- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 11, 2007

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who are convicted of drug dealing will be banished from the reservation under a law signed last week by its principal chief.

Banishment is a harsh penalty previously reserved for extreme circumstances — such as when a member is convicted of committing a sexual offense against minors.

Federal law allows the tribe to sentence people to up to a year in prison and a $5,000 fine. “But the tribe’s most powerful — and one of the remaining inherent powers we have — is to say who can be here and who can’t,” said Michael McConnell, attorney general for the tribe.

The Tribal Council will be able to determine the length of an exclusion, and a member convicted of dealing drugs will be able to petition the panel to return. Nonmembers also can be banished.

The Eastern Band of Cherokee has a membership of about 13,500. Its land is about 50 miles west of Asheville near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Sheriff Jimmy Ashe in neighboring Jackson County said the law is “a good way for the Cherokee community to impress that they won’t stand for drug dealing.”

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