[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 93 (Friday, May 13, 2016)]
[Pages 29910-29912]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-11301]



Bureau of Indian Affairs


Proposed Finding Against Acknowledgment of the Georgia Tribe of 
Eastern Cherokee, Inc.

AGENCY: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Interior.

ACTION: Notice of proposed finding.


SUMMARY: The Department of the Interior (Department) gives notice that 
the Acting Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs (AS-IA) proposes to 
determine that the petitioner known as the Georgia Tribe of Eastern 
Cherokee, Inc. is not an Indian tribe within the meaning of Federal 
law. This notice is based on a determination that the petitioner has 
not submitted sufficient evidence to satisfy all seven of the criteria 
set forth in the applicable regulations and, therefore, does not meet 
the requirements for a government-to-government relationship with the 
United States.

[[Page 29911]]

DATES: Comments on this proposed finding (PF) are due on or before 
November 9, 2016.

ADDRESSES: Comments and requests for a copy of the summary evaluation 
of the evidence should be addressed to the Office of the Assistant 
Secretary--Indian Affairs, Attention: Office of Federal Acknowledgment, 
1951 Constitution Avenue NW., Mail Stop 34B-SIB, Washington, DC 20240. 
Interested or informed parties who make submissions to the AS-IA must 
also provide copies of their comments to the petitioner at Georgia 
Tribe of Eastern Cherokee c/o Thomas Mote, P.O. Box 1411, Dahlonega, 
Georgia 30533.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Ms. Alycon T. Pierce, Acting Director, 
Office of Federal Acknowledgment, (202) 513-7650.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Pursuant to 25 CFR 83.10(h), the Department 
gives notice that the AS-IA proposes to determine that the Georgia 
Tribe of Eastern Cherokee (GTEC, Petitioner #41), c/o Thomas Mote, P.O. 
Box 1411, Dahlonega, Georgia 30533, is not an Indian tribe within the 
meaning of Federal law. This notice is based on a determination that 
the petitioner does not satisfy all seven criteria in Part 83 of Title 
25 of the Code of Federal Regulations (25 CFR part 83), specifically 
criteria 83.7(a), 83.7(b), and 83.7(c). Therefore, it does not meet the 
requirements for a government-to-government relationship with the 
United States.
    The Department publishes this notice in the exercise of authority 
that the Secretary of the Interior delegated to the AS-IA by 209 DM 8. 
The Principal Deputy AS-IA assumed these duties as acting AS-IA on 
January 1, 2016.
    On December 3, 1978, Chairman Thomas B. Mote, and nine board 
members of the ``Georgia Tribe of Cherokees, Inc.'' signed resolution 
``No. 2-78'' to apply for Federal acknowledgment. The Department 
received it on January 1, 1979, and designated GTEC as Petitioner #41. 
The petitioner submitted petition materials on February 5, 1980. The 
Department conducted an initial review of the petition on August 22, 
1980, and issued a letter providing technical assistance (TA).
    The petitioner claims to have evolved from the pre-Removal Cherokee 
Nation and to represent a specific Cherokee family that did not remove 
westward with the Tribe in the 19th century. The vast majority of the 
petitioner's members identify descent from Rachel Martin, a Cherokee 
woman, her husband Daniel Davis, and primarily their three children who 
remained near Dahlonega, Georgia, after the Cherokee Nation removed to 
Indian Territory in the 1830s. The petitioner also stated that the 
Cherokee who remained near Dahlonega ``clustered around the Davis 
Plantation'' and that the ``Davis family played a central leadership 
role in the tribe.'' The petitioner claims to connect historically to 
the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma more than to the Eastern Band of 
Cherokee Indians in North Carolina. The GTEC's petition narrative 
maintains that its ancestors were part of the Cherokee Nation into the 
early 20th century.
    On August 10, 1998, Thomas B. Mote and other leaders of GTEC 
delivered the petitioner's response to the Department's 1980 letter and 
asked the Department to review the petition under the 1994 regulations. 
On January 19, 1999, the Department issued a TA review letter. The GTEC 
provided additional materials to the Department on February 14, 2002, 
September 11, 2006, and October 3, 2006, including a new membership 
list certified and dated September 1, 2006. On October 23, 2006, the 
Department placed GTEC (Petitioner #41) on the ``Ready, Waiting for 
Active Consideration'' list.
    On May 31, 2013, the Department offered ``ready'' petitioners the 
option of suspending evaluation of their petitions as the Department 
was proposing to revise the acknowledgment regulations. On June 21, 
2013, GTEC waived its option to suspend evaluation and elected ``to 
proceed under the current standards and criteria.''
    In July 2014, the Office of Federal Acknowledgment (OFA) notified 
GTEC that its sampling of birth or similar records submitted in 2013 
was insufficient for analysis, gave GTEC an additional 180 days to 
submit the necessary documentation, and noted that the evaluation team 
was diverted to another petition and litigation. As a result, the AS-IA 
found good cause to suspend active consideration under Sec.  83.10(g) 
for 180 days to January 27, 2015, and extend active consideration under 
Sec.  83.10(h) for up to 180 additional days, or until July 27, 2015. 
The OFA provided GTEC a list of members and ancestors lacking evidence 
demonstrating the child-to-parent link and a list of individuals with 
missing or incomplete addresses. Review of the GTEC petition was 
extended further until January 22, 2016, allowing the research team to 
make visits to the GTEC offices to review records and conduct 
    In response to a letter under Sec.  83.7(b) of the current 
regulations, effective July 31, 2015, all members of GTEC's governing 
body requested evaluation of its petition under the 1994 regulations, 
declining the option to be evaluated under the current regulations. The 
projected January 22, 2016, date for issuing the proposed finding was 
subsequently extended to May 6, 2016. This evaluation is under the 1994 
regulations as requested by the petitioner.
    The evidence submitted by the GTEC petitioner and evidence 
Department staff obtained through its research does not meet three of 
the seven mandatory criteria for Federal acknowledgment: Criteria 
83.7(a), 83.7(b), and 83.7(c). The petitioner has submitted evidence 
sufficient to meet: Criteria 83.7(d), 83.7(e), 83.7(f), and 83.7(g). In 
accordance with the regulations 25 CFR part 83, the failure to provide 
evidence sufficient to meet all seven criteria requires a proposed 
finding that the petitioning group is not an Indian tribe within the 
meaning of Federal law. An explanation of the Department's evaluation 
of each criterion follows below.
    Criterion (a) requires that external observers have identified the 
petitioner as an American Indian entity on a substantially continuous 
basis since 1900. The records show the petitioner is a recently 
organized group almost entirely composed of descendants of the Davis 
family. There are no contemporary identifications of an Indian entity 
in Lumpkin County, although a few records identify individuals as 
Indian. Many of the documents submitted relate the Cherokee Nation's 
history leading up to and through the Removal Era in the 1830s and 
identify Cherokee individuals on various historical lists. There are 
few original, contemporary documents for 1900 to the present. This PF 
finds insufficient evidence of substantially continuous identifications 
of the GTEC petitioner from 1900 to the present. Therefore, the GTEC 
petitioner does not meet the requirements of criterion 83.7(a).
    Criterion (b) requires that a predominant portion of the 
petitioning group comprise a distinct community from historical times 
to the present. The evidence demonstrates that petitioner's ancestors 
were active participants in Cherokee society before 1838. There is no 
evidence, however, that after the Cherokee Removal the petitioner's 
ancestors established a separate and distinct community of other 
Cherokee who did not remove, but remained in Georgia, and there is no 
evidence that they continued to participate in Cherokee society in 
Indian Territory. The Davises and their non-Indian neighbors lived 
together in a rural

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neighborhood, called Davis District, west of Dahlonega, Georgia. Only 
one of these families--``the Davises''--were Cherokee descendants and 
only their descendants are enrolled in GTEC. Therefore, the GTEC 
petitioner does not meet criterion 83.7(b).
    Criterion (c) requires that the petitioner has maintained political 
influence or authority over its members as an autonomous entity from 
historical times until the present. The petitioner's ancestors were 
from a politically influential Cherokee family and part of a political 
network that advanced interests within the Cherokee Nation when it was 
in Georgia. After the Removal, the petitioner's ancestors--the Davis 
family in Georgia--did not establish an autonomous political 
organization composed of Cherokee who remained in Georgia, nor did they 
continue to participate in Cherokee political activities in Indian 
Territory. The petitioner submitted evidence dating between the 1880s 
and 1925 about the neighborhood church and school, but these 
institutions were not Indian institutions. Rather, they served Davis 
descendants and non-Indians, and do not provide evidence of political 
influence or authority within the petitioner. Although the petitioner 
named specific individuals as leaders between 1870 and 1950, it did not 
support these claims with documentation showing political processes 
within an Indian group. Between 1838 and 1976--138 years-- the 
petitioner has not provided any evidence that the petitioner's 
ancestors maintained formal or informal political relationships that 
advanced issues of interest to a distinct group of Cherokee 
descendants. From 1976 to the present, the petitioner submitted almost 
no evidence showing how the petitioner organized activities, dealt with 
conflict and threats to Indian descendants, or represented the 
interests of its members other than by seeking acknowledgment and 
protecting GTEC's name in court. Therefore, the petitioner does not 
meet criterion 83.7(c).
    Criterion (d) requires a copy of the group's present governing 
document, including its membership criteria. The petitioner provided 
two versions of its 2002 constitution and bylaws, which describe how 
the group determines its membership and how it governs itself. The GTEC 
petitioner provided evidence that satisfies the requirements of 
criterion 83.7(d).
    Criterion (e) requires that the petitioner's membership consist of 
individuals who descend from a historical Indian tribe or from 
historical Indian tribes, which combined and functioned as a single 
autonomous political entity. The current membership list, dated August 
10, 2013, which the governing body separately certified, has the 
required elements. The petitioner has demonstrated that about 90 
percent of its members (413 of 458) descend from the historical 
Cherokee Nation as it existed before the 1838 Removal. Therefore, the 
GTEC petitioner satisfies the requirements of criterion 83.7(e).
    Criterion (f) requires that the membership of the petitioner be 
composed principally of persons who are not members of any acknowledged 
North American Indian tribe. The OFA found no members of GTEC enrolled 
with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, a federally recognized 
Indian tribe. The OFA found that 13 members of GTEC are enrolled with 
the Cherokee Nation, a federally recognized Indian tribe. The 
membership of the GTEC petitioner is composed principally of persons 
who are not members of any North American Indian tribe. Thus, the GTEC 
petitioner satisfies the requirements of criterion 83.7(f).
    Criterion (g) requires that neither the petitioner nor its members 
are the subject of congressional legislation that has expressly 
terminated or forbidden the Federal relationship. No evidence has been 
found to indicate that the petitioner was subject of congressional 
legislation to terminate or prohibit a Federal relationship as an 
Indian tribe. Therefore, the petitioner meets the requirements of 
criterion 83.7(g).
    Based on this preliminary factual determination, the Department 
proposes to decline to acknowledge the GTEC petitioner as an Indian 
tribe within the meaning of Federal law.
    A report summarizing the evidence, reasoning, and analyses for the 
PF will be provided to the petitioner and interested parties. The PF is 
available to other parties upon written request as provided by 25 CFR 
83.10(h) or available on the Department of the Interior's Web site at 
http://www.doi.gov. Requests for a copy of the summary evaluation of 
the evidence should be addressed to the Federal Government as 
instructed in the ADDRESSES section of this notice.
    Publication of this notice of the PF in the Federal Register 
initiates a 180-day comment period during which the petitioner and 
interested and informed parties may submit arguments and evidence to 
support or rebut the evidence relied upon in the PF. Comments on the PF 
should be addressed to both the petitioner and the Federal Government 
as required by 25 CFR 83.10(i) and as instructed in the ADDRESSES 
section of this notice by the date listed in the DATES section of this 
    The regulations, 25 CFR 83.10(k), provide the petitioner a minimum 
of 60 days to respond to any submissions on the PF received from 
interested and informed parties during the comment period. After the 
expiration of the comment and response periods described above, the 
Department will consult with the petitioner concerning establishment of 
a schedule for preparation of the FD. The AS-IA will publish the FD of 
the petitioner's status in the Federal Register as provided in 25 CFR 
83.10(l), at a time that is consistent with that schedule.

    Dated: May 6, 2016.
Lawrence S. Roberts,
Acting Assistant Secretary--Indian Affairs.
[FR Doc. 2016-11301 Filed 5-12-16; 8:45 am]