EDITORIAL: What must it be like to be banished? 

by Dec 1, 2015OPINIONS0 comments





According to the Municode for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Section 2-1, Subsection B, “The Tribal Council shall have the power to exclude other persons from Cherokee trust lands when necessary to protect the integrity and law and order on Tribal lands and territory or the welfare of its members”. Subsection A talks about the “exclusion” or banishment of enrolled members who are deemed sex offenders or drug traffickers.

Also by the Code, beginning in January 2007, a report was to be submitted to Tribal Council every six months by the Cherokee Clerk of Court providing a current listing of all people banished from tribal lands. Section 2-8 states that the report provided in January should list all banishments beginning April 1, 2000 to current.

I decided, as a part of One Feather’s duty to report to the public, to publish this list. We, at the newspaper, assumed that the list would be very easy data to retrieve because ensuring that those who are banished did not violate the law would be an ongoing process requiring frequent use of a current copy of the banishment list. I attempted to get a current copy from the Tribal Court, Cherokee Police Department, Attorney General’s Office, Tribal Operations Program and the Tribal Finance Office. The results in each case were the same. Either they did not have a copy or they did not have a current copy (one office stated that theirs was current through 2012).

As I visited these offices, I began to realize that there does not seem to be an official mechanism or procedure in place to prevent those who are banished from re-establishing themselves on tribal land. For example, there is no public portal for tribal members who are renting homes or apartments to check (and no directives from the tribe to do so) a person to see if they are banished before renting out property to them. Tribal services, like water and sewer, do not have access to a list to prohibit a person getting these services as a banished individual. Since Finance did not have access to a list, what would prevent a banished individual from obtaining a business license? Since fishing permits are issued at local retail outlets, it is doubtful that a banished person would even be stopped from fishing on tribal land if they were checked by our Fish and Wildlife officers.

I had an opportunity to speak with an individual in a program who received a phone call from someone who had been banished. This person wanted to know what the procedure is for removing or repealing his banishment. The program personnel did not know but told the caller that if they would supply their address, they would be happy to find out the procedure and sent the proper information to him in a letter. The banished individual gave a Cherokee address.

Section 14-70.24, Subsection B, of the Code states, “Aiding the unlawful obtaining of services by an excluded person shall be punishable by a fine of $5,000.00, and by imprisonment for a term not to exceed one year, and by exclusion for a term equal to the exclusion term originally imposed upon the banished person for which aid or assistance was attempted or secured”. With this law, it is possible that you could unknowingly provide a service to a banished individual and wind up with a $5,000 fine, imprisonment and even be banished yourself.

Tribal law takes the idea of banishment very seriously. The template for individual banishment resolutions reads that “the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (Eastern Band or Tribe) has the sovereign authority to exclude persons from lands of the Eastern Band in order to protect the integrity, law and order of those lands and the welfare of the members of the Tribe”. For a person to be excluded, they have been deemed to pose a significant threat to tribal members and/or tribal lands.

Without an up-to-date banishment list, I and other tribal members have no way of identifying persons that our government has removed from our lands because of malicious behavior. The tribe needs an easily-accessible listing, with photos, of those who have been banished from tribal lands so that service providers, renters and community members may help law enforcement by reporting when someone trespasses on tribal land. People who are convicted of sex crimes go on a list, accessible on the internet, so that anyone can check for a predator in their neighborhood. Checking the banishment list should be just as easy.

I know that the tribal law enforcement, judicial system, legal team, tribal operation and finance teams are working diligently to ensure the safety of the people and assets of our tribe. It is time to bring the banishment list current and provide it to them and the people as another tool for the continued prosperity and security of the Eastern Band.