Message from your Councilman-at-Large:
Last fall, 2015, marked the 177th anniversary of the start of the Trail of Tears, when we were forced to leave our homelands. Our ancestors endured unfathomable hardship and tragedy, yet they never gave up, and Cherokee people persevered. We estimate a quarter of the 16,000 Cherokees who started out on the Trail of Tears perished.
Knowing where we come from, and the fortitude and strength our ancestors showed in starting over in Oklahoma, is something deeply personal to each and every Cherokee. That history lies within each of us and is a legacy that is ingrained in us as a people—and as a sovereign nation. After removal, the Cherokee people reestablished governments in Oklahoma and North Carolina. Tribal school systems were created and courts were established; a newspaper informed citizens of events and the day’s news. We rebuilt one of history’s most sophisticated societies.
Today, the Cherokees are nationwide models for economic, political and cultural sustainability and autonomy.
The members of the Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama are the descendants of those Indian people who escaped the infamous “Trail of Tears” by hiding out in the mountainous backwoods and lowlands of the Southeast. Others fled from the march after it began and others simply walked away and came home after reaching Indian Territory. They kept to themselves, did not speak the language and did not teach it to their children for fear the child might speak it in the presence of someone who would learn the secret of their ancestry. If this happened, they could immediately be taken into custody and sent to Indian Territory in the West. Everything they owned could be given away by the State.
As Cherokee people, we are stronger today than ever before.
How often are Echota elected leaders chosen?
The Governing Body of the Tribe consists of a Principal Chief, a Vice Chief, a Recording Secretary, a Membership Secretary, a Treasurer and a six member tribal Council.
The Principal Chief, Vice-Chief, and Tribal Council are elected to four-year terms by registered tribal voters over the age of 18.
What responsibilities do I have as a Councilman?
As an Echota Councilman, I have taken an oath of office to preserve the history, the culture, and the heritage of the Cherokees. I take my oath very seriously, and every decision I make, I make for the betterment of the Cherokee people. I was taught that we honor our ancestors by living healthy, productive lives that leave our world better for the next seven generations. That is a principle that guides me day in and day out as the Councilman-at-Large of the Echota Tribe.
How did your life experience prepare you to help lead your Tribe?
I am uniquely qualified to be a councilman of the Echota Cherokee Tribal Council. I have worn many hats as a father, businessman, working for two Governors, and in the private business sector, I understand budgeting, fiscal responsibility, and job creation. Because my parents and both my grandmothers never had the opportunity to go to college, I grew up seeing the value of quality education and how it can shape the lives of young people. As a former contractor, I built houses and saw firsthand how important a home is for successful family development. I’ve also farmed on my family land, which helped me develop an appreciation for conservation and natural resource protection. Due to family health problems, I have seen how quality health care can improve the lives of our families and our communities.
Who inspired you as a mentor?
I’m inspired by many Cherokee citizens throughout history—the leadership of Chief John Ross, who led the Cherokees during the removal period; the political insight and humor of Will Rogers; and the scholarly work of Sequoyah. However, my Cherokee Mother has always been my moral compass in life. She was dedicated to community and forward progress; her ideals were guided by her faith and her family. She always led by example and lived with the greater good in mind. I strive every day to match her work ethic, her priorities, and her spirit.
What message would you like to share with the youth of your Tribe?
Cherokee young people are the tribe’s most valuable asset. To them I would say, “Always be proud to be Cherokee, honor your elders. Your Tribe is here to serve you. We will always be here for you to ensure you are healthy, have a home, and have access to a quality education. As your Tribe nurtures you, one day you will give back to your people. You are our hope for a brighter future. The strength of our Tribe and preservation of our culture mean that generation after generation of Cherokees have taken on that responsibility to lead. As a people, we have shown time and time again that we will not only survive against all odds, but we will also thrive.”
If you are an At Large member, I am here to represent you. Let me know your thoughts, problems, and ideas.
I will borrow a phrase from the great Will Rogers: “I am a Cherokee, and it's the proudest little possession I ever hope to have."
Echota Cherokee Tribe of Alabama
P.O. Box 255
Fayette, AL 35555