Two resolutions passed at Cherokee Tri-Council
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
KITUWAH MOUND – A resolution declaring a “state of emergency” for the Cherokee language and another asking the U.S. government to apologize for its crimes against Cherokees were approved by all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes during the 2019 Tri-Council meeting.
The meeting specifically brought together the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians at the historic Kituwah Mound on the morning of June 27.
“The Tri-Council has been going on for seven years and that’s significant for us because of our worldview of thinking and planning for seven generations ahead. It’s important for us to be there with the other two tribes and it was 202 years in the making that we all came back together,” said UKB Chief Joe Bunch.
He also acknowledged the significance of the site itself.
“The thing that I missed was the feeling of truly being a part of Kituwah Mound,” said Bunch. “That’s where it all began. When we talk ‘One Fire,’ that’s it. That’s where seven of our elders went on Clingman’s Dome and were told by the Creator that we shall be Giduwas.”
The meeting began at 9 a.m. with a presentation by CNO citizen Roy Boney, who gave an update on the First Language Speakers Summit and the efforts being made to visit communities to identify first language Cherokee speakers.
Cherokee Nation would later follow this presentation up by introducing Tri-Council Resolution No. 02-2019, which states that “…there are approximately 2,000 fluent first language Cherokee speakers left, and each Cherokee tribe is losing fluent speakers at faster rates than new Cherokee speakers are developed.”
The resolution asks each Cherokee tribe to join in collective efforts to enhance Cherokee language revitalization programs that will foster new speakers and help preserve the language.
The vote passed unanimously and each tribe committed to selecting individual representatives to join a Steering Committee to carry out the resolution.
A unanimous vote was also taken during the meeting to pass Tri-Council Resolution No. 01-2019. It calls for the U.S. government to issue an apology “for the wrongful, hurtful wrongdoings that were imposed” on Cherokees throughout colonization, removal and the Trail of Tears.
An item that did not make the official Tri-Council agenda was a resolution proposed by UKB during a pre-agenda meeting that called for an amendment to CNO Act 24-11, according to Bunch.
“CNO Act 24-11 prohibits foreign, federally recognized tribes from putting land into trust in the historical Cherokee jurisdiction. In that definition, it talks about exclusions. The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is the only tribe excluded in that. My adage is, ‘put (UKB) next to you,’” said Bunch.
Since 2011, CNO has had ongoing litigation against the U.S. Department of the Interior for its decision to take 76 acres of land into trust for the UKB without CNO “consent” because it considered UKB a “foreign” tribe.
UKB has argued consent is not needed.
A 2017 ruling in the CNO’s favor was appealed and in May 2018, the US. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver heard arguments in the case. A decision has not been made.
“CNO’s remark at the pre-agenda meeting was that they had litigation going on that could affect the injunction against the (Department of the Interior) secretary from putting land into trust for us. I said, “Exactly!” We wouldn’t be in that case if you will add us to that language,” said Bunch. “They said they didn’t want to do that. As a matter of fact, Chief Bill John Baker said it ‘offended him.’ Well, I’m sorry, but it makes us mad. Our primary economic development tool, we no longer have because of this case. It cuts us back a lot. We don’t want what they have, we want to build our own.”
During the pre-agenda meeting a vote was taken to move the proposed resolution to the official Tri-Council agenda, with UKB voting for, CNO voting against and EBCI abstaining.
The vote failed on the floor.
Regardless, Bunch thanked EBCI for hosting the meeting and is already looking ahead. “We thank the Eastern Band for their hospitality and we look forward to returning that hospitality next year,” he said.
UKB will host the 2020 Tri-Council meeting, with location and time details to be announced.