TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Nine Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors were sworn into office Saturday as they pledged to preserve, protect and defend the Cherokee Nation Constitution during their four-year terms.
New and re-elected Tribal Councilors vowed to promote the culture, heritage and traditions of the Cherokee Nation as they stood before Supreme Court Chief Justice Rex Earl Starr.
“I’ve said before that a strong and effective Cherokee Council means a strong and effective Cherokee democracy,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “At its best, the Council is a place for ideas to take shape, a place where citizen legislators can gather and debate critical issues, and where they can advocate for their constituents as they reach a consensus on how the Cherokee Nation should progress forward. I believe the new and returning Councilors will help further the tribe’s efforts at providing a more sustainable and efficient government and keeping our sovereignty secure for our Cherokee citizens. I look forward to working toward that common goal as this new Council begins the important work of the Cherokee people.”
Five incumbents were re-elected during the General Election in June including District 4 Tribal Councilor Dr. Mike Dobbins, District 5 Tribal Councilor E.O. Smith, District 9 Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh, and District 11 Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez.
Newcomers taking office include District 2 Tribal Councilor Candessa Tehee, District 7 Tribal Councilor Joshua Sam, District 10 Tribal Councilor Melvina Shotpouch, District 15 Tribal Councilor Danny Callison, and At-Large Tribal Councilor Johnny Jack Kidwell. Callison was elected during the June General Election while Tehee, Sam, Shotpouch, and Kidwell were elected in a July run-off election.
“I’ve always had this in my heart to do this someday. Now finally being here, I just have so much gratitude to those who helped me and allowed me to be here today,” Sam said. “I’ve always had the heart to be of service, I just truly care for everyone. Jesus tells us to be a light, to be the salt of the world, and that’s what I plan to do. I want to serve my people.”
Callison said he is looking forward to helping Cherokee citizens within District 15.
“I’m a 64-year-old gentleman, but I feel like I’m an 18-year-old senior starting his first football game. The campaign was hard, but just to have the ability to help people, to help the people in my district, and to move the Cherokee Nation forward is too exciting,” Callison said. “I’m just excited for all of us, I have great pride. I think the present administration is doing a great job and I’m very supportive. Sometimes we don’t always see eye to eye with everything, but we have to learn to work together for the benefit of the people because that’s what the people of the Cherokee Nation need.”
Tehee said she is excited to be a voice for citizens of District 2.
“I ran for office to represent the people of District 2 and to help improve access to our services for our citizens. That’s really what I’m most excited about,” Tehee said. “I’m also excited about helping to strengthen our language program, and to focus on improving education about Cherokee culture for our citizens as well.”
The tribe’s legislative branch consists of a 17-member Tribal Council representing the 15 districts inside Cherokee Nation’s reservations and two at-large seats representing citizens who live outside the boundaries. Members are elected by popular vote to four-year terms.
“What I’m most excited about is being able to work with all the current and past legislators here today. Hopefully we can make everyone’s lives better and really work together and do some great things on the reservation and at large,” Kidwell said. “I definitely look forward to working with Secretary of Veterans Affairs Joe Crittenden on anything and everything that I can do to be helpful in promoting of veteran issues.”
More than 8,900 voters participated in the June General Election and more than 5,100 voters participated in the July run-off election.