Cherokee tribal council
The tribal council of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians meets Feb. 2, 2017, to discuss impeachment proceedings against the tribe's principal chief. Smoky Mountain Times

Editor’s note: This story is republished through a content-sharing agreement with The Smoky Mountain Times.

By Tony Fortier-Bensen, The Smoky Mountain Times

It was a busy and crazy day for Cherokee on Thursday, Feb. 2.

Early in the morning, 26 agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation took over the Qualla Housing Authority, seizing at least eight file cabinets, computers and many documents and records.

No arrests were made, but Principal Chief Patrick Lambert said he expects arrests to be made in the near future.

Soon after, Vice-Chairman Brandon Jones pushed a motion forward to begin the process of impeachment of Lambert during the regular tribal council meeting, following the release of an internal audit of day-to-day employee matters under Lambert’s leadership. (See Feb. 2 edition of Smoky Mountain Times for more on the audit.)

“The tribe is divided,” said Jones. “It’s not fair for the chief and council to drag it out….the only way to move forward as a nation is bring legislation to vote it up or down.”

Tribal council voted nine to three, favoring the impeachment process. The three opposed were Big Cove representatives Richard French and Teresa McCoy and Painttown Representative Tommye Saunooke.

During the two-hour debate, council chambers were filled to the brim with mostly supporters of Lambert.  Many enrolled members spoke out in support of the chief and one in support of the impeachment.

“This action you’re taking is absolutely ridiculous; 71 percent of the people voted to put this man in office,” said enrolled member Ann Blythe. “Please go home and think about what you’re doing cause we have 71 percent to get rid of every damn one of you.”

Council now has to set a hearing date for Lambert, and if the process continues afterwards, it could lead to a Grand Council, which is a vote consisting of all enrolled members that supersedes anything the legislative or executive branch votes.

See more coverage in next week’s edition of Smoky Mountain Times.

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