BY LANI HANSEN
TAHLEQUAH –In late June, the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee Indians and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians gathered in Tahlequah for the annual Tri-Council meeting.
Every year the tribes take turns in hosting. This year, Tri-Council was hosted by UKB. They met at The Venue in Tahlequah on June 23. The Venue was purchased by UKB this year.
The annual Tri-Council has brought the tribes together for nearly 10 years, since 2012. There was two years they didn’t meet, because of the pandemic. It is to show unity and support in sovereignty and Native American causes across the board.
For three days, the tribes took part in activities together. UKB hosted a golf tournament at the Cherokee Springs Golf Course. If some were not on the golf course, they were at the UKB Pavilion making baskets and cornhusks dolls. In the evening of the first day all three councils gathered for a meet/greet reception.
On the second day all three councils met at The Venue for a prep meeting and gift exchange. During the prep meeting, the councils were able to look over the agenda and discuss what was placed for each resolution.
After they finished the pre-planning meeting and had a gift exchange, the councils had the opportunity to float on the Illinois River with Echota Park Village. When they arrived back on the UKB complex, they gathered to play bingo, cornhole and watch exhibition stickball. Later that evening the councils participated in a social stomp dance.
The actual Tri-Council meeting’s agenda containted three resolutions: addressing Cherokees by identifying tribal affiliation, Roselyn Tso as director of Indian Health Services and opposing congressional recognition of groups that claim to be tribal nations.
“There was very good information that was passed,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch said of the resolutions. “The resolutions that made the floor were good, the support of federal recognition process identifying tribal government, Roselyn Tso as the new IHS and certainly the tribal names in regard to Native American artists.”
Aside from the three resolutions that were brought to the table, another item that Bunch wanted to speak on was UKB land-in-trust.
“We’re almost there.” He said when there isn’t any interference from the Cherokee Nation, the UKB will be there.
UKB Assistant Chief Jeff Wacoche had good feedback from Tri-Council, as he listened to the councils speak on what they want for their people and districts.
“The main talk was about the attack on the sovereignty of the Cherokee tribe as a whole,” he said. “Because with the Lumbee tribe and Catawba that went and circumvented the whole process and paid $250,000 to get a Congressional bill passed for approved land-in-trust in North Carolina. That is who we are fighting against are tribes coming in.”
Wacoche said it is up to the three Cherokee tribes to educate Congress and let them know there are thousands who claim to be Cherokee but must prove they have descendancy.
And adding on to Bunch’s statement about sovereignty, Wacoche said Cherokee sovereignty should unify instead of splitting.
Bunch and Wacoche said Tri-Council was a huge success. Although when it came to the last resolution on the agenda the tribes were not all in agreement.
“The three councils came together and gave their recommendations, it did end up to where we had to take a recess but in the matter of 20 minutes the councils and attorneys came together to compromise the best wording,” Wacoche said.
While the original site for Tri-Council was supposed to be on the UKB complex for more people to watch, The Venue was a much better place to stay out of the heat. Wacoche said he was impressed with all UKB departments that helped prep for the meeting at The Venue.
Tri-Council 2023 will meet in Cherokee, North Carolina, the home of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.