Governor makes appointments to Native American Affairs Commission for first time since 2006

INDIANAPOLIS - Governor Mike Pence’s office announced Friday eight appointments to the Native American and Indian Affairs Commission, marking the first appointments by a governor since 2006.

The last time the group met was 2008 and the website has not been updated in years, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

Appointments include John Warren, John Boyd, Nathan Underwood, Shannon-Marie Turner, Erin Oliver, Kenneth Eagle, Tracy Locke, and Catherine “Katie” Morris – all appointed to serve a four-year term through July 31, 2018.

Earlier this year, the Native American community raised concerns about the lack of appointments.

"The commission is supposed to give us a voice," said Doug Poe, executive director of the American Indian Center of Indiana, in February.

The commission is a 15-member board, and the Governor makes eight of the appointments.

Poe said best estimates show between 50,000 and 100,000 people of Native American descent live in the Hoosier state.

"I would like to see the commission reinstated," said Poe, who is part Cherokee and Choctaw, earlier this year.

Poe pointed out the “Land of the Indians” license plates have generated a sum of money that is just sitting there until the commission is appointed.

A spokesperson for the Bureau of Motor Vehicles said $276,350 exists in the Native American trust fund as of February 2014.

Poe said the money could be used to establish scholarships and medical clinics for the Indian community.

"If you’re appointed to the commission, you’ve got to understand you can’t go after sovereignty, state or federal recognition, you can’t talk about casinos, but you can talk about any Native American issue other than those two," Poe said.

Christy Denault, communications director for Gov. Pence released the following statement:

"The individuals named to the Indiana Native American/Indian Affairs Commission are passionate about and wholly committed to building cooperation and understanding between Native American Indian communities and other communities throughout Indiana, and we are grateful for their willingness to serve."

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