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.