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US Senator Richard Burr accuses Cherokees of bribing state officials and bullying other Carolina tribes.

US Senator Richard Burr accuses Cherokees of bribing state officials and bullying other Carolina tribes.


The following editorial was released today (June 19, 2019) by US Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina and published in the Charlotte News-Observer.  A copy was distributed to the People of One Fire that same evening. 

Recently, a Native American tribe with deep historic ties to North Carolina announced its intent to purchase land across state lines for an “economic development” that could include a new casino. In order to put up a casino, the legislature would have to pass a measure allowing gambling on the site, but the legislation has already been introduced by the tribe’s political allies.

The tribe is the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and the land in question is in Sevierville, Tennessee.  Yet here in North Carolina, the Cherokee are doing everything in their power to prevent the Catawba Tribe from acquiring land near Kings Mountain for “economic development” (also known as a casino). The episode is only the latest example of the Cherokee’s willingness to disenfranchise other tribes in order to protect their own lucrative gaming monopoly.

Indian gaming generates more than $105 billion in economic output each year. In North Carolina, where gaming is strictly regulated at the state level, the state’s only two casinos are operated by the Cherokee. A growing economy and a lack of competition have been good for business. Last year, the Cherokee announced record-breaking profits and advanced a $250 million expansion of their Cherokee County casino.  The tribe also donates hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to North Carolina politicians with little scrutiny. Whereas political action committees and office holders like myself file electronic financial disclosure reports that are easily searchable online and fully transparent, the Cherokee file paper reports that are harder to track.

According to one review by a campaign finance watchdog, the Cherokee gave $1.3 million in campaign contributions over the last three elections. That makes them one of the biggest and most powerful political donors in the state. In 2018 alone, the tribe donated nearly $360,000 to lawmakers in the North Carolina General Assembly. Their sway was evident when many of those lawmakers then signed the Cherokee’s letter opposing the Catawba gaming facility.

I’ve witnessed the Cherokee’s aggressive tactics for years in my work with the Lumbees. The Lumbees are the largest American Indian tribe in the Eastern United States, and they’ve sought federal recognition since the 1880s. The federal government finally acknowledged them as a tribe in 1950s, but denied them the full benefits and services that other tribes receive. I’ve worked to help fix this injustice, but the Cherokee have long lobbied against Lumbee recognition because they view it as a threat to their federal benefits and gaming business.

The Cherokee even tried to take land from their own tribal members while pursuing economic ventures. In 2011, the Cherokee seized 200 acres a tribal member left to her children so they could build a mid-range gaming facility instead. They exploited a technicality in the woman’s will to ignore her wishes, and the grieving family had to go to court to fight to see their property restored.

The Catawba’s case is simple. Congress intended for the Catawba to be able to acquire land within their North Carolina service areas as part of their 1993 land settlement, but unclear language in the law itself left the question in limbo. The bill I’ve introduced with other Carolina Senators would clarify the language. The Cherokee have implied our bill would cut the state out of the process, but that is patently untrue. The law would still require the Catawba to negotiate a tribal-state compact before building any casino, giving the governor and legislature the final say. The Cherokee know this well because they hold a tribal-state compact that could serve as a model.

Whether it’s the Lumbees or one mother’s home, it seems that nothing is too big or too small for the Cherokee to oppose if it affects their bottom line. I hope North Carolina rejects such bullying tactics from any tribe and considers each case, including the Catawbas’ and the Lumbees’, on its merits. The stakes are too high.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.



    We have all these land problems here in Crete Richard. Even if you have the legal documents stamped and approved there is always someone who comes along to claim what they think is theirs. I have this problem.. Plus its hard to find a good lawyer.

    • I have a feeling, though, there are not real estate developers trying to fill Crete with gambling casinos! LOL


    Richard, Money talks and B.S walks…at all these “political represent” locations. The only thing they will hear is the “BIG MONEY” the Creeks are making with casinos. The Amexica cheap labor country as it is today forgot some words when they voted: Atomic age. Good to be a country man these days…in the “yellow stone” National park days we all live in.


    Howdy, Off subject…Latest Ancient American has an article on Vikings in Paraguay.

    • I will have to look it up. Some Ancient American articles are not based on sound analysis.


    The more things change, the more things stay the same.


    Howdy, Did a quick search references go back good many years. Next, have you ever done a complete article on stick ball?”

    • Yes, it is in the article about the Irish sport of hurling.


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