A law that was adopted Thursday will allow tribal officials to banish members of the tribe from the reservation, and also provides for harsh jail terms for those convicted of drug-related crimes. Banished tribal members will still receive benefits, including thousands of dollars each year from casino revenues.
The law does allow for an appeal and possible reinstatement.
“The law shows that the tribe will not shrink from asserting its full legal authority to arrest, prosecute, sentence and remove drug offenders from tribal land,” Principal Chief Michell Hicks said in a written statement Wednesday. “Our communities deserve the protections this law provides.”
It is clear that the Cherokees consider drugs to be a menace on their reservation, one that they are not prepared to idly watch take their toil. They join other tribes, including the Lummi Nation of Washington, Upper Sioux Community in Minnesota, and the Chippewa of Grand Portage, Minn., in adopting the banishment law.
Our belief is that those who participate in crime seldom consider the consequences, so it's hard to know how effective the measure might be as a deterrent. But its potential to enhance the quality of life on the reservation is substantial.
The obvious question is whether the Lumbee Tribal Council might consider a similar measure. The Lumbees don't have as much leverage - there is no reservation to be kicked off, nor are there casino revenues that would be withheld - but tribal membership has its privileges, especially when it comes to housing dollars.
And when the Lumbees gain federal recognition, the ante would be much higher. Of course, some of those dollars would best be spent on preventative and rehabilitative programs.
There is no way to measure the damage that drugs inflict each day on the Lumbee community, but it is substantial, just as it is among whites and blacks in Robeson County. The difference is the Lumbees, because they are self-governing, have additional tools at their disposal to combat the problem.