By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER EDITOR
We are only three weeks away from some important decisions. We have done our best to provide you with the tools you need to make informed decisions. The Junaluska Leadership Council provided candidate forums so that you could see your prospective leaders answer questions on current affairs of the Tribe. The One Feather offered free space in the paper, monthly since March, for any candidate to share their platform and commentary with you. And, we organized a series of debates in July and invited all primary candidates to come and share their views. All those debates were televised and recorded, available for playback and review at ebci.com and the One Feather’s You Tube channel.
By now, if you live on the Boundary, you have had home visits and been invited to at least one community meal by some or all the candidates. Some have called you and sent you letters. As the time to decide ticks away, the urgency of the candidates’ needs to reach you with their messages increases.
This election is likely to be a close series of races. Every year, there is an event or issue that voters seem to hang their vote on. This year, there are several issues that many tribal members are passionate about and will influence our choice.
In addition to the candidates, there are special interest groups attempting to sway your decision. I have heard leaders of some of these groups state that they are the voice of the people or that they speak for the people. Many group leaders with completely opposing viewpoints will say that they speak for the people or “this is what the people want”. I am always a little curious about a statement like that. After all, we are 15,578 strong per Tribal Enrollment. I find it a little hard to believe that any one person can speak for the opinions of all. Our tribal membership is a very diverse and opinionated group. It would be very challenging for us all to be in consensus on any topic. Besides, I know that none of those who have claimed to be speaking for the people have asked me how I feel about any subject. Having been a public speaker for most of my career, I can sympathize with those using that language. After all, it doesn’t sound quite as impactful to say “I speak for some of the people”.
We do have a way for people to be put in positions of speaking on behalf of the people. The process is called election. In tribal elections, all members who are old enough to vote, are invited to mark our ballots and say who we want to represent us in our government affairs. The importance of our vote cannot be overestimated. Each one of the registered voters who makes the journey to the polls will select the voices and plot the governmental direction for the 15, 578 members of our Tribe. For the next two years, those we select will make decisions for all of us, including child care, elder care, housing, economic development and diversification, hospital services, recreation facilities, and per capita distribution.
It is vital that we think beyond those two years they will serve. The decisions they make will affect generations to come. Don’t vote for someone because he/she is a “good old boy or girl”. Don’t vote for someone who provides you with temporary, personal favors or gifts. Make sure that the promises made are ones capable of being kept. Watch the reruns of the videos, read the commentary and platforms of the candidates, and seek out the candidates to question them on the issues important to you. Use your head and your heart when you go to the polls. The stakes are high. Do your homework, meditate, and yes, pray before you cast your vote. The 15,578 are counting on you and they want you to speak with them by casting your vote.