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CHEROKEE — The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ newspaper recently published the names of individuals banished from lands where the Cherokee are sovereign, the first time the publication has done so.

In a list dating from 2000 to January of this year, 62 people were named as being unwelcome on the EBCI’s reservation and other, smaller properties the tribe owns in Western North Carolina.

Under one of the tribe’s laws, the EBCI Tribal Council has authority to ban people from Cherokee lands “when necessary to protect the integrity and law and order on Tribal lands and territory or the welfare of its members.”

At the same time, details about who has been banned and what that means have been scant, leading the Cherokee One Feather, a newspaper owned by the tribe, to launch a push to obtain the names.

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The newspaper published the list first online on Jan. 26 and then in its Feb. 3 print edition.

‘To be banished’

In a Dec. 12, 2015, editorial, One Feather editor Robert Jumper asked “What Must it Be Like to Be Banished?”

But the list of who was banished wasn’t readily available.

“I attempted to get a current copy from the Tribal Court, Cherokee Police Department, Attorney General’s Office, Tribal Operations Program and the Tribal Finance Office,” Jumper wrote. “The results in each case were the same. Either they did not have a copy or they did not have a current copy.”

Pressing on, the One Feather ultimately got the list, which mostly showed outsiders banned for drug or sexual offenses.

“To my knowledge, no enrolled member of the tribe has ever been banished,” Jumper told Carolina Public Press in an interview last week. “There’s no other clear definition (for banishment) other than that they present an immediate threat to the community.”

Jumper says the newspaper has gotten “quite a positive response” on social media among tribe members after posting the list.

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“The only negative responsive we have gotten is from family members who have banished people on the list,” he said. “The majority of the community is very happy that this is out there in public.”

At the same time, there’s no clear path forward with the newly published information.

Cherokee laws threaten fines and potential imprisonment for those who offer services to banished persons, Jumper noted. But whether such consequences could be meted out, and by which Cherokee institutions, remains unclear.

Jon Elliston

Jon Elliston is the lead contributing open government reporter at Carolina Public Press. Contact him at jelliston@carolinapublicpress.org.

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