EDITORIAL: Who are you betting on?

by Aug 28, 2017OPINIONS0 comments





Well, the time has come. Over the past two weeks, I have seen many of our tribal members at the voting stations in the Ginger Lynn Welch Complex come in to cast their votes for the Tribal Council election that will guide the future of our nation for the next two years. Some come in with a smile and a joke while others are very somber and quiet.

We are a people of joy and optimism, but over the past several months and years, our joy has turned to tears many times as we have watched the tug-o-war between branches of government and the personal animosity that has been exposed within the halls of tribal leadership and from within groups of our community leaders.

Some have stated that we are a microcosm of the federal government and what is taking place in that arena. While there are some similarities, I don’t believe the tribal government and community are fueled by the same appetites.

Pre-adult gaming, our people were about keeping the culture alive, protecting and educating our children, and ensuring respectful and great care for our tribal elders. The only thing that changed with the introduction of gaming is that we had the resources to do that, and then some. As we know, we have a nearly $500 million budget and one of the largest, standalone, economic engines in the South.

We have developed more educational opportunity programs than the state of North Carolina can offer. We own and operate a state-of-the-art medical care facility. We have housing services that rival that of state governments with much larger land masses. We have community buildings for every community, and recreation facilities abound. For two decades, gaming has brought growth, prosperity, and comfort to our Tribe, and many from outside due to the residual economic growth and job generation brought on by the patrons of our casino. The revenue generation capability of the casinos is unmatched and far and away the most influential piece of our total economic engine, even when you include tourism and local business levy contributions.

A major platform piece of every candidate in this election, and the one previous, has been diversifying the revenue streams of the Tribe. Many of us, as tribal members, have almost become numb to the prophets who are warning of the impending doom, or at least degradation, of tribal gaming. Like the boy who cried “wolf”, we have been told that imminent threats abound and that the wolf is at our door.

But, if we look outside our Boundary, we do see those wolves in the form of pending legislation in other municipalities. There are legitimate efforts to secure the land and law to construct new gaming ventures in the Southeast, particularly in nearby states, that could impact our operation. And, impacting our operation could mean changes to the benefits we enjoy, like the enhanced ability to preserve our culture, protecting and educating our children, and providing great care for our elders. Many say it is not a matter of “if”, only a matter of “when”.

This election is about so much more that personal vendettas and family ties. We are not picking a team to go to the Super Bowl or our favorite boxer to compete in a big stakes match on Pay-Per-View. If we pick the wrong team or person in these contests, we might have to suffer a few friendly jabs or insults, or by lunch for a coworker after a friendly wager. The consequences of your vote are much more profound than suffering a little humiliation. You are betting on the people you select to uphold what you hold dear. Whether they are your friend or not will not matter if they do not have the skills, education, experience, and dedication needed to ensure the continuation and enhancement of those things you hold dear. For example, which of the candidates have shown you a plan or a resume that lead you to believe that they can finally provide those new streams of revenue that are so critical to the continuation of the level of care the people are now accustomed? Who of the candidates has shown that they truly care about Cherokee culture, children, and elders through their participation and leadership in community services? Who has given more than lip service to you and your family when it comes to advocating for housing services and social services like health care/rehabilitation?

As you cast your vote in this election, ask yourself if you would trust your grandchildren and great grandchildren to the person you are about to connect the arrow for. Does the candidate treat my vote like an impulse buy at a convenience store, trying to satisfy my wants of today so I won’t ask questions about how they intend to address my needs for the future? Take your vote personally. If you don’t, you are just like the amateur gambler who walks into a casino and bets wildly without knowledge of the game, the people who are playing, and the odds of winning. They usually bet more than they have and lose more than they can afford.

I wish all our Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council candidates well in this election. We have done our best to be fair and objective in our coverage while providing each candidate ample opportunity to present themselves and their platforms to the public. It is our great honor to be a conduit of unbiased information to our community. Not all media outlets are as careful to keep opinion out of their reporting as we are at the One Feather.

Per the EBCI Election Board, there 931 registered voters in the Snowbird/Cherokee County community; 936 in Yellowhill; 1,753 in Birdtown; 781 in Big Cove; 1,570 in Wolfetown/Big Y; and 837 in Painttown. That’s a total of 6,808 voters. Each vote matters. Every vote counts.