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.