Cherokee Nation Gets New Chief

Sunday, August 15th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The new Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chad Smith, is taking office and says the tribe is ready to start it's second Golden Age. In the late 1800's, the tribe had schools, universities and independence, after four years of turmoil, Smith says the renaissance begins today.

The campaigning ended last month, but Chief Elect Chad Smith continued to meet and greet Cherokees moments before he was sworn in. Smith wore a historic Sequoyah jacket, popular during the tribe's golden age, in the 1800's. Many Cherokees, including actor Wes Studi, called it a memorable day. "It is a good day to be alive, is it not," says Studi.

Thousands of Cherokees packed the lawn of the chronicled Cherokee Courthouse for the inauguration. The historic building has witnessed old and new conflicts. Smith wants it to witness rebirth. His dream for upcoming generations is economic independence, strong schools and universities. "We begin this inquiry on sacred ground, here at our courthouse and Capital. The spirits of our ancestors come here to reminiscence about their days of long ago," says Smith.

Former chiefs Wilma Mankiller and Ross Swimmer both applaud Smith's dream. "I like everybody's message of renewal of renaissance and putting differences aside," says Mankiller. "It's going to get the turmoil off the front page and put down the things that are happening in the Cherokee Nation," says Swimmer.

The former leader of the Cherokees, Joe Byrd, made a brief appearance, but didn't participate in the ceremony of renewal. Current and former leaders planted a pine tree, where a similar tree had previously died, as a symbol of unity, growth and peace.