Catawba Indian Nation, South Carolina

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ROCK HILL, S.C. - About 50 members of the nation who disagree with the current draft of a constitution say they will demand a tribal meeting if a vote later this month fails to approve the document. The constitution would redesign tribal government for the first time in 26 years. The vote is scheduled May 18 and 19 and will be valid only if at least 30 percent of all Catawba of voting age take part. The Catawba 1993 settlement with local, state and federal governments requires that a new constitution be approved. When no informational meetings were scheduled prior to this vote, dissenters called their own May 5. "It (the draft) doesn't look so bad, unless you really look at it, unless you really read it," Sherry Osborn told the group. Osborn, of the tribe's Constitution Committee, opposes it because she says it takes most of the authority away from tribal membership and gives it to the Executive Committee. Catawba leaders say major decisions are better made by a small group of elected officials. Dissenters also noted a clause that protects all contracts made by current tribal leaders. "This might be the last time we have a voice," Osborn said. No general council meeting has been held since 1998.