By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
It has been an eventful year. The most significant of which for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians was the election of a new principal chief after 12 years, three consecutive terms, under a single administration. In those 12 years, we saw how having the same governance over a long period of time can be a blessing and a curse. While there was a sense of stability, there was also a feeling of uncertainty. Many projects were presented and accomplished; others were not.
I was in the office discussing issues with a few coworkers and I brought up the previous chief’s top ten initiatives. While some could recall the directives that were sent down from the executive office during the early days of the previous administration, no one could expound on exactly what those were. The ten were broad philosophic statements about the welfare of the tribe; drug traffic prevention, government to government relations, housing, etc. History and the Cherokee people will ultimately decide how well that administration delivered on the platform that was encapsulated in those initiatives.
As we close this calendar year, we look forward to what 2016 holds for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. A new Principal Chief, Vice Chief and Tribal Council are already wrestling with creating or overhauling an infrastructure that has been in place for over a decade. Philosophically and literally, a new direction is being set for the next generation of tribal members.
Campaign promises now become initiatives. Where do we go from here?
The urgency of providing constructive and substantive measures to deal with drugs on the Boundary is clearly evidenced in the arrest reports and court dockets featured in the One Feather every month. Fiscal oversight and management with redundancies to prevent embezzlement and property theft, both of individual tribal members and government, is another priority. We need to create streams of income, in addition to gaming, that will help the tribe grow and secure the quality of life for each member. A governing document needs to be in place that will protect the people from cronyism and favoritism by staggering and limiting the terms of office for elected officials, and putting issues like pay increases and benefits for elected officials squarely and solely in the hands of the people through referendum. A clear separation between the powers of law making, law enforcement and law interpretation must be established by officially separating our government into three branches. An ethics law must be established that defines not only unethical behavior, but enforceable consequences for violation. Elimination of child abuse and domestic violence, upgrading of senior care, more educational opportunities and recruitment, a recommitment to protecting tribal culture and language all demand the resources of the Executive Office and Tribal Council in the coming year.
In addition to marking another year done, we at the newspaper are celebrating a special birthday with this edition. Your tribal newspaper, the Cherokee One Feather, celebrates 50 years of service to the community this month. If my math is right, that’s approximately 2,500 editions or 5,000,000 printed copies since 1965. I was fortunate enough to get a copy of the first draft of the One Feather, which looked like it was done at a mimeograph machine on 8 ½” x 11” copy paper and was five pages in total. The One Feather is now averaging 32 full-color pages per week with a per edition print count of 2,100 hard copies. The One Feather also maintains a website and social media presence, which allows for more timely delivery of tribal news and sports. At one point last week, as many as 340,000 sets of eyes were reading stories from the One Feather. As the old cigarette commercial used to sing, the One Feather “has come a long way, baby”. Much has been done, but much still remains to do. Where do we go from here?
One of the key figures in the history of the One Feather is Joe Martin, who oversaw the operation for 12 years as the editor. You will find his guest commentary in the pages of this edition. His observations are insightful and, as always, to the point.
A press mingled with government bureaucracy and under the influence of tribal leadership cannot be a free press. Political leaders, journalism experts and educators agree, the media are the watchdogs and the eyes and ears of the people. Censoring the media results in a blinded public.
On behalf of the Cherokee One Feather staff, thank you for your loyal readership and supporting your newspaper. We appreciate the Tribal Council, Executive Office, our advertisers, subscribers and anyone who has purchased a copy of the One Feather. Without your financial support, the paper would not be possible. We hope that you all have a merry Christmas and that your 2016 is healthy, happy and prosperous.