Cherokees united against legislation
By CLIFTON ADCOCK World Staff Writer
Two Cherokee tribes meet to discuss state and federal measures.
CATOOSA -- The Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians had a joint tribal council meeting Wednesday at the Cherokee Nation Casino Resort to discuss issues facing both tribes.
The tribes were separated by the U.S. government's forced removal of Cherokees, resulting in the Trail of Tears. The joint council meetings have been held regularly since 1984, usually every two years.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is based in Cherokee, N.C.; the Cherokee Nation is based in Tahlequah.
The meeting represented about 294,000 Cherokee people throughout the U.S.
Former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller addressed the councils, recalling the first meeting between the groups in 1984 in Red Clay, Tenn., and the emotion of seeing two young people carrying torches that were to be combined in a symbolic eternal flame.
"We acknowledged the past, the hardships of the past," Mankiller, moved to tears at the memory of the meeting, told the group.
"But what those young people meant as they came in with those two torches was our future. It was an honor to participate in the first meeting at Red Clay, and its an honor to be here with you today, 25 years later."
Mankiller; former Deputy Principal Chief John Ketcher; and Ross O. Swimmer, former Cherokee Nation principal chief and current Special Trustee for Indians at the U.S. Department of the Interior, were awarded the Friends of Sequoyah Award.
The joint council passed a resolution opposing a bill making its way through the Oklahoma Legislature that would make English the state's official language.
"Cherokees clearly understand the devastating effects of the policy of English as an official language by their treatment in Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools where they were punished for speaking Cherokee including having their mouths washed out with soap," the resolution states.
The proposal "brands Oklahoma as intolerant, closed-minded, hard-hearted, mean-spirited and oppressive to minority groups," it said.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith, who was barred from speaking during legislative committee meetings on the bill, blasted the proposal, sponsored by Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore.
"They may as well open an old wound and throw salt in it," Smith told the councils.
The legislation would end driver's license testing in Spanish and state agencies' multilingual phone menus.
The joint council meeting also addressed a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would sever government-to-government relations with the Cherokee Nation.
The bill, House Resolution 2824, was introduced by Rep. Diane Watson, D-Calif., in June amid a dispute with descendants of Cherokee freedmen and the tribe over citizenship.
"This alarming, inappropriate and unacceptable overreach could set a precedent that undermines sovereign tribal governments throughout Indian Country," the resolution states. "These proposed legislative actions threaten to turn back the clock on hard-won rights, and to cease a nation's right to exist."
Clifton Adcock 581-8462
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