DRAFT - TNCIA 31 January 2004 MINUTES
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TENNESSEE COMMISSION OF INDIAN AFFAIRS
Baxter Alternative School
The meeting was called to order by Teri Ellenwood by agreement of those present. Present were: Teri Ellenwood, Evangeline Lynch, Jimmy Reedy, Mike Mangrum, and Ruth Knight Allen. John Hedgecoth called that he had van trouble and would arrive later. John Anderson was hospitalized in Chattanooga.
Teri asked Eddie Nickens, Commissioner on the former TCIA, to begin the meeting with prayer.
As per the Attorney General's assistant, Sohnia Hong and TDEC's directions, there was to be no policy-making business conducted at this meeting. The agenda was to be limited to introduction of the commissioners, election of officers, and appointment of a rules and procedures committee of three people.
Teri's opening statements gave information on the struggle to prepare and lobby the new enabling bill to its passage in May of 2003. She gave a brief history of the process of the election by area caucuses and the Tennessee Native American Convention.
The commissioners introduced themselves with brief comments.
Van explained that she had recently been hospitalized and was recovering nicely. She said she is a full blood Choctaw registered with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Her four grandchildren and other members of her family are also registered. She said she is a proud Indian and hopes to prove to you that she will represent the Indian people to the best of her knowledge.
Ruth Knight Allen said she is of Choctaw and Cherokee parents. Her husband was German, Scotch Irish and Sioux. She has a daughter, Shelley, and son, Scott, who served in Desert Storm. She said that she is 72 and has served the Indian people for a long time. She tries to have the best interest of the Indian people at heart. She stated that right now she doesn't know the good guys from the bad guys, but she will work with anyone who will work with the Commission. She feels that it is her duty to the people who selected her. ╩She kept detailed records as secretary of the former TCIA. The former TCIA had problems, but did do some good during the years she served 1983-1990, including a Recognition Criteria for Native Americans in Tennessee. The first Commission did not have a budget, either, and people did not believe it would survive. It did. If we can work together, the differences of background and styles will adjust.
Jimmy Reedy told of his Muskogee Creek heritage, he is a direct descendent of Alexander McGivney and Great Grandson of Lewis McGivney. He said he is the youngest and newest on the Commission and have the most to learn. He said he is the one that gets us into the most trouble. He works sometimes with the Federal Government and sometimes with the state government. He said he is here to do the best he can.
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Mike Mangrum, Nashville Commissioner, asked for applause for all the Commissioners. He said he is a singer on a drum. He tries to do things the right way, the way the Creator would like for him to do, the traditional way. He said he loses his temper from time to time, but his spirit is in good shape. He saw the people at Old Stone Fort and at capital hill. He knows this can be doneĐit has been done. We worked together then. He does not know what is going on, but we have to use common sense. If we could get the mentality back that was used to lobby and work for the bill to be passed, we would have a good commission. When we get to the election, let's use our heads. The Advisory Council was brought up, we need all the help we can get. If we are sunset this time, there won't be another chance. We have to stick together for the good of the majority.
Teri called for the election before John Hedgecoth arrived. She gave a brief description of the officer positions calling attention to the time commitment and that these are not paid positions. She called for two sets of nominations. She asked for nomination for Chair. Ruth nominated Van Lynch. Jimmy nominated Teri. Teri reminded speakers to look at the video camera in the back of the room. She asked the nominees to speak for two minutes on why they should be elected.
Van said that Teri had pointed out that these were unpaid positions, but that she had been working for over three years without pay. She has attended events and visited Indian communities learning their needs. She said she could not be doing any of these things without the support of her husband. She has used a lot of his money. She could not do it without the help of her friends in West TN, who sometimes won't even let her help with gas expenses. She joked that their middle names were "go", acknowledging Donna "go" Bivens and Jo "go" Nichols who went with her and stayed with her while she was in the hospital. She said that as far as spending time for the day-to-day activities of the position, we housewives and mothers manage time, raise children, budgets, and other administrative duties. As a teacher for her 25-30 year career, she has done some of all that. She does have the gift of time as a retiree to commit to the position. She thanked all for considering her.
Teri said she has chaired an Indian Commission before. She has been Administrative Director, and wrote grants, and all kinds of administrative duties. She serves on the International Board for Leonard Peltier. She is Secretary of the International Board of Leonard Peltier. She said she has skills and abilities in that area. She said she has a law degree for whatever it is worth. As Van said of her husband, Teri said she, too, has a husband who is a carpenter and pays for all her involvements. She said this is a holy time for their family and he will be praying for what she is doing. Her kids and family are supportive and she looks to the future for them to make it a better place for them. They are here and she does it for them.
She said she was passing out little slips of paper to write down our choices, because we have to make do with what we have. She stated that we are not an election commission. Sandi Perry reminded every one to sign the sign-in sheet. Teri asked her as hostess to pick up the folded ballots of the Commissioners. Van asked to say something and Teri recognized her. Van said that she had a sealed, witnessed ballot from John Anderson to submit and asked Attorney Joe McCaleb to speak to the use of ballots. Joe said that the Commissioners should decide
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whether to accept the written ballot. Teri said that we were getting into issues that she had discussed with attorneys and at another event (the dinner at Jimmy Reedy's in November) John's absentee vote was not counted. Mike Mangrum wanted to pass out slips of paper to vote on whether to accept the written ballot. Joe McCaleb said that this situation was why he had encouraged a representative from the Attorney General should be present, since they are the Commission's legal council. Teri said that according to TDEC that it would be Fran Wallace. Joe read from a book on procedures how voting could be done and recommended that John's ballot be read. Teri asked Eddie Nickens, Commissioner on the former TCIA how this was handled by that Commission. Eddie said that this kind of issue had never come up with the former Commission. Mike Mangrum spoke to not allowing the vote of anyone who had not heard the discussion and was not present. Teri said that there would have had a speakerphone in use to take an absentee vote. She said that she would limit discuss to David Teat, Dale Mitchell and some of the Commissioners for five minutes. Starting with Ruth. Ruth said that she was holding the paper ballot that Teri passed out for voting. Teri said that she would take up the paper ballots and there would be a show of hands. Ruth reminded all that John was in the hospital, knew the agenda included the election of officers, and had his mind made up. His ballot is sealed and witnessed. We do not know what he wrote. Teri took up the paper ballots of the Commissioners. She asked the present Commissioners for a show of hands to accept the ballot. She said that the decision was not setting policy. Van and Ruth were for and Jimmy, Mike, and Teri were against. Mike said that two people were not present to hear the discussions and we (the Commissioners) have to vote on this. Teri asked for a show of hands for Van. Ruth and Van were for Van. Teri asked for a show of hands for Teri. Jimmy, Mike, and Teri were for Teri.
Teri asked for nominations for Vice-Chair. Ruth nominated John Hedgecoth. Mike nominated Jimmy Reedy. Teri asked for a show of hands for John. Ruth and Van were for John. Teri asked for a show of hands for Jimmy. Mike, Teri, and Jimmy were for Jimmy. Teri nominated Ruth for Secretary/Treasurer. Jimmy nominated Van. Van declined. Ruth is Secretary/Treasurer. Teri said that a committee of three to draft rules and procedures was to be selected. Teri asked for suggestions. Van, Ruth, and Teri are on the committee.
Teri called attention to the video camera operator having trouble with the camera.
Teri said that she would speak to the AG opinion. She had spoken with Fran Wallace who said that the AG was running behind on a lot of opinions for groups and that they were not just picking on the Indians. Teri suggested that the three officers make arrangements to visit Governor Bredeson within the next week. Teri said that the sunset bill is already in. Mike Kernell had Fred Stanbrook write a caption bill regarding some changes to TNNAC, which Teri will address. She said that she had just gotten it. She knows of a couple of opponents and one legislator who has sitting on a letter he drafted to go to the AG regarding TNNAC. Teri said that she knows that we are going to have to "tweak" TNNAC and a couple of other issues in the legislation. The time is drawing near (on the caption bill) like next Thursday, if we are going to be sunsetted anyway. She said that she would call the one legislator, a Republican, in East TN, and schedule a sit down with him to discuss amendments regarding TNNAC. She said that she hopefully could get him
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not to send the letter to the AG's office. Mike asked what were the issues. Teri said one of the big ones, which came up in ways and means, was oversight. There is no oversight for TNNAC. There is no one they are answerable to. They would like to see that in the legislation. She says she has heard different suggestions like the Commission itself, TDEC, or the state election commission. She said that she is just putting it all out there. Her suggestion is the state election commission to be the umbrella in case of challenge. She said that one reason she supports this is that the people need to nominate and elect those who serve them and to make TNNAC better. Another complaint she said she has heard is about the convention. She said that a lot of folks want to just have their local caucuses and not the convention. She says now we need to take control of the parameter of the box. She said that people are watching what we are doing, even her friends in Oklahoma.
Comment from the audience:
Dale Mitchell cautioned, "Do a good job, but make sure you keep us (the public) involve. Let us know what you are doing". Joe McCaleb said, "What I want is what every one wants - a pro-active Commission. I've heard one person talk a lot - Teri. Mike has said some things, Ruth has said some things, and Mrs. Van. Too many things are uneven. You (Teri) are my Middle TN Commissioner. I want to see you active. You, Mike, all you guys be upfront. We've drafted this bill and it passed. We did the best we could. There will always be problems, but we do not need to re-write it. You have a procedural committee, public vote, ballot, or roll call. No secret - open the ballot and read it. Don't have enemies on the inside. There are enough enemies on the outside".
Teri called for a discussion on TNNAC.
Mike asked if it was fair to use ballots. He discussed personal pressures and problems of being in public life, the stresses on family. He said it shouldn't be so stressful.
Jimmy said that he wishes we could get more people involved. He said it is not his position to run people down to get them to vote. There are only enough to fill this room of the 40,000 the census reported. He wants to see better health care, a database, and grave preservation.
John Hedgecoth arrived and reported that his oil pump had gone out, but he had gotten a ride in. Teri said that there was about to be a discussion on TNNAC, but she would catch him up while the next speaker was talking.
Jerry Lynch asked to be recognized. Jerry spoke on what he had learned in his 48 years as a minister. He said that when people begin nit picking, and writing insulting emails, it only gets worse. He said that if we would all work together, we'd shock the state. He said he learned that you could never please everybody. You have to please yourself and the Great Spirit. We have to work together.
Van admitted that Jerry was a hard act to follow. She said that she was still learning from him (her husband) how to get along with people and how to love the
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unlovable. She said she would like to see us have a working relationship with the Advisory Council. She encouraged us to go through the Broader Commission to see the ten committees. There is a lot to be accomplished that we are not going to accomplish in the next few months before being sunsetted. Some are attainable. Some are working quietly on the issues already. She'd like us to take a good look at which ones are attainable. She said she is still an educator. She goes into schools and stays all day. She visits civic groups . She would like to have some of us on state textbook committees. She says it is fairly easy to get on one. There needs to be updated literature in the curriculum. As for TNNAC, she said she has been to two and they work wonderfully. Wonderful things are happening in the election process. If it needs work; then we will work on it together. She said you (the Indian communities) should hold us accountable for what we were elected.
Ruth said that in 1983 there were approximately 5,600 Indians listed for Tennessee. In the last census, 40,000 were willing to list themselves as Indian. We definitely need to secure TNNAC and the Advisory Council as part of our election process. We need all the help we can get. We have come a long way and have a long way to go. Trust and respect have to be earned, not given. Once it is shaken, it is hard to regain creditability. Your life has to reflect the respect you want. When you change people's thinking, you change how they act. I agree with Van, gentle education, not drubbing people's noses in it, will succeed in change. There are those who do not want the Commission to succeed. Trust, respect, and creditability - we have to earn it. Right now it is badly shaken.
Teri said she has been catching John up with the meeting. She said she has a caption bill she would go over in a minute.
John said he is sorry he is late. To a couple of Dales comments, he agrees that some things need to be "tweaked" with TNNAC, but it has been working. Teri, you say there are a lot of legislators getting complaints - this one or two people making a lot of complaints or people all over the state? Teri responded that she knows only one in the Western part and that is Mike Kernell. She said he is a personal friend of hers. In the East, there is a Republican who has drafted himself a letter to be sent to the AG regarding TNNAC. She said the complaints she hears are from people who do not have computers, don't like them, and don't have email. Joe McCaleb asked who the Republican legislator is. Teri said it is Doug Overby. Joe asked if he could go with her to see him. Teri said that there were already other people going with her - that they had to be very professional with these people.
Sandy Perry said, "it is our (the Indian communities) responsibility to see that more people get involved. There are seven Commissioners, behind them are the others who become the Advisory Council. There are all these people that we can go to if there are problems. We need to be a part of it. We've worked hard. Like Joe said, we have enough enemies on the outside, we don't need any on the inside. We need to work together."
Teri said she wanted to read some of the caption bill. When they ask what needs to be changed, we have to have something to say. Dale said that we have been talking for about an hour and discussed everything but that. Are we saying that there is to be a governing body for TNNAC? Teri responded that they are going to
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define in the legislation what areas the Commissioners represent. Metro and the counties they touch. Define that Grand Division Commissioners represent all the other counties. There is an issue about tying non-elected people to another office on the Advisory Council. The Advisory is to have no authority in regard to the Commission. Registered voter not required and go by the policies of the state election commission. Teri said that Mike Kernell and Fred Stanbrook had drafted the bill. She said that everyone knew that the bill needed to be "tweaked" before the sunset review in July. Teri stated her friendship with Mike Kernell. Joe McCaleb said he knows Mike, too. Teri said that she is on a different level with Mike and Fred. Ruth asked who has been working with her on the bill. Teri said that Fred sent her the copy she has and said that we need to listen. Ruth said, "no, we need to know who is doing what". Teri said Fred drafted it.
tom kunesh questioned Teri about her prior knowledge of the changes proposed in the caption bill and her introducing it at this meeting. He said that the changes involved TNNAC, and as Chair of TNNAC, he had no knowledge of such a bill. He reminded her that the agenda did not call for introducing the bill or bring up the letter to the AG by Doug Overby. tom said she was assuming an awful lot since there were to be no policy options when none of the other Commissioners knew anything about what she is doing, either. Nothing should have been brought up without prior knowledge of the other Commissioners.
Teri said that she had just gotten it on Thursday. tom reminded her that there had been time to get a copy to the other Commissioners.
Comment from Joe Walters, "Normally, I do not agree with tom, but on this I object to your (Teri) bringing these items up without anyone, except you knowing about them.
Mike Mangrum made a motion to adjourn. (Second was not heard on tape.) Further comments from the audience were suspended.
Teri asked Eddie to say closing prayer.
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