Monday, April 25, 2016

Tribal Council Attempts to Circumvent the Constitution

*This is revised from a post originally published March 23, 2016. Please re-read for additional information*

Anyone who has been keeping up with the latest activities by the Cherokee Nation council is likely aware of their recent attempts to define term in our Election Law (and indirectly, our Cherokee Nation Constitution) to mean "full term."

This will be one of the items discussed in the Rules Committee Meeting, April 28, 2016, at 1 pm. 

The new proposed definition:

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The Council is attempting to make this change under the Cherokee Nation Election section of our Constitution:

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As you can see, the Council is limited in their ability to enact law if it is inconsistent with the provisions of our Constitution.

"Term" is not defined in our Constitution in the Principal Chief or Council articles.

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Notice the emphasis is on "consecutive elections" and "consecutive elected terms" instead of the length of term. There is a reason for that. The idea of "full term" was suggested during the 1999 Constitutional Convention by a "Mr. Bill Baker."

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The inclusion/exclusion of the words "full term" was debated. Mr. John Keen made a convincing point to the delegates at the Convention:

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A statement was made that the wording was important so the nation could avoid people pulling some "little trick":

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And a final decision was made to exclude "full term" from our Constitution:

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Fast forward to 2011. The Cherokee people had the opportunity to remove term limits for our elected officials. The Cherokee people voted TO KEEP term limits as they were in our Constitution. 

Today, in 2016, our Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, wants to add a definition under our election law that will in turn, undermine the intent (clearly spelled out in the words of the framers) of our Constitution, the highest law in the Cherokee Nation. It also undermines the faith of the Cherokee people by trying to find a way to get around the term limits set by our Constitution and upheld by a vote of the people.

Adding the words "full term" to our election law would allow some of our council members who have won two consecutive elections, but not served two "full terms", to run again. Some of those people are voting to support this definition of term. It doesn't take a genius to figure out why.

It would also allow the current chief to run in a third consecutive election because we had to have a second chief's election in 2011, therefore it slightly cut short the time Baker spent in office that term. This is EXACTLY what the framers of our Constitution were trying to protect us from. They had the foresight to know that someone would try to pull some trick to run additional terms and they worked to avoid it. 

Current Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Bill John Baker, was a delegate at the 1999 Constitutional Convention. He was the only Bill Baker in attendance, therefore he was the one that suggested the wording, "full term". He knows it was rejected by the framers of the Constitution and why. 

Current Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation, Todd Hembree, was a delegate at this same convention, as was current Secretary of State, Chuck Hoskin, Jr. They should both be aware of the reason "full term" was rejected by the framers of our constitution and why.

Now I'm no lawyer and unlike some people, won't pretend to be. I don't think one needs to be a lawyer to understand that defining "term" to mean "full term" goes against what the framers of our Constitution intended because I can read their actual words to see their intent. They rejected the words "full term" and they explained their reasons for doing so.
Above all else, our leaders, whether they be the chief, the attorney general, the secretary of state, or a council member, should "preserve, protect, and defend" the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation, the highest law of our nation. They also should bow to the will of the people and never attempt to undermine what the people have voted to uphold. Currently, the council appears to be doing both. This is troubling to me and should be troubling to you, no matter the side your political loyalties sit. 

Our leadership should serve our interests, not their own. The framers of the Constitution explained why it was in the best interest of the people to not include the words "full term" in the Constitution and that should be enough reason for the council to also reject that definition of "term" in our election law. If they don't, then perhaps it's time we, the Cherokee people, see their approval of "full term" as something the framers of our Constitution had concern about - elected officials manipulating the words "full term" to avoid term limits set forth in the Cherokee Nation Constitution and to violate the good faith of the Cherokee people.

In the last council meeting, April 11, 2016, Janees Taylor said they never intended to circumvent the Constitution. That statement only works once. Maybe when this proposed legislation originally came up, they didn't know that's what they would be doing, but NOW THEY KNOW so if they pass it, they fully intend to circumvent the Constitution.

Some Cherokee lawyers have said if this is passed, it will likely lead to challenges in court. One went as far as to say it could be grounds to start the process of removing council members from office for not defending and upholding the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation. This is an extremely serious issue. 

I encourage everyone to contact your council members over this proposed legislation that will undermine our Constitution if passed. You, Cherokee citizens, have a voice. Show your council members that you will use it.

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District 15 -
At Large -
Those are my thoughts for today.
Thanks for reading. 

*The Constitutional Convention document where the discussion is found is Vol. 5 - 3/2/99.

copyright 2016, Polly's Granddaughter - TCB

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