By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Staff
Tribal Council will soon hold a hearing regarding a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) who was denied candidacy for tribal office. Mary “Missy” Crowe, an EBCI tribal member from the Yellowhill Community, was denied candidacy for the Office of Principal Chief during the 2019 tribal election cycle.
Crowe submitted Res. No. 192 (2022), which was passed by Tribal Council during their regular session on Thursday, March 3, which calls for the hearing “for evidence to be presented and an inquiry and investigation as to the names of the individual/individuals who initiated the investigation to deny my candidacy for Principal Chief in the 2019 Tribal Election and an inquiry and investigation as to who authored the official letter from the EBCI Board of Elections dated May 3, 2019 stating that I was not entitled to know”.
During discussion on the legislation on Thursday, Crowe stated, “These are issues that came from 2019. And, while I would have loved to have taken care of those things in 2019 after the elections, I was threatened with eviction from my home.”
She added, “I am an individual citizen of this Eastern Band of Cherokee, and I have an inherent right to participate in tribal activities and tribal affairs. I have exercised my right, beginning in 2003 – was a candidate, was certified…I’ve exercised my rights according to those laws and the actions that I took during those elections have always been according to those laws.”
Crowe reminded Council that she filed protests on elections in 2003 and 2015 and noted, “You guys have a right to amend the laws. You guys have a right to enforce those laws. I have evidence and proof that I am an example of what can happen to you as long as the threats, the intimidation, the manipulation, and the downright violation of our rights. If they continue to happen, then no one is going to be treated fair and equal.”
The denial of candidacy was based on language in Cherokee Code Section 161-3(d)(5), passed by Council in December 2018, which stated, “The person is more than ninety (90) days in default of an obligation to pay a debt to the Tribe, which obligation is imposed by law, contract, or court order and the default has not been cured.” This language was in place during the 2019 tribal election cycle but was removed with Ord. No. 149 passed on Sept. 17, 2020.
Read the EBCI Election laws in the Cherokee Code of Ordinances
After filing, Crowe received a letter in April 2019 denying her candidacy based on this law with the EBCI Board of Elections alleging that she owed money to Qualla Housing. According to the resolution, “On April 3, 2019, I filed an official request for a hearing with the EBCI Board of Elections and their decision to deny certification of my candidacy for Principal Chief, and I requested information as to the name(s) of the individual/individuals who initiated the investigation to deny certification of my candidacy, and on May 3, 2019, I received an official letter from the EBCI Board of Elections stating that ‘I was not entitled to know’ the names…”
Crowe told Council on Thursday, “According to law, I have a right to face my accusers, and I also have a right to defend myself, and I was never given that right.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy, noted, “If I remember correctly, Tribal Council met in 2018 and ’19 and they changed the election law. And, they put things in there that would prohibit certain individuals, which happen to be women, from running. And then, immediately after they accomplished what they wanted to, they changed it back.”
She went on to state, “We don’t have a constitution. We are a motherless Tribe. We have a Charter that tells us how long a Council member sits and when you elect a Chief, but it doesn’t say anything about anything. I think the problem that we have here at the table and in the Chief’s Office is the lack of knowledge on exactly what our sovereignty is because everyone at this table can be sued, and everyone in the audience can be sued. And, then we leave it up to the Court to finish up that process.”
Rep. McCoy was also originally denied candidacy for the Office of Principal Chief in the 2019 election but won a Cherokee Supreme Court case and was put on the ballot. She has the same claim as Crowe regarding the investigation against her. “She has not been allowed to see her background (check). None of us have.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke made a motion to pass Crowe’s legislation saying, “She deserves to have a hearing, and that’s what this body needs to do.”
A portion of the resolution submitted by Crowe involved the return of filing fees for various tribal elections totaling $2,750. Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe said he felt that the return of the filing fees and the call for an investigation were two separate items. He made the motion to strike the portion of the legislation dealing with the return of filing fees. Crowe concurred, and Council amended the resolution striking that portion.
Denise Ballard, EBCI Board of Elections member from the Birdtown Community, addressed Council stating, “You all gave us the authority to investigate. You gave the Board of Elections the right to investigate potential candidates. We do background checks. And, yes, we sent something to Qualla Housing…that’s what the ordinance said at that time. That’s what we did. We followed the ordinance.”
She said the Board followed the law that was in place at the time. “We followed the procedures. We granted hearings, and at the end of all of the hearings and the information that we gathered, nothing in Missy’s hearing made any impact on our decision.”
Crowe responded, “There’s a right to investigate, but there’s not a right to violate my privacy and my rights. They had my entire Homebuyer’s Contract. They had a whole payment history kicked out. That’s private information.”
Vice Chairman Albert Rose commented, “When we worked on the Election Ordinance that year, some of the people in this room were present for every one of those meetings and agreed that when we finished that document that you got more than what you wanted. So, we didn’t put anything in there to intentionally hurt anyone…they (Election Board) asked for the information and Qualla Housing sent it over so should Qualla Housing be held accountable for sending stuff over? I don’t know; I guess that’s the questions I’ve got.”
The legislation passed 10-2 with Cherokee Co. – Snowbird Rep. Bucky Brown and Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle being the two dissenting votes. Chairman Richard French said he will set up a hearing soon.