Editor, Daily Press:
Cherokee community provides a life of priceless culture, values, traditions, connections, and most importantly, family. Cherokee means resilience. We recognize where we come from, and how much further we can go. Cherokee also means balance (Utiyvhi); we acknowledge both our faults and our successes.
Our successes are to be celebrated. For example: Supporting Cherokee students through college; building sustainable homes for elders; preserving our land and water against Sequoyah Fuels; continued commitment to the revitalization of our language; and commitment of resources to youth leadership development. While we have much to be proud of, we must also tend to the parts of our Nation that need healing. One of the biggest threats to our future is the strained relationship between our Nation (Tsalagihi Ayetli) and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (Anigaduwagi).
Colonization has separated us as three tribal governments; it doesn't define our kinship, and it doesn't define how we treat one another. We all come from the same culture, language (gawonihisdi), and traditions. When our ancestors were forcibly removed (aneseho digetsiyiilvstvna) to Indian Territory, there was a point on their journey that they could no longer look back home and see the mountains or land that built them; they had to keep looking forward. Our generation will mend this relationship, and to do so, we must look forward.
Our first step - while centering healing and co-existence - is preventing the passage of H.R. 7263 introduced by District 2 Congressman Markwayne Mullin, a Cherokee Nation citizen. This piece of congressional legislation would prevent the UKB from taking land into trust within our shared 14-county tribal jurisdiction service area without the express consent of the Cherokee Nation. The Cherokee Nation is attempting to wield its political currency within the U.S. Congress through explicit influence of a Cherokee congressman in an attempt to diminish the UKB's ability to act as a sovereign tribal Nation. The federal court system has affirmed UKB's sovereign ability to take land into trust within our shared jurisdiction area. This legislation is a blatant attempt to prioritize Cherokee Nation's sovereignty above that of the UKB.
We are writing this letter today because we believe our message is important. We are writing this letter for those who cannot speak up for fear of intimidation. We are writing this letter because we believe in the inherent ability of Cherokees to resolve our own disputes internally, rather than seeking external mandates from the U.S. Congress. We are writing this letter because we want a better future for all Cherokees. We look forward to a future of collaboration and shared prosperity. We want to be good relatives to each other and to share the home we both claim as the heart of our people.
We as Cherokees - chief, deputy chief, and council members included - must oppose this legislation. This is our call to action. This is our stand. This is our tomorrow.