Special Meeting sees Council hire two district judges, enter MOU with Full Blood Clothing
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH - The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council interviewed attorney Charles Tripp for the position of district judge and agreed to enter a memorandum of understanding with Full Blood Clothing during its Feb. 16 Special Meeting.
Councilors began the meeting by allowing Tripp to introduce himself and answer any questions that arose about a potential judgeship, which would replace retired UKB District Judge Dewayne Littlejohn.
“I have a bachelor’s and a master’s in business administration and a law degree off the University of Tulsa,” said Tripp.
“I have practiced law for over 25 years in various places. I’ve worked primarily in tribal court with tribal citizens and with tribes themselves, whether that be the tribe as a whole or different departments. I’ve never been terminated for doing anything incorrect. In fact, I’ll tell you this, I would rather lose a job doing what is right then keep a job by doing what’s wrong.”
Tripp said his experience with tribal court and Indian Child Welfare cases is especially extensive, having served as a judge for “a number of tribes” including the Creek Nation.
“In state court I have probably done ICW cases in the hundreds and I’ve done it in Oklahoma, Kansas, California, Minnesota and Missouri,” he said. “One of the things I’ve had an opportunity to do, as some of the tribes in Oklahoma moved out of the seat of our system, is help them to establish their court, whether that was assisting them in developing code or finding grant monies, just putting things together in terms of policies and procedures.”
Tripp also made the Council aware that he is an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, but that it would not interfere with a potential position at UKB.
“I’m a member of the Cherokee Nation. I’m very proud to be Indian. I’m not always proud of what Cherokee Nation does,” he said. “I am a little disappointed in my own tribe, and it’s for that all Indian people, we have been colonized. We have been oppressed… Yet it appears that’s what Cherokee Nation, who has had it done to them, does to, not just this tribe, this tribe more than any, but to other tribes.”
Tripp also made councilors aware that his experience with ICWA goes beyond just being educated about the law.
“The thing that happened in my life prior to the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was passed in 1978, I was adopted,” he said. “I was not adopted by an Indian family and so I am well aware of the issues of the Indian Child Welfare Act, the issues of historical trauma… Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, it’s one of those things that I would hope we could bring in a lot of cases involving our Indian children.”
After councilors asked Tripp to respond to multiple possible scenarios under the Indian Child Welfare Act, he also explained his courtroom philosophy.
“I don’t know if I want to use the word aggressive, but I want to take you to as much jurisdiction as you can because the state is constantly trying to take kids away from us,” he said.
“A tribal court is designed to represent your tribe, your values, your principles, morals, the things that you cherish, in this case, the things that make you Keetoowah. If they don’t, then there’s a problem.”
During the meeting Executive Assistant to Chief Bunch Travis Wolfe also introduced Keetoowah member Justin McLemore of Full Blood Clothing to give a presentation and discuss his philosophy.
The clothing business currently sponsors an array of individuals pursuing their dreams within the entertainment world, including MMA fighters and up-and-coming rappers.
Councilors agreed to enter a memorandum of understanding to give Full Blood Clothing first preference on any tribal design or apparel needs.
“I know there were some concerns about this last time of being a monopoly. This is not,” said Wolfe. “It is a partnership because Justin is also UKB. It is mutually beneficial for any time that we need to reach out for t-shirts or anything we need to wear, entertainment, supplies, he will give us preference.”
The week following the meeting, Tripp and fellow attorney Douglas G. Dry, who had been vetted during an earlier application process, were both hired on an “as needed” basis to serve as UKB district court judges.
The next regularly scheduled UKB Tribal Council meeting is set for Saturday, March 2 at the Jim Proctor Elder and Nutrition Center in Tahlequah.