Os da su na le i (Good Morning,) u do hi yu ga lv gwo di yu tsi’ tsi lu gi ( I’m honored by your presence/attendance. ) u li he li sdi a gv ya di tlv ni ga dv na de gv i hia de ga si’ta’di sgv i (I am grateful to take this oath before you).
Today is not a day we have made. It is day we have realized. It is a small piece in a much larger plan, but it is a day that also comes with immense responsibility. I have sworn an oath before you and (the) Almighty God (Creator), an oath long understood, if not recorded, by our ancestral leaders, an oath of honest, forthright, and just leadership. An oath that does not name me your leader, but instead names us all partners in discerning the future direction of the Eastern Band.
We celebrate today, a moment not of political victory, not of prescribed ceremony, nor merely of inevitable transition. Instead, we are summoned here today to acknowledge an eternal promise, the celebration of one people, not of one person; and together, reconcile all things… to realize our mutual destination.
Before the Cherokee were a collective, before our identity as one people was written into the soil of this earth, a promise was spoken. This promise assures us that one day all Cherokees will return to the place of our ancestral birth, Kituwah, and once again join together as brothers and sisters to protect the eternal flame as one blood; no longer Eastern Band, Western Band, United Kituwah; no longer divided by political factions or selfish wants. This day, though yet unrealized, colors our horizon and plots our path.
As you assemble here today or travel home to your families, I ask that you carry one question with you, one essential consideration. Does true Cherokee blood run through your veins? No… I’m not asking you to examine your enrollment card or take a blood test. I’m not asking you to research your family tree. I’m asking you if your heart beats with pride when Walker Calhoun leads a morning song. I’m asking you if your muscles have the survivor scars of Tsali. I’m asking you if your body can adapt without compromising your soul. If your mind and spirit can excel when called to excel. You see, the promise we seek of unity, of prosperity, requires more of us than an official title or government issued I.D. card. It requires the binding blood of Cherokee courage, the blood that courses through our veins and enables us to act when called.
Never in the history of the Cherokee people, have leaders governed solitarily. Never have our War Chiefs, Peace Chiefs, Beloved Women, or Principal Chiefs acted on behalf of this tribe without the advisement and wisdom of their councils and each other. Centuries ago, our ancestors dealt with the danger of unchecked power and brought forth the service government we enjoy today. It is this form of community progress and courageous commitment that is essential to our future… to our very existence.
We are a new generation of Cherokee with a resounding voice. For the first time in history, we have re-elected a Principal Chief and Vice Chief for a third consecutive term. This generation has proclaimed that these choices are not an indication of stagnation, but one of sustained progress, one of faithful vision, one that anticipates and prepares for the twists and turns of the road ahead.
The wisdom and courage of past leaders to define and protect our sovereignty has assured the Eastern Band’s unique position of success in a time of great struggle for our neighbors. We have embraced our role as friend and ally to other governments and their citizens, even enjoyed dual citizenship, while maintaining our own national integrity and cultural individuality. With faith in the eternal promise, we have remained Anikituwah… the people of Kituwah… “the people of the soil that belongs to the creator.”
There is no doubt that the days ahead of us are marked with challenges. We cannot exclude ourselves from the wars of nations or the uncertain tides of a global economy. We can, however, negotiate these obstacles in the Cherokee way, with Cherokee courage. That is, we can discover the possibility in the otherwise impossible.
Moving forward, renewal is the visible, tangible result we seek. We search it out daily on the news, in our bank accounts, in the hopes for our children and grandchildren. However, in order to witness the result of renewal, we must regenerate our collective body from its foundational source. It is our Cherokee blood flowing through each member’s veins that allows the Eastern Band to be a living body, a body capable of forward movement and reflective spirit, a body that will rise from battle stronger and more determined.
We will continue to rise from the disease of a fearful society that is sickened by a stifling national economy and other turmoil. We will rise and strike forth with ancestral fortitude, foresight, and vision. Most importantly we will, because we must, rise together in the spirit of those who came before us and those who will come after. The blood that travels through our veins is untouched by fear and resignation. It is hopeful. It is unifying. It is Cherokee blood.
May God bless our journey and may God continue to bless the Eastern Band.