Lynne Harlan: Eastern Cherokee government
"Earlier this month, our tribe held an election for Tribal Council. Every two years, our six voting districts elect tribal council representatives. Our Tribal Council is the legislative body for our tribe and as such is responsible for making the laws which govern our lands. Our laws are based on many different sources. Some are federal laws which govern all federally recognized tribal government lands and the members of federally recognized tribes who reside on those lands. Some are adopted from state statutes and others are laws specific to our people and are based on traditional practices.

Each October of an election year our Tribal Council holds a session called “general council” when any member of our tribe can present an issue to Tribal Council without meeting the 10-day deadline for resolutions. The general session is loosely based on the traditional grand council of our people.

Historically, during the grand council all our people would come together and discuss issues. Each adult tribal member had a say in the discussion, and grand council lasted until there was agreement of all members about the action the tribe should take. During grand council the majority did not rule but rather a compromise was reached in which all parties were satisfied. Needless to say, this took a really long time and at times the compromise made few happy.

This year’s election is a continuation of a tradition which evolved from Cherokee dealings with European and then Euro-American governments. Those governments simply could not understand our leadership of women or of our use of the time-consuming methods of old. The new diplomacy of the Cherokee after contact was formed to satisfy the need to make decisions efficiently and to bring the vast reaches of the Cherokee Nation into a central government."

Get the Story:
Lynne Harlan: Cherokee tribal government is all about inclusion of voices (The Asheville Citizen-Times 9/25)

Related Stories:
Lynne Harlan: Eastern Cherokees make strides (08/28)
Lynne Harlan: Cherokee children reach for the stars (05/08)
Lynne Harlan: Cherokees defend cultural rights (04/10)
Lynne Harlan: Women in Cherokee society (03/27)

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