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New commissioner follows his grandfather's words

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Tanner named to commission for Minority Affairs

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Chaloklowa Chickasaw Chief Vernon Tanner of eastern South
Carolina said he follows his grandfather's words when he speaks on the

"I am a free will person," Tanner said recently. "I tend to speak my mind,
but I don't speak without carefully considering my words. My grandfather
had an old saying and that is the words of your mouth should be the words
of your heart, and I live by that every day."

Chief Tanner was recently appointed by Gov. Mark Sandford and confirmed as
a board member of the Commission for Minority Affairs, a state agency. He
will serve until June 2007. Tanner felt that it was an honor to be the
first American Indian board member on the commission. "It's kind of a novel
thing being the first person to do something," he said.

"His responsibilities will include approval of policies and serving to
ensure that the needs of minorities, including Native Americans, are
addressed by the state of South Carolina," explained Janie Davis, director
of the Commission for Minority Affairs.

Tanner said he will work out of his tribal office in Hemingway, S.C. for
his commission activities as well as continue his duties as chief.
Commission for Minority Affairs meets once a month, he said, and he will go
into Columbia for the meetings. The commission oversees state activities of
African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Minorities make up about 31 percent of the state's population. Of that
percentage, about 96 percent are African American, and the remaining 4
percent is represented by Asian Americans, Mexican Americans and American
Indians. The 2000 federal census showed there were approximately 27,000
American Indians in the state.

South Carolina tribes have been trying for three years to get a state
Commission of Indian Affairs office but settled this year for a board seat
on the state Commission for Minority Affairs.

The chief said the South Carolina tribes are interested in having access to
grants, both federal and state, so they can run programs in their
communities. Tribes need to gain the trust and respect of state leaders so
grants will be made willingly, Tanner explained.

"Number one is the credibility, can we enter into partnership that's not
going to come back and bind us," he said. "We've got the challenge of
educating the state agencies about Native Americans in the state, and get
rid of the stereotypes that tend to affect all of us.

"I am actually looking with anticipation of starting with the Minority
Affairs themselves, educating them on Native American perspective. I am
sure they are interested in getting my attention on the Afro-American, or
the Latino-Hispanic, as well as the Asians, so I am looking forward to that

Chief Tanner explained that a Native American advisory committee will be
developed to handle the input of concerns by South Carolina's American
Indian population. "The issues will come to them," he said. "They will be
discussed by those leaders and brought to the attention through me to the
commission itself. So the advisory committee is going to be an important
element, and it's much needed because that is the place where we will have
collective wisdom."

The chief said he will push for the creation of the committee immediately.
"As soon as that committee gets in place, the better off we will all be."

One of his immediate attentions would be to get the process of getting the
state to recognize tribes. The state has a "recognition bill," Tanner said.
It will have a committee composed of the state archeologist, from the
legislature, Minority Affairs and two American Indians. Among the Indian
groups to be considered could be the Pee Dee, Chicora, Edisto, Santee,
Waccamaw, Cherokee and Chickasaw.

Tanner said, "South Carolina is unique. I think South Carolina, North
Carolina and Georgia share a lot of similarities. North Carolina is very
interested in going into partnerships on several different projects with us
here in the state. They offer their leadership which they have gained over
the last 30 years."