Tahlequah Daily Press

Editorials

August 6, 2012

Filing for UKB elections starts

TAHLEQUAH — United Keetoowah Band elections are coming up Nov. 1, and as of Wednesday, Aug. 1, the UKB Election Board has been accepting applications from members for candidacy.

Though it may be hard to believe for anyone who keeps up with current events, the UKB is not an “arm” of the Cherokee Nation, but is a separate tribe. The separation is sometimes a source of controversy between the two peoples that waxes and wanes with the political climate.

The people of both tribes are “Cherokees.” But the UKB, which requires a blood quantum of a quarter-degree or more for membership, claims descent from Cherokees who came to this part of the country prior to the Trail of Tears. Cherokee Nation members, whose ancestors arrived here via the Trail of Tears, aren’t subject to a blood quantum, and thus today, many of them trace the larger part of their roots to European ancestors.

Both the Cherokee Nation and United Keetoowah Band have their own governments – their own chiefs, deputy chiefs and tribal councils, and in the case of the UKB, two other elected officials. There’s also a stark contrast in the way they handle their tribal business, especially when it comes to elections.

The Cherokee Nation held its elections last year, starting in June, but a contentious process delayed the results until November. The Keetoowahs will hold their elections this November, with the filing period for candidates ending Aug. 14. And whereas the Cherokee Nation provided information to the public on candidates as they filed for office, the UKB won’t offer details until after the filing period ends.

UKB officials have indicated they don’t want to release candidate names  until they’ve vetted them all and ensured they are, indeed, eligible to seek office. A couple of tribal members have expressed frustration and suspicion over this process, with one comparing it to the “voter purges” in Florida, and suggesting  potential candidates who challenge the status quo will be forbidden from running.

The distrust is understandable, since the UKB, as a “sovereign nation,” is not subject to the same types of transparency laws as other mainstream governmental bodies. There’s nothing a media body can do to force the UKB to relinquish a candidate list until it is ready to do so. But by the same token, there’s nothing to prevent a candidate who feels he or she has been unfairly disqualified from speaking to the media.

Filing must be done at 20525 Jules Valdez Road, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays. The period closes Aug. 14. Elections will be held for chief, assistant chief, secretary and treasurer, all of whom have four-year terms, and nine district representatives, who have two-year terms. Filing fees are $500 for chief, $400 for assistant chief, secretary and treasurer; and $250 for representative. For information, call the Election Board at (918) 456-8421.

When the list is released, the Press will allow a window of opportunity for publishing candidate announcements. We’ll let you know the dates, but the rules and instructions we’ve used for previous elections apply. A sample can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/d8kztcd.

It’s not taking a position against current UKB officials to suggest all UKB members who aspire to help their tribe should consider running for office. Many current officers would likely agree with this notion. It’s an aspect of democracy Americans pride themselves on – and a part of governing many tribes have respected long before the United States of America ever existed.

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