A voice for the Nation

A voice for the Nation
(Submission) Muscogee (Creek) citizen Jonodev Chaudhuri was named the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Ambassador and will serve as the voice for the Nation in Washington, D.C.

Liz Gray/Reporter

Ambassador position created to serve in U.S. capitol

Washington — Jonodev Chaudhuri spent his last days as the National Indian Gaming Commission chairman going from meeting to meeting, taking care of business on borrowed time.

His six-year run as chairman had been temporary since his official term ended in April 2018.

Something was waiting for him, a way to reconnect with his tribe while remaining in Washington D.C.

In December 2018, he was asked to help create a new position at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

“I was happy to participate in dialogue in how that position should be structured, not knowing if I would be named to the position or not,” Chaudhuri said.

MCN had decided they wanted to place a constant presence in the U.S. Capitol with the introduction of an ambassador.

The Nation had ambassadors in the past, the royalty, Miss and Jr. Miss, serve as goodwill ambassadors and Chitto Harjo was cited in legislation for the time he served as one to oppose the allotment of Indian lands.

Chaudhuri had been nominated when the position was approved to exist, but he was not appointed in that same Council meeting, which he views as a sort of blessing in disguise.

“Frankly I’m grateful I wasn’t named when I was because I had very important work to continue doing at the National Indian Gaming Commission,” he said.

“The forces that went into making the timing work out the way it did, not only is the writing on the wall that it’s time for me to leave at [NIGC] but it’s time to fulfill what I believe is an important part of my path to serve Creek Nation.”

Through amendments in the original legislation for the MCN ambassador, it would no longer be necessary for the National Council to confirm, but be contractual through the office of principal chief for the length of the principal chief’s term.

“I fully recognize under this position, my role is not to be a decision maker, my role is to be a communicator, a communicator of the will of the people and the will of the people expressed through the leadership of [MCN] namely the principal chief in conjunction with the legislative body,” Chaudhuri said.

He will act as the messenger for the Nation to the federal government, using his experience at NIGC to ensure MCN provides a ‘clear ask’ when engaging with executive and congressional offices.

“A clear ask meaning if you speak with one voice and say precisely what you’re advocating for, it makes it that much easier for your allies,” he said.

Advocacy is nothing new for Chaudhuri. During her lifetime his mother, Jean, perhaps best known as the author of ‘A Sacred Path: the way of the Muscogee Creeks’ had developed a reputation for her work and passion for her culture. She provided her son with what he would carry down his own path.

“Mom use to tell me whatever gifts you have, they don’t belong to you.” he said. “Those gifts are a test and that test is how well are you going to use whatever’s given to you for the betterment of the community.”

“I always think about Mom’s teachings and I’ve done my best to apply them in my life, time will tell if I’ve done enough.”

So far, time has held Chaudhuri’s story as a lawyer with a focus on Indian law, a MCN Supreme Court judge and NIGC chairman. The combination of these points meld into his next step as the MCN ambassador.

“I want to be as effective during this period as I can be and make the most of it,” Chaudhuri said. “The issues that [MCN] is advocating for are profoundly important…the sovereignty Creek Nation is trying to advance is important for all of Indian Country.”

“I’m going to do whatever I can during my term and just see what happens after that.”

He will also be working separately in Indian law while serving in his new ambassador role until his term expires at the end of the year.

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