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Embezzling nearly $1 million from The Sequoyah Fund in Cherokee will land the organization’s former executive director in federal prison for more than two years, U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger decided at a Dec. 15 sentencing hearing.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in The Smoky Mountain News in December 2003.

Tuckaseigee, Oconaluftee, Heintooga, Wayah, Cullasaja, Hiwassee, Coweeta, Stecoah, Steestachee, Skeenah, Nantahala, Aquone, Katuwah, and on and on. Our place names here in the Smokies region are graced throughout with evidence of the Cherokee culture that prevailed for over 700 years. Wouldn’t it be nice if Clingmans Dome was correctly designated as Mount Yonah (high place of the bears)?

A Cherokee firefighter has pled guilty to federal charges for intentionally starting seven wildfires on the Qualla Boundary between 2010 and 2014, which cost the Bureau of Indian Affairs a total of $106,700 to extinguish.

Harry S. Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson said upon his return to private life, “I will undoubtedly have to seek what is happily known as gainful employment, which I am glad to say does not describe holding public office.”

SEE ALSO:
To serve, Haywood Commissioners leave money on the table
Carrying commissioner duties a juggling act in Jackson
Macon commissioners not there for money
Swain commissioners give little thought to salary
Cherokee council makes more than state reps, less than congressmen

While holding public office in the United States isn’t usually all pain, it is usually no gain. American culture has long held disdain for those who enrich themselves by suckling at the public teat, and a Smoky Mountain News investigation proves that — at least locally — the salary and benefits offered to county commissioners in Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties aren’t making any of them rich.

Members of the Cherokee Tribal Council are hands-down the highest-paid local representatives in Western North Carolina, with other commissioner stipends paling in comparison to the $80,000-plus per year councilmembers receive as salary. 

Over the course of thousands of years lived in the Southern Appalachian mountains, the Cherokee people had pretty well developed a system of relationship with the land that ensured they harvested what they needed to live while leaving enough to ensure future generations would yield the same benefit. 

But then there was the arrival of Europeans, years of conflict, the removal, and the establishment of the Qualla Boundary under the supervision of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It’s been a long time since Cherokee land was truly managed in the Cherokee tradition, but with the impending approval of a new forest management plan the pendulum is swinging back closer than it’s been in a long time.

Tempers flared in Cherokee Tribal Council this month as some councilmembers alleged that a subset of their colleagues had gone rogue, holding backroom meetings in which they decided to subpoena tribal departments for sensitive information as part of investigations launched without the knowledge of the full council.

Twice each year, every Cherokee tribal member gets a payout of thousands of dollars — called a per capita payment — based on profits at the two tribally owned casinos.

The afternoon of Sept. 27 took an unusual turn in the Cherokee Justice Center when Human Resources Employment Manager Patricia Watkins and a pair of Cherokee Indian Police Department officers arrived to escort Chief Justice Bill Boyum off the premises.

Tension has been high in Cherokee tribal government lately, and when rumors emerged last week that some members of Tribal Council were planning to get Principal Chief Patrick Lambert impeached, it didn’t take long for the gossip to get a public airing.

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