By JOSEPH MARTIN
ONE FEATHER STAFF
When the constitution came before Tribal Council on Thursday, Feb. 7, it was tabled for work sessions. Citizens for a Constitution, who put the document together, had hoped to get it set for a vote of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians tribal members with this year’s election.
The Tribe currently operates under the Charter and Governing Document, adopted through a Tribal Council resolution passed in 1986. The document remains controversial because it was adopted without a referendum vote. Then-Principal Chief Robert Youngdeer vetoed the resolution, but enough council votes were there to override it. Since then constitutions have been proposed but never went anywhere. The one constitution to come up for a vote failed.
This constitution came about because of community members banding together and creating a governing document. Now, they seek to educate tribal members and want to get the document before them for a vote of approval.
One of the members of Citizens for a Constitution Bo Lossiah said, “All proposals brought forth were brought forth by the community.”
The proposed constitution keeps much of the elements of tribal government in place. However, there are some notable differences from the current Charter and tribal code:
- Term limits for council members – The document limits a representative to two consecutive four-year terms;
- Staggered terms for council members – In 2021, the first election after adoption, if that happens, the candidate with the second largest number of votes serves a two-year term then will run to serve for four years, which will stagger the terms of council members. In relation to term limits, such a representative will be limited to six consecutive years;
- Oaths would be sworn to protect and defend the newly adopted constitution as oppose to the Charter and Governing Document;
- Impeachment procedures – It spells out procedures for impeachment of elected officials;
- Voter recall procedures – Voters are given the right to recall election officials in special elections;
- A provision for civil rights is recognized.
Another member of the Citizens for a Constitution, Lloyd Arneach Jr., said the wording for the vote question needed to be changed from yes or no to being for or against. “It’s you’re for the constitution, or you’re against the constitution. It’s not a yes or no,” he said.
Some Council members wanted work sessions to discuss the document. “I don’t know if any of you have had any time to even study it,” said Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke. “I haven’t. I started reading, but I’d like to have some work sessions to discuss this.”
Wolfetown Rep. Jeremy Wilson agreed. “I do believe that a working session would be wise because it is a really big deal.”