COMMENTARY: That would never happen here 

by Feb 24, 2021OPINIONS




If you have seen or listened to the news last week then you are aware of the devastation that a winter storm brought to Texas and many southern states. Millions lost power and have no access to supplies such as food and water. Thirty-six people lost their lives in this tragedy. Meanwhile, Senator Tez Cruz of Texas decided to board a plane to Cancun and leave his suffering constituents behind. People of all affiliations saw this is as a heartless act and a new low for a politician.

 We are very fortunate in Cherokee because that would never happen here. Our Chief and Vice Chief would be standing on the back of a semi-truck handing out water and whatever supplies that they could gather from anywhere they could get them. Our Emergency Management team would be calling and checking on every vulnerable person in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to make sure that they had a source of heat and a way to keep their pipes from freezing. 

Tribal Council members who could physically handle the elements would be going door-to-door with the Cherokee Fire Department to cut down trees and to clear debris. The other Council members would be helping by providing funds for supplies or by calling on local families and tribal employees to assist with disaster relief. The tribal leaders would approve the money to make sure that every constituent had food, heat, and water. 

Warming shelters would be opened if needed, and the Cherokee Indian Police Department would assist in transporting people and monitoring the shelters. How do I know this? Because the Tribe has done this every time we have faced a crisis. It is not a new occurrence. 

Council member Jess Murphy hauled firewood and checked on his constituents during the blizzard of 1993. One of my mother’s Council members calls her any time there is severe weather. She receives texts from him whenever the Tribe has important information to convey to its members.

When is the last time that you received a text with important information from your Senator or Congressional representative? Never. Our state representatives might come and tour Cherokee, but I have never seen one appear during a disaster.

The people in the surrounding counties or states do not have a magnet on their refrigerator with the personal phone number of their local political representative. They are provided with a phone number for their representative’s office that is answered by a college student or a political appointee. The employee takes down the constituent’s information, but the problem may never be addressed. The state and federal representatives seem to be more concerned about the corporations who fund their campaigns for re-election. They are not immersed in a community that cares so immensely about its own members, and the state’s constituents do not hold their representatives accountable for taking action. 

The Cherokee community is like a church congregation: they may have their disagreements on certain issues, but they all come to the table after prayer each Sunday and provide whatever they can to feed the whole congregation. It is a wonderful thing to have leaders and members of the community that even participate in fundraising for their schools, individuals with medical needs, or when a family suffers a tragedy such as losing their home to a fire. 

A friend of mine recently wrote in the name of the comical Star Wars character Jar-Jar Binks rather than cast a vote for one of our state representatives. She told me that she felt like he only cared about himself and his largest donors and he never did anything to help his community. Cherokee voters are very fortunate to know that they will never have to cast their vote for Jar-Jar Binks as their tribal representatives are just a cell phone call away, and those representatives will take action to help them in a crisis.

Lewis, of the EBCI Office of the Attorney General, is a member of the Cherokee One Feather Editorial Board.