Open letter to the Cherokee people

(Photo: Chad Smith)

Chad Corntassel Smith, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation 1999-2011, 'saddened to see the corruption that has taken over the Cherokee Nation'

My greatest fear has been that a history book would record in a footnote, “There once was a great Cherokee Nation but it is no more.” That footnote will be written if we are not engaged in the Nation’s government if we don’t vote, and if we don’t pressure elected officials to hold their offices sacred and not for self-gain. 

It saddens me to see the corruption that has taken over the Cherokee Nation. Recently, I have been reviewing our history of the Trail of Tears and allotment where our ancestors suffered indescribable pain, loss of family, and betrayal. To see what our ancestors went through, appreciate the legacy they left, and then observe today’s tribal government leaves me feeling disheartened and ashamed. 

If we needed confirmation of current corruption, look at Chuck Hoskins’ intense campaign of trashy personal attacks on his opponent. That is not the way to lead the Cherokee Nation!  

Today, Cherokee Nation employees fear they and their children might lose their jobs, or their businesses will lose Cherokee Nation contracts from retaliation for speaking up. 

Their fear is well-founded. 

Since 2011, the Free/Baker/Hoskins administration has:

  • Repealed nepotism laws resulting in Baker and Hoskins hiring dozens of their relatives at inflated salaries. Baker hired his brother as a lawyer paying him over $500,000 per year and hired his son as a nurse who exposed 160 Cherokees to diseases by reusing needles at Hastings Hospital.
  • Repealed the employee protection laws stripping Cherokee employees of rights, especially Housing Authority employees who can be fired for no reason. 
  • Raised $1.4 Million in campaign funds by pressuring employees and contractors to kickback as much as $5,000 contribution each. 
  • Changed campaign laws to permit absentee ballot harvesting (which is illegal in the United States), to not disclose where absentee ballots are sent, and to hide campaign contributions and expenditures. Hoskins’ campaign paid his father’s company $540,000 without any specification about what it was used for. 
  • Used the Cherokee Nation’s resources to reward Free/Baker/Hoskins’ friends and to punish those who disagree with them. For example, Baker gave Hoskins a $100,000 raise by coming to work for the Cherokee Nation in 2011 and Baker pays his secretary $150,000. Free, a non-Cherokee attorney/consultant has been paid millions of dollars of Cherokee money to manage Baker and Hoskins political affairs.

When such abuse occurs, critical services for health care, education, and the elderly suffer.

We cannot turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the corruption and self-dealing of the Free/Baker/Hoskins regime. If we love our Nation and want to hand down an honorable government to our children, we must act now.  

Vote for independent candidates: 

  • David Walkingstick for Principal Chief
  • Meredith Frailey for Deputy Principal Chief
  • Julia Coates for At-Large Council
  • Sean Crittenden for District 8
  • Ron Goff for District 6
  • Cara Cowan Watts for District 14
  • Billy Flint or Wes Nofire for District 3
  • Ryan Sierra for District 1
  • Dora Patzkowokki for District 12

These candidates stand for carrying forward a positive and proud Cherokee legacy.

Chad Corntassel Smith is a former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, serving 1999-2011. Prior to being elected Principal Chief, he worked as a lawyer for the tribe and in private practice. He taught Indian Law at Northeastern State University, Rogers State University, and for a semester at Dartmouth College while a visiting fellow.

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