By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Voters of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will have three fewer referendum items to vote on during the upcoming September General Election. During its regular session on Thursday, July 13, Tribal Council passed Res. No. 627 (2023) which removes questions involving passage of the proposed EBCI constitution as well as term limits and staggered terms for EBCI elected officials.
Res. No. 627 was originally submitted by the EBCI Office of the Attorney General and was tabled during the June 2 Tribal Council session. During the July 13 session, a substitute was submitted by “Tribal Council at the request of Tribal young adults, Tribal members, and the Constitution Committee”.
The legislation was passed with Tribal Council Vice Chairman Albert Rose being the only dissenting vote and Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed being absent. Res. No. 627 rescinds three previous resolutions which added the referendum questions including Res. No. 11 (2021), Res. No. 150 (2022), and Res. No. 559 (2023).
Robert Jumper, an EBCI tribal member, submitted Res. No. 11 and jointly submitted Res. No. 150 with the EBCI Board of Elections. During discussion on Res. No. 627, he noted, “Those were not constitution questions. Those were referendum questions that were put together nearly two years ago to talk about term limits, not a constitution. The reason in the original draft of (Res. No.) 627 that the AG’s Office gives is there is a possibility of confusion if all three of those are on the ballot. Well, if you’re going to remove the constitution question, there’s no longer the confusion that might be implied by putting all three of them on the ballot.”
Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy agreed with Jumper. “Term limits are a good thing. I promise you. I’ve done it. It keeps you focused, and it re-directs you as to what your purpose is to come here and represent your community. When you sit out a term or two terms, you get a chance to think about things that happened and if you had an opportunity to come back how you’d do it differently.”
She made a motion, which was seconded by Tribal Council Vice Chairman Albert Rose, to keep the referendum questions regarding staggered terms and term limits. The amendment failed with Vice Chairman Rose and Rep. McCoy being the lone consenting votes and Painttown Rep. Dike Sneed being absent.
Michael McConnell, EBCI attorney general, said all the discussion on term limits and staggered terms is best left to ongoing discussions on the constitution. “The staggered terms, term limits – those would necessitate changes to the Charter. Personally, I think it’s best to combine them all into one effort. That makes the most sense…it’s less likely to create any kind of cross-threading of the issues.”
In addition to removing the three referendum questions from September’s ballot, Res. No. 627 also speaks to the future of the development of an EBCI constitution. “…one or more constitutional conventions shall be held in the future under rules and procedures to be developed by an equal number of delegates, not to exceed two delegates plus an alternate, from and for the Legislative Branch, from and for the Executive Branch, from and for the Judicial Branch, from and for the Community Club Council, and from and for Tribal member young adults who are 18-25 years of age.”
It adds, “The authority for drafting the constitution shall be vested in the delegates to the constitutional convention identified above, who will also cause a legal review to be performed prior to submission of a proposed constitution to Tribal Council for referendum.”