Published On: Fri, Aug 8th, 2014

N.C. Attorney General addresses Tribal Council

With Vice Chief Larry Blythe (back left) and Principal Chief Michell Hicks looking on, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper addresses Tribal Council during a visit to Cherokee on Friday, Aug. 8.  (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

With Vice Chief Larry Blythe (back left) and Principal Chief Michell Hicks looking on, North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper addresses Tribal Council during a visit to Cherokee on Friday, Aug. 8. (SCOTT MCKIE B.P./One Feather photos)

By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper addressed Tribal Council on Friday, Aug. 8 and discussed many topics ranging from DNA evidence to illegal video poker.  Chairwoman Terri Henry, Vice Chairman Bill Taylor and Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke presented Cooper with a Pendleton blanket on behalf of the Council, and Principal Chief Michell Hicks presented him with a large, traditional Cherokee pot on behalf of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

“I think it’s important that you’ve continued to cherish history while embracing the future for a better quality of life for all tribal members,” Cooper commented.  “It is clear that you want your tribal members to have a higher education and to go on and do great things and have as many of them come back and help here as possible.”

“My office has an excellent working relationship with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and it stretches back to Chief Jones and Chief Dugan and now to Chief Hicks.  All three of those Chiefs visited my office numerous times as have some Tribal Council members.”

Cooper, who has been in office since 2001, said that many times legal issues between the state government, county governments, and the Tribe can become complicated.  “But, we’ve been successful in a number of areas that have helped expand gaming and improve the quality of life for the people here.”

Cooper said the state will continue to make law enforcement training a priority for the safety of all North Carolinians.  “We are going to continue to attack meth labs and illegal drugs, and we’re going to continue to combat unregulated, illegal video poker through the courts.”

In speaking on the video poker establishments, he related that himself and his staff have been “fighting the battle” against them, and Cooper highlighted the Supreme Court ruling they were able to garner establishing the illegality of that industry.  “We will continue to work with local law enforcement and prosecutors and fighting it wherever it pops up.”

Chief Hicks presents a traditional Cherokee pot to Cooper on behalf of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Chief Hicks presents a traditional Cherokee pot to Cooper on behalf of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Cooper also emphasized the need to fight battles on the environmental and conservation fronts, “We have a responsibility to leave for our kids and our grandkids an environment that is as good or better than when we were left it.”

He said he is very proud of having led the fight that led to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) being ordered to clean up coal-fired plants.  “As a result of that victory, which was a long time coming, the scientists say that western North Carolina will now have better health, cleaner water and up to 40 significantly clearer air days (per year) when all of the changes and renovations to the coal-fired plants have been installed.”

Chairwoman Henry asked Cooper his opinions on fracking to which he replied, “They are in the process of making rules, and I think people can make comments on the rule-making process as we go further.  I have some concerns, and I think we have to be careful.  It is my understanding that they cannot frack on the reservation.”

“We’ve got to be careful that we protect our ground water if we go down this route which I think we are.”

Wolfetown Rep. David Wolfe asked Cooper his opinion on the possibility of the Catawba Indian Nation (South Carolina) opening a casino in North Carolina.  “I have deep concerns about that, and I do not think it is a good idea.  We have not been approached about it so we don’t know exactly what is going on…I have said publicly that I have concerns about it and I oppose it.  I do not see the benefits of it.”

Rep. Saunooke told Cooper following his remarks, “It’s always good to see you.  You’re a dear friend to the Tribe.”

Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Brandon Jones told Cooper, “Thank you for your friendship with the Tribe and all that you have done for us.  I want to thank you for your efforts towards the clean air and the fracking issue which is a really hot topic here and something that we’re concerned about.”

Birdtown Rep. Tunney Crowe echoed those sentiments and commented, “I want to thank you for everything you’ve done for the Tribe…I appreciate everything you’ve done for us, and I look forward to working with you more.”

Cherokee Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Boyum thanked Cooper for visiting Cherokee and said he, along with the other Cherokee Court Judges, has sent a 60-page document on various jurisdictional issues the Tribe has been facing.

“I appreciate your support on these issues,” Chief Justice Boyum told Cooper.  “It’s a labor of love for us because we’ve had trouble gaining criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians on the reservation particularly at the Casino, and we just wanted to thank you for coming to visit us.”

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