By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Since time immemorial, Cherokee women have led their people through good times and bad times. Now, a group of four women, known as the Cherokee Civil Action Team, is hoping to lead EBCI tribal members to a better way of thinking about the drug problem and other issues facing the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The group, comprised of Lt. Col. Kina Swayney (Ret.), Lori Taylor, Lea Wolf and Juanita Wilson, is hosting an anti-drug rally and demonstration called “Drug Free Tsalagi, Taking Back Our Communities” on Thursday, April 7 from 2-4:30pm. The walk will begin at the Open Air Market adjacent to the Ocanaluftee Island Park and go to the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds where there will be music, local speakers, refreshments and more. Registration for the walk will start at 1:30pm with the walk kicking off at 2pm.
“Drugs affect us all,” said Lt. Col. Swayney. “I think every family is touched by it, and every time a tragedy occurs, everyone says, ‘I wish we could do something, somebody needs to do something. They need to do something.’”
“We are they, and we are somebody.”
“It’s everywhere. It’s in the schools. It’s in the communities. It’s just permeated our lifestyle, and so we see it as taking it upon ourselves to do our part in overcoming it.”
Wolf commented, “We’re tired of waiting on the leaders to do something.”
Lt. Col. Swayney said she feels the problems contributing to the drug problem in Cherokee stem from an absence of strong family values and a lack of hope in the younger generation.
“I think they have a lack of hope for the future,” she said.
Wilson agrees and added, “Our spiritual center is missing. Everyone says, ‘if we got rid of drugs on the Boundary, our problems would be solved.’ Well, they wouldn’t be. Something would take its place. So, what is it that needs to change in us that will help us overcome that so we won’t need those things?”
She went on to say, “Eventually, we’ve got to understand that it’s not drugs, it’s not alcohol, it’s something else that causes us to abuse each other and to pull each other down.”
Wolf said of her hopes for the event itself and the group’s efforts, “My hope is that people know there’s someone out there listening and that their cries are not being unheard. We also want them to know that they have someone to look to in the future.”
“We’re missing recovery. We’re missing support, and we’re missing these kids being able to be kids.”
Wolf said a lack of mentors in communities is hurting the youth. “They don’t have anybody to lead them. They don’t have anyone to talk to…if people really want to see a change, then they’re going to have to start with the kids.”
Taylor stated, “We’re a billion-dollar corporation. Our kids shouldn’t have faltered underneath these cracks.”
She said it is important for tribal leaders to look at programs and systems relating to drug prevention and treatment to see if they are truly working. “Nobody’s ever taken any of the programs that have been started by previous administrations, this administration, and evaluated them.”
Taylor said it is also important for leaders to talk directly to those affected to fully understand the problems. “It is easy to throw up a building and say, ‘here’s your rehab’, but who goes back to see if it is working?”
Lt. Col. Swayney said the rally is a “call to action”.
“It’s not just an event, it’s a movement.”
Info: Cherokee Civil Action Team 736-6056