STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT COMMITTEE
April 17, 2007
SB 162 Prohibits state agencies from prohibiting use of American Indian symbols, names and mascots
The Tennessee State Commission of Indian Affairs opposes this bill because it singles out a minority denying Native American Indians Equal Protection under the law. (December 2, 2006, TCIA fourth quarterly meeting in Memphis, TN)
Mr. Chairman Sen. Ketron, and other distinguished members of this committee, thank you for allowing me to speak this morning.
My name is Evangeline Watson-Lynch and I live in West Tennessee. I am a full-blood Choctaw Indian and a member of a Federally-Recognized Tribe, the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, a tribe also indigenous to West Tennessee. I am also the chairperson of the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs.
I am a former public school teacher having taught the last twenty-one years teaching the Learning Disabled at the Obion County Central High School in Obion County. I taught in the English Department for all four grades, from freshmen to seniors, but the principal also gave me the privilege of teaching an American history class most of those twenty-one years. He was also sensitive enough to allow me to have full freedom to write my own curriculum truthfully, such as beginning the classes with a story that our continent was inhabited by real people before 1492, a people called the First Americans, the indigenous people of this continent that included many, many different tribes.
The use of (eagle) feathers, Sacred Pipes (miscalled peace pipes), sacred drums. the dances, the Indian songs, even painted faces are all part of sacred ceremonies used by Native American Indians and misused by non-Indians as "rituals" at sports games where they also misuse our tribal names with the addition of horrendous caricatures. Senators, the misuse of them are direct attacks upon our ancient spirituality (religion). My point is that there is a national insensitivity concerning the religious beliefs, traditional values and the unique culture of the Native American Indian.
The Preambles that was added to the House of Representative's Bill have little meaning. They are merely suggestions, not a mandate that public institutions provide any education about us, the Native American Indian.
May I remind you that on March 17, 2007, the Tennessee Commission of Indian Affairs went on record opposing SB 162 due to the fact that we were not consulted as to how the Bill should be written. However, in December 2005, it was discussed and passed by the Commission of Indian Affairs to have a dialogue with legislators how we can work together to provide education about Native American Indians.
This Bill, if passed into law, singles out one single group of people, the Native American Indians, which denies us equal protection under the law. It would be a violation of our Civil Rights - and unconstitutional. You, as Senators and members of this committee, know the right thing to do. Look at me! I am a human being! Remember, please, that we, the Native American Indians of this continent and residents of this state, are human beings created equally in the eyes of and by the hands of the Creator.
Evangeline W. Lynch