Thursday, May 28, 2015

Candidate Questions and Answers Posted

A few weeks ago, I extended an open invitation to any candidate for office to be featured in a post on my blog. The requirements were that they reach out to me and answer questions I sent them. The questions came from myself and other Cherokees.

Several candidates requested the questions we Cherokees had for them. There were specific questions for the Principal Chief, Deputy Chief and Council candidates. Only two candidates completed the questions and returned them to me. One was Will Fourkiller, candidate for Principal Chief, and the other, Tommy Jones, candidate for tribal council in the At Large seat.

I'd like to thank both candidates for accepting the invitation to appear in this blog and for taking the time to answer the questions we Cherokee voters asked. 

You can find Will Fourkiller's message; a video; and questions & answers by clicking THIS LINK.

You can find Tommy Jones' message; a video; and questions & answers by clicking THIS LINK.

Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Candidate Q&A - Will Fourkiller, Principal Chief Candidate

Fourkiller speaking at little Kansas

Message from Will Fourkiller:

I am a man of faith, and my decision to run for chief was after much prayer.  Our Cherokee communities many times revolve around places of worship; where they enjoy fellowship, spiritual revival and often times a good traditional meal.  I propose to institute a faith based grant program to help churches and traditional stomp grounds continue to serve their people to help maintain the culture of the Cherokee churches where our beautiful Cherokee hymns are sung, and traditional culture is practiced.  I believe a community grows stronger when there is an element of spiritual growth involved.  

I want to thank Twila Barnes for allowing me to comment and express my stance on a few important issues that affect Our Nation.  I look forward to meeting as many citizens as possible before the upcoming election.  Feel free to contact me anytime via my website,, on FaceBook at Will Fourkiller for Cherokee Nation Principal Chief, or simply give me a call at 1.918.797.0760 I look forward to hearing from you soon! God Bless!

Vote for Integrity, Honesty, and for the Will of all Cherokee Citizens!   Vote Will Fourkiller on June 27!

Will Fourkiller 

Video Message for At Large Cherokees: 

Questions and Answers:

1.   What do you think is the biggest problem facing the Cherokee Nation today? What will you do to work toward a solution to that problem?
The largest Tribal service being utilized today is our Healthcare system.  Being a Healthcare provider myself I see the improvement of our Health system as the greatest, immediate priority facing our Nation and our people today.  Wait times need to be reduced; people deserve timely diagnosis and treatment; and focus should shift to quality patient oriented healthcare.  Bricks and mortar are great, but its quality patient oriented Healthcare that saves lives.  

We fix the problem by listening to our end user: the patients themselves.  We need to perform exit evaluations to see what is working and what is not working.  We need to set a higher level of accountability and expectations for our providers, and we need to pay our staff enough to attract and retain quality, to add to the quality staff we already have employed.  We also need to start to phase in a consortia type oversight where we can also be evaluated based on the quality of care we are providing  our Cherokee Nation Citizens and those that are not solely Cherokee Nation citizens.  We are a regional Health system which other tribes such as the UKB and Delaware rely on.  We must serve all with dignity or we threaten to backslide to a poor quality of Healthcare which is avoided by sick patients.  People’s lives literally rely on the quality of our Health system and I will institute comprehensive reforms to help our employees and providers thrive in their jobs; ultimately providing the best healthcare possible for our Nation.  

2.   The most utilized service of the Cherokee people is our health care system. Is our current health system administration and structure adequate to meet the needs of the number of people it serves? If not, how will you work to improve it?

Upon my election as Principal Chief, I will institute a comprehensive evaluation of our health system so we can identify specific inefficiencies and immediately move to correct them.  I believe our employees have done a great job working within the structure they were given by previous administrations.  I believe that it is necessary to take off some of the pressure and stress in order to allow them to perform at their top level and provide an overall better experience for our patients.  Inefficiencies can create longer wait times, lost paper work, poor time management, and redundancy; all adding to the pressure employees and patients are under; creating an environment that is not conducive to health and healing.   We need to look at more hires and more incentives to bring in top quality providers, and increase oversight to assure quality. Utilizing the federal healthcare mandate we can develop innovative programs buying certain patients healthcare under it, thereby generating more third party dollars for our healthcare system and ultimately, freeing up IHS monies to be spent on more patients.  Lastly I would initiate strict employee protection directives: our health system must be free of politics. Our patients deserve continuity in their healthcare that cannot be threatened every two and four years. 

3.   Current statistics say we only have 2400 fluent speakers of the Cherokee language. How will you work to revitalize our language? Will you consider utilizing new technologies? If so, how will you use them?

Cherokee language and culture is what defines us as a people.  The continuation of both should be of utmost importance as we move forward as a Nation.  As Chief, I would continue the work on developing a Cherokee Charter School system which seems to have come to a halt.  I would reach out to the local School systems and develop innovative programs where we can broadcast Cherokee language education throughout the 14 counties, but also worldwide wherever there is interest.  The tools are there; new media, teleconference, distance education, we just need to develop programing which can utilize them.  I believe we can also build partnerships in higher education and begin to develop a Cherokee Nation Tribal College system.  My goal is that within the Cherokee Nation, a child will be able to be taught Cherokee language and cultural curricula from the child development centers until they graduate college!

4.   Currently, while new construction of homes is going well, due to the difficulty of getting contractors to bid on the Emergency and Rehab housing jobs, some people often have to wait 9 months to a year for desperately needed repairs. What will you do to try to shorten the wait time for these citizens who need emergency or rehab fixes to their homes? 

We must first ensure that all monies ear-marked for housing gets to our housing programs. Housing needs to start developing their own internal crews to be able to go out and address most of the rehab and repair without the trouble of bidding and re-bidding.  Not only would we employ more Cherokees, but by having internal work crews, this will allow some relief to the wait, and streamline the bid process. It will also allow TERO and other qualified crews to come in and fix more houses, because the process will be more efficient, and we will be able to work on more houses.  The housing authority also must take advantage of all federal funding in order to develop new housing models to provide new housing.  There are times that   rehab costs more than new housing.  We must provide the most cost effective and efficient solution for the situation.  

5.   Many citizens of the Cherokee Nation have friends and family who are members of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Will you work to improve our government to government relationship with them? If so, how?

I will reach out to the UKB and see where we can develop a mutually beneficial relationship.  We can collaborate on healthcare, education and human services.  As I represent our Cherokee people in the State House, I have seen that two governments have much more to gain by working together than by being adversarial.  I believe that we can and must work together with our family at the UKB; we are all Cherokees. 

6.   How will you connect economic growth, cultural enrichment, and ecological sustainability to prepare the Cherokee Nation for a brighter future?

I will instill our cultural values into our National consciousness, connecting economic development with our culture and ensuring ecological sustainability by doing one simple thing: I will hire Cherokees into our top level management positions.  As Tribal policy and economic growth is developed and implemented by our Cherokee people, it will naturally begin to reflect our cultural values.  I will create mentorship opportunities to develop leadership in our communities and better prepare our citizens to manage and take control of our nations assets.  Outside interest have distorted the nations policy, I would bring that policy making back into the Cherokee Nation; so that it is driven by Cherokees with our cultural values. 

7.   The number of people falsely claiming Cherokee ancestry is growing every day. Not only do they create a revisionist history of the Cherokee Nation, they are also a direct threat to our sovereignty. How do you feel the Cherokee Nation should address the issue of: 
A.  Fraudulent Cherokee tribes?
B.  State recognized tribes who claim to be Cherokee?
C.  High profile fraudulent Cherokees, such as MA Senator, Elizabeth Warren?

We need to develop a tribal task force in order to educate the masses and lobby against fraudulent factions of people claiming to be a tribal nation.  Education is the key; developing outreach on a national level to tell our story of who we are and who we are not

Unfortunately, anyone can make up a club and call themselves Cherokees.  As Chief, I will educate state legislators and the public that these are not legitimate tribal entities.  We must stave off state recognition so that fraudulent tribes are not allowed to access limited federal funds, and defraud other individuals wanting to do business with legitimate tribal people.

State recognized Cherokee tribes have no claim to be a legitimate Tribal entity.  Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band, and Eastern Band are the trinity tribes that sprung from the historical Cherokee Nation in our homelands.  State recognition allows those State ‘tribes’ to access limited federal dollars allocated for legitimate Indian people.  The Nation must lobby State and National congressional leadership to put a stop to the abuse in federal spending which allows these fraudulent clubs to spread disinformation. 

Many high profile individuals from politicians to musicians to artists and academics all claim they have Cherokee lineage.  I believe that once individuals begin to exploit that belief, and use it to take away positions, funding, and artistic space meant for a legitimate Cherokee Indian, they have crossed the line, and should be called out on it and held accountable for it.  We cannot confront fraudulent tribes, and then let fake individuals go without question.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

Candidate Q&A - Tommy Jones, Tribal Council - At LargeCandidate

Tommy Jones speaking with a voter

Message from Tommy Jones:

I'm Tommy Jones from Jones, Oklahoma. Until adulthood, I lived in poverty. Now I've earned two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree and am currently working on a Ph.D. My education has been funded entirely through scholarships and I don't take this for granted. My humble beginnings have inspired me to make a difference. My passion is to serve our people and work for our nation's future. It's time for me to give back and use my knowledge to benefit the Cherokee people. Your vote will help me do that. Please consider me when casting your vote for the At Large tribal council seat. 

A video message for At Large Cherokees:

Questions and Answers:

1    -What do you think is the biggest problem facing the Cherokee Nation today? What will you do to work toward a solution to that problem?

At this point, I find the biggest problem facing the Cherokee Nation is complacency with business as usual with the functioning of our government and services. Accountability breeds progress and greater societal well being for our people. Higher standards provide great efficiencies, as our citizens depend on our Tribe. We must ensure that transparency, accountability, and best practices are being utilized within each and every one of our governmental departments. By requiring these focal points we can begin to curb cronyism and nepotism and see great improvement within our service output. Requiring evolving best practices that improve our services is essential to meeting the needs of our citizens. Addressing this, we will have a solid base from which to build.

   2- How will you connect economic growth, cultural enrichment, and ecological sustainability to prepare the Cherokee Nation for a brighter future?

One of the first actions we need to do is place in law the protection of our cultural resources. A zoning approach can be used for important sites around our jurisdictional area. After this is done, we will know and any future developer will know what is off limits. I think doing this alone will ensure that our cultural resources will not face any real or perceived threats from development. Citizens and decision makers can get behind projects based on the merits of the development and not worry about what trade-offs will exist for our resources. With that said, I am a big advocate for renewable energy. I think there are many opportunities for economic development and self-sufficiency with renewable energy. We can develop small scale and distributed relatively easy within jurisdiction and even large scale. We can also invest in renewable energy projects around the country or world. Another area for which there is little work being done is Native-run renewable energy developers. Many tribes pay outside developers that are typically non-native and I think we could fill this niche.

   3-Current statistics say we only have 2400 fluent speakers of the Cherokee language. How will you work to revitalize our language?  

Language is a vital piece of our Cherokee culture; I recognize in myself and others of my generation that many are unable to speak our language, which is why language revitalization is important to me. This is an important family connection and tie to our ancestors. It is something that I am working on personally so that I will be able to teach my future children. From a Tribal Counselor standpoint, I would support continued and expanded funding for language. Expanding the online language classes is a good starting point. Language revitalization can have many different approaches (technology, face to face, classes), but what is important to me is to use language as more than a means of communication; to use language as a means to have a deeper cultural connection and to honor our ancestors.

   4- Many citizens of the Cherokee Nation have friends and family who are members of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians. Will you work to improve our government to government relationship with them? If so, how?

CNO and UKB are intertwined in history, in family, geographically and with Cherokee blood. We do need a better relationship. I think that some of the problems that have arisen such as the UKB casino highlight something critical to the CNO. We need to diversify our economic development to not be so heavily dependent upon the casino enterprises. Our long-term sustainability must look past the windfalls of money from the casinos and consider other forms of development.  The recent proposals to have a congressional act federally recognize tribes further highlights this. This sort of legislation could easily spiral into a group having a lot of money, money from wherever, influencing tribal recognition, and getting land into trust. Which could mean casino money and whatever else natural resource to exploit. Working with UKB or even partnering with UKB should be considered. This way, improved relationships are built, money that is spent on lawsuits can be used towards needed improvements to citizen services, and battles that have long plagued the two federally recognized nations could begin to heal. 

   5- In the past, some council members have been slow to respond to emails or phone calls they received from their constituents. In your opinion, what is the longest a person should have to wait to get a response from their council person? What will be your policy on responding to your constituents’ emails and phone calls, should you be elected?

Answering calls and returning emails is not hard to do. If an overload of letters came in there are programs that help you write emails and letters, they put the header, the greeting, the closing and you personally respond to the question in the body of the letter. With technology that makes answering constituents easy and less time consuming, there is no excuse. I personally find the constituent response and interaction to be the exciting part to this process. I want to help make a difference and that means I must be responsive to those that need help or have suggestions on how to improve our government and services. I have a vested interest in responding as quickly as possible. It doesn’t seem unrealistic to respond daily to emails and phone calls. That would be my personal goal. And the longest a person should have to wait is no more than three days. That's more than enough time to respond. That’s a huge part of what counselors are paid to do. But life does happen and getting behind on tasks is expected. However, making getting behind a habit is unreasonable and irresponsible.

   6- The number of people falsely claiming Cherokee ancestry is growing every day. Not only do they create a revisionist history of the Cherokee Nation, they are also a direct threat to our sovereignty. How do you feel the Cherokee Nation should address the issue of:
            A - Fraudulent Cherokee tribes? 

This is definitely a problem that has to be continuously fought. In terms of partnerships for economic development or societal improvements (like partnering with a non-profit) it is critical to not have the Cherokee title associated with groups that are not legitimate. This can hurt our own progress through perceived risks of partnering with “Cherokee” or actually competing for grants. Not to mention the ridiculous romanticized version of Cherokee culture these groups many times exude. A consortium of the CNO, EBC, and UKB could potentially help curb many of these groups. A united effort that helps preserve our Nations, our people, and our culture could help the cause. For groups attempting to get state recognition, I think about how the federal recognition process is very stringent (although it is currently being streamlined to some degree). I definitely support a task force at the Cherokee Nation that focuses on fraudulent tribes.

      B -  State recognized tribes who claim to be Cherokee? 

The BIA has blood quantum certificates, cities having a rich history of the tribe and politically work together, a continuous governing system, and the tribe has good lawyers. That's a majority of what federal recognition takes. Some tribes are looking for re-recognition and state recognition is just one further step to help the process. Also, several big casino tribes have disenrolled members based on blood quantum and those people have showed interest in state recognition. One major reason is they are directed to federally recognized tribal clinics. I think following along the same process as federal recognition should be adhered. There are legitimate cases where the federal government has dragged their feet (i.e. Shinnecock of New York took some 30 years to be recognized) and state recognition has stood in its place and helped deserving tribal members. An extensive process that weeds out free riders should be in place. State recognition, will need to be vetted to higher standards and that is something that can be improved with better state-CNO collaboration.

      C - High profile fraudulent Cherokees, such as MA Senator, Elizabeth Warren? 

Clearly and firmly separating the Cherokee Nation from these people is needed. However, this should not be a witch hunt. Research into the background and detailed explanations for claims by the individual should be a priority. After this, a statement should be released that addresses the issue and demonstrates a hard stance against those who falsely claim Cherokee heritage.

     - FOR AT LARGE COUNCIL CANDIDATES -- How will you work to improve the relationship between the Cherokees who live inside the jurisdictional boundary and those who live At Large? 

A great way to bridge gaps is to find areas that transcend politics. I am an avid supporter of healthy living. Organizing support groups that can merge healthy living with culturally relevant teachings would be incredible. This would be a great way to stay connected or to learn the history of the plants, our language and form a deeper philosophical bond with our ancestors. The seed collection that is available is one way to start this. Also, expanding on the Remember the Removal types of events would be a great way to fellowship. An online forum that showcases that at-large truly do care about these events and our culture would be a good way to inform those within the jurisdictional area. From there, greater collaboration and shared knowledge can emerge. From this collaboration and fellowship, or networking, we can begin to see increased avenues for at-large citizens to benefit the nation as a whole and form better bonds with in jurisdiction citizens.

Traveling to the various communities this year has shown me first hand the effort that folks are putting towards the satellite communities. Sharing more of this with in jurisdiction folks I think would be a great idea.

copyright 2015, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB