Preparing New Cherokee Leaders by Emphasizing Traditional Tribal Values
With the emergence in the past decade of a casino owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), the tribe has prospered financially and leadership opportunities for tribal members have multiplied. With the casino, tribal government and other organizations all seeking to employee tribal members with strong leadership skills, the leadership pool has been stretched thin. To help the tribe develop new leaders to join the ranks of those already serving, Cherokee Preservation Foundation developed several successful leadership programs.
In 2016, based on feedback from the community, the Cherokee Preservation Foundation started a collaborative project with the Cherokee Boys Club to maximize on the potential of the existing leadership programs. As a result, the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute was formed to house the existing leadership programs under one umbrella organization.
The Cherokee Boys Club is a non-profit organization that has successfully provided employment, training, and community service to the Cherokee community since 1932. Much of the Cherokee Boys Club’s success can be attributed to Mr. Raymond E. Kinsland. Mr. Kinsland served as the General Manager of the Cherokee Boys Club for over 50 years. In 1968, he was made an honorary member of the EBCI because of his selfless service to the Cherokee people and community. Mr. Kinsland’s character and selfless leadership exemplifies what we want to pass down in our programs.
In the Cherokee culture, leaders are those that do what needs to be done without seeking recognition for their efforts. The goal of the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute is to help produce a selfless, giving generation that is grounded in traditional Cherokee values and educated in modern leadership. As of August 2017, the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute is fully staffed and working on strategic, public relations, marketing, and community relationship planning for all programs.
The Traditions of Cherokee Leadership
Cherokee values are illustrated by two Cherokee traditions—ga-du-gi and the Grand Council. Ga-du-gi, which in the Cherokee language means “working together for the common good,” is a Cherokee traditions in which community members help neighbors in need without being asked for help.
Grand Councils were conducted for many generations to deliberate on important matters. At these councils, every Cherokee—from the oldest to youngest—had the right to be heard. Tribal leaders sought understanding and consensus through mutual inquiry.
Concepts of the Leadership Initiative
As the Cherokee Preservation Foundation worked closely with Cherokee tribal members to develop the leadership initiative, we created a program that:
- Is culturally based and grounded in Cherokee values.
- Includes exposure to the broader world of Native cultures and challenges.
- Emphasizes learning by doing, and includes formal learning, mentoring, and internship components.
- Integrates leadership into new and existing organizations and programs.
- Includes a discovery process into tribal identity, values, and history.
- Utilizes the wisdom of elders through teaching, mentoring, and monitoring.
- Supports individual, organizational, and community change and growth, and is oriented to community rather than individual benefit.
- Embraces all generations and is accessible to all tribal members following diverse pursuits, as many vocations and pursuits of leadership are valued and supported.
- Encompasses partnerships with Tribal and community programs.
- Collaborates with other effective, culturally compatible programs across the U.S.
Using the concepts and initiatives above, three culturally-based leadership programs were developed. The Cherokee Youth Council for youth grades 7-12, the Jones-Bowman Leadership Award Program for college undergraduates, and the ᏚᏳᎪᏛᎢ Right Path Adult Leadership Program. Please visit each individual page for more information.