By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Discussion and debate over a resolution asking for the EBCI Attorney General to develop an Ordinance to banish and disenroll EBCI tribal members convicted of selling or trafficking drugs turned into a discussion on the overall drug issue on tribal lands. The legislation was tabled during the regular Tribal Council Session on Thursday, Dec. 3 with the understanding that more discussion was needed on the subject from many sides including law enforcement, court, and recovery services.
“In our community, we’ve had situations where young people have ended up in life-threatening situations because of addictions,” said Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy who introduced the legislation as a way to open the discussion and come up with possible solutions. “We’ve buried many, many people.”
She added, “We have our own members…who sell hard drugs, and I think we need to take a stand and send a clear message throughout our communities. If they are convicted of selling, then I think that they should be banished from our Indian land.”
Rep. McCoy emphasized that her legislation was not targeting those addicted to drugs, but rather, those selling drugs within the community. “A person with addiction deserves compassion. I’m not targeting or picking on anybody. I’m trying to protect.”
EBCI Attorney General Hannah Smith related to Tribal Council that tribal members can already be banished (aka excluded) from tribal lands for drug trafficking and certain sexual offenses.
Birdtown Rep. Travis Smith said he is against the idea of disenrollment for drug offenders and related it could be a violation of the Indian Civil Rights Act. “No matter what any of our enrolled members do, it doesn’t make them any less Cherokee. I can’t go along looking at banishment or disenrollment.”
Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha said some in his communities have offered the idea of garnishing per capita distributions of those convicted. “Hit them in the wallet first before it gets to wiping away their identity through banishment.”
Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley made the motion to table the legislation for further discussion and requested that a work session be held on the issue. “I think we need to get the cops, the court, and everyone all in the same room.”
Peggy Hill, an EBCI tribal member from the Yellowhill Community, said she recently heard a new drug presentation by the Cherokee Indian Police Department. “I went home afraid for our people. I went home angry that we’ve allowed this to happen in our community.”
She said she is in favor of banishment. “If they’re killing our people, I don’t think they need to be here. We don’t need that kind of people here.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke stated her opposition to banishment and disenrollment. “This is their homeland.”
She said the tribe should work harder on recovery services available. “We need to really concentrate on this long-term treatment center…it’s our responsibility, as the Eastern Band, to save these children. We can’t banish them. Let’s try to save these people.”
Big Cove Rep. Richard French echoed her sentiments, “We’ve got to help them. We can’t turn our back on them.”