The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Appalachia


Listen Now!

Use the links below to jump to open this episode on your favorite podcast platform.

Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts
Podcast Addict
Overcast Radio
Radio Public

Callie and Chuck talk to Chief Richard Sneed, the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. ALSO, Callie tells the origin story of Smoosh – her most recent rescue kitten, we talk about the conspiracy theory of the Georgia Guidestones, why the Ohio Senate GOP is complaining about too many number 2s and some new developments in telemedicine in Appalachia.


You can watch the video of this episode on Youtube!


Intro: Callie’s Cat Rescue Story

Chuck Corra: Today we are gonna get into a lot of cool stuff. We’re gonna talk about the Georgia Guidestones. We’re gonna talk about the Ohio Senate, GOP, and how they’re getting sent shit in the mail. We’ve got a great interview with Chief Richard Sneed, but first Callie is gonna regale us with her story of how she rescued this adorable cat real quick.

Callie Pruett: So I welcomed a new member of my family home this week. I love it already. I’m so excited. I’m so excited. She is fast asleep, but I’ll just hold her up for our YouTube viewers.

Chuck Corra: And if you are not on YouTube, you are missing out. Oh my gosh. So too, to describe to the listeners, we have this adorable cat, who’s maybe pushing a pound. If that.

Callie Pruett: She’s not even a pound, she doesn’t weigh as much as my phone. 

Chuck Corra: Okay. So the iPhone weighs more than a Smoosh. 

Rescuing Smoosh in the Lone Star State

Callie Pruett: I think that some people will know this from following me on Instagram, but I’ll just break it down because I think it’s a great story and I want our listeners to know, that everybody knows I’m an animal lover. So when I was in McAllen, Texas on the campaign recently, one morning I was backing out of my parking spot at my Airbnb that I was at for three weeks. And I backed out of the spot and I saw as I backed out a literal pile of kittens underneath my car, the mom had moved them underneath my car.

Luckily nobody got hurt. They were in the middle of the car. Everybody was good, but I immediately obviously stopped my car and these kittens. They were tiny. I had seen the mom when we first got there, she was pregnant. Then she had given birth on my neighbor’s doorstep and then she’d moved the kittens and we hadn’t seen them for probably a week.

These kittens, the mother had moved them back and there were five of them and they looked really bad, like eyes crusted shut and swollen with infections, little sores on their bellies and their arms. They were just dirty and It was clear that it was a little bit too much for mom to handle.

So I moved them all to my porch. I turned my laundry basket into a little Fort for them to live in. And I started treating these kittens. I learned from the kitten lady, that many folks probably follow her on Instagram. And she has tons of tips about how to help neonatal kittens. No, because the reason that I took this on myself was that I called.

Every shelter in the McAllen area. And there’s just not the infrastructure and animal care there to be able to take care of neonatal kittens in the way that they need to be taken care of. So these kittens couldn’t eat kibble. They had to be with mom. So I left them outside with mom. But I started treating them with antibiotics in their eyes and giving them baths and getting mom treated for fleas and ticks and all of that good stuff.

I started making calls and I knew that McAllen wasn’t the answer because there wasn’t the infrastructure. And luckily my new father-in-law has an in with an organization called Alley Cat Allies, a big shout out to them. They flew someone down from Austin to pick up these kittens and take them to Houston, to the best cat shelter in Texas. The money involved in animal welfare organizations is bonkers because there are so many billionaires out there who are just like me and will give hundreds of millions of dollars to an organization like Alley Cat Allies. We will take those billionaires.

Chuck Corra: We will. Yeah. Most billionaires gotta suck, but the ones that are funding shit like that, keep doing it. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah. Yeah. Big, thank you. Hat tip to the billionaire who gave that money. So they ended up at this incredible shelter called friends for life Houston where they were treated and it turns out Smoosh had an upper respiratory infection as well.

So she was treated for that. All of her brothers and sisters are happy and healthy. Even mom got to go to the shelter, which is amazing. And so she is there as well. And in caring for these animals, I never knew that I could deal with them. An, a swollen eye that is, is having issues like an infection in it.

I never, that stuff is difficult to even look at and I didn’t know if I could do it, but when you’re put in that position where it’s either you or the kittens die, I was like, it’s me. And I feel like it was just a profound experience for me. And so Danny and I decided to adopt one of the kittens and I picked the kitten who was the most fun, but also the most chill.

So that’s my choice, that is yes. Yes. She’s full of energy and she’s a lot of fun, but she’s also deadass asleep on my lap and so I flew down a couple of days ago. I flew to Houston at 11:00 AM, got to the shelter, picked her up, and caught a four 30 flight back to DC. And the next day drove back to West Virginia.

So it’s been a whirlwind because I also got married in Portugal last week. So it’s been a lot of travel. 

Chuck Corra: Little did those cats know that they picked the right car to seek refuge under. boy. Oh boy. 

Callie Pruett: I love it. Yes. I’ve had many people say they’re like that mother cat. 

Intro II: Georgia Guidestones Conspiracy!

Chuck Corra: Let’s get rolling. We’ve got a great show today. Let’s start it off with Georgia Guidestones.

This is something that I was completely unaware of until honestly, a tragic story came up within the past couple of weeks where these stones were bombed, very sad, but the origin story of these Guidestones I really wanna into, because it’s pretty incredible. I’m a big fan of it.

We’re not gonna go deep diving into it. But as a fun opener, we gotta talk about this because I think we’ve talked about this before.

Reminiscent of the Reasonabilists from Parks and Rec

This is very reminiscent of the Reasonabilists from Parks and Rec They were this group of doomsday people that were coerced the world was gonna end and that the Emporer Zorp was going to take them all up into some spaceship or something like that.

It was some kind of variation of heaven’s gate meets sketch comedy, I would guess. I’m not sure yeah. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah. And it seemed like they were honestly, a social club where they would say, oh, we’re going to stay up all night for the end of the world, but then it wouldn’t happen. And they would just schedule another one, two months later 

Chuck Corra: There are groups in existence that have done that. 

Callie Pruett: Absolutely. Yeah. Makes for really great television. 

Chuck Corra: Absolutely. Something that came up recently because they were unfortunately destroyed, but with a hilarious backstory.

So this is in Appalachian Georgia you will, Elbert county, this is what many people refer to as quote-unquote American Stonehenge. It was this, these big stone tablets commissioned by a guy named Robert C. Christian, very on-brand. And it was on behalf of a small group of loyal Americans.

The Reasonabilists

Wow. This is gonna be good. And it was supposed to function as a compass calendar and clock and should be capable of quoting. Withstanding catastrophic events, spoiler alert – it wasn’t.

F**K Stonehenge

Callie Pruett: Coming in hot though, with the expectation on this thing.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. And so Robert Guy goes up to the Elberton granite finishing company and pitches this idea, a big ask for the Elberton granite finishing company.

They’d never really done anything quite like this before, granite is also very destructible. And what I love about this guy is he talked mad shit on the actual Stonehenge, right? As we mentioned the Georgia Guidestones were compared to Stonehenge and he did draw some inspiration from that.

But when he was asked about it, he said Stonehenge was impressive and had no message to communicate. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah, fuck Stonehenge. 

Chuck Corra: Yes, this is a fuck Stonehenge podcast right now. That’s right. I’ll probably have to do a notes app apology to that later. I don’t care.

Credit: Elbert Chamber via Wayback Machine

Callie Pruett: That’s so funny because It seems the only reason that people cared about this was because of the relationship and the similarity to Stonehenge.

And he’s no, fuck, no, we don’t wanna be related to one of the biggest mysteries and the whole world I guess. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. It’s not a mystery. We’re extremely clear with this. 

Callie Pruett: We write it on the rocks. Exactly what we stand for.

Chuck Corra: What I love about this story though, too, and this is where it gets into Parks and Rec territory is this guy, Robert Christian, see, he’s going up to this company and talking to them about this.

They thought he was. Like a quote-unquote nut. And they attempted to discourage him from doing this project by providing him a price quote for the commission that was astronomically higher than any project that they had ever taken on. And they explained it like it would cost all this additional money.

It would need additional tools and consultants and all of this stuff, a big, massive undertaking. He’s saying all this cuz he’s yeah, this guy’s gonna hear this. And he is gonna be like no, I’m not gonna do this. O Contrera because Robert Christian was like, let’s do it, light it up green light that shit.

So this guy’s probably like 

Callie Pruett: On-brand for a ‘loyal American’ to throw money at a problem and not ask questions. Very WASPY.

Chuck Corra: It cost over $100,000 at the time in 1979. So in 2021 dollars, that was $373,000. So he spent over a quarter million dollars on this hunk of granite, which God bless him. 

Callie Pruett: Let me just say there are five pieces to this Stonehenge-looking thing. And there are like four big rectangles holding up what looks like a square. So the design….it’s not crazy.

Definitely looking at it does not look like it’s worth over $300,000. 

Chuck Corra: It looks like something that would be outside of a municipal building in a large city. 

Callie Pruett: It looks like it should have the 10 commandments written on it and then be in front of a courthouse.

Chuck Corra: Anyway, the Georgia Guidestone. This guy just came up with all this money out of nowhere. and they built it and everything.

Someone bombed the stones earlier this month. I don’t know why. The motive is still unclear. But what’s interesting is… 

Callie Pruett: By blown up, do you mean like an attack on it or like they planned to blow it up?

Chuck Corra: Unplanned. Definitely an attack.

The conspiracy theory time capsule that wasn’t

It’s been destroyed. One thing that was, so I know that’s terrible, obviously, because it was like a fun landmark. There was all this stuff about the satanic panic around it, and a lot of other stuff. So what was funny though, is there was this rumor going around on the internet and sadly it is false, but there is a rumor…nay, a conspiracy theory that there was a time capsule buried underneath the Georgia Guidestones.

Someone claimed that they dug it up and it had within it, a Peterbilt emblem, like Peterbilt trucks, an eight-track tape of Saturday night fever, a single signed issue of Playboy magazine that was signed by Bert Reynolds and several dozen Quaalude pills found in a box

Callie Pruett: If somebody were to say, Callie, I need you to put together some materials that you think represent the year 1979. I feel like I could not have done better. Several dozen Quaaludes like that, it’s not just one. It’s not just two no, hell no.

It’s like a whole, that was back when cocaine ruled the United States, everybody was on cocaine back then.

Chuck Corra: They put it in drinking water.

Callie Pruett: Yeah. And now you’ve got like a couple of uppers to go with it. Yeah. It sounds like 1979 

Chuck Corra: And Quaaludes don’t even exist anymore. So those, the street value of that shit would be wild.

Honestly, a street value of an issue of Playboy signed by Burt Reynolds. Not insignificant. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah. Yeah. Burt Reynolds, man.

Chuck Corra: I love the Georgia Guidestones. Honestly. I’m for rebuilding them. I don’t know the purpose, I don’t care.

Callie, your opinion on the Georgia Guidestones.

Callie Pruett: So I just read the English portion of the inscription. So apparently there’s like a bunch of languages on it. It’s supposed to be like that, so it’s been likened to a modern-day Rosetta stone and I love that, which it’s just beautiful.

It’s beautiful. In Appalachian, Georgia, I love it. Glad to see it. Some of the things on it though are super mystical and weird, but I love it. So it’s, it says, to unite humanity with a living new language and protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.

You don’t know, what’s gonna make sense and what’s not gonna make sense, but no 

Chuck Corra: complaints on either so far. So far, as you got me, I’m hooked on this the 

Callie Pruett: best one, avoid petty laws and useless officials. . It doesn’t get any better. It’s fun to balance myself up personally, yeah.

Balance personal rights with social duties. Who can 

Chuck Corra: We elect these people and the Georgia Guidestones will be our new constitution. 

Callie Pruett: So listen to the last two lines. I love them. It says I love that. Woo. Woo. Like me. Yeah. Says prize truth. Beauty, love-seeking harmony with the infinite. Be not cancer on the earth. Leave room for nature. Leave room for nature. It says it twice. 

Chuck Corra: That’s like that’s almost like a rehash of the boy scout code, honestly.

Campaign Check-in: Ohio GOP’s stinky mail fiasco

Chuck Corra: So let’s move on to something totally normal – sending feces to your elected official.

Callie Pruett: Oh my God. When you said that, it just made me think of something that Charlie Kelly would do if it’s always sunny in Philadelphia.

Chuck Corra: Oh, 100% absolutely. 

The Ohio Republican party, they’ve been on a kick lately. So one thing I wanted to choose, and this is a nontraditional campaign check-in, cuz it’s not about an actual campaign, but we wanted to check in on the Ohio Republican party, because they’ve been doing some wild stuff lately.

I love this story and it’s terrible in some ways, but it’s also not. Every member, every Republican member of the Ohio state Senate recently was mailed feces – and for those of you at home, that is poop.

It is objectively hilarious. Yes. I understand it can be toxic, it can be diseased – I get it, I really do. And I’m just saying that right now. It’s fucking funny though. Poop is funny. Poop is funny.

We all do it. There’s a book about it. It’s called Everybody Poops. And sometimes people want to poop and show it to their legislators to express their feelings about how they vote. So the TLDR of this is that the Ohio GOP is way more outraged about getting poop in the mail than, oh, like a 10-year-old rape victim having to travel to Indiana for an abortion.

Yeah. I know we’re breaking the levity a little bit there, but it’s accurate because that did happen.

What’s wild to me is I read like a couple of articles about this and one article had five Republican state senators on the record about this. Good luck trying to find that for any issue of substance where you get that many on the record, but when it comes to being mailed shit, everyone wants to talk about how victimized they were.

Callie Pruett: Oh, man. Five is, that’s honestly, it is funny when you parallel that to like issues when they have no comment. 

Chuck Corra: When you think about it, there are 25 Republican senators in the Ohio state Senate. So that’s 20% of the Ohio Senate GOP. 

Callie Pruett: I bet that there hasn’t been an issue where they’ve gotten five together to talk about the issue in an article. Other than that in the last year, I’m with you. I’ve probably put money on it. Like it, there’s no way.

Chuck Corra: I’m with you. I and I think so what is, I’d be shocked if there was, 

Callie Pruett: So what did they say in the article? 

Chuck Corra: Each member of the Ohio GOP Senate said 25 were mailed feces.

However, the envelopes, many of which were intercepted, before reaching the lawmakers either by the staff at the legislature or by the postal service.

Callie Pruett: Bless them. Bless the staff. Bless the postal workers.

The Banksy of s**t mail

Chuck Corra: Absolutely. But one thing I wanna say for us. Okay. Let’s think about this. That’s 25 senators either.

This was multiple. I know this is kinda getting gross, but, he is not. It’s dissecting. Yeah. Multiple people. Contributing to this or one guy who dedicated a month of their life to collecting their excretion their waste to send it to senators, which it’s fucked up. But I admire the dedication.

I do, 

Callie Pruett: honestly, putting it in such clear stark terms. It makes you think that this person if it is one person is like the Banksy of mailed feces.

Chuck Corra: The Banksy of shit mail.

Callie Pruett: It’s really, it’s impressive. 

Chuck Corra: Buckeye Banksy will call him. Buckeye. Banksy. I love it. I love it.

The state house mail room received. Most of the, and this is from the article excrement filled letters, but the Cleveland and Akron post office is interceptive few. Again, God bless our postal workers. I just imagine 

Callie Pruett: They just know they, they just deserve so much better than we get them. It’s better than what we can do honestly.

Wow. Wow.

Chuck Corra: Imagine coming to work at the US postal service, a fairly mundane 9 to 5 job, a great job. We love postal workers on this show. Then you go in one day, you’re being told that your job today was to intercept shit.

Callie Pruett: But wait, can you imagine like the first guy that found it and he was like, “I feel like I should go to my supervisor about this but this is like literally mail for a Senator.

So what do I do? And then there’s just like one guy just carrying a shit-filled letter to the supervisor’s office. 

Chuck Corra: What’s the chain of command? What do you go through for this?

Callie Pruett: I want to know the chain of command and the specifics of how these letters were intercepted. 

Chuck Corra: That is not covered in their training. A neighbor’s dog coming at you? Covered in the training. The complex logistics of sorting mail in the United States Postal service? Covered in the training. Intercepting shit? My guess is no, my guess is no.

Callie Pruett: My guess is no as well.

The Senate GOP comments on S**t-gate

Chuck Corra: So, Callie, you’ll be interested to hear, the comments on some of these from some of these senators and other staff on this.

Callie Pruett: Oh my God. Throw ’em at me. I’m so ready.

Chuck Corra: So these are honestly like some of them I don’t think they meant to be funny, but they’re fucking hilarious. So Senate GOP spokesman John Fortney said “We’re assuming humans. When asked what mammal the feces came from and then he said, “I’m really angry about it.”

“These are a bunch of little scared, little cowards that wouldn’t say shit or a thing to you face to face. They would rather send it in the mail.”

Ouch got ’em. I. I think he thought that was gonna be a really like killer quote, but it just sounds dumb.

“We’re assuming human,” Fortney said, after being asked by News 5’s Morgan Trau if the feces came from a human or an animal. The whole situation is ridiculous, he added.

“I’m really angry about it,” Fortney said. “These are a bunch of little scared, little cowards that wouldn’t say s*** or a thing to you face-to-face, right, they would rather send it in the mail.”

The Ohio Capitol Journal

Callie Pruett: Yeah it does not work. It just sounds dumb as shit.

Chuck Corra: Then he also this is the other thing, like of course somebody had to bring up 9/11.

Callie Pruett: Oh my God. Always!

Chuck Corra: It reminded him of 9/11 of course, because of the Anthrax stuff 

Callie Pruett: Because those are totally the same.

Chuck Corra: Yeah. A white powdery substance that literally kills people versus a stinky pile of dump that is probably harmless.


Callie Pruett: Wash your hands, wash your goddamn hands! It’s part of the CDC recommendation. We’re in a pandemic anyway.

Chuck Corra: If they followed CDCs guidelines, they wouldn’t have anything to worry about receiving shit in the mail.

The next quote is from Senator Jerry Cirino.

“These people are intellectually deficient, as I like to call them,” Cirino added. “They’re not being very good communicators because they did not make their issue clear.”

News 5 Cleveland

I love this quote because his thing is he believes they’re not good communicators because their issue wasn’t clear.

So if they sent like a box full of shit with a message that said something like, I don’t know, stop imminent domain. He’d be cool with it. Because the issue was clear. 

Callie Pruett: No I like that. This is the part of the quote that says, as I like to call them, it started as not offensive where he was just like calling somebody a mean name.

And then he said, “as I like to call them,” and then it became incredibly offensive. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah it’s like, are you saying you’re going around calling people intellectually deficient a lot? What the fuck are you doing?

Callie Pruett: As I like to call them? It sounds like you call people that a lot, which is yeah. What are you doing? They’re not very good communicators but also they don’t like very clear protests. These people don’t like anything. No, if I thought it had been like their campaign ads where they shoot through like their opponent’s head or their campaign ad and send like the shot through pictures of them, they’d be like, there’s this violence and blah, blah, blah.

But they’re mad about poop. Nothing will make them happy. Not saying that poop is gonna make anybody happy, but also no, the idea that these people are so worked up over poop is funny.

I think there was a missed opportunity here in making this a comedic moment. 

Chuck Corra: It was a very missed opportunity, although unintentionally very comedic. First of all, I’d also love to meet the Republican Senator that did get happy by receiving poop. I do think again, we don’t kink shame on this show except for the time that I accidentally did, which I did do a notes app apology for.

Thank you. 

Callie Pruett: So by the way, I’m offering forgiveness. 

Chuck Corra: Senator Cirino also said that the punishment should be extreme. Again, this is probably like a 16-year-old sending shit. He was upset by a lack of statements from the Democrats. Of course.

Callie Pruett: What are the Democrats gonna say? We condemn sending poop to people?

Chuck Corra: Yes, actually I would love to see that press release. 

Callie Pruett: I can’t imagine writing that press release. If I had to write that it would be so bonkers, yeah. But also why don’t they condemn all of the death threats that they sent that are credible, that their constituents send to Democrats.

So fuck them. 

Callie Pruett: I really wanna get to this next quote because it’s really, really funny.

Chuck Corra: Okay, this is from Senator Kristina Roegner.

“I don’t wanna make myself seem like a victim. I understand people are very passionate right now.”

Love that. Honestly, that was the most reasonable quote out of this. And it’s true. Like you’re so passionate that you are shitting into a box and mailing it.

Callie Pruett: Is it a box? I’ve been thinking about this the whole time, and I really wanna know if you know the answer to this. Was it like poop, like smeared into pictures on paper? Or was it literal like chunks of poop in a box? 

Chuck Corra: I didn’t get the details of the, I would love to know that.

Callie Pruett: I would really like to know!

Chuck Corra: If you’re out there and you know the answer, please let us know if you are the postal worker who intercepted it, you can say it anonymously. We won’t tell anybody. We won’t be a postal leaker. It’s fine. There’s a well-documented history of that in America.

Callie Pruett: And we love to see it.

Callie Pruett: The last one is also really good. Senator Stephanie Kunce. Senator Steph over here said she was “deeply saddened.”

Chuck Corra: It is so funny. It’s so funny, Doug. I’m deeply saddened by this turd. 

Callie Pruett: The second part of this quote.

“It needs to be taken seriously. It’s not a joke. I think that we live in a very unstable kind of world right now.”

Senator Steph… 100% It is a joke. Like, yes, they mailed it to you because they’re pissed at you. But also they mailed shit because it is hilarious. 

Chuck Corra: It’s objectively funny. And let me just say, yeah, we live in an unstable world, but that’s not like this is a novel idea.

People have been mailing shit since the fucking pony express. Yep. Okay. Because people have a sense of humor and they’re like, wouldn’t it be funny if we did this, listen to it. How many times have you done the whole thing, but the poop in the bag, lit it on a fire ring, and the doorbell ran away.

We’ve all done it. We’re not proud of it, but we’ve all done it. It’s a thing. Toilet humor is a thing. Is it trashy? Sometimes? Yes, but the fact that it got like that. Five. I don’t, I didn’t even include all the quotes, but like five Republican senators on the record talking about how shocked, appalled, and deeply saddened they were about receiving shit in the mail is incredible.

Callie Pruett: Yeah. Unbelievable. This next point though, is this true that it’s being investigated as a federal crime? 

Chuck Corra: Yes. I don’t know what the charge would be. I don’t know, is sending shit in the mail a crime, because there are websites that allow you to send feces as a prank. But this is I can’t like, okay, first of all, can you imagine having your life ruined by getting drunk, taking a dump, and mailing it.

Interview with Chief Sneed

Chuck Corra: So let’s get into our interview. Callie, you secured probably one of the coolest, one of the most unique, and one of the most important interviews, honestly, that we’ve done on this show ever in the almost three years that we have been functioning, Chief Richard Sneed, the principal chief of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians.

Many of you. Have been asking us to have Appalachian voices on this show that represent the Indian, the indigenous community, so asked and answered and Callie, you, you played a huge humongous part in this.

Callie Pruett: I’m so excited that we were able to do this interview. I think so, I agree. I think it’s really important that we have voices like chiefs need on this podcast in ways that I feel are impactful. We also went about this interview, I think thoughtfully. We both put a lot of time and effort into preparing for it.

I’m proud of how it turned out. I grew up right next to the Cherokee Indian reservation in North Carolina. I went to high school with the previous chief’s daughter, so this was near and dear to my heart because I grew up very much steeped in Cherokee culture just based on proximity.

This is something that as soon as I joined the pod, we reached out to Chief Sneed and we’re so grateful that he was able to join us. I think that you’ll enjoy this interview.

Interview Start

Callie Pruett: We can go ahead and dive right in. I would love for you to just tell us a little bit about yourself, and your background. 

Chief Richard Sneed: So my name is Richard Sneed. I’m the principal chief of the Eastern band of Cherokee Indians in our language, UO WEU Huai DT DDO, and I am 54 years old.

I’ve been the principal chief of the Eastern band since 2017. I was the vice chief before that, I’ve got about 15 months left on this term. I made my announcement two days ago that I will not be seeking reelection. So I’m gonna relax after this term turns up, it’ll have been eight years at that point and it’s a lot.

Chief Richard Sneed (Image via EBCI website)

I just wanna focus on my, my kids, my grandkids, and my wife, and just enjoy life a little bit. And we are. Well, we were the only federally recognized tribe in the state of North Carolina until an act of Congress a year or so ago. And then some subsequent decisions by Congress. So there are two federally recognized tribes.

The EBCI has a 14-acre acre parcel makes them a federally recognized tribe in North Carolina now, but we are 16,000 plus members and we’ve been here for a long time, thousands of years. 

Callie Pruett: Awesome. Thank you so much. So I think that a lot of people are not so familiar with the Eastern band of the Cherokee nation.

Could you talk a little bit about why there is an Eastern band and tell us a little bit about what that means. And I’ve had the privilege of seeing these Hills several times in my life, but I know that many people don’t know that story. So I would love to dive into the story OFS as well.

Background on the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

Chief Richard Sneed: I always preface when I talk about the Eastern band, I always preface our story with there is only one Cherokee. We have three distinct Cherokee tribes today because of the federally imposed Indian Removal Act, the treaty of 1817, and the subsequent treaty of 1819.

Map via Smithsonian

So now there are three distinct tribes. You have probably the most well-known Cherokee nation, which has several hundred thousand members in Oklahoma, in Tahlequah. You have the United Keetoowah band of Cherokee, which is also located in Oklahoma of which my wife is a citizen, and then of course we have the Eastern band.

The Eastern band are the direct descendants of those Cherokees who resisted removal after the Indian Removal Act of 1838 was signed into law. Essentially 1100 Cherokee who resisted and were known at that time as the Qualla Town Cherokees. Interestingly enough, we call Cherokee the Cherokee Indian reservation, but it is not a reservation federal reserve that was created by the federal government west of the Mississippi, which at that time was called Indian Territory, 1907 became the state of Oklahoma.

Those lands and lands further west are actual federal reserves. Our property was actually free simple land that Cherokees had purchased under the leadership of William Holland Thomas. And then that fee simple land was later taken into trust. So we had 1100 Cherokees here that was called equal town Cherokees.

You had a little less than 200 Cherokees in Graham and Cherokee county which are now today, the snowbird community, which. It was formally called Buffalo town or Chi. And then Cherokee county, you just had scattered sites out there. And when you talk about the story of Soly and you mentioned that you’d been to the drama many times, so there are two versions of that story, right?

There’s the Romanized version, which is more of a martyr’s tale, that there were Cherokees who were resisting removal and were hiding out in the mountains. And that part of the story is accurate. The romanticized version goes that so’s wife had been attacked and brutalized by some soldiers and that either Solly or his son’s actions to defend her, ended up killing a soldier or killing two soldiers.

And then that Word was sent. This was the story, of course, that I grew up with, the word was sent to Sally that if he and his sons would turn themselves in that the army would stop pursuing all of these other Cherokees who were hiding out in the mountains. And so as the story goes, and as it’s told in the drama he and his sons turn themselves in and they’re executed and then the rest.

The Cherokees are allowed to remain. And that’s why you have the Easter man today, but that’s not accurate. It’s a very romanticized story. I remember, when hearing it as a kid, I thought, man, that’s like a, it’s almost like a Messiah type story. It has a biblical overtone to it.

You’re dying first, people, but that’s not accurate. And it’s, history’s complicated. And the decisions that people had to make in order to remain were complicated decisions. And the real story is that there were, in fact, there were large numbers of Cherokees that were hiding out that were not part of the Qala town Cherokees were here today because a lot of, because of a lot.

Strategy a lot of political maneuvering and a lot of just really strategic work by the group of Koala town Cherokees under the leadership of William Holland, Thomas the kind of the darker side of the story is that the Qala town Cherokees helped to find Sally and his sons and the, that the story as related by the army was that they had captured a small group of Cherokees who were hiding in the mountains.

And for some unknown reason, an ax was produced and buried in the forehead of one of the soldiers and two soldiers died. Then those Cherokees fled. If you read John Finger’s book Chronicles, it’s a two-volume set and it Chronicles the Eastern band from 18, 19 to 1900.

I think the second volume is from 1900 to 1939. He references James Mooney’s book and they actually have excerpts from the journals of the army officers and, the equal town Cherokees, they had negotiated the, for them to be able to stay. And they saw that these other Cherokees who were part of the Cherokee nation under the census that them coming to the mountains and hiding was placing at risk the Qala town Cherokee’s ability to stay here.

And so they actually participated in rounding up solely in his family and also participated in the execution. So while the romanticized story is just that, and it’s very inspiring it’s a lot different from what happened. And as I say all the time, when we talk about history now we tend to think of it. I think younger people especially tend to try to oversimplify things and I’m like, history is complicated and things are way, way different.

And people did things that, we look back on and we, I don’t think we take the time to place ourselves into their, in their shoes and what they were going through and what was at stake. And so the romanticized version is nice and it’s an inspiring story. The truth is a little bit darker.

Uneven development and allocation of resources and the Eastern Band

Callie Pruett: Wow. I love that context because I had never heard that real version before because I grew up with that kind of story of resistance. It was this romantic version of it, and so I appreciate that nuance.

I wanna give that context of Cherokee as a place in Appalachia and this story makes the Eastern band really unique though, still even with the extra context. I wanted to ask you about the uneven development going on from the 1830s up to now.

We talk a lot about the uneven development, and allocation of resources throughout Appalachia, and a lot on the show. And so how has this story and the kind of origin story of the Eastern band rippled through the generations and how has the Eastern band of the Cherokee Indians developed differently than other tribes because of this origin?

Chief Richard Sneed: That’s a great question. I think you have to go back to the treaty of 1817, which really established the group of Cherokees that became the United Keetoowah band of Cherokee. Under that treaty, there were, I wanna say it was two, 2.3 million acres. A huge swath of land was ceded to the state of North Carolina and in exchange, lands were set aside in Arkansas This group of Cherokee, several thousand actually left before removal.

Those Cherokee went on to become the Keetoowah tribe. The subsequent treaty in 1819 was supposed to be for every head of household they could have individual reservations of 640 acres, and all they had to do was register with the federal government as the head of household – they would be given 640 acres and they had to promise to become citizens of the United States.

That’s what the Eastern band – my ancestors – were operating under. When all of that land from 1817 was seated to the state of North Carolina. And again, you gotta keep in mind what was happening at that time. Expansion. The greatest resource that settlers wanted was land.

The state of North Carolina in its haste to sell these parcels of land to settlers sold off all of this reservation land, these 640-acre parcels. There was a subsequent court case. I think it was 1824. A V Welch where the federal courts sided with the Cherokees and said, yes, North Carolina, you sold off their land, and now you have to pay them back.

You had members of the Qala town Cherokees Ella Yoon, Augusta drowning bear who got their settlement money and then bought land here in Western North Carolina at SoCo Creek. And so then you have what makes Eastern band different because our reservation today was actually free simple land that Cherokees bought.

And William Holland Thomas was very instrumental in helping the Cherokees to acquire all of this land. And then that land was later taken into trust, but the Eastern band Cherokees, and when we weren’t even called that back then we were in this weird political limb. Because the state of North Carolina essentially said you’re not North Carolina citizens.

The federal government in a federal court case said you’re not members of the Cherokee nation anymore. Because when you entered into the treaty of 18, 19, you seceded from the Cherokee Nation. So we are in this legal limbo. Status for many years until 18, was it 1870? I’m trying to remember the date.

The date was 1889. When we finally got a corporate charter with the state of North Carolina, there were a few variations or a few iterations of that charter, but essentially we still operate under that same charter today. That charter was last updated in 1985. And I can tell you things have changed dramatically since 1985 here in Cherokee and our corporate charter.

For sure did not envision a tribe with a net worth of 2.2 billion, which is what our net worth is right now. So the challenge for us now is to, have a constitution committee and we have members and citizens of our tribe that have worked very diligently on creating a constitution. Now it’s just a matter of getting across the finish line and getting it adapted to where we have a constitution to operate off of and not a corporate charter where that makes us very different from other tribes.

We have always been a tribe that was focused on economic development and entrepreneurship for survival tourism from like the 1940s when especially post-world war II when automobiles America Americans began traveling Cherokees saw the opportunity and Cherokee became a tourist town and it remained a tourist town.

And that was our main economy up until 97 when we entered into gaming. And so once we entered gaming, that was everything changed, post-gaming. And but that presented its own set, pardon me, its own set of challenges. I always tell people all the time that just having money solved all the pro everybody’s problems.

We wouldn’t have any, but, it’s like everything else having resources created its own set of problems. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah. Wow. That’s an incredible story of resilience. Just truly a Testament to your ancestors. It’s wonderful. Has the tribe ever received a formal apology from the federal government?

Chief Richard Sneed: they should apologize for what they’re doing right now. My gosh. No. So the short answer of course is no. Some of the decisions that have come down, that we’ve had to deal with directly as Eastern bands and just, within my 10 years as chief, it’s very troubling to me, I felt really naive.

I’ve been a political nerd my whole life, and I felt naive. When I found out that we don’t have this democracy that we think we have, I’m old enough to remember schoolhouse rock, I’m just a bill. Here’s how it happens. Nah that’s not real.

Chuck Corra: If only that were how it worked! That would be wonderful… 

Chief Richard Sneed: If only, based on the merit of the bill laws were passed, but that’s not how it works. And Congress Congress has plenary authority over all things Indian. And so there’s this, if, when you’re in an Indian country, there are lots of buzzwords: sovereignty, resiliency, culture, all of these things and.

Sovereignty is something that I do a lot of talks on leadership and a lot of talks on sovereignty and it’s like sovereignty. First, you have to understand individual sovereignty, which is our inherent right as human beings. And as Americans, it’s very unique. Most Americans take for granted freedom of speech.

If you go across the border in Canada, that’s not a right. You don’t have a right to freedom of speech. So we take for granted a lot of things I think in this country, but As an individual, you have to understand what your rights are, but more importantly, you have to exercise your rights. Rights are just, it’s an idea.

It’s a construct. It’s a paradigm until you act on it. When you act on it, there will almost always be opposition. And I think that’s why most people don’t act on it but if you understand that, then you have a collective of citizens. And that’s why I don’t use the term.

Enrolled member. That’s a very popular term in Indian country, but that’s a federal term. That’s an imposed term. And to me, the term enrolled member is a, it’s a term of entitlement when people use it, they say I’m an enrolled member. And so therefore you should do this or this for me, or I’m entitled to this.

And I told my team, that as soon as I came into the office, I said, we were not going to use the term enrolled member. We will use the term citizen if we are sovereign. And we are, then we have to act like it. And part of being sovereign is understanding that as a citizen there’s responsibility that comes with it, it’s not just being the beneficiary of benefits.

There’s a responsibility that goes with citizenship. And so, that’s the language and the terminology we use. My team because I am convinced that everything that the federal government tried to do to kill the Indian and save the man under captain Carlisle’s model, where the federal government failed with.

Assimilation policies and boarding schools. It succeeded with a dependency model of government. When you impose upon a people, a dependency model and especially where there’s great poverty, and of course, in Appalachia historically, there’s been great poverty. If you can impose dependency, mission accomplished.

And so my team and I have been about empowerment education and having our people stand on their own two feet because of the great dignity that goes along with that. And I think that’s what was stripped away from native nations by federal policy bias, assimilation policies, and so forth.

And I tell people all the time, like guys, nobody’s coming to rescue us like it’s up to us. Like we have to do this for ourselves. And the idea that we’re going to look to the government to do it for us and like the government caused the problem in the first place. So sovereignty is individual and corporate.

Is based and rooted in the ability to stand right, and, to self-govern and not be dependent. So that’s the goal and objective for my team. And that’s what we do every day. 

Chuck Corra: That was, it’s extremely helpful to hear that. And I think the context you provide is, so I think informative for someone like me, who doesn’t have a lot of knowledge of the Eastern band history, unlike Kelly who had the benefit of growing up near there.

I’m curious, you mentioned some of the challenges that you all are facing. That is aside from what you’ve already mentioned? What are some of the other top challenges that the Eastern band Cherokee faced today in the present? 

Chief Richard Sneed: I think our greatest challenge, and this is one that I, I talk to anybody who will listen like I’m one of those people don’t ask me what I’m thinking, cuz I’m gonna tell you.

I like, and obviously 

Callie Pruett: like when we’re like that too, you’re in good company. 

Chief Richard Sneed: So when you know, my wife and I were, we went out to dinner, I dunno, a week or two ago. And there were some of our fellow Cherokees where we ran into them and I said, Hey, how are you? And. And I can dive deep on a subject matter pretty quickly.

And so they asked me a high-level question and oh, I know what it was. They said it was a good friend of mine Kathy Lil Jon, she’s a, she’s one of our storytellers and a traveling elder and a great woman. And she and I served on the new school board together and I just love her.

And I was an RTR writer. Remember the movie writer back in ’14. So at this table full of people, there were two writers, and two former alumni writers as well. And I focused, I bro hug them and she goes, oh, I see how it is. I said, what’s that? She goes, you talked to other writers first and then your constituents later.

I said I don’t like to use the word constituent. And she said why not? I said that implies, this relationship that you need something from me, or I’m here to provide something for you. I said I’m just Richie, I’m your brother. We’re just all Cherokees. And I said and that just boom, deep dive on who are we?

What’s our identity? What does it mean to be Cherokee? Does that mean that I’m just, I get a per capita check and I get I’m the beneficiary of all these benefits or what does it truly mean? And so for me, the challenge is how we maintain our identity as a unique people related to our culture.

And I talk to my fellow elected officials and I say, look, Every time, we stand up a program at this tribe to provide a service for our people. Do you realize that we’re undermining what it means to be tribal? And they said what do you mean? I said, look, we’re only here as a people today because our ancestors were interdependent.

So you like to think about what it was like trying to live in these mountains a hundred years ago, 150 years ago, 200 years ago, a thousand years ago, the only way you survive is interdependency. That’s what makes us tribal. And then we developed this whole system of government out of that, that we had the Alan system.

But it was all interdependency. Then this model of governance was imposed upon us and it stayed that way for like a hundred plus years. So the Nixon era, that area of self-determination when the federal government said why don’t you Indians govern yourself? Geez, we’ve been doing that for thousands of years.

Thanks for the permission. But I said, but when that happened, we didn’t go back to a traditional form of government. We just adopted the corrupt model that was imposed upon us. And now we’re doing the same thing to our people and we’re doing for the federal government, what it couldn’t do to us, we’re doing it for them.

It’s not really table talk but that’s where the conversation goes for me. I’m like and so I said to all these, and they’re like, locked in and listening. And I said, but listen, here’s the thing. They’re all nodding their heads in agreement. I said, but here’s the thing, guys. It can’t be just me saying it’s easy to dismiss one person.

It has to be all of us collectively as Cherokee. This is how we think as Cherokees and this, and you have to say it too. And you have to tell your children and your grandchildren that’s not who we are. We’re not just. People who are part of a welfare state, we’re proud, strong, resilient people.

And if all of this was taken away, we’re still going to be here and we’re still gonna stand. So that’s my goal. , 

Chuck Corra: that’s 

Callie Pruett: awesome. That is so badass. And just I love how plainly that you say this and how what the conviction that you have in your voice. And it’s just, it’s really wonderful to hear.

I have a kind of a follow up, this is something you’re talking about as Cherokee people that you have to do together for folks who want to be supportive and who want to. Back that voice. What can allies do to engage in that conversation in a productive way? 

Chief Richard Sneed: I think that the conversation, like all change that happens because what we’re talking about is a culture shift, right?

We’re talking about a change in subculture because our culture goes back 10,000 years. That part’s unchanged, but there’s a subculture that has arisen in Indian countries that is directly related to the dependency model of government. That’s what has to be dealt with first. And that’s why I said earlier, I tell people all the time, I’m like, nobody’s coming to rescue us.

And I tell, folks in the African American community, the same thing, like the same policies that the federal government imposed upon tribal nations, 150 years ago, it did the same thing in the African American community in the 1960s, right? Through the great society programs that mindset has now permeated the entire country, where we as Americans.

Now don’t look at one another. When trouble comes, we immediately look to the federal government. The government should do something. No, this is we, the people, this is of the people by the people and for the people,,, that type of interdependency I think is woven into the fabric of this nation, whether you’re a native nation or whether you’re an immigrant coming to this country, what made this country.

Succeed in the first place was that I think that work ethic and that rugged individualism, but also the interdependency. And I think that’s what’s lacking in the country today in this mindset that every time something happens, the government be it, the state or the federal government should intervene.

That’s fairly new to this country, like within the last 30 to 50 years, that wasn’t how things were previously. I think that the mistake was made because I was a pastor previously, too. I was a pastor for 14 years and I was a school teacher for 12 years. I was by profession. And of course, without fail, you get people calling from other places.

And I intend, and they want to help, but when you get calls where people like, we’re so and so from such and such churches in South Carolina, and we just wanna come up and help the poor Indians. I’d like to stay with the South Carolina police. We don’t need that type of patronization.

The folks that I would always engage with, we’re the ones who would call and say, I’m and so I’m a pastor from such and such church. We recognize that you’re already doing work there and we respect that and we just wanna know how we can come alongside an assistant? That mindset.

That’s the only way that it works. Anyone engaging in any community who comes in with the mindset, it would be no different than me saying I’m gonna go to Canton, and help those poor folks over in Canton. But if, if my mindset is not one of where I’m seeing them from a place of dignity and respect, my heart’s in the wrong place.

So no matter where we’re engaging anywhere in the world, I think we always, my personal opinion and my conviction are you have to come up, come at it from a place of respect for the dignity and the honor of the people who are there already. And I’m just coming along as, as your co-lab that’s it, I’m just here.

I’m here to serve with you to come alongside and to serve with. Yeah. And I think that works anywhere in humanity. 

Callie Pruett: Yeah. That is so important. And I feel like there is a new movement of trying to be more like that and trying to, Work toward a better world in conjunction with people who are already doing that, the heavy lifting on that work.

And who’s been there on the ground. That’s awesome. Oh, go ahead. 

Chief Richard Sneed: Oh, I was, yeah. If I was, if I could just, add to that you mentioned at the beginning of our conversation, about being from Canada, being from the area and the. I had mentioned at the beginning of the conversation that I hadn’t seen our nation so divided, politically along political lines worst, I’ve seen it.

When I just talked to people, what I realized is that the truth’s always right down the middle like the majority of people. We have more in common than what separates us, unfortunately, because of the way the media is today. And the way social media is the only voices that get heard like the far-right fringe and the far-left fringe.

And then the media on the right pointed to the far left fringe and said, see, that’s how the left is. They’re all crazy. And the media on the left points to the far right fringe and says, see, that’s how the right is. They’re all crazy. But the reality is that the majority of human humanity, we just we’re.

We seek peace. We want, we wanna be at peace. We want to be able to. Raise our families and to have the ability to fulfill our dreams and our God-given destiny, and we want to help other people do the same. That’s the majority of people. Unfortunately, I see the same thing happen here on a microcosm level.

It’s just a small percentage. That’s loud. And that’s, that tends to become the narrative, even though it’s not the 

Callie Pruett: truth. Yeah. This is something that Chuck and I have been talking about a lot. Cuz I work professionally in politics and on campaigns. And. This year in particular is quite interesting with regard to how much that division is playing into both primary elections.

The most stunning thing for me is the primary election. One where you have an electorate that is not, it’s not a mix of both sides. It’s all of that one side, you have a democratic primary or a Republican primary. And in those primaries, they end up picking the most Democrat or the most Republican and failing to pick somebody who can represent all people.

And that’s something that I’m seeing all over the country right now is this kind of lack of awareness within. Like a partisan electorate, because that influence from the media influences just how the parties are acting right now. And I think that it’s important to have voices that talk about why this could be happening, particularly in communities like in Appalachia, where.

For so long, we have been, like in similar ways, just completely exploited and let down by the federal government and had our resources taken out of the region. The riches have been taken out of the region and the people are left to deal with the fallout of the catastrophes, whether they are a mind collapsing or a coal slurry, embankment, flooding, entire towns, or something like Zeb what happened with the flooding?

And couldn’t get FEMA on the ground. It’s been for hundreds of years that Appalachia has been left behind. And so I think that it’s wonderful to hear a leader speaking about how we have to help each other. We have to support each other because all we have is each other.

That’s right. That’s true. Yeah. And I think that is important coming from a voice like yours. So I, I wanna turn now to some of your priorities that you’ve worked on in the office. In doing some research on you, you’ve spent a lot of time working on education, which I think is incredible.

And I wanted you to talk a little bit about your efforts to ensure that the Cherokee language, both written, is a unique thing to have because Sequoia developed an alphabet, which most native American tribes do not have. And then also spoken and how that was carried on.

Cuz I remember growing up that was big. The topic of conversation on w L OS on news 13, they would say they would get on and they would say oh the Cherokee language is dying out. They’re trying to get it back in schools. And so I would love to hear about your efforts on that and where you are in preserving such a special language and tradition.

Chief Richard Sneed: Sure. Just a few years ago, and I think it was, I wanna say it was 2020 chief, Chuck Hoskin, from the Cherokee nation made a proclamation, declaring a national state of emergency in regards to the Cherokee language. The Cherokee Nation has done an outstanding job with putting the resources into language preservation.

I took it a step further and I said, look, it’s not just preservation, but it needs to be proliferated. We have to make the language common. Again, it’s a very difficult language to learn. And one of the frustrating things for me was, You sit in on a Cherokee language class most of the time the process is one of trying to memorize lexicon.

If you’re dealing with a language that’s not Latin, it’s not, doesn’t have its roots in Greek or Latin. Most languages do like English does and in romantic languages, it’s very difficult to just memorize lexicon. So what we’ve seen become very successful and this we modeled after the Cherokee nation did an adult immersion program.

Now we’ve had our immersion school for children for, I think 15 years now. But trying it, it’s very difficult if you’re teaching children when they go home if they don’t have anybody to speak to it makes it very difficult for them to be able to maintain the language. So Cherokee nation.

Created an adult language immersion program where they’re paying people as their full-time job to be in immersion for 40 hours a week. And they’re expanding that. So we did the same thing. It’s okay, let’s not reinvent the wheel. We saw this, we went and visited. It works, let’s do the same thing.

So we created the Cherokee language master’s apprentice program, which meets here in Cherokee. We created the calling program, which also meets here in Cherokee. And then there’s a program down in snowbird that I went and visited about a month ago and I was blown away by their progress. It was amazing.

And so we’re going to expand that program. They use a different methodology. So their methodology is one, it’s a kinesthetic learning model. So your whole body’s involved in the process. So they have six six adult learners in that. Class right now. And they have been immersed now for six months.

That group is speaking, the writing reads in Cherokee, and has conversations in Cherokee. And I was just sitting there. Oh my gosh, it was amazing. So that’s incredible. We’re going to expand that. And then I just had a meeting yesterday with my secretary of human resources, because one of the first things we did a couple of years back was to say, okay, look, we need to make this available to our employees as well.

We’ve got 1200 employees just here at the tribe. And so we created a Turkey language program within the human resources department. So now that’s part of our regular annual training for our employees. My secretary of human resources took it a step further. And she came yesterday and presented, she goes, we wanna take this even further.

We want to essentially have within the human resources department a calling program where we’re paying people to be in class. She said people are not going to get it just by doing an hour here or an hour there. So I said okay, put it together. She, I said, you come present and we’ll get it funded.

We are about not just preservation, but proliferation. And I think the great challenge there is, it’s scary. It’s a scary thing to try to speak a language, especially in front of a tribal elder who’s fluent. It’s intimidating. I’ll put it that way. It’s intimidating, but I just, for myself, I just I’m like, I’m just gonna do it.

Most things that we do that are new, they’re outside our comfort zone. It doesn’t take that long for us to just be okay with it. It’s just a matter of taking those first steps and getting past that initial anxiety and fear. And then. It just becomes part of what we do. That’s what we’re trying to do.

And I think that the other piece is we’ve been very focused on preservation. So the tribe has passed, gosh, I wanna say five, four, or five resolutions over the past 20 years to create an artifacts building to where we can curate all of cuz we have artifacts that are all over the country.

In Florida, UT University of Tennessee, Knoxville has a huge collection of our artifacts. We’ve acted on that. We’ve identified a piece of land and have a meeting this afternoon with our museum director. Who’s leading the charge on the archives building. So I wanna make sure that before I leave office, that we’ve broken ground on that.

And then that, and that is, we’ll overlook coulda. One thing I’m very proud of is we got coulda, which is the most sacred site to all Cherokees. We got that taken into the trust during my tenure in office. And we just had the could dos celebration a few weeks ago in the last week of May.

And the archives facility will overlook coulda where the mound is. So those are like when I announced that I’m not running again the first thing that had my project management guys. Okay. We’ve got all these projects in the pipelines. Which ones do you want to prioritize? And like all of the cultural ones the archives facility the ADU we’re gonna have an interpretive center at CDU.

We’ve got a speaker’s consortium building that will be breaking ground in July. That will be up here in Cherokee right next to the immersion school. And then in June Lusca museum, we acquired 32 acres down in Graham county. And we wanna put the June Lusca museum and the Cherokee language program and speakers building on that parcel as well.

So those are my priorities as I go out, as I told my team here. So we’re not going to be a lame-duck administration, for the last 15 months we’re gonna keep our foot on the gas and just keep getting things done as we go out, we’re gonna go out in a blaze of glory. So 

Callie Pruett: What an incredible legacy.

Chuck Corra: Love that 

Chief Richard Sneed: yeah. Do people ask that they’re like what do you want your legacy to be? I said that’s not up to me. I said, one thing I know from watching politics is that people can be pretty brutal to you as a leader when you’re in office. But there’s a heck of a lot. Kinder history is a lot kinder to leaders than we deserve.

Reference George W. Bush, for example, yeah. He was a solid example. a solid example of how human beings’ memories are very short and how history is much kinder to elected officials than they deserve. So for me, it’s never been about having my name on anything. I ran under the premise of cuz people asked me why did you run in the first place?

I said because I saw what was happening. And I saw that we, as Cherokees were not, we were not. Carrying out our role as traditional leaders. Instead, we were again perpetuating this paternalistic model and I said, I want to come in and demonstrate. I said, even if it’s just for four years, and if people say we don’t like that go away.

We at least demonstrated how doing things the right way in the Cherokee term is Dota. It means to, it means the right way that the. The path is the right way of doing things. And so we’ve done that, and we’ve set the example and now, people are like you have to run again. I said, look, I gotta leave at some point.

So we’ve set the example and we’ve set the bar. And at that point, somebody else is gonna have to step up then. And again, as I say, all the time, it can’t be just me saying it. No one can do this. This is a tribal initiative. This is, this has to be a grassroots movement to bring us back to ourselves, to our identity.

Chuck Corra: I think the fact that you have self-imposed term limits and don’t have the ego of wanting to put your name on everything is a sign that you’re different from a lot of other elected leaders. So I think that’s a thumbs up for me. One thing I wanted to ask this would be my final question. You mentioned tourism earlier. Tourism is a very big part of your economy.

You’re at the foothills of the smoky mountains in the Cherokee national forest. How can you talk a little bit about What tourism looks like for you, Easter is a Cherokee, and also how you balance that. Cuz I know that in a lot of places tourism is also balanced with maintaining cultural integrity and that’s a fine balance to strike.

And I’m curious about your thoughts about that, how you’ve maintained that. 

Chief Richard Sneed: I think we have to look first at how we got to where we are today. And if you go back to the forties and the fifties and keep in mind what was happening in popular culture at that time, certainly cowboy movies are so ironic.

So when I was a vice chief I went around, I did meals. I delivered the meals on wheels just to get out and go see some of our tribal elders who are shut-ins and they don’t get out much. So my assistant and I went over and we loaded up one of the vehicles of all these, and we got all the addresses and we’re driving around.

So I’d go ahead, knock on the door and, come on in, I’d go in and I’d deliver their lunch almost without fail. And these are all people in their sixties and seventies, some even older than that. And almost without fail, in every house that I went into, the Western channel was on and they were watching westerns.

So I go to my dad’s and my dad’s 78 and he’s watching westerns and I’m like, okay, like what’s the deal with everybody watching westerns? And he said I guess it’s just because when we were kids growing up, that’s, you would go down to the theater, into a mat, a, you’d pay a quarter and you’d watch a Western.

There was a new Western every Saturday. Cherokees tapped into that. Like they saw a market for that and they did the whole headdress Plains, Indian regalia thinking that wasn’t us that we’d never look like that. And so we got to where we are because of necessity, and so we became a tourist town and literally, people would let’s go see the Indians, and that’s demeaning if you think about it like today. And again, history is complicated. There are all kinds of things we look at today. I’m like, man, that is so disrespectful. Who would do that? People do what they have to do, to provide for their families. And so tourism has changed.

A lot. And a lot of it’s remained the same. What has changed is you don’t see a lot of Cherokee men out chiefing where they used to, standing on the side of the road by a craft shop and a full headdress. If they’re pictures taken with a tourist to get their tip basket, $5 for a float, et cetera, you don’t see that anymore.

You do see a few powwow dancers out there, but again, that’s not us either. That’s Plains Indian tradition. So what we’ve tried to do and what we’ve been very successful at, how do we rebrand ourselves while still maintaining our cultural identity? But moving away from this kind of stereotypical, very wrong wrongheaded thought about what it is, what Cherokees are.

So we focused very strongly on ecotourism. And what we didn’t know was that COVID was going to happen. And before COVID happened, we cut the ribbon on fire mountain trails, which were 12 miles of some of the best mountain bike trails in the Southeast. And then COVID. And then all of a sudden there was this huge push for everybody to get outside.

And so we just approved about two or three months ago, a 2.1 million expansion of trails. So we’re doing I think 14 more miles of trails, right over by the park entrance. We’re doing a pump track, we’re doing a top track, and a skills course. We just opened, we just cut the ribbon on the fire mountain disc off, which is a pro-level disc golf course, which I played the other day.

And it is brutal. It’s a beautiful course. It’s gorgeous back there. You’re along the river, but it is a very difficult course. It is a pro-grade course. We look to expand that as well. We just went over this with my project management team yesterday. These projects will all go into effect.

Probably this fall after the leaves fall off the trees. So mingle falls, which sees a lot of tourists. We’re gonna have that set up where it will be round the clock because we’re going to do lighting, lighting for the falls, lighting for the trail up there. That’s a several million-dollar project SoCo falls into.

We’re doing a complete Remodel on the traffic pattern in parking. There’ll now be parking because it’s very dangerous. Now you pull into this little curve on this blind curve on the mountain to park. So getting the ingress and egress is very dangerous. So we’re going to do away with that.

We’ll park up on the top side of the hill with a beautiful walking trail that’s a mile loop. Now, instead of just having access to one set of falls, there are actually three or four sets of falls that most people don’t even know existed. And so we’ll have this whole big loop.

You’ll have a nice parking area restrooms and a trailhead, and you can go see all of the falls. So we’re very focused on eco-tours. We did a joint project with mainspring conservation and we acquired, I think was like 156 acres that join Jackson county. And so we’ll do, we’re gonna do more trials there.

We’re focused on ecotourism, not so much because of the. That type of tourism itself. We don’t charge for trail use and things like that. It’s the spinoff of your revenue. It’s the ancillary spend it’s heads and beds, it’s food and beverage gas purchases, et cetera.

And of course, while you’re here, we would hope that you would come to drop several thousand dollars on the crafts table and enjoy that as well. 

Callie Pruett: That’s awesome. That is so incredible. I, a lot of those developments I had no idea about, so I appreciate you sharing that. We have a lot of adventure folks who listen to the podcast, so I hope that many of them take advantage of that.

So I just have one final question for you. Is there anything that you would like people to know about the Eastern band of the Cherokee Indians? If there was one thing, what would that be? 

Chief Richard Sneed: You used the word earlier. And as I mentioned, it is a buzzword in Indian country and that’s word resiliency.

When I look back over the history of the Eastern band and Cherokees in general even pre-removal we have always been extremely strategic. We have always been very politically astute. We have always, whenever the world around us changed. We have been able to adopt the facets and the components of that and bring it into our culture, but we’ve been able to maintain our identity, our unique identity, the whole time, the fact that Cherokee is, in an attempt to, to remain on our lands.

Before, there were three distinct tribes. The fact that we took a court case to the Supreme court, Georgia 1831, that’s mind-blowing to me that an Indian tribe that. And of course, chief justice, John Marshall. Man essentially was like you’re not citizens, so you don’t have standing.

So the court’s not gonna hear the case. I think what chief justice John Marshall wrote about Indians and Cherokees, in particular, is completely false. He said these Indians, these Cherokees should be viewed as a domestic dependent, like little children who look to the federal government to meet their needs.

I remember reading that, that case law and being like you bastard, like we’ve been here for thousands of years. Europeans got here. So the fact that we’ve been able to not only survive but thrive and yet maintain our unique identity, I think to me is the definition of resiliency. And we will continue to do that.

Callie Pruett: Incredible. Thank you so much for your time. This has been awesome. I’ll make one last plug. If anybody listening loves museums, the museum of the Cherokee Indian is one of the most unique, awesome museums that I’ve ever been to. And so definitely if you’re in Cherokee, visit that as well, but thank you so much for your time.

We are so grateful that you are willing to come on the podcast and talk about these issues because they matter not only to Cherokee but to the region and the country at large. So we appreciate that. Absolutely. 

Chuck Corra: Yeah. Thank 

Chief Richard Sneed: you so much. I appreciate the opportunity. And thank you for just giving me some time to share our story.

Other Episodes

David Morris’s West Virginia roots influence his music

You've probably heard David Morris's songs on TikTok, whether it was his viral remix of George Strait's classic "Carrying Your Love" or his new viral hit "Dutton Ranch Freestyle." We had David Morris on our show way back in 2020, which pre-dates our website. He rarely...

Masculinity in Appalachia

Callie and Chuck talk masculinity this week! Chuck discusses growing up and having to struggle with not being considered "masculine" and Callie discusses her experiences with it and especially with toxic masculinity. We also have Curren Sheldon, an Academy-Award...

Roll Damn Tide (with Sen. Doug Jones)

Callie and Chuck talk with the former U.S. Senator for Alabama, Doug Jones, on Alabama politics, and what Democrats need to do to win back forgotten parts of the country. ALSO, Callie and Chuck discuss confessions of a criminal crimson tide-er, the madness happening...

Advocating for Appalachia in the Senate (with Cheri Beasley)

Callie and Chuck talk to former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court and Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Cheri Beasley about reproductive rights, climate change, voting rights, and how she wants to get rid of the filibuster to make progress in a broken...

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Appalachia

Callie and Chuck talk to Chief Richard Sneed, the Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. ALSO, Callie tells the origin story of Smoosh - her most recent rescue kitten, we talk about the conspiracy theory of the Georgia Guidestones, why the Ohio...