COMMENTARY: Our community…and the world…is watching

by Nov 18, 2022OPINIONS0 comments


One Feather Editor


Recent events bring up a truth that bears constant remembrance and reminder. It was beat into my head during my education in business and marketing and has been borne out for decades in my career; “Perception is reality”. It matters very little what the facts are if the story presented points away from or ignores the facts. It doesn’t take much to make the good look bad and the bad look good.

Because of our fast-paced world and lives, our attention span is hyper-limited. We are creatures of the moment. Absorbing all we can hold in a few minutes or seconds and then we are on to the next item of the day. We have borne this out multiple times with headlines to stories that contradict the content. Time after time, we find commentary on the story based on, not what the story told, but what the headline implied. Holding many people’s focuses for more than a paragraph or two is challenging for writers today.

And we are hooked on the sensational. Our eyes and ears perk up when controversial or inflammatory words or scenes are within our perception. And unfortunately, it is those we remember instead of the content of the intended conversation. For example, the important business of legislating in Tribal Council sessions is routinely about matters that impact the entire community. Details of how our laws will govern us are discussed and even debated. For a citizen, it is important that the microphones be in good working order, that they be turned on by those speaking, and that our legislators speak clearly, specifically, and with emotional neutrality so that the message is understood instead of the emotion. It is a leadership characteristic. Emotional appeals have their place and certainly have relevance in that they express passion and possibly commitment, but they also are tools of electioneering and politics. And when you combine that with a limited attention span, governance gets lost, and emotions prevail.

We are a community that has world appeal. People from all ethnicities are interested in us. Like it or not, we are influencers and leaders in the world. We are a tribe of opportunity. We are a tribe of prosperity. We are a tribe of celebrity. Companies line up to be partners with us on projects. Entities line up to partner with us for causes. The potential for our community is unlimited. The downside is, along with the community, all these potential opportunity partners, our watching us too. And when I say “us”, I mean those who represent us on the world stage…our legislators and executives.

The Internet has opened the tribe to locations far from the Qualla Boundary. Tribal members who could only get the gossip about what happened in a Tribal Council session are now able to, from anywhere they might be in the world, see every moment of the proceedings, live as it is happening, and over and over in replay from the archives. And because of the nature of the Internet, anyone who has a computer, tablet, or smartphone with connectivity, anyone, could be watching what we are doing in Cherokee. And when I say “we”, I mean those who represent us and routinely are in front of the cameras at the Council House.

And the behavior that is exhibited in front of those cameras are being judged by all who see it. Tribal elders sitting at Tsali Care are watching. The young people who are at home in the floor with their hot dogs and chips. The tribal members in Tennessee, California, Georgia, or other states are watching. Potential businesses and entrepreneurs who are scouting for good, professional, intelligent partners are viewing our Council sessions to get an idea of how we conduct ourselves, and whether we fit that criterion. Our current business partners are checking in to see if they are with the right partner in their relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

I don’t have access to the analytics of the livestream from or the Communications Facebook page, so I can’t tell you about direct viewing of the Tribal Council sessions, but I can provide you with a general idea of how many people might be watching. In the past 28 days, the Cherokee One Feather Facebook page “reach” which is the number of our posts that was available for view on the newsfeeds of Facebook users was 687,810 (that is as of November 17, 2022). Post engagement (where Facebook users saw One Feather posts and either commented or left an emoji) for the same period was 1,029,661. That means an average of 25 people every minute of the past 28 days were viewing and commenting in some fashion on the One Feather page. They were watching. Us.

One Feather is just one of the Internet “places” where the world may view the livestream of Tribal Council sessions. And let’s add to the list of those multiple local, regional, national, and international media outlets who keep track of our tribe. They, too, are watching.

My point is that it matters how our leaders, who appear on the world stage of the Internet, and who represent all members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, conduct themselves and the business of the government. It is imperative that we put our best foot forward, that we think before we speak, that we appear good, professional, and intelligent. We must look like a functioning organization with governmental leaders who are working together for the common good of our community. Our community looks to our leadership to be examples of the Cherokee Core Values, so that they and their children have hope. Our business partners look to our leaders to show them professionalism to assure economic prosperity. Governments that coexist with us look at our leaders for signs of strength to emulate and weakness to exploit.

We never look weaker as a tribe than when we are at odds with each other. Heated exchanges on camera translate into distrust and disgust in our community. It is never seen as funny or clever by those who are being judged, the community, based on that behavior. We must be wise enough to disagree without being disagreeable. We count on our government leaders to be the example, to be the role models. They have a right to expect professionalism from each other. As a constituency, we must demand professionalism from our leaders. From Big Cove to Yellowhill to Cherokee County/Snowbird to Painttown to Birdtown to Wolftown, the world is watching.