House bill recognizing six groups as Indian tribes shuttled off for summer study

photo Tennessee Rep. Curry Todd
Arkansas-Tennessee Live Blog

NASHVILLE - A controversial bill that would have granted state recognition as Native American tribes claiming Indian descent was shipped off to a summer study committee by a House panel this afternoon, appearing to kill the legislation for yet another year.

The groups seeking recognition were opposed by representatives of federally-recognized tribes, who contend the groups were not tribes at all but "culture clubs."

Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, a bill proponent, charged in the State and Local Government Committee that "out of state folks" were again interfering with the effort, which has been argued in one form or another since at least 1994.

According to Todd, two multimillion economic development projects in both East and West Tennessee hinge on state recognition being granted. The groups have never revealed the details.

Group members say they are Native Americans who remained in Tennessee following the 1830s expulsion of Cherokees and other tribes.

One of the groups seeking recognition through the bill is the Central Bank of Cherokee in Lawrenceburg. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs said in a March 26 news release it had rejected the group's petition for federal recognition "because there is no primary or reliable secondary evidence to validate these claims."

State and Local Government Committee members initially approved sending the bill off to summer committee in a voice vote. But after objections from proponents, who belatedly asked for a roll call vote, confusion set in. After a House clerk ruling, a motion was made to reconsider the bill, which failed to get the required number of votes.

The Senate version is set for a floor vote.