TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Letters

October 14, 2011

We are the Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee

CORBIN — A lot of people may wonder just who the Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee are. The answer is quite easy for many of the natives of Southeastern Kentucky. If you look in the mirror you see us. Everyone knows they are descended from Native American blood.

 For some this comes easy, while others search their entire lives for this connection since records were seldom kept, other than the Indian rolls, our direct connection with our ancestors were lost.

 Our Indian ancestors fled into the mountains, many taking white names in order to hide among the early settlers. Native Americans fled to escape persecution, prosecution and the coming removal.

 Kentucky has never formally recognized any tribe of Indians inside their borders. We are striving to change this not only for ourselves, but for all Native American Indians within the state of Kentucky.

 In Kentucky, there are no federal tribes; therefore, there is no need for a state Bureau of Indiana Affairs. Kentucky can and should have state recognized tribes. According to the federal regulations, a state can recognize state tribes only by state legislative action. This is justified due to the large concentration of Native American Indians in Kentucky. In this way, our ancestors can rest in peace, knowing we are striving to continue their teachings.

 We want to educate our young in the Native American culture, in the language of the Shawnee, which is nearing extinction. We also want to teach the drum, which is the heartbeat of our people, and we will not allow it to be silenced. The dance and song also needs to continue.

 We want to help provide formal education for our young who cannot afford it. We are exploring options that will allow us to assist them.

 Our elderly must many times choose between food and health care. This choice is prevalent in many societies, which is a shame. We are working toward this end.

 The Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee is moving forward, and will not waiver. Our house joint resolution made it through the Kentucky State House in the 2011 session, but was stalled in the Kentucky State Senate due to a short session.

 Some of our members are also Native Pride Riders, a motorcycle club who ride for preservation of our ancestors’ gravesites. They also ride for many charities. Recently they had a ride for the London homeless shelter.

 Four times a year, we have our traditional Native American Gatherings. These gatherings are like big family reunions, since in fact we are family. Our next gathering will be Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Native Pride Activity building in Corbin (contact number: 606-309-0887).

 This past September, the Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee co-sponsored the Annie Tramper Indian Festival, along with the KNAIC (the Kentucky Native American Indian Council). The KNAIC is the oldest Native American organization in Kentucky.

 Our goal with the Annie Tramper Indian Festival was to not only entertain, but also to educate the public to the cultural side of the Native American way of life. Not only did we have music and dance, we also had flint knappers, bow makers, and bead makers demonstrating their crafts. Entertainment and education went hand in hand.

 The myth about Indians and gambling — we also want to clarify this. One of our members recently had the opportunity to talk with a person who thought all Indians had casinos. This is far from the truth. No state tribe has the right to have a casino. That right is reserved for federally recognized tribes, and even then, it is not guaranteed. One tribe in Rhode Island has been trying for decades to obtain permission to get one. The state of Rhode Island continues to say no.

 People are also under the misconception that all Indians are taken care of by the government. In this instance that is not the case, federal tribes do have reservations. Look closely at these reservations, and many of them are on almost unusable land.

 Our tribe consists of over 500 members, ranging from the elderly, to children. They come from several counties in southeastern Kentucky, the central location being Laurel County. Our other counties include, but are not limited to Clay, Leslie and Rockcastle, just to name a few.

 Our tribe has members ranging from farmers, military veterans, coalminers and so on. We come from the mountains, foothills and cities of Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Our people are proud to say we are in fact, Indian.

 In summary, we are not looking for handouts. We don’t want casinos. All we want is our tribe to be recognized. We want to continue to educate, and care for our own.

Thank you,

Gary Boggs,

Tribal Chair

The  Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee

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