Lawsuit says open meeting law violated
7/2/2010 7:03:14 AM
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The last-minute recognition of a half-dozen groups as tribes by the expiring Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs is being challenged in a lawsuit.

Nashville attorney Bob Tuke filed suit on Wednesday — the day the commission was expiring because the Legislature didn't renew it under the state sunset provision. The suit claims the agency violated the open meetings law.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported the lawsuit asks a Davidson County Chancery Court to declare the action taken by the commission on June 19 as "void and without effect."

Commission members granted recognition to the Remnant Yuchi Nation; the United Eastern Lenape Nation of Winfield, Tenn.; the Chikamaka Band; the Central Band of Cherokee; the Cherokee Wolf Clan; and the Tanasi Council.

The plaintiff in the suit is Mark Greene, who lives in Tennessee and lobbies for the Cherokee Nation, which opposes state recognition of the groups approved by the commission. The Cherokee Nation is based in Oklahoma.

"The process was as bogus as the six tribes that were approved," Greene said.

In the lawsuit, Greene is quoted saying commission members "huddled together and spoke in hushed tones" at the June meeting, but would return to their seats when he and others approached them.

The filing claims the commission misled the public by not saying that tribal recognition was to be considered. Tuke also said an attorney for the commission told him recognition would not be considered at the meeting.

Members of the groups newly recognized say genealogical research and DNA tests prove their Native American lineage.

"They (Cherokee Nation) are people that think they are the only American Indians, and that nobody else is Cherokee," Joe Sitting Owl White, principal chief of the Central Band of Cherokee told The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville.

Opponents of recognizing the tribes say the groups will dilute federal grant and scholarship money now coming to established Native American tribes.

State attorneys have 30 days to file a response to the lawsuit.
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