By ROBERT JUMPER
One Feather Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Constitution Committee, a committee ordained by Tribal Council to facilitate the community creation of a constitution to replace the Charter which currently acts as the governing document for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, met in joint meetings recently with the Community Club Council. They met in open sessions to finalize and approve the draft that will be submitted with a resolution to be put on the April agenda of the Tribal Council.
These two sessions were established as parts one and two of a “Constitutional Convention” to solidify the will of the community regarding a governing document. To thoroughly review the 16 articles of the draft constitution took two, two-hour sessions, one on Monday, March 13, and the other on Tuesday, March 21. Each article was reviewed by the Community Club Council and given time for discussion and amendment.
EBCI Communications’ Jayson Crusenberry provided the digital platform to stream the March 21 meeting, which allowed for questions from the community to be considered during the session. The Chairperson for the Constitution Committee, Lloyd Arneach Jr., managed the editing of the document as the Community Club Council approved or disapproved each recommended or suggested change. Community Club Vice Chairman Ernie Tiger conducted the March 21 session, while Chairman Bunsey Crowe led the March 13 session.
The draft constitution includes several civil rights not listed in the tribal charter. The various committees identified several items in the Cherokee Code that they believe rise to the level of rights instead of privileges. Should the constitution be approved to replace the charter, the constitution would be the guiding document for the Cherokee Code, so all laws contrary to the Constitution would have to be amended to comply. And, just as with the Charter, the Constitution could only be amended through a majority vote of the citizens of the EBCI.
The preamble at the beginning of the draft reads, “We, the Principal People, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, acknowledging the Creator, being determined to maintain our sovereignty, hold fast to our ancestral homelands and our natural resources; and, to establish justice, ensure tranquility, promote our culture, our education, our language and our common welfare; and, to secure for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty, do ordain and establish this Constitution of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Herein we acknowledge the foundation laid by the 1875 Lloyd Welch Constitution, Chapter 207 of the 1887 North Carolina State Charter and the 1986 Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Charter and Governing Document and declare that this Constitution supersedes these and all other previous governing documents.”
There are 16 articles in the draft: organization of government, territory and jurisdiction, citizenship, legislative branch, executive branch, judicial branch, grand council, oath of office, impeachment of elected officials, voter recall, civil rights, public land, sovereign immunity, savings clause and transitional provisions, amendments, and adoption (of the document).
The vote among members of the Community Club Council to approve or support the final draft of the constitution was unanimous in the quorum present. At least five communities needed to be represented at the meeting to achieve a quorum. In addition, Cherokee County representation could not be present for the meeting but sent a message that they support the adoption of this Constitution. Painttown and Birdtown Community Club representatives were contacted for their position but as of the close of the session, they had not responded.
If Tribal Council hears and passes the referendum resolution in the April session, the referendum question concerning the adoption of the constitution could be on the September ballot.