Justifications for Charles Hoskin Jr., the newly elected principal chief, receiving a $350,000 salary ignore the most fundamental principle: The position of principal chief is one of public service, not profit.

It is one of honor, not corporate compensation. It is shameful the issue has even come up.

In 2011, the principal chief’s salary was $116,000 and was proposed to increase to $186,000. Before that election, I declined to accept the raise; Bill John Baker took it.

Hoskin’s silence is deafening. He could announce that he will not accept the raise; he could draft legislation to defeat the pay raise for all elected officials, but he has not.

Deacon Turner, chairman of the Compensation Committee, wrote: “Our job is to look at the labor market and identify what is fair and equitable compensation for the hard-working professionals who are elected to serve at Cherokee Nation.”

There is no requirement to pay an elected official a penny. The current principal chief's salary is the same or more than that of all 50 state governors. If the reason a candidate ran for office is to get an exorbitant salary, then he or she is not a leader, not a public servant, and not the kind of person to lead the Nation.

Hoskin, Bryan Warner, and those council members who have remained silent confirm they are not in office to serve, but to exploit the Nation and its people.

In response to the pay raise, one Cherokee wrote to me: “There once was a great Cherokee Nation. Then it turned to greed and cronyism, and pettiness. It is unrecognizable from its historic or even more recent past. Its leaders do not honor those who walked the Trail or the Old Settlers who brought with them the values of the Cherokees to our new homelands. I am ashamed.”

Chad Smith is former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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