Mary Baker Shaw Defends Vote to Hand Spending Power to Chief Hoskin Jr.

The first-term tribal councilor is facing re-election in 2021.

Early last week, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council voted on a measure that will give unchecked spending power of contracts up to $1 million dollars to Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., contracts that are historically required to be approved by the Tribal Council. This resolution brought significant legal questions from Cherokee citizens and constitutional scholars, many of whom said that the measure was unconstitutional on its face, as it requires one branch of the Cherokee Nation government to abdicate its responsibilities to another.

Following a large amount of discussion on social media about this resolution, Councilor Mary Baker Shaw released the following statement:

"I have received many questions about the recent Tribal Council resolution that was approved at the meeting on April 27, 2020. The primary question I have been asked was whether the resolution authorizing the Principal Chief to execute certain contracts was a violation of Article X Section 7 of the Cherokee Nation Constitution?

Several of the Council Members, including myself, presented this question to the attorney for the Tribal Council, and also requested a legal opinion from the Cherokee Nation Attorney General. It was our goal to insure that we complied with the requirements of our Constitution and by working with the attorney for the Tribal Council and requiring the opinion of the Attorney General, we are certain that we have fulfilled our constitutional duty to uphold the Cherokee Nation Constitution.

The resolution was a simple request from the Principal Chief to the Council asking for authorization to execute certain contracts necessary for the emergency response to the COVID19 pandemic. The resolution specifically requested authorization from the Tribal Council pursuant to Article X, Section 7 of the Cherokee Nation Constitution. Article X Section 7 states “that credit of the Cherokee Nation shall not be given, pledged, or loaned to any individual, firm, company, corporation, or association without the approval of the Council.” The resolution as approved by the Tribal Council specifically satisfies this Constitutional requirement because the Council is approving those contracts necessary for the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including any that may require a pledge of Cherokee Nation credit, that will need to be executed during the current Emergency Disaster.

The initial draft of the resolution presented by the executive office did not have the detail or enough specification to satisfy several Council Members, which caused the Principal Chief to schedule various telephone conferences with the Council Members to answer their questions and to modify the resolution to include more specifics and certain limitations.

Some of those changes included the limitation that this approval would expire with the current Emergency Disaster Declaration, which will be 60-days from March 16, 2020. We also know that it may be extended as necessary to combat this emergency, and we will continue to diligently monitor the use of this authorization.

Finally, the Opinion of the Attorney General issued on this question specifically stated that the resolution was constitutionally sound, and not a violation of the requirement of Article X, Section 7. Any official opinion of the Attorney General is the law of the Cherokee Nation unless overturned by an opinion or order of the Cherokee Nation Court. As such, it is the law of the Cherokee Nation that the resolution has satisfied the authorization requirements of the Cherokee Nation Constitution and is not unconstitutional.

I hope this helps you understand how seriously I consider my obligations to uphold the Cherokee Nation Constitution, and though everyone may not agree on the meaning of certain legal terminology and constitutional provisions we are all Cherokee and trying to do what is best for our people."

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