By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Earlier this month, the Cherokee Civil Action Team (CCAT) held an anti-drug rally and demonstration called “Drug Free Tsalagi, Taking Back our Communities”. The group, comprised of four women of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians including Lt. Col. Kina Swayney (Ret.), Lori Taylor, Lea Wolf and Juanita Wilson, was happy with the results from the event and hopes to keep expanding their reach into the community.
Earlier this month, the Cherokee Civil Action Team (CCAT) held an anti-drug rally and demonstration called “Drug Free Tsalagi, Taking Back our Communities”. The group, comprised of three women of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians including Lt. Col. Kina Swayney (Ret.), Lea Wolf and Juanita Wilson, was happy with the results from the event and hopes to keep expanding their reach into the community.
Lt. Col. Swayney said their group now plans to reach out to tribal and community drug programs to help and also plans to bring forth legislation to Tribal Council to address needs such as equipping the Cherokee Indian Hospital to be able to handle detox patients. “I think we’ve brought attention to it now and have given a voice to the people. Now that we have focused on it, I think that we can really make some gains in that area.”
The women are quick to point out though that their group is no one-trick pony. The drug issue is just one of many they are tackling.
“The way this whole thing came about was a real concern about the leadership of our tribal nation,” said Wilson. “We have new leadership so we’re watching really closely to see how that goes.”
She related that CCAT is also looking into the political arena and will help identify people it feels will make good, strong candidates for public office – both tribal, state and federal. “The drug thing came about because the community led it…it’s not the only thing that we’re about. What we’re about is giving a voice to the community and asking leaders out there in the community to step up. Instead of talking about it and complaining about it, let’s put some action to it.”
When asked if they consider their group to be a political action committee, they answered in the affirmative. Wilson noted, “Politics is just how society gets things done. We usually look at it as a noun, but it’s more of an action word in that this is how we want our politics to work. We are an action team at the grassroots level.”
Wilson stated she believes the political interests of the group go far beyond Cherokee. “I think it’s bigger than tribal government. We need to understand that county government, state government, and the federal government all impact tribes.”
Wolf commented, “The way that I look at leadership is that they need to be selfless and not just selfless in one area, but in all. If we look back at who we are, we live for all. We don’t just live for one.”
The group is looking to find viable candidates it can support for the mid-term Tribal Council elections in 2017. When asked what type of Council representative they are seeking, Lt. Col. Swayney answered, “I think the perfect Council member would be more open to people and make themselves more available and accessible to hear individual ideas, not just what the Council member can do for that person, but what they can do for the whole community. I think, more than anything, they need to put more effort into building jobs and looking at the economy and diversifying there.”
The group is also keeping its eye on the proposed EBCI Ethics Policy as well as the upcoming EBCI Constitution. “We have to be mindful that when we finally get one (Constitution), there’s going to be a huge push-back from those that don’t want it in place,” said Wilson. “This is not about us today. This is about our grandkids, great grandkids and on and on.”