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Guest Opinion. On June 15 of this year, Cherokee Nation voters will have an opportunity to call for a review of our entire Constitution, and potentially change it. The decision is consequential.

The Constitution of the Cherokee Nation, adopted by a convention of citizens in 1999 and fully implemented in 2003, requires elected officials to work together to periodically place a single question before the voters: Should we convene a convention to review and possibly change the Constitution?

A “yes” vote on June 15 means you want the entire Constitution reviewed and potentially changed at a convention. That rewritten Constitution would then be returned to the ballot for approval or disapproval by the voters at a later date.

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A “no” vote on June 15 keeps our Constitution in place as is.

I, of course, will vote on June 15. As any Cherokee does, I have an opinion on the subject.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

I was a delegate to the 1999 Constitutional Convention. I served as a member of the Council of the Cherokee Nation (2007-2013) under the new Constitution. I’ve served in one of the posts created by the Constitution, Secretary of State (2013-2019). And, of course, I have served as Principal Chief since 2019, executing the duties and obligations as the elected chief executive under our Constitution.

During my time in public service, I have seen our Constitution operate up close. It is an amazing document that has served us well. It compels elected officials to conduct the public’s business in a transparent way. It places all three branches of government on a separate but equal plane.

Our Constitution ensures accountably, demands responsibility and strikes a balance that works so well. Our Constitution provides for the equality of our citizens, opportunities for them to redress their grievances and a framework for their government to function efficiently and effectively. This framework has ushered in an unprecedented era of prosperity and the assertion of tribal sovereignty. Our ancestors would be proud.

We do not need a constitutional convention to amend the Constitution, which is another great feature of our current Constitution. The Cherokee people can call for changes and so can the Council (by sending a single amendment to voters). So, if our current Constitution needs amending here or there, we the people have the power to do that as we see fit at any time.

I will be voting “no” on June 15, but I respect those who disagree. Most of all, I encourage everyone to vote on this important question. But, as your Chief, I feel obliged to explain my position.

To me, it comes down to the old saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Our Constitution is not broken. Any issues that may exist in our Constitution can be repaired by individual amendments through a vote of the people, not wholesale changes. A convention invites mass changes where mass changes are not needed.

We now have decades of experience demonstrating that our Constitution works exceptionally well. We are stable. We are growing. Your government officials are responsible, transparent, effective and accountable because our Constitution demands it. Decades of progress and a reputation as one of the most effective governments in the land, and our status as the leader of Indian Country, suggests we should stay the course. A “no” vote on June 15 does just that.

Let me address an issue of some speculation. Public discussion of the vote on a Cherokee Nation constitutional convention has invariably led to questions as to whether I want a convention to repeal term limits. I do not.

Although I philosophically oppose term limits and have said so publicly, the Cherokee people have spoken in favor of term limits. Twice. In both instances, the people favored term limits of two consecutive terms for elected officials. Although I have the energy and desire to serve more terms as your Chief, I would not seek to do this by throwing the whole Constitution open for changes. This office belongs to the people, not to me. After I complete my second term on Aug. 14, 2027, the Cherokee people will have a new leader, the progress will continue and I will return to my role as a private citizen.

So, my message to the Cherokee people is to participate in our democracy, regardless of your opinion, and vote in the June 15 special election. Make your vote a thoughtful one based on your hopes and concerns as well as the interests of your fellow Cherokee Nation citizens. Consider the opportunities to make changes, as well as the perils. Consider that the people always possess the right to make changes to the Constitution as issues arise. Consider whether the Constitution is so “broke” that it needs “fixed” by throwing the entire document open for changes.

I’ll be voting “no” on June 15. I certainly respect those who disagree. No matter the outcome, I will remain faithful to our Constitution, faithful to the Cherokee people and ever optimistic that our best days lay ahead.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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About The Author
Author: Chuck Hoskin JrEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.