By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
In some ways, we live in a dark world. Earthquakes. Fires. Floods. Drug addiction. Murder. Rape. Child Abduction. Human trafficking. Deadly diseases. Sociopathic behavior. In the town hall meeting to discuss opioid abuse, the moderator asked for a show of hands as to individuals in the audience who had been impacted personally by the opioid epidemic. Nearly the entire audience raised their hands. It used to be a rarity to see a capital crime in the mountains, particularly in the seven western-most counties of North Carolina. Now, we are shocked if we manage a 24-hour period without a horrific crime or cataclysmic crisis. It would be easy to be a pessimist in the world in which we live. Misery loves company.
We, at the One Feather, were once asked to remove the photos from the arrest report because it was felt that we should not show people at the lowest points in their lives. And, while that is a noble and compassionate gesture, in our decision-making process, we also had to consider that part of our responsibility to the community is to inform and protect. Many of our readers felt similarly that we should print the photos so that potential threats to the community could be more easily identified. We compromised by removing the photos from the print edition but continuing to post them at the website.
After working out a few communications bugs, the pictures are back in the online arrest reports. The Cherokee Indian Police Department has been an outstanding partner in providing information to the community about these arrests. We know that those who appear on the arrest report are innocent until proven guilty and we always post that disclaimer with any information about arrests. In addition to that report, we work with the Cherokee Tribal Court to publish the Cherokee court dockets and judgment reports.
We appreciate both the Cherokee Indian Police Department and the Cherokee Court System for their collaboration with us in providing this important information to the community. You are better protected and informed when our law enforcement and judicial system see the value of transparency in reporting their activities.
In 2016, a new department was created to publicize the Tribe’s activities in a positive light. The Office of Communications was established, and a team assembled. The department focuses on highlighting cultural and governmental success stories, in addition to helping document Cherokee community and business. They document via audio and video recordings that are distributed via the internet and cable. The department has inspired other local artists to experiment with the internet to promote cultural awareness. The Communications Department is still growing, developing innovative ways to make it easier for you to engage in Cherokee culture. Communications also navigate the technology that allows you so see Tribal Council sessions on cable tv and your smart devices. The Communications team is another step in the right direction regarding transparency in government.
The Tribe has finally established a structure for capital growth. We now have a functioning LLC board, Kituwah Economic Development Board, to parse revenue stream opportunities for the Tribe. They now have the flexibility to seize opportunities and execute projects without the cumbersome processes that are typically involved in government approval. This entity has the potential to make new and sustainable revenue streams for our community and provide more opportunities for growth in services for the Cherokee people.
Innovative thinkers in the Operations Division took a passion for a hobby and turned it into a fast-growing, popular regional attraction. The Fire Mountain Trails system is still in its infancy, and yet, it has become one of the most talked about attractions in the seven western counties. Hikers and bikers are singing the praises of the trail, loudly, attracting the press and hundreds of enthusiasts to come and experience what Cherokee has to offer. Members of our community and those outside are having fun and getting healthy in the process by challenging themselves to challenge the Fire Mountain Trails.
There was a great moment in Tribal Council during budget hearings last week that I think all of us should go back and watch (https://ebci.com/live-streams/). Tribal Council Chairman Adam Wachacha was addressing the Housing Division budget and issues with Qualla Housing Authority. There has been some discussion on duplication of services and audit findings that were repeated year after year.
During the discussion, some thoughts were expressed as to how this could happen and who was accountable. Chairman Wachacha said, “I think the blame game here probably needs to stop because, like I said, we are all included in this. We sit in these seats. We oversee these programs. We manage these budgets. And, we get to the point where we are at. These audits will probably reflect that and that we wanted these things taken care of. Duplication of services. They were overseen by Deputies before, now Secretaries so, I don’t know, I just feel like sometimes that (extremely poor) performance is because of (extremely poor) leadership. And that could be all of us. That could be this Council. It could be the Board over there. That could be the Executive Office. But, these are some hard-working employees that I don’t think needs to take any of the blame because all they are doing is taking direction.”
Chairman Wachacha acknowledged that the buck stops at the top. If blame must be assessed for failures, the first place to look is management. But why focus time and energy on that? Hope for a better future is what we do moving forward, recognizing the past only to avoid repeating it. I encourage you to share your examples of glimmers of hope. A single glimmer or spark can be the beginning of a bonfire.