The House of Representatives has passed legislation that would
put 76 acres in east Tennessee, containing several historic sites
to the Tribe, into trust for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act (H.R. 453),
introduced by Rep. Charles J. Fleischmann (R-Tenn.) on Jan. 10,
2019, passed the House on Dec. 16, 2019.
Chota Memorial site, located in eastern Tennessee, is part
of a 76-acre parcel involved in the Eastern Band Cherokee
Historical Lands Reacquisition Act which was passed by the
U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 6, 2019. (Photo by Sequoyah
"For the second year in a row, the House agreed to a widespread
bipartisan fashion to maintain a commitment to the Eastern Band
of Cherokee Indians by placing specified lands and easements in
Monroe County, Tenn., into a trust for the use and benefit of the
Tribe," Rep. Fleischmann said in a statement on Dec. 16, 2019. The
Cherokee Nation has a rich history in the Third District, and I
am grateful to be engaged in the process to safeguard the story
of the Eastern Band in the Cherokee towns of Tanasi and Chota."
He added, I strongly believe this preservation of lands will
allow succeeding generations to comprehend and acknowledge the impact
that the Cherokee Nation has had on east Tennessee."
The 76 acres includes approximately 46 acres at the site of the
Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, around 18.2 acres which includes the
Chota Memorial and the Tanasi Memorial, and another 11.2 acres known
as support parcel". Also included in the bill are permanent
easements for the Chota Peninsula, which includes 8.5 acres and
the Chota-Tanasi Trail which has 11.4 acres.
Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said in a statement following
the bill's passage in the House, This bill reunites the Eastern
Band of Cherokee with our homelands in east Tennessee. We look forward
to a renewed and prosperous relationship with Tennessee."
An identical bill (H.R. 146) was introduced on Jan. 3, 2017 by
Rep. Fleischmann. That bill too was passed by the House but never
came to the Senate floor for a vote. Chief Sneed testified on that
bill in front of the House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and
Alaska Native Affairs on Oct. 4, 2017.
Ledford, a member of the Warriors of Anikituhwa, dances at
a past year's Great Island Festival at the Sequoyah Birthplace
Museum in Vonore, Tenn. The Museum and several other parcels
are part of a 76-acre area included in the Eastern Band Cherokee
Historic Lands Reacquisition Act. (Photo by Dawn Arneach/One
These properties commemorate and interpret historic people
like Sequoyah, towns such as the historic Cherokee capital at Chota,
and the culture of the Cherokee during the period from the early
1700s through 1840, and are also associated with and interpret the
Trail of Tears," he then noted. "The properties are located in Monroe
County, Tenn., near the town of Vonore and are adjacent to Tellico
Lake, the reservoir behind TVA's Tellico Dam. This bill celebrates
not only a time in Cherokee history when we lived in Tennessee but
also the return of the Cherokee people as a modern, living
people with a living culture and language, and traditions that have
survived from ancient times back to Tennessee."
The Chota Memorial includes a full-scale representation of the
Council House and sits in the spot of the original structure at
Chota. The Tanasi Memorial, built by the TVA and the Tennessee Historical
Commission in 1989, contains a monument with an inscription that
states in part, "The site of the former town of Tanasi, now underwater,
is located about 300 yards west of this marker."
Charlie Rhodharmer, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum director, noted
the importance of the area, "Tanasi was the first Cherokee capital
in what is now this area of east Tennessee. It was set up by Moytoy
of Tellico in the late 1720s/1730s. Moytoy was the first 'emperor'
(spokesman) of the Cherokee. By 1753, Chota had become the mother
town of the Overhill. During the 18th century, Chota was the political
and cultural capital of the Cherokee Nation. It was known as a peace
He added, "Chota was the longest existing Cherokee capital in the
east before the Removal. Chota is center stage for Lt. Henry Timberlake's
visit. Timberlake wrote his memoirs of his visit to the Cherokee
Overhill, which gives us an incredible insight into Cherokee life
and culture in the mid-18th century. By 1788, the Cherokee had moved
their capital south to Georgia."