By AMBLE SMOKER
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) held a special retirement ceremony for Darlene Whitetree, Cherokee Agency superintendent, on Friday, May 8. Whitetree retired after 16 years of serving the BIA and leaves behind a wealth of knowledge, strong public service record, and expertise in providing top-notch services to Cherokee.
“Today is a day of celebration,” said Johnna Blackhair, Eastern Regional Director of the BIA. “We are here to share in the celebration of the career and endeavors she has pursued on behalf of the Cherokee Nation. Her knowledge and expertise in trust matters has significantly impacted the Cherokee agency. It is a bittersweet moment because we are going to miss her and the ability to rely on her for personal expertise.
Whitetree began her career with the BIA in 1999 as a realty specialist after serving many years as a realty clerk outside of Cherokee in commercial and residential real estate. She found the work she was doing to be satisfying as she was able to assist members of the Cherokee community by sitting down and explaining the rules and procedures of real estate. Many times, Whitetree would take people aside and speak with them privately to make sure they understand what they were signing.
“It was absolutely wonderful getting to work with people and explaining the realty set rules,” said Whitetree. “In a lot of cases, no one had ever taken the trouble to really explain to them what it was they were signing, what they were planning to do, and all about their land.”
“When I became realty officer, I would sometimes see an elderly person, and I felt like they were being coerced and they didn’t really understand what they were doing or felt like they were upset about something. I’d call them into my office alone. If they couldn’t tell me why they were there, I didn’t allow any type of transaction to take place.”
Whitetree recalls a time when an elderly gentleman walked into her office in need of guidance.
“I asked (him), is this really what you want to do, and are you really happy with this? He said no, but they won’t take care of me if I don’t do this.”
Whitetree is the first female superintendent for the BIA.
“Darlene has offered her services to the community as long as she’s been her by assisting tribal members with the most minute to the most extensive land and business transactions,” said Realty Assistant Brooke Brown. “A woman in a superintendent position is encouraging to any young employees here or anyone who is starting in the federal government. It’s encouraging to see a woman in that position and know that is a possibility for others as a Native woman. She has helped and guided me with knowledge to expand what I do in the department. Any additional knowledge I need to do my position to the best of my ability, she has provided assistance for that.”