Principal Chief

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed

Richard G. Sneed life’s work has been one of public service advocating for youth, community building, and cultural preservation.

The son of a businessman and former councilmember, he knows that hard work and a community-centered focus enable collective opportunity. In this vein, he has worked throughout his career to ensure that Cherokee people have equitable access to quality education and can put these skills to work in a community they can be proud of.

Having grown up in Wolftown, on the Qualla Boundary, he values being rooted in a community that honors family, culture, and progressive thinking. After graduating from Cherokee High School in 1986, Richard Sneed served in the United States Marine Corp for four years. Father of five children, Breanna, Richie, Mattilynn, Katrina and Samuel, Sneed earned his degree from Universal Technical College in Phoenix, AZ, and holds a North Carolina Teaching License in Industrial Arts.

While pastoring the Christ Fellowship Church of Cherokee for fourteen years, Sneed also taught vocational education at Cherokee Central Schools for twelve of those years. Whether teaching students to rebuild an engine, or counseling them through fiscally responsible financial planning, his excellence in the classroom earned him recognition as the National Classroom Teacher of the Year by the National Indian Education Association in 2013. He continues to be a highly sought-after motivational speaker, focusing on youth leadership and empowerment.

In 2015, Sneed was called to formalize his commitment to public service and was elected Vice Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). On May 25, 2017, he was officially sworn in as Principal Chief of the Eastern Band and subsequently re-elected as Principal Chief on September 5th, 2019.

Since taking office, Chief Sneed’s administration has been dedicated to exercising the EBCI’s sovereignty, including growing relationships and partnerships, in part, through his service to the WCU Cherokee Center Advisory Board, United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), and the Cherokee Preservation Foundation Board of Directors. Chief Sneed has also recently been elected as the Vice-Chairman of the Center for Disease Control’s Tribal Advisory Committee.

During his time in office, Chief Sneed has successfully passed legislation that enhanced transparency, accountability, and economic opportunities for the EBCI. He believes in the unrestricted potential of the Eastern Band and its ability to sustainably meet the needs of its people. By investing in a long-range vision that responsibly balances resources with the needs of the Cherokee people, Principal Chief Richard Sneed is committed to ensuring that the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians continues to thrive for generations to come.

“It is my humble honor to serve our people as the Principal Chief of our Tribe. I believe that Tribal leaders should be servants of the people, and I strive to fulfill that belief daily. I am convinced that we succeed as a people when we strive for a community that honors every person within our Tribe. And while it is imperative that we do the right things for our people, it is equally important that we do them in a right way. A way that honors our God, our people, and those who have gone before us.”
-Principal Chief Richard Sneed

Chief’s Office Contact List

Richard Sneed, Principal Chief
828-359-7002
richsnee@nc-cherokee.com

Paxton Myers, Chief of Staff
828-359-7002
paxtmyer@nc-cherokee.com

Ashleigh Stephens, Public Relations Officer
828-359-7007
ashlstep@nc-cherokee.com

Jeremy Wilson, Governmental Affairs Liaison
828-359-7002
jerewils@nc-cherokee.com

Hattie Owl, Divisional Administrator
828-359-7003
hattowl@nc-cherokee.com

Celia Smith, Lead Constituent Services Representative
828-359-7008
cecsmith@nc-cherokee.com

Breanna Lucas, Constituent Services Representative
828-359-7002
brealuca@nc-cherokee.com

Joi Owle, Constituent Services Representative
828-359-7011
joiowle@nc-cherokee.com