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Catawba Indian Nation of South Carolina

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The nation's leaders say they will stop fighting a federal judge's order and will proceed with efforts to create a constitution and hold elections. The tribe's attorney, Jay Bender, called the move a "gesture of unity.'' But Deborah Crisco, who plans to run for chief, said Jan. 17 a full meeting including nominations for office should be held this month. Then new leaders would draft the constitution. The October ruling, which did not specify a date for elections, was in response to the lawsuit. Some tribe members complained the tribe was moving too slowly on elections after receiving federal recognition in 1993. An emotional meeting in December to review the first draft of a new constitution ended with the draft being rejected. "You don't develop a constitution without some heated debate,'' Bender said. In a compromise effort, Bender said, the tribe dropped its appeal of the judge's order and opened up the process of creating a second draft to include more people. The new draft will be sent to tribe members in February, with a vote March 9-10. Elections will follow.

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