Former UKB Chief Wickliffe dies
Former United Keetoowah Band Chief George Wickliffe, right, died on Dec. 19, according to a UKB statement. In this 2013 photo, he is attending a joint council meeting with former Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Michell Hicks, left, and Principal Chief Bill John Baker. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a statement, the United Keetoowah Band announced that former Chief George Wickliffe died in his sleep on Dec. 19. He was 80 years old. Services were pending as of Dec. 21.
Known to many as a coach, school superintendent and Cherokee language instructor, Wickliffe led the UKB for three terms beginning in 2005.
He served “as a champion for Keetoowah land in trust and enlightened all on the rich history of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians as well as the history of other Native American tribes,” the statement reads. “He will be greatly missed by all.”
Wickliffe served from 2005-16 when the UKB Council impeached him. On May 24, 2016, the 12-member council voted 8-3 for impeachment. The tribe’s treasurer, Ella Mae Worley, had filed three articles of impeachment against Wickliffe, citing financial improprieties.
Wickliffe was accused of making unauthorized disbursements and cash advances out of the tribe’s general fund to select councilors, using the tribe’s credit card to pay several of his personal bills and giving himself $5,000 in scholarship funds after the tribe reduced its higher education program. He was also accused of signing contracts with the council’s approval.
The council’s vote also banned Wickliffe from holding an elected office or appointed position within the tribe. On July 29, 2016, District Judge DeWayne Littlejohn affirmed the UKB Tribal Council’s vote to remove Wickliffe as principal chief but overturned the ban preventing him from running for office in the future.
UKB Assistant Chief Joe H. Bunch was sworn in as principal chief on May 25, 2016. Bunch won a runoff election with 58 percent of the vote on Dec. 6, 2016.
Today the UKB has approximately 14,300 citizens, with about 13,300 living within Oklahoma. Its headquarters is located in Tahlequah.