Published On: Tue, Feb 25th, 2020

COMMENTARY: Opportunity knocks





It is time to nag you about voting again. This time we are looking at federal, state, and local elections. 

Why you need to vote in federal elections is easy to answer. Federal law is the only law that fully “trumps” tribal law. We want people in those seats who will be empathetic to indigenous peoples and particularly the needs of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Ideally, we want Native people in seats of power in America. 

We want people in federal leadership who will listen to our needs and make sure that Native American civil rights are upheld and enhanced. We need federal help to empower our governments, particularly our judiciary, to ensure the safety and rights of our children, our elders, and support our efforts to protect victims of violence. We need people who will be attentive to the discretionary funding for grant programs in which we participate. We need federal leaders who will be proactive in leveling the government contracting field to allow indigenous governments and businesses an equal opportunity for government business, including their need for commodities like bottled water. We want help from the federal government for providing the best health care for our people and we want their help in tackling the enormous issues our lands have with drug dependency. 

We want federal elected officials to work with us and many other tribes in realizing the future of true sovereignty for tribal nations in America. 

When a federal election occurs, opportunity knocks to have a say in who sits in power at the federal level. When you vote, you answer the door. In the 2020 election, you have an opportunity to help select the next U.S. President, a Senate representative (one of two from North Carolina), and a Congressman (one of thirteen from North Carolina).

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians has a treaty with North Carolina It is a very important treaty called a gaming compact. It is the agreement between us and the state that has made our Tribe one of the vital economic engines for our region. The gaming compact is responsible for incredible prosperity for our Tribe and has made us incredibly influential, not just in the state, but in Indian Country. Our people enjoy many blessings from our success in casino gaming and, by proxy, the state through the gaming agreement. 

The Tribe enjoys a positive relationship with the state, and we want to keep it that way. It is important that the elected leadership of the state of North Carolina understand and agree with the mission of the Tribe and that they work with us to make our visions become realities. While they do not have governing authority over us, they still are involved in our roads, agriculture, alcohol laws, and other municipal functions. Many of our laws mirror state laws. We want state leaders who will work with us, listen to us, and consider our culture and values when making decisions in Raleigh. 

When a state election occurs, opportunity knocks to have a say in who sits in power at the state level. When you vote, you answer the door. In the 2020 election, you have an opportunity to help select the next North Carolina Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Auditor, N.C. Commissioner of Insurance, N.C. Commissioner of Labor, N.C. Secretary of State, Superintendent of Public Education, a State Senator, a State House Representative, and a N.C. District Court Judge. 

Finally, there are municipal elections. These will vary from county to county, and town to town. For example, in the primary, in the county I live in, we will be filling two seats on the county board of commissioners. We all live in a North Carolina county, even if we live on the Qualla Boundary. Those of us who do not reside on the Boundary are subject to property taxes in the municipality, county and town. We are dependent on services there too. We are bound by their policies, procedures, and laws. County and town level elected officials effect the day-to-day lives of many of our Tribal members. The Tribe maintains mutual aide agreements with county law enforcement and other emergency services that are vital to the protection of those who live on and visit the Qualla Boundary. 

When a municipal election occurs, opportunity knocks to have a say in who sits in power at the municipal level. When you vote, you answer the door. In the 2020 elections, you have an opportunity to help select those officials most involved in the day-to-day workings of life on the Boundary and off. 

The bottom line is that we are given the chance to make a difference directly each election cycle, whether Tribal or non-Tribal. We have an opportunity to influence the future with a vote. Early voting in the N.C. Primary Elections continues in the municipalities where you live through Feb. 29. Primary Election Day is Tuesday, March 3. Check your local Board of Elections for times and locations. Opportunity knocks. Could you get that?