Chief Chadwick Smith
Chad “Corntassel” Smith is currently serving his third four-year term as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the second largest Indian tribe in the United States with more than 285,000 citizens.
As a high school wrestler, Smith went 20-0-1 as a senior at Maplewood High School in Tennessee. He wrestled one season at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Since his election in 1999, Smith has navigated the Cherokee Nation out of a time of turmoil into a period of unprecedented economic growth, employing more Cherokees while also providing more services to citizens than ever before. He has focused his efforts in three areas: economic self-reliance, language and cultural revitalization, and community development in Northeastern Oklahoma.
Through his leadership, the Cherokee Nation has expanded its influence, not only in the gaming industry but also in the agriculture, real estate, corporate and defense industries. He has initiated efforts to re-introduce fluency in the Cherokee language to tribal citizens and to preserve and expand tribal customs. More importantly, he has fostered the spirit of “gadugi,” or coming together for the common good, among Cherokee people.
Smith earned his bachelor’s in education from the University of Georgia in 1973, a master’s in public administration from the University of Wisconsin in 1975, a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa in 1980 and a master’s in hospitality management from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas in 2008.
Before becoming Principal Chief, he taught Indian law at Dartmouth College, Northeastern State University and Rogers State University. He served two previous Cherokee Nation chiefs as Director of Tribal Planning, Legal Historian, Cherokee Nation Prosecutor, Director of Justice and Advisor to the Tribal Tax Commission. He also successfully operated his own law practice, served Tulsa County as an assistant public defender and worked as an assistant district attorney in Creek County.