Chad Smith Biography

Keynote address by Chad "Corntassel" Smith

Chad Smith, the former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, is a soft spoken strategic thinker who has been a powerful force in building businesses and working toward self-sufficient Native American nations. He looks ahead, knowing that the decisions we make today must serve our children and our children’s children 100 years from now.

During his tenure as Principal Chief from 1999-2011, the Cherokee Nation grew its assets from $150 million to $1.2 billion, increased healthcare services from $18 million to $310 million, created 6,000 jobs, and advanced education, language, and cultural preservation dramatically. Chief Smith’s success is a direct result of his principle-based leadership organization and his “Point A to Point B” leadership model. This model works with business, government, and people in everyday life situations.

His efforts outside of the political and business arenas are diversified; he is a renowned legal scholar, enjoys rebuilding old Studebaker cars, was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, rappelled from a 19-story hotel to raise money for the Special Olympics, and has bicycled the entire 980 mile “Trail of Tears” as part of a Cherokee youth leadership exercise.

A principled leader, Smith speaks passionately about developing leadership, improving education, building self-sufficient tribal nations, preserving cultural values and language, honoring the legacy inherited from his ancestors, and the inviolable responsibility to protect and exercise tribal sovereignty.  Smith shares stories, observations, experiences, and insights from his work as Principal Chief and his success in rebuilding one of the largest Indian nations in the United States.