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Cherokee lands bill moves forward in Congress

The Tanasi Memorial in Vonore, Tennessee, looks toward the site of the once-prominent Cherokee town, now underwater. Sequoyah Birthplace Museum photo The Tanasi Memorial in Vonore, Tennessee, looks toward the site of the once-prominent Cherokee town, now underwater. Sequoyah Birthplace Museum photo

Following a 383-2 vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to pass legislation transferring the property to the tribe, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is one step closer to gaining ownership of 76 ancestrally important acres in Tennessee. 

The land in question is located in Monroe County, Tennessee, and is home to the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, the Chota Memorial, the Tanasi Memorial and acreage supporting these properties and cultural programs. The property borders Tellico Lake, with much of it currently owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The tribe fought the TVA over creation of the lake, which inundated the sites of several ancient Cherokee towns — including Tanasi, for which Tennessee was named — as well as the gravesites of thousands of years of Cherokee ancestors.

The bill would allow the TVA to continue river control and development on trust lands and stipulates which structures could be built — with the TVA’s consent — on certain lands subject of flooding. The TVA would have to be compensated for any lost hydropower capacity due to future construction. No gaming would be allowed. 

The legislation was introduced to the House of Representatives on Jan. 3, 2017, and made its way through various committees before coming to the floor for a vote April 16. Of the 429 representatives, 383 voted in favor, two voted no and 44 did not vote. The two no votes were Republicans Rep. Robert Pittenger, of North Carolina’s ninth district, and Rep. Justin Amash, of Michigan’s third district. 

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tennessee, with seven co-sponsors, including Rep. Mark Meadows, R-Asheville. 

The day after the vote, the bill was referred to the Senate, where it was read twice and referred to the Committee on Indian Affairs. 

More information about the bill, including its full text and any updates on its progress, is available at

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