Cherokee Nation District Judge T. Luke Barteaux, left, administers the oath of office to Supreme Court Chief Justice John C. Garrett as his wife, Debbie Garrett, holds the Bible.
The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council unanimously confirmed the reappointment of Chief Justice John C. Garrett to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on Monday. Garrett was sworn in by Cherokee Nation District Judge T. Luke Barteaux immediately following his reappointment.
Garrett’s new term on the five-member Supreme Court is a 10-year term. Garrett has served on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court since 2012, when he was nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and confirmed by the Tribal Council to fill a vacancy.
Garrett served as a district court judge, overseeing cases in Sequoyah County District Court, for many years before not seeking re-election.
“Chief Justice Garrett has been a dedicated justice over the past six years of his service on the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court,” said Tribal Councilor Keith Austin. “He has demonstrated a strong understanding of Cherokee Nation laws, he has decades of experience, and I know he will continue to serve the tribe and our citizens well.”
Garrett has served as a judge in municipal, state and tribal capacities for more than 40 years. He is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma and the College of Law at the University of Tulsa.
Tribal Councilors also passed a resolution commending Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter for successfully urging the Vian Public School Board to change its policy so Cherokee students can wear eagle feathers on graduation regalia.
Hunter’s office joined the Cherokee Nation in encouraging the change after William Christie, a Cherokee student in Vian, was prohibited from wearing an eagle feather during his graduation ceremony in 2018. Christie’s family later asked the school board to reconsider its policy so William’s sister, Natalie, can wear her eagle feather when she graduates in 2019.
In his letter to Vian school officials, Hunter cited state law as generally requiring public schools to allow Cherokee students to wear eagle feathers during important events such as graduations.
“I appreciate Attorney General Mike Hunter for standing with the Cherokee Nation to ask that Cherokee students be allowed to wear ceremonial eagle feathers during graduation at Vian,” Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner said. “Wearing an eagle feather has long been a spiritual practice for Cherokees. I hope recent efforts by the Cherokee Nation and Mr. Hunter encourage other public schools in Oklahoma to change their policies as well.”
Under federal law, possession of an eagle feather is prohibited, though tribal citizens can request permission to possess one for religious or spiritual reasons.
Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director
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