February 15, 2000
On December 14,1999 Principal Chief Chad Smith received the Bureau of Indian Affairs response to the Constitution Commission’s nine-month effort to receive approval of the New Constitution we adopted on March 6, 1999. Commission Chairman Ralph Keen outlined the content of that document in his Progress Report to the three branches of government on February 14, 2000.
The final analysis of the Bureau’s position is simply translated as “no approval” of our constitution as submitted. Their position is divided into three basic levels: mandated language changes, suggested language changes, and most inflammatory, mandated ratification procedures. It is the Chairman’s opinion that the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ position on these requirements is fixed an unwavering. Negotiation has been carried to the highest level of the Bureau with little indication of movement toward consideration of compromise. Before the Convention should take up consideration or debate of the Bureau’s mandated and suggested language changes, the mandated ratification process must be addressed.
Recognized that we are a free and sovereign people with original and inherent rights to govern ourselves and seeing no clearly delineated path for resolution of the impasse between our Constitution Convention and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, I placed a motion before the Constitution Commission on February 12, 2000. My motion directed the Commission to go before the Tribal Council and seek their evoking of the amendment process as outlined in Article XV, Section 2 of the 1976 Constitution. The amendment sought would be to strike the requirement to obtain approval from the President of the United States or his designee of any new constitution. This amendment, if ratified in a special election, would render moot out self-imposed constitutional requirement for approval by the Bureau of Indian Affairs thus allowing our new constitution to be placed before the Cherokee People for ratification. The motion was passed unanimously and Commission Chairman Keen has set a schedule for introduction of the request before the Tribal Council as soon as possible. Careful consideration was given to a number of possible strategies with the amendment approach emerging as the most judicious.
I know that each of you has been anxious with regard to the finalization of our Constitution Convention and seeing our work product submitted before our people. Now after an almost year long struggle to move through the Bureau’s review process, I believe this course of action is the most available avenue to delivering our New Constitution to the Cherokee People as it was adopted by the Convention.
As quickly as events unfold, the Commission will take care in communication openly its agenda and progress to initiate this plan. Please know that your Convention Chairman is as resolute today as he was on February 27, 1999 in safeguarding our charge that the “work of the people” be completed for the betterment of the Cherokee Nation.
D. Jay Hannah, Chairman
1999 Constitution Convention