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Cherokee Nation responds to Tennessee ruling

\"The Trail of Tears\" by Robert Lindneux

By Jacque Day

West Tennessee – An official with the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation says they're pleased with a ruling that stripped a west Tennessee group of its tribal recognition. The Cherokee Wolf Clan, with members in Henry and Weakley counties, is one of six groups statewide affected by the decision. The court order states, the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs failed to give adequate public notice for the meeting that produced the vote for tribal status. The order declares the status void and of no effect. Cherokee Nation Government Relations Officer Ginger Brown says, the six Tennessee groups do not represent the Cherokee people or culture.

Read the Greene v. TCIA final court order (PDF).

Below are full responses to the ruling by the now-defunct Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs, and the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee Nation
Cherokee Nation pleased with Tennessee Attorney General's ruling

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. --A decision handed down by Attorney General Robert E. Cooper finds that the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs has violated the Tennessee Open Meeting Act by not disclosing the Commission's intent to deliberate about and approve the applications of six Indian tribes seeking state recognition prior to the June 19, 2010 meeting. The decision answers the lawsuit brought by Mark Greene against the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs.

"We are pleased that the attorneys for TCIA have come forward and agreed that the actions taken by the group did not have a basis in law. This should be the first step in the state officially declaring that these organizations have no special status conferred upon them by the state, and the people of the state of Tennessee should understand that these groups are not, and never have been, tribal governments. They do not represent the Cherokee people or our culture and we are pleased that the state has taken steps to discredit them."

Ginger Brown
Government Relations Officer
Cherokee Nation

Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs
Prior to the State announcing its position on the matter I felt it inappropriate to respond to media inquiries. Sept. 3rd I received notice by way of media personnel that a Final Agreed Order in Greene v TCIA had been reached and filed with Davidson County Chancery Court earlier that day.

My assessment:
The suit filed by lobbyist Mark Greene on behalf of his employer, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, was frivolous to say the least. The level of legal representation the state provided the TCIA was severely lacking as was the investigation into the alleged charges. Communication between the Commission and its legal counsel regarding the investigation, preparation of defense, process and status of the case was limited to; a phone call on June 24th from the Attorney General's Office notifying me the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma was threatening to sue the TCIA/state; an email the same day reiterating the CNO's threat to sue and a request certain items be sent to the AG's Office; the next and final communication was on August 27th which was a letter from the AG's office to former Commissioners stating what the response would be to Mr. Greene's allegations in the complaint. Had a thorough investigation been conducted, had Commissioners been consulted and permitted to participate in the process I believe the outcome of the case would have been different. The experience has caused a loss of confidence in the system among many Tennessee citizens. The TCIA was given the duty by the General Assembly twenty-five years ago to recognize this state's Indian people, and this iteration of the Commission met that mandate. Though a party to the plaintiff has been quoted as saying "it's over", until the State of Tennessee deals fairly and effectively with its own indigenous Indian people and ceases further disenfranchisement of this group of citizens, it will not be over.

Tammera Hicks
Former Chair TCIA