By PRINCIPAL CHIEF RICHARD G. SNEED
It is always an honor to represent the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. I work hard to ensure that I give my all each week to ensure the EBCI is run properly and within policy, while also taking time to meet with the constituents I represent as Principal Chief. It is important to me to have that time to meet with Cherokee citizens to discuss the issues important to them. I want your input regarding initiatives the Tribe establishes, and I want to hear what is important to you. If you have a need we can assist with or you’d like to discuss a program or project, please call my office at (828) 359-7002 to schedule a meeting with me.
Everyone is aware the federal government is still shutdown due to the disagreement regarding border protections. While each of have different opinions regarding how that issue should be handled, I believe we can all agree that this disagreement should not affect the hardworking individuals responsible for carrying out the day to day operations of the federal government. We have several programs within the EBCI that have felt the impact of the shutdown and we have enrolled members who have been directly affected by being in furlough status. I submitted an emergency resolution to collaborate with Tribal Council to write a letter to Congressman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) to request that he use his influence to end the shutdown. In the meantime, I have created an emergency assistance program to provide relief to government employees that have been furloughed. If you have been furloughed and are in need of assistance, please call Taylor Wilnoty in my office at (828) 359-7008 to discuss the requirements of the program.
I had a meeting this past week with Kim Smith, an enrolled member of the EBCI who is working with the 2020 Census, on the importance of the EBCI participating in the Census. The precautions taken to protect individual’s identities were explained to me as I understand that is a common concern amongst many community members. The implications of not responding to the Census were also explained to me. Federal and state grant programs use census data to determine appropriate funding for counties and other organizations. Some information regarding the Census will be distributed and publicized in the coming year to explain the importance of your participation. I would like to encourage you to ask questions if you have them to allay your fears regarding providing information to Census workers.
The EBCI hosted an employee appreciation event in December 2018 to jumpstart some strategic planning initiatives. During this event, we celebrated with games made of teams of tribal workers. This past week the winners of the games were treated to a catered lunch to thank them for their participation and reward them for winning the game. It is always fun catching up with our tribal employees, and I was pleased to join the group for lunch.
I also had the opportunity to have lunch with the visitors to Tsali Manor. I have been making monthly visits to Tsali Manor to not only visit with the seniors, but to also update them and educate them regarding varying programs within the EBCI. This past visit I was joined by Sunshine Parker, EBCI Family Safety Program manager, who discussed the specifics of the program, the opportunities available to grandparents, and future initiatives planned for the program.
Western North Carolina University hosted an EBCI Appreciation night on Thursday, Jan. 17. I was happy to attend the game to support WCU and the many alumni of the University. I would like to thank Skye Sampson for inviting me to the game
Finally, my staff and I have begun Cherokee language classes. Garfield Long and Kayla Pheasant have agreed to assist us in learning the language. Classes will be held twice per week for the next six weeks, and will focus on simple commands, greetings, and phrases that can be used in the office and in the community. We must all do our part to save the Cherokee language, and I am proud to taking this small step to increase the use of the language in my office.
There are 219 fluent Cherokee speakers among the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians according to the latest poll taken by the Kituwah Preservation and Education Program. While many efforts are taken to promote the language throughout the Tribe, especially by KPEP, the Cherokee language is spoken by fewer and fewer individuals each year. The loss of the Cherokee language is directly tied to the age of the speakers. Approximately 12 fluent speakers were lost in the past year. However, the future of our language is not bleak – there are numerous individuals working tirelessly to correct this issue.
It is not enough to simply talk about the fact we are losing the language. It is not enough to simply task Kituwah Preservation & Education Program staff to work towards saving the Cherokee language. We must all do our part to learn, use and reach the highest level of proficiency possible. I take that responsibility very seriously and have tasked my staff with joining me in learning the Cherokee language. While I don’t expect fluency within six weeks, I do expect my staff to begin using the language both in the office and within the community to encourage others to do their part to learn the language as well. I’d like to thank Garfield Long and Kayla Pheasant with KPEP for your assistance and your patience with us.
Again, please do my call my office at (828) 359-7002 if there is anything we may assist with or if you’d like to discuss an issue.