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The Dartmouth
May 24, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Chief speaks on Cherokees' future

Newly elected Chief of the Cherokee Nation Chad Smith spoke at Dartmouth on Friday afternoon, focusing on reasons not to support casino gaming and addressing the challenges the tribe will face in the next 100 years.

Smith said his main objective in the next 18 moths will be re-engineering the system of government in the Cherokee nation.

Some of the major challenges he noted were finding a sustainable model of economic development, funding health care for all Cherokee citizens and promoting higher education through non-Federal grants.

"We will not accept second class citizenship," Smith said. "We will not accept patronage. When we plan now, we are not planning for four or eight year terms, but rather for the next 100 years."

He said the Cherokees had to find an economic alternative to casino gaming because the tribe had decided not to support it.

"We're not involved in casino gaming because of Federal Law," he said. "Since Congress passed the Gaming Regulatory Act, we have been held to a higher standard. We also have 35 tribes in Oklahoma. If we had 35 casinos, the market would not be able to support it."

"Casino gaming is not the savior of Indian tribes," he said.

Smith also said there is a problem with the widespread perception that Indians get special treatment under United States' laws.

"Why does Mr. Trump appear in front of Congress and say that the Indians are getting away with something when he has gotten away with much more?" he asked.

Looking ahead to the U.S. Presidential elections in 2000, Smith said he was looking for a president who would return treaty rights to the Cherokees.

"Senator McCain is outstanding in his allegiance to Indians," he said. "The Democrats still haven't come out with their platform towards the Indians."

Cultural preservation will be another goal of the new Cherokee administration, Smith said.

"We're one generation away from cultural extinction," he said. "We plan to teach our children about our culture through a variety of methods, including interactive CD-ROMS and other such media."

Smith also addressed class stratification in the Cherokee nation, and said it should be eliminated as the 21st century approaches.

"If we are successful in one area of business, then there will be a consensus management model, so there should not be an economic upper class," he said.

He added that the current class system that exists in the Cherokee nation is based upon whether a person is full-blood Cherokee or mixed-blood.

The Cherokee nation has a population of 208,000 and the vast majority of it's citizens are mixed-blood.

Smith was a visiting professor at Dartmouth for the winter term in 1996, when he taught two courses about Native Americans and the law.