A recent ruling from the Cherokee Tribal Court has called the authority of Grand Council into question. Temporary Associate Judge Sharon Tracey Barrett denied a request for a court order stopping Tribal Council from pursuing impeachment against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert, though 84 percent of enrolled members who cast ballots during an April 18 Grand Council session voted to repeal the impeachment legislation.
Tribal Council will have to change the date set for Principal Chief Patrick Lambert’s impeachment hearing for the third time — if, that is, the Cherokee Tribal Court allows the impeachment to move forward.
It’s safe to say that the Cherokee Tribal Council is not scurrying to incorporate the decisions of Grand Council into its future actions. Tribal Council held a special-called meeting Wednesday, April 19 — the day after Grand Council was held — in which it set a new impeachment hearing date to comply with a recent order from the Cherokee Supreme Court and shot down an amendment Councilmember Tommye Saunooke, of Painttown, had introduced aimed at recognizing the authority of Grand Council.
It would be near impossible to find someone in Cherokee these days who doesn’t know about the political turmoil enveloping the tribe, or who doesn’t have an opinion about who’s to blame. Last week The Smoky Mountain News ventured over to Food Lion, the Qualla Boundary’s only grocery store, asking tribal members for their take on the whole thing as they walked in to pick up a gallon of milk or returned from a full-scale shopping trip.
Big Cove Road in Cherokee slowed to a standstill last week as traffic backed up for more than a mile, en route to Cherokee Central School and the Grand Council meeting that Principal Chief Patrick Lambert had called for 1 p.m. Tuesday, April 18. The spacious parking lot at Cherokee Central School, where the event was to be held, quickly reached capacity. Some drivers pulled off to park on any patch of roadside grass or gravel available, while others pushed a little further to park at the old high school, where a shuttle would ferry them to the meeting.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians held its first Grand Council in 20 years yesterday, with traffic backing up for more than a mile down Big Cove Road as tribal members flocked to the event, held at Cherokee High School.
The Cherokee Tribal Court has denied a complaint that Councilmember Teresa McCoy, of Big Cove, filed asking that the court restrain the Tribal Council from taking certain types of actions.
More than a year of tension and fighting within the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians government will come to a head this week, with a hearing for impeachment charges against Principal Chief Patrick Lambert slated for Thursday, April 20, and Lambert calling a Grand Council of all enrolled members for Tuesday, April 18, in an attempt to save his position.
But, while some big decisions about the future of the tribe could be made by this time next week, the political fallout will likely take much longer to resolve. Much is uncertain about the events ahead — impeachments are rare, Grand Councils even rarer, and many of the laws pertaining to how they are conducted and what power they have are unclear, at best.
The articles of impeachment passed by the Cherokee Tribal Council on April 6 outline seven grounds on which to remove Principal Chief Patrick Lambert from office. In a Facebook post, Lambert offered a counterpoint to each accusation.
From the moment April’s Tribal Council session began — 8:30 a.m. sharp on the sixth — the Cherokee Council House was packed. Tribal members filled the seats and stood against the walls leading out to the lobby, where chairs in front of a TV broadcasting the meeting inside quickly reached capacity. Faces bearing expressions of sadness, or anticipation, or grim resignation, they waited for the action to start.