By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Tribal Council considered several pieces of legislation involving potential referendum items during its regular session on Thursday, June 1. One of those was passed, and the other two were tabled for further discussion.
Res. No. 632 (2023), submitted jointly by Tribal Council Vice Chairman Albert Rose, Birdtown Rep. Boyd Owle, and Yellowhill Rep. T.W. Saunooke, passed unanimously and approves a referendum question involving mixed alcoholic drinks.
The question reads as follows, “Do you support allowing the Tribal ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) Commission to issue mixed beverage permits for the sale of mixed beverages on tribal lands to qualified establishments including, but not limited to, restaurants, hotels, convention centers, and nonprofit organizations.”
Rep. Saunooke commented prior to its passage, “Currently, the restaurants and establishments around town are able to sell beer in their establishments once they get a license. This would just allow them to apply for a mixed-beverage license as well.”
Rep. Owle stated, “It gives another avenue of revenue coming in…it may bring in more restaurants as well.”
Res. No. 633 (2023), submitted by Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy, sought a referendum involving the full legalization of cannabis on tribal lands, was tabled.
At the start of the discussion, Painttown Rep. Michael Stamper said the question itself needed clarification, “My question for this referendum is the question itself because I always ask is what kind of answer are you trying to get out of all of this? If we pass it with this question placed, what’s the end goal here? Are you trying to get recreational approved here, or are we trying to move in a different direction?”
As submitted, the question read, “Do you support legalizing the possession and use of cannabis for persons who are at least twenty-one (21) years old, and require the EBCI Tribal Council to develop legislation to regulate the market?”
After some discussion, it was decided to amend the question replacing ‘EBCI Tribal Council’ with ‘EBCI Cannabis Control Board’.
Council then approved to amend the question to read, “Do you support legalizing the possession and use of cannabis for persons who are at least twenty-one (21) years old?”
Following approval of that amendment, the legislation was tabled for further discussion.
Res. No. 627 (2023), submitted by the EBCI Office of the Attorney General, was tabled following a lengthy discussion. The legislation sought to rescind Res. No. 150 (2022) and Res. No. 559 (2023), both of which approved questions that will appear on the September General Election ballot, and also add four questions in their place.
First off, Res. No. 559 was passed during the April 6 session and approved a referendum question simply asking voters whether or not they approve the proposed constitution.
The four questions posed in Res. No. 627 include:
- Should the EBCI Charter and Governing Document be renamed to be the ‘Constitution of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’?
- Should the following amendment be made to the EBCI Charter and Governing Document: Section 25. There shall be a separate and co-equal branch of the government of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians called the Judicial Branch. The judicial power of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians shall be vested in the Cherokee Supreme Court and in such inferior courts as Tribal Council may from time to time ordain and establish.
- Should the following amendment be made to the EBCI Charter and Governing Document: All provisions of the Indian Civil Rights Act shall apply in all judicial proceedings.
- Should the following amendment be made to the EBCI Charter and Governing Document: Persons elected to Tribal Council or to the position of Principal Chief or Vice Chief are subject to the following term limits: Tribal Council representatives shall be elected to no more than four consecutive two-year terms, for a total of eight consecutive years in office, excluding time served if elected in a special election to finish a term of office; the Principal Chief and Vice Chief shall be elected to no more than two consecutive four-year terms, for a total of eight consecutive years in office, excluding time served if appointed to the office. Persons who have been elected to serve eight consecutive years in their respective office shall not be allowed to serve in that same office for a period of two years immediately following the eighth consecutive year; however, after two years, eligibility to serve is restored. Years of elected service prior to 2025 shall not be applied to this section.
Michael McConnell, EBCI attorney general, said at the beginning of the discussion, “The constitution, as written, there are substantive provisions in there that the AG’s (attorney general) Office disagrees with that would be a very abrupt, dramatic change to tribal government and not only to tribal government, but I don’t think the citizens of the Tribe are aware of the extent of those changes.”
“The Constitution Committee is very strongly in favor of what they have presented. I respect that. I understand that. I disagree with the substance. And, it’s not just me. It’s the AG’s office.”
EBCI Beloved Woman Carmaleta Monteith has worked with the Constitution Committee for years and is also a member of the Cherokee Community Club Council which submitted the constitution referendum question (Res. No. 559). She said, “The Cherokee Community Club Council had already rejected the idea of just changing the name (Charter to Constitution) and those three actions that he (McConnell) has proposed in here…”
She added, “It’s my understanding that a Charter really is a license to do business. Schools have charters. Cities have charters. Corporations have charters. And, they’re not intended to govern people; whereas, a constitution is. So, we rejected this because the Charter is not the voice of the people. It’s the voice of the government.”
After much discussion, the legislation was tabled for a work session. Four opposed tabling Res. No. 627 including: Yellowhill Rep. T.W. Saunooke, Wofltown Rep. Mike Parker, Wolftown Rep. Andrew Oocumma, and Yellowhill Rep. David Wolfe.