By PRINCIPAL CHIEF PATRICK LAMBERT
Let me begin my report to you for the Month of August 2016 by saying how deeply honored I am to be able to represent our Tribe as the Principal Chief. I praise God and thank Him every day for the abundance He has provided to our Tribe and me. I strive to live up to the example His Son set for us to live by and to honor the teachings of my elders. To me, these things speak of honor, integrity, truthfulness, humbleness, compassion, charity and more.
I begin this report with these values in the forefront of my mind to have a frank and honest discussion of the current state of affairs in our Tribal government. To me, the current state of affairs for our Tribe is bright. However, there are some who have proven they will try to stifle and roadblock progress for the Tribe at every step – all while claiming to do it in the name of good government.
Now let me be clear, the divisiveness and ugliness that we have seen lately on Council is just 2-3 members, not the vast majority of Council. The vast majority of Tribal Council wants to get something done for the people. The vast majority of Tribal Council wants to position the Tribe to be stronger for the future. I, like the vast majority of Tribal Council, are beyond tired of the political gamesmanship of ‘who’s up and who’s down’ or gotcha politics. Coming together is what is needed, and I remain open to working to accomplishing more together.
Remember just a year ago when all our people were rallied to defeat corruption, greed and self-serving interests? I know you and I do, but just that small few on Council didn’t get that same memo, I guess? They think dissension, bickering, fighting, and hateful rhetoric is the way you like it. I have always brought the message of unity and that we can accomplish so much if we can just work together.
I live a straight and honest existence and will continue to fight against corruption and greed at every turn. With that said, let me share with you some truths about myself and please understand that I do not feel that I am better than anyone or more important than the person amongst us with the least means. I do not claim to be perfect and make mistakes daily. I tell you these truths so you may understand me better and to be as open and honest with you as possible. Here are a few:
- I usually begin with the assumption that others have the same values that I have as mentioned above and will treat everyone with the utmost respect. I have been disappointed by this assumption many times in my life and several times since being elected to this position. I am a trusting person and look for the good in everyone and will often give people multiple chances to join me in the quest for the best road. After a while, however, I have had to face the fact that some people only understand greed, power, dishonesty, and no integrity.
- I am, by nature, polite, professional and respectful and because of this I think that some people that I am working with currently mistake these character traits as being weak or stupid. There are a couple of people who are just simple bullies and would rather see the whole Tribe fail as to see us all be successful. However, remember when we first started this journey, I asked and offered for us to work together, and in every Council I state that we need to work together. The Chairman made everyone a promise to work with the Chief’s office if they voted him in as Chairman.
- I am fiscally-conservative and socially-progressive on most matters. These things were taught to me at a very young age and have always stayed with me. My Mom has always been a big saver and liked to keep everything and spend only on the things we needed and my Dad loved people, all people, and it didn’t matter about the color of your skin, the clothes you wear or the lifestyle you maintain. So, I have grown to be a super-saver and accepting of everyone regardless of their station in life. This outlook on life and how to manage your affairs is what I brought to the table when accepting this office and is how I am managing it now. This may not sit well with some who do not want to be held accountable or are used to being greedy with the Tribe’s money or resources, but for which I do not apologize. As an example… the Tribe has traditionally always purchased the Chief and Vice-Chief an automobile… I still have NOT purchased a vehicle for myself and am driving a car that is the same model as many program cars. It was purchased for the finance office before I ever took office. I do not and did not have to have a new car – especially not a Cadillac Escalade or a Tesla to be prideful and boastful. So, if I were to get a new car, it will be something simple like a Ford Fusion or Kia Optima, something in the range of $30k (not double or triple that amount). I am staying true to my teachings and leading by example. I believe in cutting expenses where we can and saving for the future. Especially not feeling or acting like I am “entitled.”
- I guess there will always be crazy rumors, and it seems some people thrive on telling lies and creating drama in their lives. But, for me… I just work and go home. By the way, one of their silly lies is that I have bought a house and moved to Sylva or Highlands or wherever… Nope! Just a big fat lie. Me and Cyndi are the happiest we have ever been and are comfortably tucked in at 477 Goose Creek Road… Just as we have been for the past 30+ years (except for law school and military service). I have no desire to move or live elsewhere and still live in the same house that I was brought home to from the hospital after birth. We remodeled it about 10 years ago, but it is still the same footprint as when I was a new baby. The effort to create a buzz about my life is flattering, but I’m just a work-a-holic and a home body otherwise, so nice try. Therefore, when someone tries to whisper some crap like that, first tell them it is a lie, and then if they insist ask who, what, when and where this info can be verified. I’d like to know myself. Haha.
- I will never ask someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. I believe in the clear example of “servant leadership” and will do the same jobs that I ask of anyone else. This comes from a sense of being equals to everyone else and showing respect to those who are doing the heavy lift and hard work. As I have stated, this position of being Principal Chief is an honor and I will always respect the office. I will not lower myself to the disrespect shown by some. I started this journey to be Chief several years ago and spent a lot of time learning and getting to know each of our communities and many families; and have been blessed with many great friendships that have developed over the past several years. I learned that our Cherokee Families don’t ask for much, but they do ask for honest, accountable and truthful leadership from those they elect. I also expect the same and will always live by the same.
The following is an abbreviated version of my monthly report for August 2016:
Monday, Aug. 1
This morning, I was honored to be able to attend the Kick-off Breakfast to welcome back the Teachers and Staff for the Cherokee Central Schools. I had the opportunity to address the staff and teachers and first thanked them for all their dedication to our children and also ask them to help us in our fight against illegal drug use and underage alcohol abuse. I told them we were working to create new and mandatory educational opportunities within our schools to teach our kids about the real dangers of drug use and how horrifyingly real addiction to opiates and other illegal substance abuse is.
In the afternoon of, I had a meeting with Cassius Cash, Superintendent with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service and several of his staff. After our initial meeting, we attended a lunch at Brio wherein all the Council was invited and five attended. It was a great kickoff to a hopeful and bright future relationship with the NPS going forward. After the meeting, I had a meeting with legal staff and before ending the day I held a Project Development Working Group meeting to discuss projects and see where progress is needed. At this time, I am worried that the dissension created by a couple of bullies in Council is going to stop all our momentum to get some good developments accomplished for our Tribe, business community and Cherokee Families. As I stated earlier, I stand with the vast majority of Council to get some projects accomplished and look forward to moving forward.
Tuesday, Aug. 2
Wednesday, Aug. 3
In the morning, I had several meetings with enrolled members, drop-in visits on various issues. I love seeing people and welcome drop in visits, but am not always able to get them in right away. I am often tied up in other meetings and can’t break free to see everyone, but please feel free to speak to anyone of my staff in the office if I can’t see you right away.
This afternoon, we held another first from the Principal Chief’s office! We know that every little bit helps and the needs for our families is high when it comes to purchasing school supplies. So, my office decided to hold the first ever “Back-to-School Bash” at the fairgrounds. It was such a huge success that we ran out of supplies for our kids so we had to schedule another bash to help those out that didn’t get anything on this day. We planned for 1,000 and had over 1,500 attend! Thank you to my staff and all the volunteers for this event. I am glad to help our Cherokee Families!
Thursday, Aug. 4
Tribal Council. The Vice Chief made some statements when we got to Council reports that appeared pre-planned and in concert with a couple of Council Members, insinuating that there have been some violations of policy in regards to personnel matters. All actions taken by my office are permitted under the law and policy. Just as I stated on air, I will fight for full accountability from all employees and will expect everyone to do their job. A fair days work for a fair days pay. That’s all I ask. And is what our Tribe pays for. Maybe some don’t believe the same, but I bet the men and women who are required to be in the trenches or on the machines every day and do the tough work as laborers, operators and administrators don’t appreciate those who find political means to skirt the rules and find cover for their misdeeds and neglect of their job responsibilities. I believe everyone who has a paying job has a responsibility to the employer, the EBCI, to fulfill their job duties and do a full days work. And, I know the vast majority of people agree with this.
Finally, after getting thru the theatrics of the morning, I got to give my reports. I introduced some new appointments within my administration.
- Juanita Wilson is the new Snowbird/Cherokee County Director.
- Terri Henry is the new Secretary of State
- Chris McCoy is the new Director of Communications.
- Albert Crowe is the new Realty Services Director.
Each of them are great additions to the Executive Staff and each are highly qualified and energetic and I welcome them aboard.
Friday, Aug. 5
I sponsored a “Lunch with the Chief” at the Snowbird Complex for all the Tribal employees in the Snowbird/Cherokee County area. I really enjoyed the couple hours we had together and took the opportunity to introduce Ms. Juanita Wilson as the new Director of Snowbird/Cherokee County Services.
This weekend was the Annual Talking Leaves Trout Derby. It was very well attended, and I’d like to extend a thank you to all those that volunteered for this event. Also, this weekend was the Red Clay Cherokee Days annual event, and I want to thank our Cherokee men and women who took part in those events.
Monday, Aug. 8
Had staff meetings this morning and a closed session of Council to discuss various legal issues facing our Tribe. After lunch, I held a follow up Project Development Working Group meeting.
Tuesday, Aug. 9
Today, I had several meetings with tribal members on various concerns and issues. I also had the opportunity to meet with the staff of the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and work toward ways to better compliment the Tribe’s projects and goals with assistance from the Preservation Foundation. In the afternoon, we held a Capital Committee and reviewed various projects that are funded and the progress being made. I gave final approval for the Snowbird Child Care Center and look for a ground breaking on that project in the next few weeks.
Wednesday, Aug. 10
I held various meetings to create plans for our next steps in projects and initiatives. Also today it started becoming obvious that something needed to be done to protect the Tribal Employees at the BIA offices from federal prosecution by the BIA Superintendent McKee.
Thursday, Aug. 11
I issued administrative leave to all the Tribal Employees stationed at the BIA offices in order to protect them from threatened criminal prosecution for simply doing their jobs. It is required for them to expose records and make certain documents public in the simple course of their work but they were suddenly threatened with prosecution, so I made the decision to send them home with pay until the issue can be resolved.
Friday, Aug. 12
Cyndi and I attended the funeral for a young lady that passed away in an unfortunate accident. Cyndi used to work with her many years ago and we have always thought of her as a beautiful person and know she was loved and cared for by many. Her family is in our prayers still.
Monday, Aug. 15
Had a Planning Board meeting at 1pm. At 2pm, we conducted the initial kick-off meeting with the NPS and in conjunction with the Forest Service to establish a Compact with the Park to allow our enrolled members to again be allowed to enter upon Park lands and harvest our traditional foods and medicines. This is the beginning of a process that will take several months and perhaps over a year to complete because there are many regulations and procedures that must be developed and agreed upon. So, please be mindful that it is still illegal to go onto Park lands to harvest ramps or any other foods and medicines until our agreements are finalized.
After the meeting, we had a Project Development Working Group meeting and reviewed the progress on the feasibility study being conducted on the big projects we have had under consideration. The results are still a few weeks away.
Tuesday, Aug. 16
Had a 9am meeting with BIA to discuss the problem hostile environment and threats issued to our tribal employees who work there. The BIA Superintendent and his assistant were present and appeared very agitated and almost angry. The Tribe’s Attorney General spoke very clearly and forcibly about the need to protect our employees. We got agreement that the BIA would issue a statement in writing to guarantee that our employees could perform their jobs without threat of criminal charges.
Later in the afternoon at 1:30pm, a representative from a company called Switch from Las Vegas came to give a presentation on Data Centers. He spoke in general terms and gave ideas to Council on the business side of data centers.
Also on the 16th, at 2:30pm, we held a closed-door meeting with our federal and state Lobbyists to discuss strategies on many legislative issues facing our Tribe.
Wednesday, Aug. 17
We held a 2nd Back-to-School Bash for those that weren’t able to receive school supplies at the first one. We had several come through to receive their supplies. It was great to visit with several kids of all ages and give them some advice about working hard, having fun and learn all they can. I was very grateful to receive a thank you in video from a young man that received some school supplies. He actually took the time to shoot a video showing all the supplies he received and told me he remembered what I told him and that he would do just that. I enjoy helping out our children and Cherokee Families when I can and it makes it worthwhile knowing that we helped someone in need.
Thursday, Aug. 18
We received a written confirmation back from BIA, and I requested all Tribal employees to return to their work at the BIA offices, as the threat of criminal prosecution was clarified and assurances given.
In the afternoon, we held a “Back-to-School Bash” in Snowbird for the kids there. It was a success and the kids had fun as well as the parents. It was good to see so many of my good friends. I always enjoy visiting the Snowbird Community. Thank you to all the volunteers there as well.
Friday, Aug. 19
Today, I signed a 638 contract with the BIA for the new Jail and Justice Center. This 638 contract was pursued during last administration but hit several snags along the way. We were able to negotiate a contract that will provide almost 3 million dollars in this year directly to us from the BIA plus an annual recurring amount payment of almost 1 million yearly. 638 contracts are important to do because this is a clear exercise of our sovereignty and goals of self-determination. We have extremely bright, energetic and capable members in our Tribe that can do these functions of government far better than some government people sitting in a federal office at the BIA at Nashville or DC. I am proud to pursue these efforts on behalf of our Tribe to chart our own course and create our own future.
Saturday, Aug. 20
(Saturday morning at 6:45am) I had a very interesting morning. Today was one of those days when I decided to show people that I mean what I say. I won’t ask anyone to do a job that I wouldn’t do myself, and that I will freely lead by example. I got up and reported to work with the sanitation crew and worked the rear of the trash truck for a full run thru the route. It was very insightful to learn what a great job our sanitation department employees do for all of us. Working in that environment is not only hard work but can be quite dangerous. I was happy to work alongside some very dedicated Tribal employees. At the beginning of the shift, I received a safety briefing first thing, then my uniform (a caution vest and gloves) and then I stepped up on the back of the truck and helped pick up trash at several homes and businesses. After working with them I certainly have a newfound respect for the men and women that work in that department. You all do a great job for all of us. THANK YOU!
Wednesday, Aug. 31
Today, I had the pleasure of joining the ground crew at the old elementary school site to learn what the archaeologists have discovered since working there for the past month. I was honored to be able to actually dig and recover a broken pot that was from the time period of 1500 to 1650. It was amazing thinking about that in the sense that the last person to have touched that pot, prior to me digging it out of the ground, was over 400-500 years ago!
There has also been found many other artifacts of pottery that date as early as 1100 AD, and other items such as trade beads, arrow points and spear points, summer and winter home structures and also a few graves. The graves are left undisturbed and geo located for later reference so any future construction in the area will not disturb them. I am proud that I ordered a Phase II archeology study on this site so we can gain more understanding and how our ancestors lived in the area and to protect their graves.
One thing that I was reminded of is that we do not have any place for our own artifact curation. During the campaign one idea I proposed was to develop and build a Cherokee National Library & Archive and get all our historical documents and artifacts under one roof. This is very much needed because all the artifacts that are being unearthed and recovered here and elsewhere are being stored off the Qualla Boundary in storage facilities that is not under our Tribal control or protection. I will be bringing forth legislation to hopefully make this National Library & Archive a reality in order to protect our own history and artifacts. Our history is documented and spans thousands of years and it is up to us to protect it and the graves of our ancestors.One thing that I was reminded of is that we do not have any place for our own artifact curation. Back during the campaign, one idea that I proposed was to develop and build a Cherokee National Library & Archive in order to get all our historical documents and artifacts under one roof. This is very much needed because all the artifacts that are being unearthed and recovered here and elsewhere are being stored off the Qualla Boundary in storage facilities that are not under our Tribal control or protection. I plan to bring forth legislation to make this National Library & Archive a reality in order to protect our own history and artifacts. Our history is documented and spans thousands of years and it is up to us to protect it and the graves of our ancestors.
Also, on this last day of the month I issued a full day off for admin leave on Friday, Sept. 2 to all Tribal employees for the Labor Day Weekend Holiday. I truly appreciate all your hard work and hope everyone had a great weekend!
The month of August was successful overall, and I know if I keep doing the right thing, keep looking to God for strength, guidance and patience and keep the interests of our Tribe and Cherokee families out front, then the right results will follow.
I hope these reports over the past year have been helpful to give you a window into my daily efforts on your behalf and that you can see that I am a dedicated servant. With your approval, prayers and help I will continue to do what I am doing. I have a vision to diversify our economy in order to help build long term financial protection for our Tribe. We are in jeopardy from other areas (such as Atlanta) to develop gaming and will be severely hurt financially if we aren’t ready for the potential of reduced gaming revenue. I still believe that Tribal Government is capable of doing great things for the people. We as a government are completely capable of doing more than one thing at once. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. We have bright and talented employees in our Tribe and at the Casino and with Council working with me we can get things moving.
We have been in office for almost a year and I’ve presented several projects and pieces of legislation. We were 71 percent strong in the election and it still holds true today, and I believe we are even stronger today. Perhaps, I’ve stepped on a couple of toes along the way, which was not my intention, but no one can question my loyalty to my God, my Tribe or my Family, and I am living up to my word… doing what I said I would. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to ensure that Tribal Government is responsive to the needs of the people. My biggest goal is to advance the interests of our Tribe to add to the quality of life for our enrolled members and Cherokee Families.
The hallmark of my leadership style is ethics, honesty and integrity above all else. Lead from these principles and the right results will follow.
Thank you for spending some time with me in reading this month’s report. God bless you and your family and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.