Cherokee Nation tribunal approves new Constitution

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Tahlequah, Oklahoma — A Cherokee Nation tribunal has approved the new 1999 constitution that was passed by Cherokee voters in July 2003. Two of the three justices ruled that approval of the constitution by the Bureau of Indian Affairs was not necessary and that the new constitution is effective immediately.

The constitution includes the creation of a speaker for the legislative council and would be the third in line of succession, behind the Principal Chief and Deputy Chief. The constitution also changes the name of the Judicial Appeals Tribunal to the Supreme Court and increases its size from three to five. Another provision is a two consecutive term limit for elected officials.

Principle Chief Chad Smith said. "This is a historic day for the Cherokee Nation ... our constitution requires that the people review our constitutional laws every 20 years, and modify when necessary. Today, the (Supreme) Court has reaffirmed the obvious, we were a government exercising inherent sovereignty before there was a United States. The greatest exercise of that sovereignty is to pass our own constitution, without interference from outsiders."

For a side-by-side comparison of the 1976 and 1999 constitutions, see The 1999 Constitution of the Cherokee Nation: A review and comparison between the 1976 and 1999 Constitutions of the Cherokee Nation in preparation for the Ratification Vote on July 26, 2003.