By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Michell Hicks, a former three-term Principal Chief, won election to a fourth term during the EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) General Election held on Thursday, Sept. 7. With 2,254 votes, he won the seat over incumbent Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed who had 1,212 votes.
In a statement on his official Facebook page, Hicks commented following the election, “I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude for your overwhelming support for the office of Principal Chief. Our Tribe has a rich history and a promising future, and I am committed to working with the Vice Chief and Tribal Council to uphold our traditions, promote unity, and address the challenges we face together. I believe in the power of our community, and I promise to serve with integrity, transparency, and dedication.”
Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley, incumbent, won re-election for a second term to the office over Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy by a margin of 2,607 to 908.
Vice Chief Ensley told the One Feather, “I would like to say thank you to everyone that came out to vote. It’s important to exercise our right to vote and teach our youth to do the same. It’s truly an honor to be re-elected and be able to serve the people for another four years. I’m humbled by the amount of support I received, and I’m thankful to be able to continue working for the people. I’d like to thank Teresa McCoy for her many years of service to the Big Cove Community and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. I also like to thank her for running an overall clean campaign.”
He added, “I couldn’t do what I do without the support of my wife, Libby, and the faithful prayers of our church family at Yellowhill Baptist Church and so many others that continue to pray for us. I look forward to working with Chief-elect Hicks and the incoming Tribal Council. There’s a lot of work to be done, but I believe we can accomplish a lot by communicating and working toward the same goal – working for our people.”
Both Hicks and Ensley carried each of the communities in the voting which went as follows:
Big Cove: Hicks: 223, Sneed 91; Ensley 241, McCoy 84
Birdtown: Hicks 548, Sneed 274; Ensley 599, McCoy 233
Cherokee Co. – Snowbird: Hicks 211, Sneed 166; Ensley 307, McCoy 62
Painttown: Hicks 273, Sneed 117; Ensley 309, McCoy 94
Wolftown: Hicks 528, Sneed 258; Ensley 561, McCoy 128
Yellowhill: Hicks 203, Sneed 141; Ensley 262, McCoy 98
There will be four new Tribal Council representatives for the 2023-25 term with all four having served previously including: Perry Shell, Big Cove; Jim Owle, Birdtown; Bo Crowe, Wolftown, and Tom Wahnetah, Yellowhill. T.W. Saunooke (Yellowhill), Albert Rose (Birdtown), and Andrew Oocumma (Wolftown) did not win their bids for re-election. Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy ran unsuccessfully for the office of Vice Chief.
Full Tribal Council results are as follows (the top two win):
Big Cove: Perry Shell (259), Richard French (213), Venita Wolfe (182)
Birdtown: Jim Owle (576), Boyd Owle (573), Albert Rose (330), Cyndi Lambert (320)
Cherokee Co. – Snowbird: Adam Wachacha (262), Bucky Brown (257), Janell Rattler (218)
Painttown: Sean “Michael” Stamper (335), Dike Sneed (211), Jeff Thompson (196), Carolyn West (87)
Yellowhill: David Wolfe (260), Tom Wahnetah (224), T.W. Saunooke (162), Stephanie Saunooke French (134)
Wolftown: Bo Crowe (582), Mike Parker (464), Andrew Oocumma (385), Peanut Crowe (255)
Two communities also had elections for School Board Representative. Tara Reed-Cooper, incumbent, beat Samantha Crowe-Hernandez 130-56 for the Big Y seat and Micah Swimmer beat Regina Rosario, incumbent, 292-150 for the Painttown seat.
Two referendum questions were also on Thursday’s ballot including:
- Do you support allowing the Tribal ABC 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?
- 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?
Question one involving mixed beverage permits passed by a margin of 2,389 to 1,113, and the adult-use cannabis question passed 2,464 to 1,057.
Voter turn-out for the election was good with 53.93 percent of the 6,716 registered EBCI voters cast a ballot. This meets the criteria for the two referendum questions to be deemed official under Cherokee Code Sec. 161-9(c)(8) which states that at least 51 percent of the registered voters must cast a ballot for a referendum changing the EBCI Charter & Governing Document and 30 percent changing ordinances and/or resolutions.
Following are voter turn-out figures by community:
- Big Cove: 49.15 percent (374 of 761 registered)
- Birdtown: 56.99 percent (983 of 1,725 registered)
- Big Y: 58.68 percent (223 of 380 registered)
- Cherokee County: 39.48 percent (152 of 385 registered)
- Painttown: 55.81 percent (456 of 817 registered)
- Snowbird: 57.75 percent (298 of 516 registered)
- Wolftown: 56.59 percent (691 of 1,221 registered)
- Yellowhill: 48.85 percent (445 of 911 registered)
The results are unofficial until certified by Tribal Council later this month.