Proposed Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs

February 09, 2002

The Proposed Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs met for its second quarterly meeting at the First Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Jackson, TN, at 1:00 P.M. on Saturday, February 09, 2002. All seven commissioner-nominees were present: Trudy Austin, East TN; David Teat, Middle TN; Van Lynch, West TN; Nashville, Mike Mangrum; Chattanooga, John Anderson; Knoxville, Teri Ellenwood; Memphis, Ruth Knight Allen.

Others present were four members of the Advisory Council: Bonnie James, West TN; Sandi Perry, Nashville; tom kunesh, Chattanooga; John Hedgecoth, Knoxville. Forty-two visitors made a grand total of fifty-three present. Special guests included gubernatorial candidate for governor, Mr. Charles Smith, and the sponsor of HB 1617, Rep. Mike Kernell.

Mr. Smith was given the opportunity to address the audience during lunch. His background includes: Chancellor of the TN Board of Regents, Chancellor of University of Tennessee at Martin, Chancellor of UT in Nashville, and Commissioner of Education under Gov. McWherter. In answer to questions, he stated that he would support a state lottery if proceeds would be used for education, and that he would appoint a Native American person to the textbook committee if elected. When asked about the Native mascot issue, he believes that is best decided by local school boards, and in answer to getting the image of Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill, he noted that is a federal issue.

Chairwoman, Teri Ellenwood, called the meeting to order at 1:45 P.M.
Rev. Berneice Birdwell, a retired minister from Cedar Grove, TN gave the invocation.
Secretary, Van Lynch, read minutes from the Nov. 10, 2001 quarterly meeting, which were approved as read.
The proposed commissioner-nominees gave verbal updates of their activities during the past quarter as follows:
* Mike Mangrum asked those interested in participating in the Nashville caucus area "Meet and Greet" to coordinate with him. He also encouraged everyone to send a written communication to the Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh.
* Ruth Allen is scheduled to be guest speaker at a city luncheon on February 27, 2002. She commented on the Delta Initiative which has some funds identified for Native American Heritage projects. She also spoke encouragingly of the early years of the TN Commission of Indian Affairs when they operated without a budget.
* On behalf of tom kunesh, David Teat presented each commissioner-nominee with a gift book entitled The Genius of Sitting Bull, 13 Heroic Strategies for Today's Business Leaders by author Emmett Murphy. He noted that many he represents in Middle TN support HB 1617 without funding if necessary. He had spoken with a staff person from House Speaker Naifehís office, who said that Mr. Naifeh would vote on the bill in accordance with whatever recommendation the Government Operations Committee made to him. He also had spoken with Ryan Swindel, Research Analyst for the GOC, who stated that he was working with Rep. Kernell.
* John Anderson noted that twelve people attended his Meet and Greet and he plans to schedule a regular meeting time for the Chattanooga area caucus. He shared these important dates: February 02, the Annual Cherokee Heritage and Eagle/Crane viewing days event conducted in Birchwood, TN; March 10, a fundraising event for a member of the Native American Reserve Force, Gary Williams, who is battling cancer; April 14, the annual environmental cleanup of Moccasin Bend.
* Trudy Austin updated on the combined Meet and Greet for the Knoxville/East TN caucus areas, which she co-hosted with Teri Ellenwood in Union County on January 22, 2002. In an earlier e-mail, she had reported discussion of issues concerning education, health care, particularly, veteranís health care, and interest in a native book list. She noted her communications with Rep. John Mark Windle and Sen. Lincoln Davis, who is seeking election to the U.S. Senate and encouraged those in East TN to contact him. She and Teri will co-sponsor another Meet and Greet in the Tri-Cities area this year.
* Teri Ellenwood had communicated with 27 legislators encouraging support of HB1617. In an earlier e-mail, she had reported a review of the bill, updated legislative activity, and that John Hedgecoth discussed veteranís health concerns. Plans were made for a 'spirited' lobby letter campaign and networking with attendees.
* Van Lynch reported that she had communicated with 14 West TN representatives and senators, and 2 senators and 4 representatives expressed strong support of HB1617. Sixteen persons attended the Meet and Greet in Jackson on January 12. Besides the bill, one concern raised was about not being to document their native heritage. Rep. Mark Maddox was the only representative to attend and is in complete support of the bill and promised to make personal contact with other legislators. Since some of the West TN legislators asked for any information related to Indian affairs, reports and minutes will be sent to them. Another Meet and Greet will be scheduled this spring.

Rep. Mike Kernell, sponsor of HB1617, was given the opportunity to speak and field questions. The following points by Rep. Kernell were noted during the discussions:
Even if the bill is passed in the House, the Governor could still veto any funding, which would need the support of 17 senators and 50 representatives to override his veto.
Pass the bill now as is -- do amendments later.
Know your legislators -- contact them -- help them to know Indians. Most are sympathetic to Indians and like history, accurate history. Be responsible for our history.
Keep the Native American reality alive. Visit your legislator -- invite them to an Indian gathering (some Powwows discourage 'no politics') -- take them an Indian gift.
Visit your legislator in Nashville -- visit them on weekends at home -- visit them during spring break -- VISIT! VISIT! VISIT! Stick to your own issue of HB1617. It is important to contact all legislators -- a bi-partison bill is important.

During the vote on HB1617, which will probably be sometime during the first two weeks in April, a visit to the Legislative Plaza was encouraged to show 'silent support.'


A motion was made and passed that the chairwoman will draft and circulate throughout the commissioner-nominees a lobby petition. Rep. Kernell suggested e-mailing originals to House representatives from the district where the petition was signed, then, mail copies to Teri, the chair, and that 'we' mail the entire petition to speakers and party heads.

A motion was made and passed that the chairwoman will also re-draft and update the lobby letter.

A motion was made and passed that the following terms be adopted:
One-year - Trudy Austin, David Teat, Ruth Knight Allen
Two-year - Teri Ellenwood, Van Lynch
Three-year - Mike Mangrum, John Anderson

A motion was made to approve the statement that the Proposed TN Commission of Indian Affairs supports HB1617 with funding for travel for the commissioners who travel to meetings outside their respective area and for administrative costs. Under discussion was the need for office space, conference room space, office supplies, and computer(s).

A motion was made and passed that the chairwoman review HB1617 and submit possible changes, corrections, or deletionsto commissioners and Fred Standbrook. The changes would not take effect until after the bill is passed. Teri Ellenwood will meet with Fred Standbrook to clarify issues about the election process and the language surrounding the term "There is hereby created a TNNAC" with hopes toward preserving the first election process.

Other discussions with no motions related to yearly vs. bi-annual elections and creating a more traditional native method of conducting commission meetings. These will be dealt with in committee meetings.

The meeting adjourned until the next quarterly meeting to be held on Saturday, June 01, 2002, in Chattanooga. The Advisory Council will meet at 9:00 A.M. and the Commission of Indian Affairs will meet at 1:00 P.M. Place to be announced later.

Trudy Austin, Acting Secretary
Submitted by Van Lynch, Secretary

West TN people for hosting the meeting and providing bountiful food
Those who provided lodging for some of the commissioners
Medicine River Singers for the honor songs
Native American Legacy Gift Shop for the sage/sweetgrass bundles and the door prize (a Brule CD won by John Anderson)
Rep. Kernell and gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Charles Smith, who took time to listen and speak


MTSU, Murfreesboro
Keathley University Center
Saturday, 02 March
10:00 A.M. Tribal Recognition
12 Noon Legal Defense
2:00 P.M. Health Care
4:00 P.M. Social

Saturday, 09 March
10:00 A.M. Education
12 Noon Native History
2:00 P.M. Archaeology Advisory

Saturday, 16 March
10:00 A.M. Public Relations
12 Noon Native American Tourism
2:00 P.M. Staff and Support

  • text of Senate Bill 41 / House Bill 1617 under consideration
      - current status of HB1617 re. the TCIA:
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