Yeah, and my Great x 5 Granny was Pocahontas

As I was driving down Main Street this morning, I noticed there was nothing to attract tourist on the street corners. So, I was thinking, if we could get some dark brown entertainers (tap dancers, blues guitarist, singers of Negro spirituals and such) this attraction might bring a crowd.

It would be preferable if these entertainers looked African-American and were knowledgeable about the African-American culture. If they are a mostly beige mix that might be okay too. I mean, they wouldn’t have to prove their ancestry in any way: mostly just dress the part. Then, we could get the state to declare them black and watch the money roll in.

What’s the matter Nathan Vaughn? Does this offend you? If so, why wouldn’t you consider that this might be offensive to Native Americans?

Apparently, with the Commission of Indian Affairs set to fizzle in July of `08: Representative Vaughn wants the authority to recognize Indian tribes placed in the hands of the General Assembly.

Vaughn claims the bill is motivated by the possibility of establishing a new attraction on Kingsport’s Bays Mountain. Apparently, city officials are considering entering into an arrangement with a Yuchi Indian group to create an authentic Indian village on Bays Mountain.

Let me guess – the leader of this group would be none other than Lee Vest, the self-appointed chief of the Remnant Appalachian Whamawhoozies or whatever name he is calling his intertribal bunch this week.

Mr. Vaughn are you really that stupid?

Under current criteria, Vest did not qualify for federal or state recognition as a Native American. I see nothing in his educational or professional background that would indicate he is an authority on the history of Yuchi Indians? Does he have recognition from the Oklahoma Yuchi as a historian? Hell, does the local historian even recognize him as having ties to the Yuchi? Is he perhaps among the six remaining people who speak the Yuchi language?

If not, what, then, qualifies him then to enter into negotiations with Bays Mountain and establish an historical program to educate children? Just because one has an interest or knowledge in a particular culture does not make them an expert – nor can they assume the identity that culture.

For instance, I have an interest in Greek Mythology, but as far as I know, that doesn’t entitle me to be a Goddess of anything.

And if Vest is so knowledgeable about East Tennessee Native American culture, he does not need tribal status to share his knowledge or market his wares as Appalachian InterTribal Art.

You know, I’d like to think this legislation has nothing to do with Vaughn’s ties to Lee Vest.  I’d also like to believe it is unrelated to the Remnant Yuchi and United Eastern Lenape Nation’s recent formation of the Tennessee Native Tribes Political Action Committee (TNT PAC).

I am sure it also has nothing to do with the fact that Vest has been jockeying for a position on the Commission of Indian Affairs for quite some time to no avail.

Vaughn’s bill would coincidentally assist him in that area by dismantling the current commission and forming a new Confederation of Tennessee Native Tribes. This Confederation would be comprised of those tribes pushing for recognition: the Yuchis and seven other Indian groups – and they would be responsible for reviewing petitions for tribal status?

So… basically, the state would would appoint the applicants to review the applications? What’s the point? This would be a rather large waste of time and money, wouldn’t it?

Of course, Vaughn simply says:

Why have a commission on Indian affairs that doesn’t recognize any Indians?”

Look, I’ll be the first to admit the Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs has been little more than a joke. The group has banded and disbanded more times than a 1970’s rock band. They operate on budget of less than $700 annually, and rarely coordinate efforts or seek advice from federally recognized tribes.

They have failed to accomplished the goals established during the inception of the Commission.  This, however, is not due to lack of talent, concern or effort. It is attributable to the constant hang-up on “tribal recognition.”

Controversy over the state’s ability to grant recognition and the requirements for gaining tribal status has reared it’s ugly head often.  Finally, last February the AG ruled that the state could recognize tribes: and the commission established the most recent and relaxed criteria for determining tribal eligibility.

Few organizations qualified.

I think the problem is NOT that the requirements are too stringent, but that WE  HAVE NO INDIANS HERE!

We have descendants.  Unfortunately, their heritage is not traceable.  So, without documentation of blood quantum, how do you separate the those, who have a legitimate native ancestry derived from an unsubstantiated oral history from those with a heritage coming primarily from their vivid imagination.

Certainly, there is nothing prohibit any group from embracing or celebrating Native American culture or banning together for the benefit and education of their people – ah, but this is not the motivation behind the push for recognition.

It never has been.

Have you ever paused to wonder why Vest, Herstle Cross and that Crazy-Ass Joe Manycoats have raised countless amounts of hell to be recognized as a tribe?

GREED.

Vest said it best himself: the group wants recognition because “There are treaties with the United States government that say they will take care of some of our health needs. They will take care of our educational needs. These are the things we’re looking forward to. It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme where we want a casino. We want our due recognition. And we want these treaties honored.”

If Vest had two licks of sense, he’d realize these treaties were null and void the moment his ancestors defied the Indian Removal Act and hid in the mountains.

As Troy Wayne Poteete, a former aide to the chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, said Tennessee tribes were driven out in the 1800s, leaving no contemporary group with the right to call itself a tribe.

This isn’t me being a snobby Cherokee.  This isn’t about pedigree.  It is about protecting those tribes who truly have been oppressed.

I agree with Mr. Vaughn’s statement: “Indians are depressed people in our country, when you look at statistics in terms of their health disparities, income disparities, and I think recognition would be something of a positive nature. We want to help them move forward.”

But if the state starts printing tribal recognition cards for anyone who completes the application – what does this mean those existing tribes?

These are Nations, who have consistently upheld customs and traditions: those who have maintained tribal community and self-governance even during times of forced removal and pushes toward assimilation – all of which wasn’t so damn long ago.

As a result of their adherence to the old ways and beliefs, they have lived in communal poverty.  They have been marginalized. They have been oppressed.

And anyone, who has a genuine respect and love of their Native American culture would not want to siphon federal benefits and assistance from the more deserving brothers: those with which they supposedly share an affinity of spirit.

These tribes are just now finding their legs as an independent sovereign nation.  If you were Native American, I don’t think you’d have it in you to kick them in the shins.

Of course, I can’t stop this law.  All I can do is sound the drums and ring the phones in Oklahoma. I do, however, have a request: I want the state legislature to be fair and honest about this legislation.

(1) I want it to be called the We Screwed Your People Again Act.

and

(2) If it passes, Stacey Campfield should be invited to join the black caucus immediately.  I figure this is only fair. If Nathan can assign Indians to Tribes – why the hell shouldn’t I get to assign White Guys to the Black Caucus.

I mean we are assigning racial indentity on the basis of self-proclamation, right? Stacey has already said he’s down with the brown. So – fair is fair.

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