Cherokee Nation Celebrates Holiday, Prepares For New Election

Sunday, September 4th 2011, 9:18 am
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma -- The Cherokee Holiday started with a big parade Saturday as citizens celebrate the anniversary of the signing of their constitution. The two men vying to lead the Nation didn't miss the big chance to campaign.

Supporters for candidate Chad Smith wore T-shirts emblazoned with his name, and Bill John Baker's faithful carried banners next to his float.

"We must once again come together," said Cherokee Interim Chief Joe Crittenden. As deputy chief, Crittenden is leading the nation until the election.

"Nerve racking a little bit," he said of Nation's recent circumstances. "It's historic, and we're making the best that we can of it."

Cherokees soon head to the polls again after the Nation's high court threw out the disputed results for the chief's race. Citizens say it's uncharted territory.

"Our government is functioning real well just like it is. It's something that we're not used to," said Buel Anglen, Cherokee citizen.

8/23/2011 Related Story: Opinions Differ On Cherokee Court's Freedman Decision

The theme of this year's celebration is jobs, language, and community. Voters say they plan to elect a chief with those ideals in mind.

"I actually expect the voice of the people to be heard in the second election, and I hope that is what happens," said Cherokee Nation citizen Rachel Rasdal.

Cherokees come in from all over the world for this holiday. The acting chief says while the nation is diverse, they come from one fire and should remember that as they choose their next leader.

"It's about the people that put you in the office that you need to represent," said Cherokee Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden. "So, of the two candidates, that's what the people need to decide is which one will represent them the best."

The election for chief is September 24th. Meanwhile, the descendants of black slaves once owned by Cherokees, known as Freedmen, filed a preliminary injunction.

They're asking the Federal courts to allow them to vote in that election -- after the Cherokee Nation stripped 3,000 Freedmen of their citizenship.

Their next court date is September 20th.