Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 6, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. FLEISCHMANN. Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of my bill, H.R. 548, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Historic Lands Requisition Act. I thank the chair and the distinguished ranking member both for their very kind words of support for this very important legislation.

This legislation has passed in this House before. It needs to pass tonight. It needs to go to the Senate and it needs to be on the President's desk. It has been far too long. The Eastern Band of Cherokee have been waiting and had a lot of promises made to them over the years which have been broken. This a great bill for America, and it is a great bill that we honor our wonderful Eastern Band of Cherokees.

The great State of Tennessee, my home State, gets its name from the historic Overhill Cherokee settlement called Tanasi, located in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. Tanasi served as the capital of the Cherokee people from as early as 1721.

Unfortunately, as a result of misguided Federal policies, the Cherokee people were forcibly removed from their homes in Tennessee and the surrounding States. This tragic period in American history led to the Trail of Tears, a journey on which the United States forcibly marched 15,000 Cherokees to the Indian Territory.

My bill, the Eastern Band Cherokee Historic Lands Reacquisition Act, returns important historic sites back to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Tribal Nation comprised of descendants of those Cherokees who resisted removal in the Great Smoky Mountains and escaped the Trail of Tears.

It is on these same lands where the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians have for decades honored the birthplace of Sequoyah, whose likeness we all have the opportunity to pass as we make our way from the rotunda of our Capitol to this House floor.

H.R. 548 would return 76.1 acres. I want to be clear: It is only 76.1 acres of TVA land back to the Eastern Band of Cherokees in trust and grant two permanent easements over TVA property to be held in trust for the Tribe for creating recreational trails between the sites.

The Tribe is committed to improving the educational resources of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum and to provide a means for economic development for the local community through cultural tourism.

The Cherokee Nation has a rich history in the Third District of Tennessee, and I am grateful to be engaged in the process to safeguard their story.

Madam Speaker, I strongly urge Members of both Chambers to understand the importance of the Cherokee Tribal land preservation and support H.R. 548 so that it may be brought to President Biden's desk in a timely manner.

Ms. LEGER FERNANDEZ. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my time for closing.

I would just like to compliment the sponsor's explanation of the benefits that this bill will bring. We have heard a little bit of the great history that lies within Tennessee and of the resilience of the Eastern Band of Cherokee as they have maintained their identity to the land and that their use of the land will further assist the members of this wonderful country of ours to learn a bit more about that history, to learn a bit more about the life that is breathed into the statues that we surround ourselves with here in the people's House.

Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support the legislation, and I yield back the balance of my time.