By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A request for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to add a display of the U.S. National Motto, “In God We Trust”, at the Cherokee Council House was withdrawn during the regular session of Tribal Council on Thursday, Feb. 4. The proposal by Rick Lanier, U.S. Motto Action Committee, received an unfavorable reception by Council representatives and community members, and he was asked to withdraw the legislation.
“There’s never a time when we don’t need to trust in God, but more than ever, we need to be reminded of our Creator, God, and what he means in our lives,” Lanier stated to Council during debate on the issue.
He related that his committee has placed the motto in area government buildings in the area recently including two sets in Swain County, three in Clay County, three in Macon County and two in Graham County.
Lanier’s resolution called for “In God We Trust” to be “permanently and prominently displayed on the outside main entrance at the Tribal Council House”.
Joey Owle, an EBCI tribal member, said he has researched the U.S. Motto Action Committee and voiced his opposition of the request. Firstly, he said Lanier shouldn’t be allowed to put legislation into Tribal Council as he isn’t an EBCI tribal member.
Owle then said, “When I think of the words that he’s wanting to put on our Council House and possibly other government buildings, I think of assimilation and indoctrination. There’s been a long history of that with our people and Indigenous people across this nation.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy said, “We begin every meeting with a prayer, and I respect that. What I don’t respect though is for someone to tell us we have to.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke spoke to Lanier and commented, “You don’t even know our people. You don’t know what kind of beliefs we have, and it offends me that you think you need to tell us what to do.”
She went on to say, “All of us believe in God. There’s not a one of us here that doesn’t have spiritual beliefs, but it offends me to have a non-enrolled (member) come in here and say, ‘you need to do this’.”
Becky Walker, an EBCI tribal member from the Wolfetown Community, related, “There are a lot of churches in this community, but there are also a lot of traditional people in this community who still practice the traditions of our ancestors that were practiced a thousand years ago, and I think that has to be respected also.”
She encouraged Lanier to withdrawn his legislation and said, “It offends me that someone would want to come here and tell us what we can do and how we can do it.”
Lanier agreed to withdraw the legislation and ended his comments by saying, “I had no idea or inkling that anyone would be offended by it. I have not tried to force this on anybody.”
Following the decision to withdraw the legislation, Tribal Council briefly discussed the possibility of putting the word for “God, the Creator” at the Council House in the Cherokee Syllabary. Myrtle Driver, EBCI Beloved Woman, agreed to work with the Cherokee Speakers Consortium to get a translation that will agree with all fluent speakers.