Tuesday, February 2
Today was very sad day for our Tribe to have lost two good people. Both left us unexpectedly, the first being John Burgess. This young man touched a lot of lives and left behind a lot of broken hearts, especially because of the way he left us. The other was Elisha Taylor, another good man; he was a dear friend to me. I always enjoyed my talks with him and listening to his wisdom regarding traditional ways. My heart goes out to both of these families.
Tuesday, February 2 – Thursday, February 4
These first few days were Budget Council and Regular Council.
Monday, February 8
This day was a very exciting day for me and my staff as we were finally able to move into our newly renovated offices. There is such a huge difference in the way it looks, the way our people will be served and the way my staff and I will be able to do the Tribe’s work; it will be an open environment with pleasant faces there to help everyone with many issues. I look forward to getting better and more timely service for our people now that we have a good workplace to handle tribal business.
Friday, February 12
A sad day for our Tribe. The funeral of Mr. Diamond Brown – former Tribal Council Representative for Snowbird/Cherokee Co. Communities. I considered Diamond a good friend who had a very interesting life. If you knew him, you knew he worked very hard for his community. I don’t think I ever remember Diamond being angry or showing any type of weakness when it came to doing things for his community. He was a strong leader. He had a good family that he loved deeply. He always had a good story to tell and he will surely be missed. I will keep his family in my prayers.
Sunday, February 14
Yet another sad day for our Tribe. The funeral of Mr. Samuel “Snake” Panther, a former Big Cove Council Representative. Mr. Panther was always very active in his community; he loved Big Cove. He always was around to help where needed. He has a very loving family whom I call friends. I always appreciated his honest answers. He made me laugh on many occasions. Cyndi and I will miss him. He certainly was a pillar of his community. Big Cove lost a good one. His family is in my prayers.
Thursday, February 18
This evening, there was a meeting held at the Wolfetown Gym to discuss the drug issue on our boundary. It was conducted by Kina Swayney and a group called the Cherokee Civil Action Team. I was unable to attend, but Cyndi attended the meeting and said it was very educational, yet heartbreaking at the same time, but promising. There is such a need to get something done with the drug problem here and I appreciate groups like this or any others that want to band together to do something. I realize we have a lot of work to do with this epidemic and I hope we can get other groups involved and have a discussion as a team to come up with some answers. I know we can’t have all the answers, and I also know it will take all of us to help solve the problem.
Friday, February 19
We held an open house for everyone to come check out our new administration offices. It was a very successful event, and I was very happy to see all the visitors that came by to take a look at everything. We had over 200 visitors that day. We received very positive feedback and the main comment was they were glad that it was so open and inviting. They liked the fact that it wasn’t so dark and there wasn’t one dead animal head hanging on the wall. I am grateful to my staff for getting everything prepared and showing everyone how professionalism looks and how we do things now. Thank you to all that came by. We plan to host another open house in a few weeks in case you missed this first one.
Monday, February 22
Today, I traveled to Washington to attend meetings with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) and to also have meetings with some political members of the government. We first met with NCAI to discuss issues involving Indian Country on matters such as Crime Act Funding, Reauthorizing NAHASDA (Funding for Housing needs and HUD money, “Native American Housing and Self Determination Act”), Modernization of the Trust Asset Management System for the Federal Government, Tribal Land into Trust (Carcieri Case), and the Tribal Labor Sovereignty Act (the Union Bill). During these meetings we had several Senators and US House members come to address our meetings and discuss their support of Native America.
Tuesday, February 23
I attended additional meetings with NCAI in the morning, and I attended the National Indian Women “Honor Luncheon” where the keynote speaker was Sen. Al Franken. After lunch, I was asked to attend a briefing with some tribal leaders to discuss protocol and topics when meeting President Obama.
That afternoon at 2:30 in the Lincoln Hotel until around 4pm I was honored to have the opportunity to meet for over an hour with the President of the United States. There were a total of 15 Tribal Leaders present and every person had the chance to engage in a conversation directly with President Obama.
I first introduced myself and said that it was my honor to meet him. I told him I have three points/issues I want to make with him. First, I told him that we have something in common, we both love the Smoky Mountains and he readily agreed and stated that Asheville is a favorite spot for him and his family. I then offered a suggestion. I said, “Mr. President, before your last year in office is finished I would like for you to come visit our lands and be, to my knowledge, only the second sitting President in history to visit the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The first and only President was Franklin D. Roosevelt when he came and stood at the Top of Smoky and gave the Park dedication speech in 1940. And Mr. President, this would give you the opportunity to include two States, NC and TN, our Tribe and also give a show of support for the most visited National Park in the Country.” He replied, “How far is that from Asheville?” I answered that it was about 1.5 hours and he said, “Oh, I’ve got a helicopter and can be there in a few minutes.” Everyone laughed and agreed; he turned to his staff person and told him to look into it and to also book a round of golf at the Grove Park Inn.
The second point I made was to discuss the issue of “gathering local foods” in the Great Smoky Mountains and how this has been our practice for hundreds of years and until the past few years we had an MOU with the National Park Service but they have refused to re-enter that agreement. I further explained that there is a rule waiting final passage by him and we can get this matter resolved. He said, “Now that is a solvable problem and I can make that happen. Unlike some of these problems on my plate like problems in Syria and Iran.” He again told his staff to pull that rule out of the stack and get it completed.
The third point I got to make in a brief fashion, was the effort to re-open the road through the Job Corps to provide an emergency access to/from Big Cove and our school system. He asked me to talk to Sally Jewel, the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, and her staff at the Department. (Following the meeting I had a conversation with Mr. Roberts at the DOI on this point.)
The meeting with the President was the highest honor I’ve had, and I am proud to represent you and our Tribe in these matters. I felt very relaxed with President Obama and I think it was a very productive meeting on behalf of our Tribe.
Wednesday, February 24
Today, there was another very important meeting I attended on behalf of our Tribe. I gave testimony before Congress to the Natural Resources Committee regarding the placement of land into trust for our Tribe. This land was part of the original land of the Cherokees and actually was the site of two Cherokee towns, Tanasi and Cheoah. It was a great Honor to sit before a Congressional Committee to represent our Tribe on such a historic bill. Both Committee Chairman Young and Ranking Member Ruiz both stated following the hearing that they would push for swift passage of the Bill thru the US House. We still have another step thru the Senate to get it finalized and over to the President for final signature, but I feel confident that we can get it accomplished.
Before leaving Washington on the 24th, I visited Congressman Mark Meadows to speak with him on a couple of issues that need support from his office. He also extended on open hand in friendship. Our Tribe considers him a friend, and I believe he has our best interest at heart.
I believe this trip to Washington was very important and full of great accomplishments for our Tribe and I am pleased to have been part of it.
Thursday, February 25
I had a 9am meeting with our lobbyists in Raleigh. We discussed the upcoming elections and any preliminary plans for participating. It is always important to engage in the state and federal elections in order to keep our Tribe in a good position to lobby for issues that matter to us. I take this matter very serious and unlike the actions from the past, any engagement with outside politics will be made for the Tribe and not simply so someone can go golfing or travel to a BBQ in an exotic location. The past spending on extravagant travel and political contributions so someone can play golf or eat caviar will not be something I allow to happen. There are some who want to get their hands on the money in order to do just that, but I will oppose that with every step.
Friday, February 26
First day back in the office, dang… dropped my cell phone and busted it beyond repair. First time that’s happened to me. So, I lost a lot of contacts etc., but thanks to our IT department I got back up and running by that evening.
Sunday, February 28
Today, I joined the Cherokee Runners and completed the 10 Mile “Moccasin Run” from the Straight Fork Bridge all the way thru Big Cove past the new School and all the way down Acquoni to the old Yellowhill Community Building. What a great job they did! And, it was a beautiful run all along the river (early and cold, but very beautiful winter morning). I made it in under a 10-minute mile.
Also, in this past week my “First 100 Days” report came out. I hope you enjoyed that report and I will plan to do more such detailed reports as we move forward.
I also hope my regular monthly reports give you a sense of the work I am doing on your behalf. And every day I am having smaller meetings and planning sessions where we are planning for issues such as debt payoff, cutting the cost of government, finding areas to save more money and cut out the waste and abuse within our system, finding ways to make life easier in small ways for all our members and our families, working to find solutions to our vexing problems such as drug abuse and crime, or finding ways to make Tribal Government work internally and also finding those areas where ideas and projects “go to die” and figuring out ways to push the projects forward.
We have a real opportunity to add some real value to the lives of our members and our communities, and I wake up every day energized to get that work accomplished on your behalf. With guidance from God and keeping Him out front I can weather the local political storms and will keep striving every day to do those things that I know are most pleasing to Him.
Thank you for this opportunity to represent our Tribe! Sgi