2018 Tri-Council unites Cherokees on tribal issues
Updated: Aug 9, 2018
BY TRISTA VAUGHN
TAHLEQUAH - The 2018 Tri-Council meeting held June 18 in Tahlequah brought together the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for a three-day event to vote on several resolutions.
“The issues on the horizon that would affect all tribes is what we are discussing,” said Joe Bunch, UKB chief.
The only three federally recognized Cherokee tribes each presented a resolution.
UKB opposed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services refusal to exempt federally recognized tribes from Medicaid work requirements.
Tribes had requested exemption by asserting sovereign nation status, but were denied because the Donald Trump administration instead considered the request an illegal racial preference.
“If tribal members are forced to complete work or community engagement requirements, it may not work very well,” said Bunch.
CN Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd presented a resolution supporting Tara Sweeney’s nomination for assistant secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
“She is Alaskan and she’s strongly supported by our (National Congress of American Indians), so I think she’ll be a good candidate,” said Byrd. “The president has waited almost a year and a half to make these very essential appointments, so we’re fortunate someone stepped forward.”
The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Sweeney on June 28. She is the first Alaska Native woman in such a highly ranked, Senate-confirmed position.
EBCI Principal Chief Richard Sneed presented his own resolution opposing U.S. President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy on immigration.
Trump’s policy calls for any individual illegally entering the U.S. to be prosecuted, but has caused controversy for separating families at the border.
“What our ancestors have suffered, we are obligated to take a stand against what this government is doing to the most vulnerable of a population,” said Sneed.
UKB and CN officials also presented a joint resolution opposing the U.S. Department of the Interior’s plan to reorganize the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education.
The DOI has proposed the reorganization of its regional offices into 13 regions by watershed and ecosystem.
The DOI has scheduled several consultation sessions over tribal concerns about the issue and will visit Embassy Suites in Oklahoma City on August 7.
“The whole focus during Tri-Council is on passing resolutions and the general welfare of the Cherokee people. Any resolutions we pass, shows support of all three tribes,” said Joyce Fourkiller, UKB secretary.
The EBCI will host the next Tri-Council meeting, which is scheduled for April 2019.