Native American Tribe Recognition Measure Clears House Committee

Legislation seeking official recognition of Native American tribes in Kentucky has cleared a House committee in Frankfort.

Louisville Representative Reginald Meeks has steered the bill through the House before, only to watch it die in the Senate.

“The Senate has been a challenge. Fortunately, Chairman Thayer understands that this is an important issue and he allowed us to have a hearing during the interim. And we hope to now have a hearing in committee – in his Senate State Government Committee,” he says.

Native Americans in Kentucky say state recognition of their tribes could enhance their lives, and help them take advantage of their unique heritage.  Dave Fallis of the Southern Cherokee Nation proudly wears a beaded, leather medicine bag hand sewn by a member of his tribe.

“She is the deer clan mother and she handmade this.  She cannot put Made by Native American, because there’s no such thing as a recognized Native American in the state of Kentucky,” he says. ” We are one of eight states that don’t recognize what a Native American is, and yet Kentucky is an Indian word.”

Georgetown Senator Damon Thayer has been one of the bill’s most outspoken critics. He fears recognition of Native American tribes could lead to casinos in Kentucky, but Representative Meeks says the fears are unfounded. Meeks says under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, only federally-recognized tribes can operate casinos, and only in states that permit gaming.

By Tony McVeigh

Veteran broadcast journalist Tony McVeigh has been covering Kentucky politics since 1986, reporting for Clear Channel Communications before joining Kentucky Public Radio in 2004. His stories are aired by seven KPR affiliates, whose signals blanket the Commonwealth and parts of surrounding states. McVeigh began his broadcasting career at WRFC in Athens, Georgia, while earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Georgia. He has extensive anchor/reporter experience, including stints with South Carolina Network and Georgia Radio News Service in Atlanta. In 2007 and 2008, McVeigh was named Best Radio Reporter in the Kentucky Associated Press Awards. He also picked up consecutive AP Awards for Best Political Coverage. McVeigh won four Kentucky AP Awards in 2009, six in 2010 - including Best Political Coverage and Best Hard News Feature - and three in 2011. His coverage of the 2007 Kentucky governor's race topped the Political Reporting category of the Society of Professional Journalists Green Eyeshade Awards of 2008. In 2009, McVeigh placed second in Courts and Law Reporting in the Atlanta-based competition for journalists in 11 Southern states. McVeigh is also the proud recipient of an Individual Liberty Award from the Kentucky Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The Brunswick, Georgia, native is a die-hard UGA football fan who enjoys photography, astronomy, live music, hiking Kentucky's Red River Gorge and exploring the state's beautiful back roads. McVeigh and his big, fat, black cat Simon, reside in Frankfort, KY.