1. Why did you choose to run for Tribal Council?
I chose to run for two reasons. First, I continue to feel a deep calling to serve my Tribe. Second, our need to be financially self-reliant is vital to our sovereignty and I possess the education (M.Ed & MBA) and experience (20+ years of honorable military service) to work cooperatively toward solving the major issues of our time. At-Large citizens deserve equal resources and benefits and, as a Tribe, we can no longer sit idly by pointing accusatory fingers at one another for our inaction. Business growth and increased revenue light our path forward and At-Large citizens deserve a collaborative voice representing their interests on the council.
2. What do you see as the greatest need in your district and how do you intend to address it?
The greatest need for At-Large citizens is to see and feel REAL progress toward resource and benefit equality. A Cherokee elder living At-Large is no less Cherokee than one living on the reservation. However, we - as a Nation - continue to allow many At-Large elders and veterans to struggle; often alone, forgotten and unappreciated. This is not who we are. It’s time to stop giving mere lip service to this issue and start using our own tribal wealth to benefit those most in need. Grow our businesses, create more wealth, and apply portions of that wealth to At-Large benefits. Financial independence will strengthen our sovereignty.
3. What, if any, current Cherokee Nation policy/law would you change and why?
At-Large citizens require better clarity on who specifically represents their interests. Today, there are two councilors sharing responsibility for more than 239,000 citizens with no clear lines of delineation. Frankly, shared responsibility equals no responsibility. I support dividing the at large into two separate areas of responsibility - assigning one councilor to each. This will promote accountable and ensure responsiveness.
We must also address inevitable changes stemming from the recent McGirt case U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Thousands of At-Large citizens residing on other tribal lands could now find themselves subject to evolving laws and regulations. I support an additional councilor/delegate assigned specifically to represent and support these citizens.
4. How do you plan to protect the Cherokee language and culture and do you speak Cherokee?
I will continue to advocate for additional resources for programs that enhance cultural awareness. Programs such as the Cherokee Language Master/Apprentice Program, the Language Immersion School, the Language Teacher Training Scholarship Program, and others must remain financially protected and prioritized. I was raised in Spavinaw, OK, where cultural events were commonly held at our school. I cherish the positive impact this had on my life and I’ll pursue increased funding for cultural outreach specifically directed at our school-aged kids. Our Cherokee children are the cultural sustainment we require, and our kids must have more opportunities than I did to learn their Cherokee language and appreciate their culture.
5. What do you believe the role of the Tribal Council is?
Tribal Council roles and responsibilities are codified in our Constitution. As the legislative branch, the Council establishes laws, appropriates funds, protects our Nation’s sovereignty and represents the Cherokee people’s best interests. The Council is the the voice of the people. The Council must also proactively discharge its duties. A Council that is slow to act on contentious issues or avoids unpopular votes altogether opens the door for unwanted judicial intervention. This “legislating from the bench” circumvents the people, silences their voice and causes havoc throughout our citizenry. As your Councilor, I will uphold my oath of office and tackle our Nation’s legislative issues head-on with timeliness and fortitude.