Tribal Council – Legislative Branch
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians
Rosie R. McCoy
The Legislative Branch of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians consists of 12 representatives, collectively known as the Tribal Council. There are two representatives for the following townships: Yellowhill, Big Cove, Birdtown, Wolftown, and Painttown. The Snowbird and Cherokee County communities are considered one township, and two representatives are elected to represent this district.
Council members are elected to serve two-year terms. They are compensated for their services, and may not receive a pay increase during a current seated term. Any pay increase must be passed by Council legislation, and will only be enacted when the next-elected Council is seated.
Qualifications for a Council candidate include being 18 years of age by the date of the election, and the person must reside in the township he/she represents for at least one year preceding the date of the election. Per passed ordinance, Council representatives must reside in the township he/she represents during their term of office.
Tribal Council meetings are traditionally held on the first Thursday of each month in the Council Chambers located in Cherokee, NC. Budget Council is the Tuesday before. If there is a conflicting holiday, or a reason that Tribal offices are closed, Council reserves the right to move the Council sessions to another date. Council meetings may be viewed live on local Channel 28. Certain Council committee meetings are televised as well.
Annual Council is held on the first Monday of each October. The Principal Chief may call a Special Council meeting. However, no business may be transacted at any Council meeting without a quorum of members present. “Quorum” is defined in the Charter & Governing Document of the EBCI, Section 10, as “…a majority of the members of Council elected at the last preceding election.”
A Chairperson and Vice Chair are elected by their peers. The Chair and/or Vice Chair may be replaced for failure to perform his/her duties as deemed by the Council.
Once Council has taken action on legislation, the resolution/ordinance is then signed by the Chairman of Council, Council Clerk, and the Principal Chief. This is called the ratification process. If an act by Council is not signed or vetoed by the Chief, it automatically becomes law in 30 days. The Chief may choose to veto a resolution/ordinance passed by the Tribal Council. The issue is then brought back to Council, and there must be a two-thirds vote of Council to override the veto. If not, the veto stands.
If a Council member dies, resigns, or cannot serve a new Council member is elected by the respective Township under rules and regulations adopted by Council or the current established Election Ordinance. No one is eligible for Council who has “…aided, abetted, counseled, or encouraged any person or persons guilty of defrauding the EBCI , or themselves have defrauded the Tribe, or who may hereafter aide or abet, or encourage any0one in defrauding the EBCI. Neither shall any person be eligible to such office who has been convicted of a felony.” (Per Section 17, Charter & Governing Document of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians)
Once elected, Tribal Council members take an oath of office, and are seated for their respective township. Council members vote on a weighted basis based on a Tribal census of each community. The number of enrolled members in each community determines that Council members’ weighted vote. All Council members, including the Chair and Vice Chair, are allowed to vote on issues in Council.
Section 23 of the Charter & Governing document outlines Council authority. “The Tribal Council is hereby fully authorized and empowered to adopt laws and regulations for the general government of the Tribe, government the management of real and personal property held by the Tribe, and direct and assign among its members thereof, homes in the Qualla Boundary and other land held by them as a Tribe, and is hereby vested with full power to enforce obedience to such laws and regulations as may be enacted.”
Tribal Council begins at 8:30 a.m., and generally starts with reports & announcements. Business is continued at timed intervals until the agenda is completed. If necessary, Council may recess to reconvene at another directed time to complete Council business. Council meetings are held at the Council House in Cherokee, NC. Council may vote to hold Executive Sessions closed to the public, but no action can be taken until the session is re-opened.
Council members have five minutes of debate and/or discussion time. Another member may yield his/her time to a Council peer. The time limit applies unless suspended by a majority vote for a specific matter. If an individual in the audience desires recognition, that person must be recognized by the Council Chair via their Council Representative, or by presenting a resolution/ordinance or request for time to Council.
For detailed information regarding Council procedures, please visit www.municode.com. The section pertaining to Council is Section 117, entitled “Tribal Government.” The EBCI Code is located on the Muni Code website, and is available for public viewing.