Julia Coates Announcing Candidacy for Re-election!
This year, the seat I currently occupy on the Tribal Council will come open. And last Tuesday, in Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, I filed my candidacy for re-election as your At Large Tribal Councilor!
It has been my very distinct honor and pleasure to serve the At Large citizens of the Cherokee Nation for the past 25 years as an independent scholar; a Cherokee Nation employee; a volunteer, teacher, and liaison to At Large communities; and an elected official. Advancing the standing and promoting the engagement of the At Large citizens has been my life’s work. I have been so blessed to spend my life in public service to a people, a cause, and a Nation – work that has given a foundation and purpose to my own life as well. For me, I am inextricably tied to each of you, whether I know you personally or not, and I want you to know how much you mean to me and, more importantly, to the well-being and the future of the Cherokee Nation. As an At Large citizen, you are an integral part of the Cherokee story in the 21st century!
We have come a long way in these past 25 years. I well recall the cause launched by a coalition of At Large delegates (including me) at the 1999 Constitutional Convention for a constitutional amendment establishing council representation for At Large Cherokee Nation. We were facing a tenor of fear, some stereotyping, and a good deal of gatekeeping from some of the other delegates. Another At Large delegate, Martha Berry (now a Cherokee National Treasure), characterized it thus: “We are described as a people who know nothing, who only want benefits, who don’t care, and conversely who want to take over!” Nevertheless, the amendment was adopted with the support of still other in-district citizens who supported our cause.
In 2007, when I became one of the first two elected At Large representatives to the Tribal Council, the sentiment still existed. Some of my fellow councilors stated they did not think At Large citizens should even be able to vote. It has been a long undertaking to advance not only the cause of representation, but to go further and begin to build bridges between At Large citizens and those at home within the Cherokee Nation reservation boundaries. With the establishment of two dozen At Large satellite organizations throughout the country, and the efforts of the Cherokee Nation’s Community and Cultural outreach group, the barriers of unfamiliarity have largely been overcome. We know each other better now and we find we are more similar than we might have ever believed.
I often think about these last two decades and the changes I have been a part of. I no longer hear the sentiments of fear or the desire for disenfranchisement of the At Large citizens, even from those who had previously expressed them. Our place in this Nation is assumed in a way it was not 25 years ago. I believe it would feel strange to most citizens of the Cherokee Nation if At Large people were not an engaged part of its citizenry. We not only participate in voting, but in angel trees, coat drives, and Nation-wide community conferences. We serve on its boards and commissions and in its judicial branch. We work in its business enterprises, its health system, and its non-profit organizations. We advocate to federal legislators in our own states for our Cherokee Nation delegate to be seated in Congress, for increased emergency funding, for the welfare of our Cherokee foster and adoptive children, and for treaty and tribal rights to be upheld.
We have done so much, but there will always be more to dream. Recently we have been included in ways I didn’t expect to see so soon, if ever. Under the administration of Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, At Large citizens have been incorporated into pandemic relief programs, elder and student assistance, and disaster assistance. Some aspects of health services have been extended to At Large citizens. There are plans for special patient navigators for At Large citizens and discussions of implementing telehealth initiatives. As the resources of the Cherokee Nation continue to grow, At Large citizens have been included in the expansion and are no longer just an afterthought.
My vision of who we are and who we could become has also grown throughout these decades, and I know that many others have shared in this vision as well. I am so gratified for my constituents by the changes I have seen and had the honor to be a part of. I thank you very much for the trust and faith you have given to me for these many years, and I ask you to do so once more as together we continue to write our 21st century story as At Large citizens of the great Cherokee Nation!
P.S. I maintain an email distribution by which I inform At Large citizens specifically of matters of interest to them. If you would like to be added to that list to receive regular updates, please contact me.