EDITORIAL: Tribe mourns the loss of a true champion

by Aug 9, 2021OPINIONS0 comments

Cherokee One Feather Editorial Board


A dark cloud fell over the Qualla Boundary and the entirety of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on Friday morning as word spread about the tragic death of a young tribal member who was a true champion in life. Anthony Ray Toineeta was a two-time wrestling champion here in the state of North Carolina, but more importantly he was a champion in being a good person.

Anthony Toineeta celebrates his second state wrestling title in 2017. (Photo by Amble Smoker/The Smoker Agency)

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said of Anthony, “I am heartbroken over the loss of one of our very best, Anthony Toineeta. Anthony was a student of mine and he was one of the hardest working students I ever had the honor of teaching. He always had a funny story to tell and he would make me laugh so hard sometimes it hurt. Our tribe has lost a champion.”

Anthony graduated in the Cherokee High School (CHS) Class of 2017. That class’ motto was “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”

He lived his life in this fashion.

Anthony spent countless hours training – an endeavor that paid off well for him in his athletics especially wrestling. But, he also spent countless hours being a good friend, making people laugh, helping others, and being a good role model for younger tribal members to look up to.

The Cherokee Central Schools Athletics Dept. released the following statement, “When you lose someone who is such a big part of your life, your memories, your history, and your future, it is difficult to put into words how much that loss is impacting you. This is true for our Braves Nation over the loss of Anthony Toineeta. He was such a big part of Cherokee High School, Cherokee Braves Athletics, and the entire community in general. His passing leaves a huge hole, and this emptiness leaves us without the right words. All we can do is share those amazing memories with each other because Anthony surely left an incredible legacy here at CHS. He led many roles here as a two-time state Champion in wrestling, a brilliant scholar, a hilarious storyteller, a mischievous trickster, and a helpful and giving human. Anthony Toineeta was larger than life.”

Toineeta, left, then a Braves senior wide receiver, catches a 22-yard touchdown pass over the outstretched arms of Smoky Mountain junior defensive back Tyler Waliezer in a game at Smoky Mountain in September 2016. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photo)

A few weeks prior to his high school graduation, Anthony signed a letter of intent to wrestle at the collegiate level at Queens University in Charlotte. During his signing, he told the One Feather, “I’m looking forward to progressing and getting better with the level of competition and furthering my academics.”

Progressing – that was how he lived his life. He was always working, always upping his game, progressing.

During his time at CHS, Anthony won numerous athletic and academic awards – always striving for excellence in all aspects of his life. He was a fierce competitor, but he was also a friend to his competitors. He showed respect for people, and that respect was reciprocated.

The Robbinsville High School wrestling program released the following statement, “Anthony was tough, gritty and relentless. He also was a jokester and a prankster. He always had a big smile on his face until it came time to step on the line…and then he was all business. He worked out with our kids at our place often and was a student of the sport. He will be remembered as champ, a hammer, and a good soul.”

Anthony’s impact was felt all throughout the state and will continue.

One Feather file photo

The late boxing legend Muhammad Ali once said, “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them – a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Anthony had all three, and he passed along his desires, his dreams, and his visions for excellence to many others – inspiring them to be the best they can. His impact will be felt for years.

The Cherokee One Feather Editorial Board would like to offer our most sincere, heartfelt condolences to the entire Toineeta family in this time of great sorrow.