Published On: Tue, May 28th, 2019

COMMENTARY: Constitution deserves real discussion

 

By JONAH LOSSIAH

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

Imagine there is an issue in the United States government, and the legislative branch doesn’t like how the judicial branch is operating.

Now imagine that Congress had the power to dissolve the judicial branch. Chaos would probably ensue, and that’s why there are laws barring that from happening.

Well, not in Cherokee.

If the Tribal Council wanted to get rid of the court system, there isn’t much stopping them. That’s one of the many differences between a charter and a constitution.

This commentary was sparked by a recent work session on Tuesday, May 21. The Citizens for a Constitution came to present Council with an updated form of their proposed document. To put it simply, it was a rough day in the Council House.

A lot of specifics were combated, and there wasn’t really any progress made.

One of the most impactful moments of the afternoon was when Bo Lossiah came up to the podium. He wasn’t arguing for a small piece of language. He expressed a simple yet powerful point:

“What we could really value are just some notes. If you could just write out the notes. Certainly, there are some items about the document that you do like, I would assume so. I wouldn’t think that any of you would be against civil rights for your constituents. I would think you would want that – due process for you, your constituents,” said Lossiah.

As many of you know, and I have addressed it before, Bo Lossiah is my father, and Anita Lossiah is my stepmother. They are two of the members of the Citizens for a Constitution group. I have watched this constitution proposal grow. Phone calls, talks at the dinner, I’ve known about this document since they first decided to start the group over two years ago.

I’m not writing this for them. I don’t agree with everything they say and do, either. I’m not even arguing for the specifics of this proposed constitution.

I’m doing this for my people. We do not have our basic civil rights in place. I find it ridiculous that nothing has made it through about a people’s constitution by 2019.

The thing I find genuinely insulting is how this constitution is being treated. The Citizens for a Constitution are doing this on their own time and their dollar. They’ve decided to bring it forward to Tribal Council to have as many voices heard as possible.

However, several of our leaders seem staunchly against it. Whether it’s through their dismissive attitudes and comments, or their body language throughout any work session on the subject, it baffles me that some are more focused on a single issue than getting a desperately needed document as this passed.

Do I expect everyone to agree on everything? Absolutely not. However, the Council representatives often get visibly angry at people that present them with any idea that they don’t 100 percent agree. The air in the Council House on that Tuesday afternoon was thick with animosity. It felt like Lloyd Arneach was been bombarded at that podium. And why? Possibly, it’s because someone brought forth an issue for which they have no solution.

That’s another serious problem. Most of the disagreements about this version of the constitution are the same ones that the Council representatives had last year, yet on very few occasions did they have an idea about how to fix that problem. There is just huffing and puffing for the sake of it. I lost count of the number of times Arneach asked, ‘what would you suggest?’ Remember that this is a ‘work session.’

A prime example of this disrespect is simply how this meeting ended. After more directionless arguing, the meeting was adjourned because a council member needed to get ready for a campaigning event. They said they needed to pick up food for a meet the candidates’ event.

This kind of behavior is so commonplace. I, for one, find the need for a constitution a very serious matter. Though it seems that it is not a shared sentiment. The sense of urgency is lacking, and it is being looked at more as a piece of personal politics, not as a governing document for an entire nation.

There is bound to be some work needed on a document that is going to impact everyone on the Boundary. Not to mention that the people creating this work are doing it in their spare time.

As mentioned, this group has been working for over two years. The last time there was an attempt with this much momentum was probably 20 or more years ago. This is such a tremendous opportunity, and if it fails, we may expect at least another decade before we get another proposal like this.

There is going to be another work session on Monday, June 3. There could be some progress made, but if not, it would be surprising for this to pass at the next Tribal Council meeting on Thursday, June 13.

If we gain anything from my commentary, I hope that it will be that more of us will look at this situation. Develop your own opinion on what it means to have a governing document, and make your voice heard.

Pay attention to what’s going on and keep our leaders accountable.

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