008), passed the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2021, and the CBO released its cost estimate report on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

“H.R. 2088 would take into trust, for the benefit of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, approximately 96 acres of land located in Monroe County, Tennessee, that is currently administered by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA),” the CBO report states.  “The Act would require TVA to submit revised maps of those lands to the Congress and would prohibit certain types of gaming on them.”

A bill that would place 76 acres of land containing several historic sites, such as the Chota Memorial, in eastern Tennessee in trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is currently moving through Congress. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photo)

The report goes on to state “that compiling the information to revise the maps of the lands taken into trust would cost about $30,000 in 2022”.  It adds, “…CBO expects that any increase in direct spending for mapping would be treated as an operating expense and recovered quickly in TVA’s rates for electricity.  Thus, CBO estimates that the net effect on direct spending would be negligible.”

According to the report, the Department of the Interior would incur administrative costs to take the land into trust but that those “would not be significant”.

Shortly after House passage in November 2021, Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), who introduced the legislation in March 2021, said in a statement, “For the third Congress in a row, the House in a wide bipartisan vote, passed my bill to return 76 acres of sacred land in Monroe County to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians; righting a terrible wrong when their land was forcibly taken from them by the federal government.”

His statement went on to say, “The Cherokee people have a long, rich history on these lands, and it is the place where Cherokees have honored the birth and life of Sequoyah, one of the most influential and important Native Americans in history.  I am humbled and thankful to play a part in ensuring the story of the Eastern Band is preserved and taught to future generations.”

According to language in the bill, the 76 acres includes approximately 46 acres at the site of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, around 18.2 acres which includes the Chota Memorial and the Tanasi Memorial, and another 11.2 acres known as “support parcel”.  Also included in the bill are permanent easements for the Chota Peninsula, which includes 8.5 acres and the Chota-Tanasi Trail which has 11.4 acres.

The Chota Memorial includes a full-scale representation of the Council House and sits in the spot of the original structure at Chota.  The Tanasi Memorial, built by the TVA and the Tennessee Historical Commission in 1989, contains a monument with an inscription that states in part, “The site of the former town of Tanasi, now underwater, is located about 300 yards west of this marker.”

Charlie Rhodharmer, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum director, noted the importance of the area, “Tanasi was the first Cherokee capital in what is now this area of east Tennessee.  It was set up by Moytoy of Tellico in the late 1720s/1730s.  Moytoy was the first ‘emperor’ (spokesman) of the Cherokee.  By 1753, Chota had become the mother town of the Overhill.  During the 18th century, Chota was the political and cultural capital of the Cherokee Nation.  It was known as a peace town.”

He added, “Chota was the longest existing Cherokee capital in the east before the Removal.  Chota is center stage for Lt. Henry Timberlake’s visit.  Timberlake wrote his memoirs of his visit to the Cherokee Overhill, which gives us an incredible insight into Cherokee life and culture in the mid-18th century.  By 1788, the Cherokee had moved their capital south to Georgia.”

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed, who testified on a past bill in 2017, said in a statement last fall when the bill passed the House, “Sequoyah was a seminal leader who contributed so much to help the Cherokee people. And while this bill faces a long legislative path ahead, I could not be prouder of the efforts to preserve and protect this important memorial for generations to come.  I would personally like to thank members of the Tennessee delegation, particularly, Rep. Charles Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) who championed the effort to protect Cherokee history in the region. We are grateful for his continued leadership on this effort.”

Previous versions of the bill included H.R. 453 (116th Congress) which passed by a unanimous voice vote and H.R. 146 (115th Congress) which passed the House 383-2.