Native Americans, descendants encouraged to meet candidates

By Kathy Helms-Hughes
Area residents interested in Native American affairs in Tennessee and especially American Indians and American Indian descendants residing in this area are encouraged to attend an Aug. 7 meeting in Knoxville and get to know the candidates who may be representing them on the Tennessee American Indian Advisory Council and Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs.
This is the first election since Gov. Phil Bredesen signed into law legislation re-establishing the Commission, which had been discontinued by former Gov. Don Sundquist in 2000. HB1530/SB704 was passed unanimously in both the Tennessee House and Senate and signed into law by Bredesen on June 13.
The Knoxville Caucus "Meet & Greet" will be held from 6-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7, in Studio II of the Candy Factory, 1060 World's Fair Park Drive, in downtown Knoxville.
The East Tennessee Caucus is one of three grand divisions, and encompasses all of East Tennessee, including the Knoxville and Chattanooga metropolitan caucus areas. According to the 2000 Census Report, a significant number of Tennessee's American Indian residents reside in East Tennessee.
East Tennessee Caucus commissioner-nominees include Lee Vest of Kingsport, Tom Wynn of Oak Ridge, Marion Seal of Knoxville, Kippy Lee Vaughn and Joice Ann Griffin Fickenworth, both of Rockwood, and John Hedgecoth of Crossville.
Nominations for 15 Knoxville Caucus delegates and 2005 Caucus/Conveners will be taken from the floor at the Aug. 23 election.
The new legislation establishes a democratic process through which a slate of elected representatives is submitted to the governor, speaker of the House, and speaker of the Senate, who then make the final selections for appointment to the new Commission.
"This is a new form of election," according to Teri-Lee Ellenwood, elected chair of the commissioner-nominees. The elections are run by an organization called TNNAC -- Tennessee Native American Convention -- and they are kind of a quasi-public entity."
TNNAC, which is privately incorporated, was given a directive under Tennessee Code Annotated to hold elections for purposes of electing for the Indian Commission only, according to Ellenwood.
"The Indian Commission is looking at a whole host of issues. One of the first things we're looking at doing is working with IHS -- Indian Health Services -- to develop some contract provider hospitals in the state for Indians. Then we want to address public American Indian issues, educational issues and things like that. We've got a lot on our plates," Ellenwood said.
Information, including details on this process and sample ballots, is available at For more information call Ellenwood at (865) 992-2821 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays or Fridays.