By PRINCIPAL CHIEF PATRICK LAMBERT
Hello everyone, the month of October has been very busy for me and our Tribe. We accomplished many things in the first 30 days after being sworn into office. There are many notable events, but what you will not find listed is all of the many people we have been able to assist with personal, family or professional concerns. We have averaged over 20 meetings a day, a flood of phone calls and paperwork and a huge amount of decisions needed on an immediate basis. I have worked every day including weekends since being sworn in and have not had a day of less than 10 hours in the office or at meetings yet. But, this is what it takes, and I will work as much as it takes to do the best job that I can on behalf of our Tribe. Here is a few of the highlights from our first month:
Monday, Oct. 5.
As you all know, this was Inauguration Day for a new Principal Chief, Vice Chief and Tribal Council. It was an exciting day for all of us to be sworn in at the Cherokee High School Gym. I think the program was very well organized, and I would like to thank every single person that played some part in it. It was very successful and very memorable. After the ceremony, we all enjoyed a nice reception prepared by Granny’s Kitchen and the food was wonderful. Thank you Ray and Teresa for the great food.
Following that, Tribal Council met at the Council House to elect the new Chairman and Vice Chairman of Tribal Council along with other officers. Congratulations Bill Taylor and Brandon Jones. The newly seated tribal council then conducted some business immediately after that. I submitted six resolutions to be acted on. These resolutions include:
- Plan, study and complete a Constitution for the EBCI,
- Reinstatement of the 5 percent 401(k) match,
- Implementation of a tribal census,
- Removal of the former TGC board members,
- Appointment of Robert Saunooke to the TGC, and
- Appointment of Dan McCoy to the TGC.
I am pleased to say that all of the resolutions were passed. I have stated many times that I plan to work with the new Council and this is evident that we are both willing to work together to accomplish many great things for our tribe. I am confident it continues as we move forward.
Tuesday, Oct. 6
This day was the opening of the Cherokee Indian fair, and we started with the parade, which was a lot of fun. If you remember, I asked the Vice Chief, Chairman, Vice Chairman and our wives to walk together in the parade as a sign of unity. It was a warm beautiful day, and I appreciate my wife, Vice Chief Sneed and his wife, and Bill Taylor for joining me in the parade. We had a lot of hugs, congratulations and picture taking! When the parade was over, we gave the opening welcome to everyone to kick off the fair. Throughout fair week, I attended as many of the events as I could. This year’s fair was really good, so I’d like to thank the entire staff that put the fair together. You all did a great job. Next year we are going to make it even better!
Thursday, Oct. 8
On this day, I had a meeting with the Cherokee County commissioners in Murphy to negotiate an agreement regarding the EMS/Fire coverage for the casino in Murphy. The negotiations between them and the former Chief had failed so I felt it was necessary to go back to the table and try to resolve the issue. This agreement is very important because the services are required to keep the casino in compliance with federal laws on public safety, but also by utilizing shared services we are able to save a $9 million dollar cost to build our own facilities and a $4 million dollar annual recurring cost. Thankfully, it worked out, and I am proud to say I was successful in securing an agreement. Council passed a resolution authorizing the contract to be signed.
Friday, Oct. 9
I gave a welcome speech to open the Veterans Day at the Fair and observed the Quilt of Valor ceremony. Special thank you to Warren Dupree and the entire American Legion Steve Youngdeer Post 143 for your steadfast service and dedication to our community.
Tuesday, Oct. 13
I attended the funeral of one of our own Cherokee Police Officers. The service was held for Tony Lossiah at the Charles George Memorial Arena, and he was given Honors Funeral where he was taken to the gym by a horse-drawn carriage. It was very moving and something I will never forget. My prayers go out to his family. He will be missed by many.
We also lost many other very important loved ones this month, many who gave their full love and dedication to our Tribe. I will personally miss them and pray each day for God to watch over the families.
Thursday, Oct. 15
We attended the ribbon cutting for our new Cherokee Hospital. It was very well attended by Tribal council, hospital employees, former council members, construction workers, the media, our royalty, and many, many others. After the program we were all invited to tour the hospital. It is very beautiful. It is full of local art and design, but I am impressed with the new patient rooms and especially the hospice rooms, state-of-the-art equipment, plus a lot of traditional aspects. As we were told, it will be fully operational this week. I hope everyone has taken the opportunity to take a tour of this spectacular building. I feel confident the services will improve for our tribal members. I will continue listening and fighting for improved health care for all our members.
Wednesday, Oct. 21
I wanted to attend Tsali Manor and invited Tribal Council to join me in a bill signing ceremony for the resolution I submitted and Tribal Council passed unanimously to double the Christmas checks for our seniors from $250 to $500. I was happy to have our Tribal Council join me in this bill signing and also enjoy a nice lunch with our seniors. I don’t think the Chief and Tribal Council had ever attended Tsali Manor all together, but it was an honor to participate in this event. Thank you Tribal Council.
Friday, Oct. 23
On this day, the Vice Chief, Tribal Council and myself met with the governor of our state – Governor Pat McCrory. First, he was able to tour the new hospital, and then we had a closed session discussion with him and Tribal Council. He also used this occasion to have a Bill signing ceremony for House Bill 850 which he signed into law with all of the Tribal Leadership present. The new bill gives basic authorization and recognition of our Police and its ability to access the State crime databases. It was an honor to be a part of that, and I would like to thank the hospital staff for the tour, the Governor for his attendance and the Tribal Council for their support.
Monday, Oct. 26
I attended USET for one day to meet with many of the tribal leaders and attend some very informative meetings. Although I was only there for a short time, I met a lot of people, learned a lot about issues affecting all tribes and was able to attend a ceremony honoring the late Butch Saunooke for his years of service to USET and many tribal organizations. Chairman Taylor did a good job at the meetings and is effective with USET leadership. I look forward to attending more USET meetings in the coming years.
Tuesday, Oct. 27
This day was Snowbird’s annual Halloween Festival, which Cyndi and I have attended many times, and we always have a good time. It was so good to see many of my Snowbird friends and visit with people we are very close to. We always enjoy our time there because our people always treat us like family and are very welcoming. It looked like it was another great success. Cyndi dressed up in a Poodle Skirt from the 1950s and was one of the costume contest judges. The other costume judges were Charlotte, our Police Chief and the Vice-Chief. Good job to everyone involved and the entire staff at the Snowbird Complex. See you next year.
Wednesday, Oct. 28
I attended Ned Long Day at the Cherokee Youth Center to honor several distinguished elders. These people were given certificates by the Junaluska Leadership Council for being distinguished citizens. They included Geraldine Thompson, Alfred Welch, Peanut French and Edith Crowe. Congratulations to all of them for this honor. They are all very deserving. Thank you JLC for your work in honoring these elders. After the ceremony, we were all fed a very nice lunch by Granny’s Kitchen. Thank you to all who attended.
Thursday, Oct. 29
I believe this day was the last day for Annual Council so there were several resolutions brought forth, and I submitted two more resolutions that were passed by Tribal Council:
- Authorization to enter a 638 contract with the BIA for the Realty and Forestry Divisions, and
- Authorization to provide a Christmas check to our disabled/handicapped recipients. The law used to require that in order for them to receive a Christmas check they had to waive their per capita check; this resolution removed that requirement.
These two issues are very important to our Tribe and each will benefit all of us as enrolled members.
Friday, Oct. 30
I organized the first-ever “Legal Summit” held for our Tribe. I pulled all our legal professionals together for a day of brainstorming and discussion on ways we can create a better system and organizational changes to more efficiently and professionally provide legal service to our Tribe and all its governmental needs, and as a way that we can better provide legal services to our enrolled members and our tribal employees. As part of our overall plan, I hope to be able to create a Public Defender office and an Indigent Legal Services office, along with an Employee Rights office. I included and invited in the legal summit all the lawyers currently working for the Tribe (AG office, Court Judges, Prosecutors office) and a few attorneys who are not currently working for the Tribe but are familiar with its operations. We had a very robust discussion, and a plan is being formulated that will be presented to Tribal Council for agreement.
At 3pm, I met with the Veterans Administration and the Director of the Charles George VA Hospital located in Asheville. We met with Casey Cooper at the new Cherokee Hospital because I am trying to help foster and forge a new relationship between the Tribe and the VA where we can bill for medical service that veterans receive from the Cherokee Indian Hospital. We need to chase all the medical dollars we can in order to provide more and better health care for all our members. Our discussions went very well, and we may be able to start billing a new source for medical dollars.
Saturday, Oct. 31
Whew! The last day of the month was exhausting. First thing this morning, my son, daughter-in-law, wife and myself all ran in the Cherokee Harvest 5k & Half Marathon race. I wasn’t too sure I wanted to run the half marathon (13.1 miles) and almost decided not to at the last minute, but I started and got in a good pace running alongside Wolfetown Rep. Bo Crowe for the first six and a half miles, at least until the hill going up to the Drama came up, and up, and up. I haven’t had time to train for such a race, but I stuck it out and did it. My son, Nelson, caught up to me at about the Hospital and we completed the half marathon together. Although it wasn’t our best time, we did at least finish it, couldn’t hardly walk for two days later but we did it, haha. Cyndi and Kim completed the 5k. After the race, we enjoyed a nice lunch prepared by the chefs from the Casino and we appreciate that. I was sore for a few days, but I’m glad to have accomplished my 4th half marathon! I am planning to do a full marathon (26.2 miles) in early 2016. Maybe I will be able to train some for that.
Later that evening, Cyndi, myself, my staff and Vice-Chief and his wife passed out Halloween candy to the trick-or-treaters for the Safe Nite Trick-or-Treat at the Acquoni Expo Center track. This year again was very successful. There was a line around the block, and I think approximately 20 tribal departments set up booths. Hopefully next year will be even better. I want to encourage more programs to get involved. I’d like to thank Radonna Crowe and her staff for putting this event on every year for our children. I look forward to next year’s event. I just hope I don’t have to run a half marathon on the same day.
As everyone can see, we were quite busy last month. It has been overwhelming with all the outflowing of support and a true honor to serve our Tribe in this capacity. I am grateful for all of the encouraging words, the phone calls, the text messages and the Facebook messages telling me to keep going and that we are doing a good job so far. I have made some tough calls and made some tough decisions this month also, but all my decisions are made for the “Greater Good and always for Putting our Cherokee Families First”. I have been working hard and finding many ways to stop wasteful spending and curtailing abuses within our system. I am also starting investigations on a few areas that look suspicious for possible fraud. For instance, the abuse of the Tribe’s credit cards and disappearance of Tribal equipment and property. As I’ve always said, I will not shy away from doing the right thing, even if some people get mad.
I appreciate the support and, as always, I am asking for your prayers and your patience. There is still so much work to be done and time is short. I have a lot of plans and ideas in the works, and I hope to continue on the path to a brighter future. I appreciate Tribal Council’s support and guidance, and I want to thank all the Tribal programs for your hard work and cooperation. I also want to thank my staff for working so hard and sticking with the daily challenges. I know it’s been very trying at times, and I just appreciate all they do to keep the executive office running smoothly.
My office is currently moved to a temporary location at the EOC Building to allow work to be performed on the Chief’s office located at the Council House. Hopefully, this work will only take a few weeks and I will be back to the remodeled offices before or close to Christmas. Our office numbers remain the same. We will be located on the second floor of the EOC building.
I look forward to the next few weeks, months and years, and I plan to bring a regular report to the people to keep everyone informed about what the Chief’s office is working on. Thank you and God Bless you and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.