Atlanta Braves honor Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee and other state-recognized groups

by Jul 2, 2024NEWS ka-no-he-da0 comments


One Feather Asst. Editor


ATLANTA, Ga. – The Atlanta Braves organization recently honored several state-recognized groups claiming Native American heritage.  During the Georgia Tribe Night, held at Truist Park in Atlanta, Ga. on Saturday, June 29, the Atlanta Braves honored the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee, the Lower Muscogee Creek Tribe, the Cherokee of Georgia Tribal Council, and the Georgia Council on American Indian Concerns.

The three federally recognized Cherokee tribes – Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation (Okla.), and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Okla.) – have long opposed state-recognized groups especially those claiming Cherokee heritage.

Leaders of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – including Ugvwiyuhi (Principal Chief) Michell Hicks, Taline Ugvwiyu (Vice Chief) Alan B. Ensley, and Dinilawigi (Tribal Council) – released a statement on the afternoon of Monday, July 1.  “We are deeply concerned to learn that the Atlanta Braves have given a platform to groups falsely claiming to be tribes without adequate verification of Indigenous identity and ancestry.  Our relationship with the Braves was built to foster a genuine understanding and respect for the Indigenous community.  The recent acknowledgment is a serious lack of understanding and undermines our collective efforts.”

The statement continued, “For years, the EBCI has fought against fraudulent groups that exploit Indigenous identity for personal gain, detracting from the benefits and resources meant for true Indigenous tribes.  Countless groups across the United States have persistently and falsely claimed to be Cherokee.  Today, there are only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes – the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation, and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee that historically have ongoing relationships with the federal government through treaties and land rights.

As Cherokee, we take immense pride in our culture, our traditions, and the strength and resilience of our people.  This recent event highlights the need for a better understanding of who we are and what we stand for.  We aim to continue our educational efforts through the Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee, using this as an opportunity to bring to the forefront our decades-long fight against false groups claiming to be a Cherokee tribe.”

The Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee, which consists of EBCI tribal members Laura Blythe, Ashley Martin, and Doug Reed, issued the following statement on the issue:

“Since the Atlanta Braves Cultural Committee (ABCC) inception, our primary goal has been to educate the Atlanta Braves organization and its fanbase about the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, our rich history, and vibrant culture.  Ensuring that our interests are met through this partnership has been at the forefront of our efforts.

Through our relationship with the Atlanta Braves, we have achieved numerous impactful changes that have positively influenced our community.  These changes include securing funding for local tribal entities, organizing activities for our community and youth, and providing cultural immersion experiences for the Braves staff.

However, the ABCC was disappointed by the recent misrepresentation of groups claiming to be Cherokee tribes during an Atlanta Braves game this past weekend.  This incident highlights the ongoing need for education and awareness at the organization and state level.  Following discussions with our executive office and tribal leadership, the ABCC remains steadfast in its commitment to educating the Atlanta Braves organization on critical national issues impacting federally recognized tribal governments.

The recognition of false groups is an issue that the EBCI has long opposed and will continue to address it at the highest levels.  It has been determined that we will continue to do our work with the Braves organization.  It is imperative that we enhance our educational efforts to bring awareness as to why state recognition of false group is detrimental and delegitimizes federally recognized tribes.”

Cherokee Nation Ugvwiyuhi (Principal Chief) Chuck Hoskin Jr. issued the following statement on the issue on Sunday, June 30, “The Atlanta Braves corporation may consider meaningful consultations with actual Indian tribes instead of trotting representatives of fraudulent organizations posting as tribes as a PR stunt. This piles insult on top of insult.”

In November 2023, the EBCI, along with the Shawnee Tribe, sought a constitutional amendment for the NCAI (National Congress of American Indians) that would bar state-recognized tribes from voting membership.  The amendment did not pass.  A One Feather request to NCAI for the exact vote count and percentages has gone unanswered to this day.

In a letter to NCAI, dated Nov. 1, Ugvwiyuhi Hicks wrote, “We understand that sovereignty is not delegated from the United States or a state.  Indeed, sovereignty is inherent to a tribal nation that pre-existed the creation of the United States and whose current citizens descend from those persons who were a part of that pre-federal community.  But, self-identification as a tribe and acting like a sovereign is not enough.  Certainly, state recognition as a tribe cannot be enough, particularly where we now know that none of the state processes are rigorous enough to determine that a group’s claims to U.S. pre-existence and Native ancestry are valid.”

There are currently six state-recognized groups claiming Cherokee heritage that are voting members of NCAI including: Cherokee Tribe of Northeast Alabama (Pinson, Ala.); Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama (Falkville, Ala.); Four Winds, Louisiana Cherokee (Rosepine, La.); Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee (Cumming, Ga.); United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation (Guntersville, Ala.); and the Cherokees of Southeast Alabama (Dothan, Ala.).

In a Facebook post, the Atlanta Braves also noted, “As part of Georgia Tribe Night, the #Braves are making a donation to support the preservation of historical records for the Georgia Tribe of Eastern Cherokee housed in the Special Collections & Archives at the University of North Georgia.”

The One Feather reached out to the Braves organization for comment but did not hear back by press time.