Over the years, a few people have approached me saying they would like to run for the Tribal Council, and what do I think they need to know about the At Large Cherokees? I have wondered, if they don’t already have some idea about that, then why do they want to run?
Wilma Mankiller once said that she thought the people who made the best Tribal Councilors were the ones who had worked for the Cherokee Nation or who had worked in Cherokee community organizations. The Tribal Council can be a steep learning curve for anyone, but experience gained within Cherokee communities and employment with the Nation is invaluable toward moving quickly into being an effective advocate for one’s constituency.
I am not an entry-level person. I have already served two terms on the Tribal Council and will step back into it seamlessly and be immediately effective. But even in my first term on the Council, I was not an entry-level person. This is not a second career for me, it has been my entire career. All of the employment that I have had throughout my lifetime feeds directly into my role as a Tribal Councilor.
I was an entry-level person at one time. I started at the beginning and I learned. There’s a reason to start at the beginning. My perspectives of our culture, our government, and our widely-dispersed citizens changed a lot over the years as I put in the time and built knowledge and relationships. I imagine this is true for everyone who is doing the work.
I completely agree with Chief Mankiller, who was speaking from her own firsthand experience: when one has put in the time working in communities and/or tribal employment, then one has a much better idea of how to make a difference at the legislative and policy level of the Tribal Council.
“Julia Coates is an experienced Cherokee legislator with a public record of how she has supported and acted for the people. Julia remained involved and did not disappear after serving. We need experienced Cherokees to serve in this capacity, not those ‘who want to get involved.’ This is not the place for those wanting to make a difference, but who have not built a public record of what they would do, or what they have done. Experience is essential. We don't have time for on-the-job training at this level of governance.” – Twila Pennington, retired Cherokee Nation employee with over 40 years of experience in non-profit organizations, Cherokee County, OK