By TEDDYE SNELL
Newly-elected officers and district representatives for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma were sworn in to serve a record third term on Saturday.
All 13 incumbents were re-elected to their respective posts during the 2012 general elections, including top officers Chief George Wickliffe, Assistant Chief Charles Locust, Secretary Joyce Hawk, and Treasurer Ella Mae Worley.
UKB tribal councilors include Tahlequah Rep. Betty Holcomb, Canadian Rep. Eddie Sacks, Cooweescoowee Rep. Clifford Wofford, Delaware Rep. Jerry Hansen, Flint Rep. Tom Duncan, Goingsnake Rep. William J. Christie, Illinois Rep. Peggy Girty, Saline Rep. Charles Smoke, and Sequoyah Rep. Barry Dotson.
During his remarks, Wickliffe pointed out the resiliency and steadfast nature of the tribe when it comes to preserving its language.
“I am proud to be your chief,” said Wickliffe. “We have risen; we have studied. We don’t toy with our language. That is one thing our people will preserve. We have a different way of preserving our language, and it is nothing to play with.”
Wickliffe said the Cherokee language is full of adjectives, and that it draws pictures with its words.
“We even have words for ‘computer,’” said Wickliffe. “It’s the smartest machine we have out there. We describe machines, for instance, a printer is ‘it burns paper.’ It doesn’t burn paper, it burns words into paper. It is our language that I will battle to preserve.”
Wickliffe also reminded members of the tribe’s relationship with God, saying the tribe has a history that goes back to the deity.
“We are not fly-by-night people,” said Wickliffe. “We are the original Cherokee people.”
Wickliffe said he hopes to work with all people, particularly the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokees, along with city, state and federal officials.
He commended Northeastern State University President Dr. Steve Turner and Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols for their contributions to the community.
“There is nothing wrong with working with the people you live around,” said Wickliffe. “I have been impressed with NSU’s Dr. Steve Turner. He has really come in and worked hard to pull all of Tahlequah and all of the people together. And thanks to Mayor Jason Nichols, we have a good relationship with the city.”
Over the past year, the tribe was granted access to placing land into trust, and is working to have two parcels recognized as trust land right now.
“Our corporate charter gives us the opportunity to ask to have land put into trust,” said Wickliffe. “We didn’t do this by accident. We do this because we have always sought guidance from God.”
Wickliffe recognized the tribe’s history of contention with the Cherokee Nation, but said he believes all the problems will be worked out.
“I hope all three tribes [will come together],” said Wickliffe.
“Let’s get it right. Let’s [not] turn our backs on God. We have a lot of plans. We don’t have to have complete charge, but we are a sovereign nation. We also assimilate.”
Wickliffe said the UKB members elected him to continue working toward the tribe’s current goals.
“The people have spoken,” said Wickliffe. “Let’s keep going in the right direction. We will not cease until we get everything done.”