Byrd Says New Cherokee Chief In For a Surprise

Tuesday, July 27th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The chief of the Cherokee nation passes the torch to the person who may be his biggest critic. But Chief Joe Byrd says the Chief-elect, Chad Smith, will be pleasantly surprised when he takes over.

From the beginning, the focal point of the Cherokee election campaign centered on the tribe's finances. "The Cherokee Nation is a house of cards ready to collapse," said Smith while he was campaigning. This criticism had Chief Byrd on his toes, defending himself. With Saturday night's loss, Byrd says he will be redeemed. "The Cherokee Nation is in good hands. There is no money missing. The system is up and running like I always said. And they are going to find once they get in there, wow, how good we have it now," said Byrd.

Some of the Cherokees who helped vote Byrd out of office don't trust him. One voter commented, "He (Byrd) try to destroy a bunch of stuff." Smith, who openly criticized Byrd, doesn't think that will happen. "I want to assure him and assure them that we are a true tribe. A tribe being a family of families. We need to set aside our differences, mutually heal our wounds, and focus on the good things that can come out of the great people of the Cherokee Nation," said Smith. Byrd agrees. And he knows Cherokees along with their new leaders will move the tribe in the right direction. "It is ready to go. It's ready to move forward and that's good," said Byrd.

Smith's supporters hope the present Cherokee leader they chastised so often, will be right.