LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee are working toward being a state recognized tribe.
“We are currently talking with (Sen.) Tom Jensen with regards to this resolution to go to legislation,” Head Elder Tom Jones said. “It’s been in the legislation three times and it made it through the house unopposed the last time, but it locked up in the Senate because of a short session.”
Jones has been working since the Louie B. Nunn administration on promoting his native people in southeastern Kentucky.
“I’ve done that through a lot of things. I’m president of the Kentucky Native American Indian Council over 20 years here in London. The Annie Trapper Indian Festival belongs to the Kentucky Native American Indian Council and the Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee. We just finished our 20th one in September.”
The primary reason for the festival is education.
“The history and the truth about native people, here in Kentucky especially, has been sheltered and kept out of the schools,” Jones said. “This could be the only look at the actual existence of our people. We have a tremendous Friday school day. We have 1,500 to 4,000 children at our program. The education is free.”
Jones said the program shows the Shawnee ways because this particular area was Shawnee territory.
“These hills and hollows in southeastern Kentucky is where many, many tribes of Indian people took refuge to avoid prosecution and persecution prior to and during the move of the Native Americans to Oklahoma by the government in 1839,” Jones said. “There’s a tremendous amount of native tribes here.”
The Southeastern Kentucky Shawnee have been in these hills a long time.
“We’ve decided to come out and make ourselves known, make it public,” Jones said. “We are a legitimate tribe with more than 500 members. We need recognition from not only legislation by the state, but we need the people to know we’re here and who we are. We intend to help our young with education and to help our old with medical situations and food. We have little capital, but we work hard at generating what we have. The more people know about us, the more recognition we have, the easier it will be for us to come up with a way to generate a consistent flow to take care of these situations.”
One way to procure more food is to have a community garden, said Gary Boggs, tribal chairman.
The Shawnee do not want a check from the government. They want to maintain their tribe and be proud of who they are.
They will have a free Native American gathering on Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Native Pride Activity building in Corbin on North Hills Road.
For more information, call Jones at 606-309-0887.