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For week ended April 02, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 29Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mormon Indians Protest Denial Of Recognition
Rock Herald SC Herald 27Mar00 D2
By J. Stabley: The Herald

CATAWBA INDIAN RESERVATION, SOUTH CAROLINA -- Pickney Head's family left the reservation in the late 1880s after they were converted by Mormon missionaries and 'gathered' to Utah. As a result, Head spent 40 years trying to get recognition for his family and four other families as part of the Catawba Indian tribe. From the 1890s to the 1930s, Head petitioned congressmen, Indian agencies, government officials and even the U.S. President, but wasn't able to get recognition for the 'Western' Catawbas.

But the Catawba Indian Nation didn't totally ignore his appeals. They used the documents in a 1993 $50 million land settlement claim against South Carolina and 76 others, covering land taken from the Catawbas 153 years ago. But even after the Catawbas won their claim, Head's family and the other four families that joined the Mormons have been left out of the Nation's roles, and out of a share of the settlement money.

Tribal leaders voted recently to deny the appeals of western Catawbas to be listed on the official tribal roll. So the five families are appealing the tribe's verdict to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. "This should be a healing event instead of a divisive event," said Cynthia Walsh, a New Mexico attorney and descendant of one of the families. "What we are seeking to do is unify all Catawba people, a stronger force for the next generation to follow."

But current Catawba Chief Gilbert Blue says that recognition as a member of the tribe also requires heritage and social connection with other tribe members.

But Pickney Head's great-grandson, Wayne Head, says that the tribe's constitution doesn't cover that. Instead, tribal leaders ignored their constitution when faced with the Western Catawba's applications. "Why did the executive committee circumvent the current Catawba bylaws and constitution by not putting the enrollment applications before the Tribal Council as required by the bylaws and constitution?," Head wrote in an e-mail message to The Herald on Friday.

Complicating the dispute is the Bureau of Indian Affair's chaos about the matter. The Catawba tribe has been waiting since 1993 for the Bureau to complete a new membership roll, which the Bureau was supposed to complete within a year. Tribal leaders say they need the roll to be completed so that they can pass a new tribal constitution and elect a new tribal council. But now Walsh has filed a protest with the Bureau, asking that the roll process be stopped until a lawsuit by dissidents has been resolved.

Of course, the roll is important, because the Bureau distributes funds based on the roll, and has done so since 1890. At that time, according to tribal historian Tom Blumer, Catawbas that didn't live in South Carolina were left off the roll. The 1890 roll eventually evolved into a 1943 roll, and then to the most current roll, "From the very beginning, the roll was about money," Blumer said. "It's an accident of history for those who weren't on the 1943 rolls. They were erroneously taken off the rolls for the distribution of funds."


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