Hastings Shade: Deputy
Chief of the Cherokee Nation
I talked to Hastings Shade, the 58-year old Deputy
Chief of the Cherokee Nation by telephone to his headquarters in
Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Shade is a direct descendant of Sequoia, the
inventor of the Cherokee Alphabet. He presides, along with the Chief,
over 105,000 people spread out over 14 Oklahoma counties designated
as part of the "Cherokee Nation." There are over 212,000 Cherokees
worldwide. Of these, only 2 percent are estimated to be "full-blood."
While I was on hold, I listened to the strains of a chorus singing
"Amazing Grace" in Cherokee.
Shade became involved in tribal politics by a round-about
path. "I've done everything...everything that was legal!" He has
supported himself and his family with traditional crafts, logging,
building homes, and hunting/selling pelts. But his main love is
teaching. "It doesn't hurt that I am a descendant of Sequoia. I've
been teaching the language more than 30 years. I started when I
realized we were losing the language. My wife and I will continue
to teach after my term is over. It was a hard choice, to leave teaching.
I can reach more people and open more doors though, as a Deputy
Shade's philosophy is that "paid work and volunteer
work is not divided. I get paid for my work sometimes, and that's
fine. If not, that's also fine. Take teaching. I'll go to a school
and if they've got it in their budget to pay me, OK, or else I tell
them, 'We won't worry about it now.' " His tribal position pays
less than $50,000. "And," he says, "You can't accept anything. Maybe
dinner. Yes, I'll accept a good meal. That's differenet from 100
years ago. There's a reason for that: You accept gifts and you open
yourself to obligations. And believe me," he laughs, "They'll remind
When asked about how he feels about the Native (a
Shoshone-Bannock) on the new $1 dollar gold coin, Shade says pointedly,
"I remember when there was a saying, 'The only Indian you can love
is on a nickel.' I don't like it. I don't like the Atlanta Braves
or the Washington Redskins, either. Call us who we are, not what
you think we are."
He points out that the Cherokees have not yet been
approached about hosting extreme sports, but that they do run bingo
games and casinos. "We borrowed the money from the banks. We also
have 10 percent of our $155 million budget that is discretionary.
This money is mostly Federal, from the motor fuel tax. We borrowed
money so that we wouldn't have to bring in outsiders, unlike some
Shade's artistic talents led to an award from former-Chief
Wilma Mankiller. He addressed the change in Native art from 'home
use' to international market. "I do 'crafts', which used to be tools:
the bow, the stickball, blow gun. We don't need them for survival
anymore. But I can make a bow and sell it for $600. You couldn't
give them away before. We want to expand that. We have buyers from
Germany, France and England, but no diret marketing. We do have
a Web site.
We want to create a Mexican-type open marketplace, or like they
have in Gallup, New Mexico. We don't use the tourist dollar enough.
Our products, unlike many other tribes', are 100 percent Native
created, Native materials."
The Cherokee Nation just received a grant for energy-efficient
homes and as Shade acknowledges,"We will take care of Mother Earth.
We won't clear-cut or doze."
Shade has instituted Youth-Elder camps, which have
proved very popular with the aging baby boomers. "We have many non-Native
people come, 300-400. We can handle triple that number and do it
year-round, too. Now, the camps last for the weekend. There are
crafts, traditional cooking, story-telling. We mingle, enjoy, visit.
You can come just to talk. We don't do enough talking between the
-- Posted: May 11, 2000