The Qualla Boundary, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, is located within the Western District of North Carolina. The primary section of the Qualla Boundary spans Swain and Jackson Counties, with smaller out-parcels found in Cherokee, Graham, and Haywood Counties. At its center is the town of Cherokee, which is approximately one hour west of the City of Asheville.
The Eastern Band of Cherokee is the largest federally recognized Indian tribe east of the Mississippi River, currently consisting of over 13,000 enrolled members. The Cherokee Nation once resided in an area spanning eight southern states. The Eastern Band members primarily consist of descendants of Cherokee who resisted or escaped the Trail of Tears, the forcible relocation of several eastern tribes to Indian territory (now Oklahoma) during the 1830's. Today the Eastern Band is one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, the other two being the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians (both in Oklahoma).
The United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina derives its criminal jurisdiction over cases originating from the Qualla Boundary from Title 18, United States Code, Sections 1152 and 1153. This jurisdiction is often (but not always) concurrent with the Cherokee Tribal Court and the state courts of North Carolina.
Don Gast, Tribal Liaison
Don Gast serves as the Tribal Liaison for the United States Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina. As Tribal Liaison, he prosecutes all federal crimes arising from the Qualla Boundary and consults and coordinates with tribal justice officials, victim advocates, and law enforcement to address any issues involving the prosecution of criminal cases in Indian country. In that role he has prosecuted all manner of violent crimes, including murder, aggravated assault, and sex crimes.
Gast has served as Tribal Liaison since joining the United States Attorney’s Office in 2001. He previously served the public as an Assistant District Attorney in Buncombe County from 1997 to 2001. He received his Juris Doctor degree from Duke University School of Law in 1996 and his Bachelor of Arts degree from Stetson University in 1992.
Jason Smith, Special Assistant United States Attorney
Jason Smith is currently the Tribal Prosecutor for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, having been appointed to that position in January, 2011. Prior to that, he served as the Assistant Prosecutor for the Office of the Tribal Prosecutor in Cherokee beginning in November, 2009. Smith has been primarily responsible for handling all criminal cases in the Cherokee Court during his time with the Tribe. Smith also now serves as a Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In this capacity he is able to prosecute Indian country cases in federal court on behalf of the United States.
Smith previously served as an Assistant District Attorney for the 30th Prosecutorial District in North Carolina for five years, beginning in October, 2004, where he was primarily responsible for prosecuting all criminal cases in Swain, Graham and Cherokee Counties. During that time, he tried numerous major felony cases, including child abuse and child sexual abuse cases and murder cases. Smith spent three years in private practice with the law office of Jones, Key, Melvin & Patton in Franklin, North Carolina before becoming a prosecutor. He graduated from Clemson University in 1997 with a BA in Political Science. Smith received his JD from the University of Tennessee School of Law in 2001 and has been licensed to practice law in North Carolina since 2001.