By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Four EBCI tribal members have finished the North Carolina Native Leadership Institute (NCNLI) facilitated by the American Indian Center at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. Juanita Wilson, Jeremy Wilson, Lana Lambert and Marvel Welch represented the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in the program designed to build leadership skills and provide valuable contacts and resources for the participants on various issues including tribal governance and tribal self-determination.
“It is a way to connect tribes in North Carolina and have us understand better how laws work and how governance works within different tribes,” said Juanita Wilson who said all of the state-recognized tribes in the state were represented as well as the EBCI.
Of the other tribes, she related, “They really care. They really care about their communities.”
She went into the program with a little apprehension knowing the past relationships with state-recognized tribes. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I really wasn’t sure how we would be received or if they would be suspicious of us, but they just totally embraced us, and it feels like we have an extended family now.”
Each participant in the program was asked to choose a person they feel personifies good leadership. Juanita Wilson chose former Principal Chief Joyce Dugan. “She is someone who tried to bring order and accountability to the office of the Principal Chief. I love that she was the first woman of the Eastern Band to be Principal Chief. I feel that Joyce has a quiet wisdom about her.”
Jeremy Wilson chose Ben Bushyhead of which he said, “A leader may not be an outward go-getter, but they may be the teacher that turns people into go-getters.”
Welch, who also serves as the EBCI representative on the North Carolina Indian Affairs Commission, commented on the program, “Working with the NCNLI cohort has renewed my spirit in the value of being Cherokee in taking care of our family and community (ga-du-gi) in coming together and giving back. I heard a quote from a young man that was writing an essay for a college consideration. He said, ‘I’ve got it. It is not about giving back, but giving more.’ Those were profound words in giving back to the community.”
The NCNLI participants attended three sessions held in various parts of the state including: Nov. 8-10, 2013 in Cherokee; Jan. 17-19, 2014 in Wilmington; and the final one April 4-6, 2014 in Chapel Hill.
For those wishing to participate in the future, Juanita Wilson encourages them to keep an open mind. “State-recognized tribes, Lumbees, that’s not the point…the point is that they are humans. They are taking care of their communities, and they entered this program because they want to do it better.”
Leadership Institute participants must be 21 years of age and a member of a state- or federally-recognized tribe. The selection process is on a competitive basis. For more information on the Leadership Institute or to find out how to apply for the next round, contact UNC American Indian Center (919) 843-4189 or email@example.com.