ONE FEATHER STAFF
The drive for the proposed Cherokee Constitution of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) has reached a pivotal stage.
After months of meetings, edits and advertising to the community, the Citizens for a Constitution group is preparing to present their document to the Tribal Council in June. Their plan is to get a resolution passed that would put the document on the ballot as a referendum in the September election.
Lloyd Arneach, a member of the Citizens for a Constitution group, says over the last few weeks extreme detail has gone into the exact language of the Constitution.
He also says that one the most difficult pieces of this process has been rallying the public.
“That’s been the biggest disappointment,” he said. “The lack of feedback from the community at large…if you have issues, if you have problems, send them now before we close the book.”
The book closes whenever Council passes the resolution. The group will be bringing a finalized version to the next Council meeting, and if it is approved there can’t be more edits made without the process of making official amendments.
Arneach says the next step would be educating the public as much as they can before the vote. He says the group plans to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. Constitution, and release something like the Federalist Papers.
“They wrote these articles to explain the different parts of the constitution that were being proposed. What did they mean, what was the purpose of this section? That helped explain what the intent was for those areas, so that’s something we plan on doing,” said Arneach.
One way the group is ensuring they have the exact language intended is by sending the document to Michael McConnell, the Interim EBCI Attorney General.
“I think it’s a great effort and a wonderful opportunity for the Tribe,” said McConnell.
“The big issue is not so much the language, but the difficulty of putting forward one document that’s going to fix all the problems that people have identified over the years. We’ve been relying on the Tribal Charter, and it’s difficult to replace one foundational document with another.”
McConnell said that his office will continue to help in whatever way it can, and will be providing comments to the group and Tribal Council at the constitution’s work session on May 21 at 1 p.m.
The document has the support of several members on Tribal Council, including Birdtown Rep. Albert Rose.
“We’ve been trying to get one for years, and it’s time we get something in place,” said Rep. Rose.
He said that he’s looking forward to the upcoming work session, and thinks it’ll be important to clear up any questions regarding the Constitution.
You can see the document in its entirety at https://sgadugi.org/, and the group also has a Facebook page. After several failed attempts to pass a tribal constitution over the years, Arneach says they are doing everything in their power not to repeat that history.