Few Americans on either side of the ideological spectrum would deny that hate-filled rhetoric has ebbed and flowed, and now, it's escalating at a record pace. It's tough these days for people to be civil to one another if they belong to different political parties.

Mainstream politics has always been riddled with angst, false allegations, propaganda, back-biting and other problems associated with heightened emotions and rooted in anger. These days, that rage is centered on the righteous attempts of certain groups to get equal – not special – treatment under the law. Their opponents fear that recognizing the worth of certain segments of the U.S. population will somehow negate their own value and influence.

It would be a shame if Native tribes succumbed to the partisan politics that plague society as a whole, but if tribal citizens aren't careful, that's exactly what will happen. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. the State of Oklahoma has made the division all but inevitable, because there are always well-placed individuals looking to use such moments in history for personal gain.

Specific factions are working harder than ever to turn tribal politics into mainstream politics, Republican vs. Democrat. Outsiders ignore the reality of treaties and view tribes as having been granted "special privileges." Meanwhile, insiders are also trying to reap advantages, and the trend is to do so under the guise of protecting sovereignty. This makes for some strange bedfellows, because citizens may be aligning themselves with partisan political operatives who do not have the best interests of the tribes in mind, with long-term goals set aside in favor of short-term gains.

Every Cherokee chief in modern times has been registered Republican or Democrat, but that had little effect on how they led the tribe. They all made mistakes, but their goals were one and the same: to ensure sovereignty, good health care, stellar education, housing and other needs they were guaranteed through treaties. Holding the federal government's feet to the fire has always been a challenge. But although chiefs are forced to work with mainstream politicians they deem unsavory, they have not done so from a Democratic or Republican perspective, but rather from the Native perspective. Even former Chief Bill John Baker – whose mother, Isabel, was a titan in the Democratic Party – did not yield to the temptation.

With every passing week, it becomes more clear that certain high-profile politicians and their lackeys want to get their fingers into the tribal pie, and some of them even claim citizenship themselves. Many are doing so out of personal greed and envy for the tribes' accomplishments, forward thinking, and a string of savvy leaders. Cherokee citizens should not fooled by these gambits, because despite what the players "behind the curtain" may say, they're bent on destroying tribal unity. A crusade promoted as preserving sovereignty could be a power grab from people interested in advancing their own careers or lining their own pockets.

The gaming compact issue with Gov. Kevin Stitt is the tip of the iceberg. Cherokee citizens must be wary of those with whom ally themselves.

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