Native American Groups Want State Recognition

Frankfort, KY – The history of Native Americans in Kentucky is deep and rich. Archaeological research in all 120 counties of the Commonwealth proves Native Americans arrived here thousands of years ago. But a common myth about Native Americans in Kentucky is that they hunted here, but didn't live here. Not true, says Tressa Brown of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission.

"There were native people in Kentucky 10,000 years ago," said Brown. "They lived here permanently and there are still native people living permanently in Kentucky."

And they're proud of their Native American heritage and want others to acknowledge it, says Mike Presnell, the commission's vice chair.

"Anybody that has ancestry in the land they live in surely would want to be recognized for what they are, and not feel like an outsider," said Presnell. "They've had to hide for hundreds of years now, and it's time that they should be proud of who they are."

Embracing their cause is Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, who's part Cherokee. Bills sponsored by Meeks define the term "Native American," and outline strict criteria groups must meet before Kentucky will recognize them as an American Indian tribe. Meeks says his goal is simply to help improve the lives of Native Americans living in Kentucky.

"There are resources that are targeted for Native American people - to make their lives better in terms of housing, in terms of education, in terms of job creation," said Meeks. "And those funds need to be targeted and focused to the native community."