NASHVILLE - Representatives of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma filed suit today to void a June 19 vote by the Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs to recognize a half dozen groups as American Indian tribes.
Mark Greene, a lobbyist for the Cherokee Nation, said the complaint alleges the commission violated Tennessee's "sunshine" or Open Meetings Act.
The complaint, which lists Mr. Greene as plaintiff, says the commission, chaired by Tammera Hicks of Chattanooga, failed to give adequate notice of its intended action. It also alleges commissioners secretly discussed and agreed to the action before meeting, thus constituting legal grounds to void the formal grants of recognition.
The Indian Affairs Commission goes out of existence after today because lawmakers this year refused to extend its legal authorization beyond June 30. Part of that came about because of the ongoing battle over tribal recognition issues.
House and Senate Government Operations Committee members also delayed until June 27 the commission's proposed rules that would set criteria for commissioners to grant formal recognition of tribes.
But despite the legislative action, the commission went ahead at its June 19 and adopted recognition standards, the complaint says. Members then approved recognition of six groups that say they are "remnant" tribes of American Indians who eluded the 19th century expulsion of Cherokees and others from Tennessee and other parts of the Southeastern U.S.
"This process was as bogus as the six tribes that were approved," Mr. Greene said in an interview.
For complete details, see tomorrow's Times Free Press.