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December 22, 2005

Arkansas rejects vote to recognize Lost Cherokee tribe

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — A proposed ballot title for a constitutional amendment to declare the Lost Cherokee of Arkansas a state-recognized Indian tribe was rejected Wednesday by Arkansas Attorney General Mike Beebe.

Mike Miller, director of communications for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, is relieved by the decision.

“The Lost Cherokee of Arkansas is one of more than 200 groups across the country that puts the title ‘nation,’ ‘band,’ or ‘tribe’ after the word ‘Cherokee,’” said Miller. “There are only two federally-recognized tribes of Cherokee Indians: Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee in North Carolina.”

The “lost” group, which claims to be descendants of those who refused to leave their homeland in the 1800s and move farther west, submitted the proposed constitutional amendment to be placed on next year’s ballot.

Based in northern Arkansas, the Lost Cherokee of Arkansas and Missouri organized in April 1999, with an office in Clinton, where they say their ancestors once lived.

“We take being a government and a nation seriously,” said Miller. “The Cherokee Nation has treaties dating back to the 1700s. We’ve got more than 300 years of contact with the international community, including Great Britain before the U.S. was even a nation. So an organization that formed in 1999, which doesn’t have the history the Cherokee Nation does, is simply invalid.”

Neither the U.S. nor Arkansas constitution gives the state’s voters the power to recognize an Indian tribe, Beebe wrote in a letter to the measure’s supporters Wednesday.

Dub Maxwell, a member of the tribe, said recognition would make the group eligible for federal and state grants.

“We need to be state-recognized as a people,” Maxwell said. “One of the reasons is we’ve been in this state before the state ever existed.”

The incident with the Lost Cherokee of Arkansas is not the first time an unrecognized group of Cherokees has attempted to gain federal status for monetary gain.

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