By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
The Office of Tribal Operations (TOP) compiled and forwarded an up-to-date copy of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians banishment list to the One Feather in January. It is the first time in our memory that the complete list has been available for public distribution. The response from readership was immediate and widespread. There were over 10,000 views of the document on our social media.
Those who viewed the list had many questions. Can a tribal member be banished and have any been banished? Who decides if someone is banished? Is there a possibility of reversal? What happens to a banished person? And there were many comments: glad to see this finally in public view; the list should include pictures; it is about (expletive removed) time.
We sent the banishment list to the Cherokee Indian Police Department to see if photos could be matched up with the names on the list so that we may redistribute the list with another way to identify violators on tribal lands. They are currently working on getting that back to us. In email communications with the EBCI Attorney General’s Office, they indicate that a searchable database is being explored and a system of verification potentially created.
Cherokee Code Section 14-70.24 says that you and I may be fined up $5,000, imprisoned and even banished ourselves if we, in any way, provide assistance to someone who has been banished from tribal lands. In fact, the law states that even attempting to provide assistance could get you the penalty. On top of that, banished individuals are people that the Tribal Council have deemed (and the Principal Chief has ratified) as a danger to the people and lands of the Cherokee people.
Now that the list is publicly available, our tribal leaders need to provide a structure that will enable identification and enforcement of banishments. In discussions with several individuals in and out of tribal government over the past few months, I have heard over and over that there are people who are on the list living and working in tribal lands. Renters have not been required to check the list before renting properties. Utilities suppliers do not have to check the list before providing telephone, internet, cable, water, sewer or lights. Before the One Feather published the list, no one had a copy of it in its entirety. The Cherokee Indian Police Department and the Tribal Court system had no complete list to identify a banished person. The public had no way of reporting sightings of banished people.
As we continue to move toward a government of accountability and transparency, we need to retool the infrastructure so that those who violate law and who have been deemed a threat to our people are held accountable and enforcement ensures protection of law abiding citizens and that people have incentive to not do things that will get them banished. Hopefully, our leadership will enact policies that will uphold the law.