Opinion: Eastern Cherokee Band ignores public

"As some tribes have strayed from traditionalism toward assimilation, their governments have gotten away from that concept and have adopted the notion that tribes have a “sovereign right” to govern like tyrants. The basic rule of law with this type of leadership is the only rights the tribal members have are those of which government decides they have, and government can pick and choose which laws it wants to follow.

In the case of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, it operates under a governing document that never received approval from a majority of tribal voters, in violation of federal law. While Tribal Council adopted a law that recognizes the federal Indian Civil Rights Act, which declared that civil liberties guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution apply on tribal land, tribal government has chosen to ignore it.

Tribal leaders rarely seek public input; for examples, the casino and more recently Wal-Mart. The tribe’s public records act became law only after Tribal Council overrode Principal Chief Michell Hicks’ veto, a veto based on petty matters.

Lynne Harlan, the tribe’s public relations coordinator, is right about the rising middle class (a largely ignored demographic) and the positive contributions of gaming on tribal land.

However, for real, honest improvements to the quality of life in Cherokee, the tribe needs a government that is open, accountable, that can’t or won’t intimidate or punish tribal members who express dissenting points of view. The tribe has a long way to go in that area. After all, Saudi Arabia has a middle class, but citizens are hardly well off in a country that doesn’t respect human rights. Remember, in true sovereigns the people are sovereign, not the government."

Get the Story:
Joe Martin: Tribe deserves accountable and open government (The Asheville Citizen-Times 12/13)

Relevant Links:
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians - http://www.cherokee-nc.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, site 2 - http://www.nc-cherokee.com
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, unofficial - http://www.easternband.com

Related Stories:
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Eastern Cherokee newspaper editor forced out of job (11/6)
Eastern Cherokee paper editor told to change jobs (11/6)
Opinion: City official insulted Eastern Cherokees (11/01)
Column: Bad publicity for Eastern Cherokees (10/18)
Eastern Cherokee chief makes newspaper cut column (10/17)