By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Tribal Council voted on Sept. 10, 2015 to “cease all relationships” with the Washington NFL team and its Original Americans Foundation (OAF). Almost a year to the day, Council voted to keep two Mercedes vans that OAF had previously given to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Following passage of that legislation, the vans, which had been given to tribal senior citizen programs in Cherokee County and Snowbird, were brought back to Cherokee with the intent of returning them to OAF.
During its regular session on Sept. 8, 2016, Tribal Council passed a resolution to send those vans back to the seniors in Cherokee County and Snowbird. The resolution, submitted by Vice Chairman Brandon Jones and Cherokee County – Snowbird Rep. Adam Wachacha, states, “…to date, the transportation that was provided to them has not been replaced and they are doing without, and it has caused them to be without any transportation and the residents do not understand why something was taken from them.”
The resolution was passed on Thursday with 10 Council representatives voting to approve the measure. Yellowhill Rep. Anita Lossiah voted against the legislation and Big Cove Rep. Teresa McCoy abstained.
Prior to the vote, Rep. Wachacha stated, “They were ok with the vans being taken as long as there was a replacement for them. I know that one has already made it back to the Snowbird Senior Center, but the one in Cherokee County has not. When they were parked up here (Cherokee), they were being used by other programs, and the senior citizens down there didn’t take too kindly when they were being used when the intent was for them not to be used.”
Rep. McCoy stated, “I want those vans sent back to Washington, DC, and if the senior citizens in Snowbird and those in Cherokee County need a van, then I would recommend, and I will support them having one if we bring it up during the budget process.”
She said that tribes across Indian Country have refused gifts and assistance. “I think Mr. Snyder (owner of Washington NFL team) needs to get a message clearly back from this Tribe that we don’t want to have anything to do with that name.”
Yellowhill Rep. B. Ensley said that the vans have also been used by the youth wrestling programs in addition to the seniors. “If Snowbird can use the van, then I say we allow them to use it. It’s for the senior citizens. Regardless of where the vans came from…I’m not a Redskins fan, and I agree with what Teresa is saying, but a free van’s a free van to me.”
Rep. Wachacha said he opposed the idea of waiting until the budget process to procure new vans for Cherokee County and Snowbird. “I don’t want to wait all the way until the budget process to get them back in place. If they’re going to be utilized, then let’s utilize them where they’re currently at.”
Principal Chief Patrick Lambert gave some background on the vans and their movement over the past year. “The reason those vans were brought back (to Cherokee) to be returned is because of an act that was carried out here in Council. Everyone voted on that to return those vans at that time.”
He said, after further review, many questions arose as to how to properly return the vans and to whom. “While we were awaiting those answers, which we’ve still not completely gotten yet, they were being utilized by other groups, and just as Adam pointed out, they could better be utilized by the seniors. In the meantime, we had given them another van, so now Snowbird has two vans rather than the one so they’re actually in better shape now today than they were.”
Chief Lambert went on to say that the van originally sent to Cherokee County has not received much use. “It only had 5,000 miles on it so they were not utilizing the van…a lot of that mileage was probably put on it bringing it from wherever it came from to here.”
He brought up the idea of possibly selling the Mercedes vans to help procure new ones and concluded his comments by saying, “I don’t disagree with the concept of this, but it’s been mostly resolved.”
Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor commented, “Whether you trade them or sell them, you’re still benefiting from them so it doesn’t matter which way you go about it, you’re still benefiting.”
Painttown Rep. Tommye Saunooke supported the resolution, commended Vice Chairman Jones and Rep. Wachacha for bringing it forward and stated, “If the seniors can use them, let them use them since the legislation wasn’t carried out…they should have been sent back in September 2015 and they weren’t.”
Vice Chairman Jones said, “It’s not a matter of where they came from to our seniors, it’s a matter of having those then not having them to utilize. I know the one in Cherokee County probably didn’t get used as much as the one in Snowbird, but it still got used from when they came up here to meet with the other seniors up here. They just want to be made whole and have their vans back.”
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Kina Swayney submitted the legislation last year that led to the Tribe ceasing all relationships with the Washington NFL team and the Original Americans Foundation. After the vote on Thursday, she told the One Feather, “I’m opposed to it and how everything came about. It leaves our Tribe looking ‘bought’ despite the resolution. I think an investigation should have followed to determine what else changed hands.”
On the vans themselves, she commented, “Snowbird and Cherokee County should have vans but not those vans. Sending them back was the easy thing to do. The hard ‘right’ would have been to buy Snowbird vans and return the Mercedes to the Foundation. Other tribes throughout Indian Country know about this and the NFL team still has pictures posted as if we still support the name. Without enforcement of that resolution, it’s just a piece of paper.”
A federal judge ruled on July 8, 2015 that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cancel the Washington NFL football team’s “Redsk*ns” trademark. U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Bruce Lee said in his 70-page decision that the USPTO will cancel the registration for six marks. He wrote, “…the marks consisted of matter that ‘may disparage’ a substantial composite of Native Americans…”