viernes, 7 de noviembre de 2008

it's been a while

... with the state as well as the national political landscape now in transition but in opposite directions (Chattanooga Times Free Press: "A Deeper Shade of Red" and "General Assembly landscape changes as GOP takes over" front page, 6nov08).

talked with several legislators who counseled ‘no action’ on the recognition issue if we wanted the Commission to survive, even if we came up with something most people could agree with because, even then, the controversy surrounding it -- as happened last year at the Commission's sunset review hearing -- would be enough to not only halt the recognition effort but also potentially derail the Commission. i'll heed their advice and back off the issue, while resting assured that any attempts by others to circumvent the Commission's recognition responsibilities will be met with advice to first obtain the Commission's support.

on that note, i think the Commission and the state should follow the recent recommendations of the National Congress of American Indians on at least two issues which could be easily amended to apply to the state commission, ie:

The Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs (TNCIA) should strongly support the recognition of all historic tribes, and should acknowledge the fact that it has neither the academic qualifications nor the staff to properly investigate and make determinations on historical and genealogical questions; and that any plans to do so in the future will lead to organizational, intratribal and intertribal conflict.
In order to avoid those conflicts, TNCIA should support state recognition for tribes that are co-sponsored by an existing legislatively state-recognized or federally-recognized tribe, and present their request as a resolution to the TNCIA.


• TNCIA should call for qualified tribal citizens and descendants who are interested in serving in state positions from Commission of Indian Affairs to the State Textbook Commission to send their résumés to TNCIA for review.

sábado, 14 de junio de 2008

Rule 0785-1, again

Today I am re-submitting Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs' Rule 0785-1 Recognition Criteria for Native American Indian Nations, Tribes or Communities in Tennessee as an agenda item for review and passage, once again, by the state Commission of Indian Affairs. In 2005 the Commission submitted the proposed Rule for community review, received its approval, and in March 2006 the Commission gave the Rule its final approval. In the summer of 2006 the Commission was advised that the Rule would not pass legislative committee review, and in hopes of extending the Commission's sunset date, the Commission voted to repeal the rule. Now, less than a year later, the Commission has its summer meeting in Knoxville where I hope the Commission will once again initiate the state rulemaking process for state tribal recognition criteria.

Actual Native American Indian communities that survived the racial cleansing of the 1800s should be recognized as this land's indigenous people. At the same time, the state needs objective and rigorous criteria by which to determine the validity of groups claiming to indigenous tribes. In the Rule's absence, opportunistic groups submitted their own self-serving legislative proposal which never made it out of committee. In their defense, it is the legal Power and Duty of the state Commission of Indian Affairs to "Establish appropriate procedures to provide for legal recognition by the state of presently unrecognized tribes, nations, groups, communities or individuals, and to provide for official state recognition by the commission of such" (TCA 4-34-103.6). If and when the state Commission of Indian Affairs fails to exercise its legal responsibility, however, it becomes the power and duty of the public to promote its own "recognition" agenda. Both the Commission and the groups seeking state tribal recognition failed to obtain rule or law. We need to keep trying with the same near-unanimous support with which we all approved Rule 0785 the first time.

The term of the state Commission of Indian Affairs has been extended another year. In this short time the Commission needs to educate the legislature and the public about the need and benefits of objective tribal recognition criteria based on accurate historical data and existing federal procedures for establishing that an American Indian group exists as an Indian tribe (25 CFR 83), approve the Rule 0785 again, and oversee its implementation. We did it before. We can do it again, smarter, better. I hope we'll again have your support.

Chapter 0785-1 - Recognition Criteria for Native American Indians
0785-1-.01 General
0785-1-.02 Recognition Criteria For Native American Indian Nations, Tribes or Communities
0785-1-.03 Procedures For Petitioning For Recognition
0785-1-.04 Changes In Membership
Administrative History

tom kunesh
member, Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs

11 june 2008 20:46

miércoles, 4 de junio de 2008

on tribal recognition status

Six groups - four of which were created in the 21st century - asked the non-Native-American-Indian Tennessee legislature earlier this year (2008) for the state's official validation as "recognized" Native American Indian tribes in Tennessee (HB3299/SB3123).

To date, none of these six groups - "Remnant Yuchi Nation", "Upper Cumberland Cherokee", "Chikamaka-Cherokee Band of the South Cumberland Plateau", "Central Band of Cherokee", "Cherokee Wolf Clan", "Tanasi Council of the Far Away Cherokee" - have provided even the slightest bit of public documentation of their group's history prior to the year 2000 (muchless since 1900), and none have provided records of their families' affiliation to their supposed historic tribes (five claim Cherokee affiliation). Without even the minimum prima facie evidence to support their claims of tribal status and affiliation, these claims must be summarily rejected.

There has been little public comment for or against state recognition of these groups, and the bill died quietly in legislative committee before coming up for general legislative discussion. No doubt the "Confederation of Tennessee Native Tribes" - as they currently style themselves - will resubmit their bid for recognition by non-indians in the next legislative session in january 2009. Recognition of historic indigenous communities is a positive goal for every state, and every real surviving tribe in Tennessee should be recognized by the State of Tennessee as such. At the same time, groups claiming historic status without providing public information are acting recklessly and irresponsibly. In the public interest, groups making false claims should be exposed as frauds. Before this year ends, this issue needs public disclosure of the historic record of these six groups, and of any other group seeking "recognition" as a surviving community of indigenous peoples in Tennessee.

It is the right of the Tennessee Native American Indian community to determine and recognize the existence of its own surviving historic Native American Indian communities. And it is the responsibility of the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs to "Establish appropriate procedures to provide for legal recognition by the state of presently unrecognized tribes, nations, groups, communities or individuals, and to provide for official state recognition by the commission of such" (TCA 4-34-103.(6)). To this end the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs needs to reevaluate its Rule 0785-1 on "Recognition Criteria For Native American Indian Nations, Tribes or Communities" (that it passed in 2006 and then repealed at legislative request in 2007), and work with the legislature in 2008 to reestablish it as a state Rule in 2009. Conversely, if the Commission does not resubmit Rule 0785-1 for implementation in 2008-2009, it should be understood as de facto abdication of its authority in the state tribal recognition issue, and clear the path for organizations to directly petition the state legislature in the future as some of these groups have been doing since 2004.

It is also the right and responsibility of every existing recognized Native American Indian tribe/nation/community to determine and recognize the existence of its own surviving historically-affiliated and family-related communities. The Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs should ask the Eastern Band of Cherokee, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee, the Yuchi Tribe of Oklahoma, and the several neighboring state-recognized Cherokee tribes in Alabama and Georgia, to consider the six Tennessee groups that currently claim cultural and genetic identification with them, and as relatives, provide the groups and the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs, and the state legislature, with some guidance on the validity of the groups' claims.

domingo, 18 de mayo de 2008

individual entitlement to indian identity

like Ron Paul i was listening to Coast to Coast on the radio this morning and heard this reading from the 1997 book, the Fourth Turning:
Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less. Around World War II, we were proud as a people but modest as individuals. Fewer than two people in ten said yes when asked “Are you a very important person?” Today, more than six in ten say yes. Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.
... which got me thinking about this translation for persons interested in Tennessee indian affairs ...

not long ago, a tribe was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less. now descendants long removed from their ancestors' culture want to be recognized as tribes themselves. Around World War II, we were proud as different peoples but modest as individuals. Fewer than one person in a hundred said yes when asked "Are you Indian?" Today, more than three in ten in Tennessee say yes. Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong as part of a tribe, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled to indian identity cards. where once a person was recognized by his/her fellow tribal members by their language, beliefs and family, now many in Tennessee believe themselves to be individually entitled to recognition as indian, with no tribal affiliation apart from probate records and dna.

this is not being indian. this is conflating genealogy, culture clubs and mutual ego-stroking to the point of fantasy.

lunes, 21 de abril de 2008

False assumptions

  • Names of historical tribes are free for the taking.
  • Native American Indian cultural club should be recognized as tribes in Tennessee.
  • Persons who are members of federally- or state-recognized tribes are not "Tennessee Indians".
  • Claimed relatives in related tribes should have no say in whether or not the relational claim is true or not.
  • The citizens of Tennessee should believe that every group that calls itself a "tribe" or "nation" in Tennessee is real.
  • "Tennessee Indians" are only those Native American Indian descendants whose 19th-century ancestors were born in Tennessee.
  • The claims of cultural affiliation to historic tribes made by culture clubs wanting to be recognized as tribes do not need to be proven.
  • Being a descendant of a 19th-century Native American Indian born in Tennessee qualifies a person as a 21st century "Tennessee Indian".
  • A group of Tennessee-born 21st-century Native American Indian descendants qualifies as an affiliate of a 21st century Tennessee Native American Indian tribe whose ancestors were 'removed' from Tennessee in the early 19th century.
- based on the rationale of the "Confederation of Tennessee Native Tribes" created in 2008 to advocate for the State of Tennessee's official recognition of 6 member culture clubs as tribes to the state legislature in the form of bills HB3299/SB3123 sponsored by Rep. Vaughn (D-Kingsport).

miércoles, 16 de abril de 2008

culture clubs ≠ tribes

When cultural clubs refer to themselves as "tribes", few people take exception, seeing it as a kind of harmless exaggeration or idealism like the way the Boy Scouts do it. When newspapers refer to cultural clubs as tribes, however, the line between objective journalism and regional self-promotion has been crossed.

Readers have an expectation that the newspaper, engaged in the business of serious journalism, has checked the facts. In this case, the Kingsport Times-News has not checked the facts, leading to continued validation of false claims to tribal status of a local cultural club, the "Remnant Yuchi Nation". Lee Vest, founder of the organization just last year, acknowledges that he himself is not Yuchi, has never claimed to be Yuchi, and that the purpose of seeking tribal status is financial support for a 'living Indian village' which could become a major tourist attraction for Kingsport.

Taking the Yuchi name from the Yuchi tribe, currently living in forced exile in Oklahoma as part of the Muscogee/Creek Nation, without their permission is identity theft. Planning to re-create a Yuchi village with a stolen identity and misappropriated culture is cultural identity theft. Calling your local group of descendants a Native American Indian tribe is not only a bastardization of the meaning of the term but also an attack on the historical identity of the real Yuchi people.

The Commission of Indian Affairs created Tribal Recognition Criteria (Rule 0785-1) in 2006, and was then directed by legislators to repeal it in 2007, which it did. It is time for the Commission to re-assert its definition and process for state tribal recognition in order to make sure this vacuum of definitional responsibility is properly addressed by Native American Indian people now and for the future.

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2008

a new year

• i live by the adage "Cui bono?" - who benefits? it helps me remember to look for the underlying purpose of things.

• i'd like to say 'yes' to everybody's proposals. and will try to say 'yes' to each person's proposal as long as it applies to him- or herself exclusively, ie, that the proposer will take responsibility for implementing her/his proposal, and that the rest of us are not burdened by it. so please, keep More Improved New Rules To Live By off of and away from this Old Republican.

• any oath required of one commissioner in the appointment process should be required of all commissioners. currently only one oath - from the governor's office - is required. adding another oath on top of that is paperwork and show. imo, nothing substantial. - why should we want to add more paperwork for us, for the state?

• i'm concerned that reviewing new internal texts for the commission, like oaths, ethics, standing rules, procedures, etc., is all so much internal furniture re-arranging that has little or nothing to do with the commission actually doing something for the state and indian people.

• i need to be reminded that some of my proposals fall into this category. not that i like to be reminded of it, but that i too - especially in the spring - like to engage in a little house-cleaning and just plain re-arranging for change simply because it is different. and that can be good sometimes too.

• i don't know how i'll vote on any specific proposal, but we will be judged in one year on what we do, not what we write or re-write or say we believe in. there may be some rules that could help us operate better, like oil in an engine, but if we focus on this internal stuff for more than hour, i will be concerned and impatient that we are losing sight of our purpose: DOING.

• the time for commissioners sitting on the commission like bumps on a log is over. imo, each of us needs to come to the table at this next meeting with a specific project that will benefit the state and the indian community in general. or find someone else's project that we can help move and/or transcend. with monthly benchmarks that we can use to measure each project's progress.

• if you think this opinion exceeds the state Sunshine law (formation of public policy & decisions is public business and shall not be conducted in secret. TCA 8-44-101), i'll be happy to discuss it publicly. just wanted you to know my feelings up front & personal like before we get together so folks wouldn't feel bushwhacked by my lack of sympathy with more paper-pushing and window-dressing. i hope i have not offended anybody by these comments.