COMMENTARY: Denadagohvyu

by Jun 29, 2023OPINIONS0 comments


One Feather Reporter


I had no idea what I was walking into when I took this post.

I was a wee babe with an immense heart of gold. Coming home felt odd and I wasn’t sure where I was meant to be. I wanted a good job, that much I knew. One that would challenge me and help me grow. I wanted a job that allowed me to be personable and engage with a community that I love dearly. Also, I wanted to at least try and use my degree in journalism.

‘Let’s just see how it is. Give it a year.’

Well, I gave it a year. And wouldn’t you know it – everything was perfect, and you could not stop me from working!

Actually, a year into my job I had covered a Chief’s election, gotten kicked out of a handful of meetings, covered a Tribal-wide cyberattack case (which had me working from home), and was about a month and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite that, I never once felt unsupported by my team.

The last three years have not seen much of a break in pace, and I have grown immensely as a result. I bought a house, developed my writing style, and found out what it’s like to have confidence in yourself. Oh, and I got to have a chat with Gordon Ramsay in a Cherokee forest? What?

I would try to go through all my favorite stories but that would be too difficult. Some highlights that jump to my mind are the hours of interviews I had with Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle for her fantastic novel “Even As We Breathe”. Witnessing the first administered COVID vaccine for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians was surreal. Selfishly sneaking puns into my headlines might be my favorite thing. Maybe I need to compile all these stories and make a ‘best of’ edition for the last 4-plus years.

Being able to catalog Cherokee history has been a true honor.

But honestly, I became very tired. Politics became a chore. I so often started to feel like I was stuck in the mud. Something was missing and it weighed on me at times.

Genuinely, I would not and could not have gotten to where I am in life without the support of the staff at the Cherokee One Feather. Robert Jumper, Scott McKie Brings Plenty, and Sally Davis have been there every step of the way. They have pushed me and cared for me more than anyone I have ever worked with in a professional setting. Scott is the hardest worker I have ever met and blows my mind every year. Without him putting the paper on his back for the last 25 years I’m not sure if there would even be a Cherokee One Feather anymore.

Very thankfully, I have been able to add Dawn Arneach to my One Feather family over the last year, and I cannot say enough positive things about her as a person and a worker. And I don’t want you to think for a moment I wasn’t going to shout out Sheena Brings Plenty, the true engine of the best paper in Indian Country.

I want to encourage you to thank these people the next time you see them. We, as a Tribe, are so lucky to have a paper like the Cherokee One Feather. I am absolutely biased, but I have worked for and with many papers in this state. I have friends at publications across the country. The quality and integrity of One Feather is something special in the modern age of print journalism.

I’m a sentimental person, sue me.

Now, my next steps. I am stepping away from the Cherokee One Feather and I will be going to graduate school (Steve is going to college). I wasn’t sure I’d ever go back to school, but here we are. I want to thank EBCI Higher Education for working diligently to assist me in chasing my dreams. We are so lucky as a people that education is now at our fingertips.

I’ll be back. These mountains are home and always will be. I couldn’t possibly spend too much time away from Kituwah. But it’s important to get out and to embrace new spaces. There is so much the world can teach you, and I hope I see more and more of our people stepping out to find new challenges. Maybe that means going to Tennessee for college, maybe you need go live in Osaka or Oaxaca for a while. Enjoy those lessons and then bring them back here.

I have a tremendous amount of hope for the future. I think Cherokee can be at the forefront of progress in this region. I have watched this tribe completely change over the last two decades. Even in the last five years since being home there has been an incredible amount of movement. We are at an important stage of growth as a tribe, and I want to be part of that next wave. Personally, that means going to learn as much as I can from new cultures.

For a final note, I want to talk about the best part of this job. The most fulfilling aspect of my last four years at the One Feather was the entire reason I became a journalist in the first place: the people and their stories.

I have cried with my community members. I have been able to tell unbelievable tales that inspire me to this day. This role means being the eyes and ears of the people of Cherokee. That can be more frustrating than you could ever imagine, but it’s also beautiful and empowering. Having a cup of coffee with an elder and hearing stories about my great grandfather, Hayes. Seeing the passion of those fighting for a stronger community. Learning what it is to be truly Cherokee.

This is why can never fully leave and why this is not truly goodbye. A piece of me will always be here. I have no idea when I might be back, but I am not going to disappear.