20YearsEquals: A vibrant tribal nation

Chief Michell Hicks of Eastern Band of Cherokee

I had the great privilege to sit down and speak with Michell Hicks, principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), while I was in Austin, Texas, for the Native American Finance Officers Association’s (NAFOA) 33rd annual conference.

At the conference, Chief Hicks was honored with the 2015 Tribal Leader of the Year award, which is awarded to the leader who “displays foresight and resolve in the economic advancement of his or her nation.”

He has been leading EBCI as principal chief for the last 12 years. If you aren’t familiar with EBCI, the band is the only federally recognized tribe in North Carolina and has about 15,000 enrolled members.

Through Chief Hick’s leadership, EBCI has successfully managed income from its casino and directed it to make vast improvements to its educational system, health care, regional infrastructure, public safety, agriculture and environmental preservation. Before he was elected principal chief, he served as EBCI’s executive director of finance and budget for seven years.

He’s been in key roles for EBCI for nearly 20 years, which sparked my idea to ask him to sit down on camera with me and talk about what the last 20 years has meant to him and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.

Watch below to hear his reflections from his leadership tenure and his hopes for EBCI in the next 20 years. Congratulations on the award, Chief Hicks, and thank you for sharing with our readers!


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