Will Chavez: Poor Cherokees getting left behind
"I attended a meeting recently that was meant to educate Cherokee Nation employees about the needs in Cherokee communities and increase their involvement in community development. As an observer and participant at this meeting I heard some interesting viewpoints and some troubling information.

Despite the wealth generated from our casinos all is not well in our communities, which may have been a surprise to some people at the meeting but not me. If you go far enough into the rural areas of our Nation you’ll see the other side of the prosperity we hear so much about. There are still people in our communities living in “third world” conditions, which was how their condition was described during the meeting.

Many of the people living in these conditions are full-blood Cherokees. I don’t know the statistics and wouldn’t care to recite them if I did because I believe we get lost in statistics and lose sight of the people behind them.

A group of community leaders, some of them elderly and all Cherokee speakers, spoke to employees and tribal leaders as part of a panel. One of them spoke of full bloods being left behind as the Nation continued to go to “the moon” with wealth generated by our casinos. He emphasized that these Cherokees don’t care that our new casino is called Hard Rock or something else. For them, he said, it’s about survival.

The heartfelt stories I heard about people’s needs and concerns are some of the same stories I heard when I first began working for the Nation nearly 16 years ago. Back then, too, it was the full bloods who were being left behind or were in need of basic services. I’m not a social studies expert, so I can’t tell you why some full-blood Cherokees still get left behind or go without. Do they distrust or lack faith in our government?"

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Will Chavez: Poor Cherokees being left behind (The Cherokee Phoenix 10/23)