Thursday, January 18, 2018

CNB investment allows Cherokee language program to expand

Preserving the Cherokee language is preserving Cherokee identity, as the heritage and traditions of the tribe are rooted in our language. Our language allows us to pass along traditional Cherokee knowledge and values to our children and grandchildren. That is why I am so proud that Cherokee Nation Businesses has pledged unprecedented financial support to the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program.  

Through a signed memorandum of understanding, CNB is providing $180,000 to cover the costs of a language program called the 14th Generation Master Apprentice Program, a pilot program designed for students who originally learned to speak Cherokee at the tribe’s Cherokee Immersion Charter School.  We hope it encourages language usage as they progress through junior high and high school. CNB’s monetary commitment will further advance the preservation and usage of the Cherokee language, as graduates of the adult master apprentice program are placed in supervised teaching and mentoring roles. 

The new endeavor can be a bridge that unites the mission of our Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, which has graduated six students since it began three years ago and is expected to graduate six more students in 2018 and another eight students in 2019. Both programs have proven successful in their respective area, and now we can connect their goals and participants.   

This multigenerational effort will help preserve and promote the use of the Cherokee language for generations to come and fill the gap between the immersion school and high school. Our youth, who have been educated in the immersion school, are among the most valuable Cherokee language assets going forward. We have made significant investments in these children, and we must keep exposing them to language-learning opportunities after completing the sixth grade.

Now that we have graduates of the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, we have developed an expert pipeline and grown the personnel to keep our youth engaged after immersion school graduation. That means language lessons can be utilized at Sequoyah High School as well as within community settings.

Creating new Cherokee speakers, and in turn letting them pass along what they have learned, will keep our language flourishing for generations to come. Supporting cultural education and growing the language curriculum will help Cherokee children succeed on their lifelong journey and allow them to reach their God-given potential in school, in life and as Cherokee speakers.

The 14th Generation Master Apprentice Program already has about a dozen Sequoyah High School students gathering for lessons after school. Plans are in place for a summer program with participants gathering from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for 10 weeks. Those students, if they participate over multiple summers, could potentially get about 2,000 hours of language education just through summer participation.

CNB continues to support the tribe in its pursuit of preserving Cherokee culture and heritage. Without the aggressive commitment from our tribal government and our business endeavors, the future of the Cherokee language would be in jeopardy.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Giving back to your community on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

"Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Reciting the many great words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. has become a treasured part of the day that commemorates his service to the cause of advancing civil rights. His remarkable gift of the written and spoken word has provided an inspiration to millions of people who share his dream of hope and fairness for all people in America, regardless of race, religion, gender or creed. He was a remarkable advocate for equality for all people of color in America, including Indian Country.
I recently signed an executive order formally recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the third Monday of each January, as a Cherokee Nation national holiday, closing all of the tribe’s government offices and granting paid administrative leave to employees. However, on that day, I encourage all Cherokee Nation employees to dedicate the day in service to others. By devoting this day to service and care of others, we move closer to Dr. King’s vision of living and working together as one community. Through our deeds, we honor Dr. King’s legacy. Going forward, that commitment to service on the third Monday of January will better unite and strengthen each of us, and the entire Cherokee Nation. "A Day On, Not a Day Off" can be a day to connect community service to the social justice issues that Dr. King fought for during his lifetime. On that day, and every day, we should all be an advocate for people who face injustices in their lives.
While we have certainly made positive progress for people of color, we still have far to go to meet true equality and opportunity for all. Now more than ever, we should make standing for the voiceless a priority in our country and community.
Part of Dr. King’s enduring legacy are the seeds of hope he planted in the hearts and minds of millions of Americans that life could be and should be better. That hope carried a generation forward, and it continues to inspire me today. Real hope is believing life will be better soon. It is not a fleeting wish that things will get better, but a true belief that a brighter future lies ahead. At Cherokee Nation, our goal is to build brighter futures for all of our citizens. A brighter future today, tomorrow and seven generations from now.
Dr. King devoted his life to serving others and fighting for justice and equality for all people. Beyond a celebration of his life, MLK Day is also a reminder that every day each of us can play an important role in continuing his work. Dr. King once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” We are forever indebted to Dr. King. His fight increased the opportunities and freedoms that we all enjoy today.  And, a most fitting tribute would be for each of us to rise every day and ask ourselves, “What can I do to help someone today?”

Friday, December 8, 2017

Solar canopy, electric cars are Cherokee Nation’s latest investment in green energy

Cherokee Nation continues to lead northeast Oklahoma, as well as Indian Country, in embracing green energy solutions. Recently, we dedicated a new solar power canopy at the Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. It will harness the power of the sun to charge electric vehicles and provide additional power to our complex. Cherokee Nation is the first tribal government in Oklahoma to build and utilize a solar canopy like this. We have always been good stewards of the land, and this is another example of exceptional natural resource conservation.

Embracing solar panels and adding electric vehicles to our fleet are consistent with Cherokee Nation’s leadership in clean-energy usage and carbon-footprint reduction. We have made an investment in clean and renewable energy a priority. We have embraced ideas that look to the future and how we can be better stewards for our children and for the earth.

These ideas are really just a continued extension of the long tradition that Cherokees have always held. Our commitment to clean energy is rooted in our history, as well as in our values. We look at what our ancestors thought, did and believe, and we try to follow in their footsteps. There is no doubt that our ancestors were among the first conservationists, and we must commit ourselves as they did to protecting the earth. It gives us life, and anytime we can help harness that to make the lives of Cherokees better, we are doing what we're supposed to be doing.

The solar panels cover an awning that can charge eight electric vehicles. The structure’s design also enhances the beautification efforts we have made at the tribal complex. The solar panels can generate 58,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to power three homes for a year. In addition to the charging station, which can charge up to eight cars at a time, Cherokee Nation has incorporated two electric vehicles to its fleet for employee usage. In recent years, we have transitioned many of our fleet buses to CNG vehicles, which are more efficient and cost effective in the long term. By using both electric and CNG vehicles, we are reducing our carbon footprint, stretching our dollars and leading by example.

Preservation of natural resources has been a major theme of our recent accomplishments in the past year. In addition to consciously reducing our carbon footprint within the Cherokee Nation, we continue to lead the fight against the burial of corporate toxic waste within our jurisdiction, have pledged to reduce usage of Styrofoam-like products in our daily operations, and undertaken a business initiative to develop a wind energy farm on Cherokee Nation trust land in Kay County.

Green energy – CNG, wind and solar – is creating jobs and a cleaner, better future for Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation has fully embraced these efforts, and we will remain on the cusp of positive change going forward. It is the right thing to do for the next seven generations.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

CNB’s diversified businesses reach record revenue in federal contracts wins in FY17, success reinvested in Cherokee Nation service programs

Building safe homes, increasing scholarship opportunities and offering accessible health care to our citizens are essential services provided by the Cherokee Nation tribal government. Our ability to deliver vital programs is dependent on our success at Cherokee Nation Businesses. Hospitality and entertainment are the foundation of our economic success, but our diversified businesses, or non-gaming business ventures, now account for about 35 percent of CNB’s total revenue.

Several years ago, we concluded that gaming should be a portion of our economic portfolio but not all we do. We originally called this line of business “diversified” because we had to find a way to lessen our dependence on gaming.

CNB’s diversified businesses, which include 29 companies outside of the gaming industry, achieved more than $1 billion in federal and commercial contract wins in fiscal year 2017. Since 2010, the companies have increased their revenue and profitability significantly, which means they can provide a larger dividend to Cherokee Nation for critical services and programs, like education, housing and health care.

Federal contracting is a market with great potential. The U.S. government is the largest customer in the world, and we will continue creating expertise and securing contracts to bring dollars home to the Cherokee Nation. The hard work of our team, led by CNB’s President of Diversified Businesses and Cherokee Nation citizen Steven Bilby, has made CNB one of the most successful mid-level government contracting businesses in the world.

We have employees in 49 states and contracts in a variety of industries. Whether it is providing disaster relief services for FEMA, serving our Armed Forces through medical readiness exams or helping develop a cure for deadly diseases like the Zika virus, CNB has a significant footprint around the globe and serves more than 60 federal agencies.

Our reputation and results are stellar, and the success brings CNB positive exposure on a national stage.

Yes, we continue to offer hospitality jobs to Cherokee Nation citizens within our 14 counties, but now citizens have opportunities to secure employment in technical and specialized fields across the country.

Helping create career opportunities for Cherokee Nation citizens for the next several decades is essential. It is equally important to instill in Cherokee children the dream of a remarkable career that is with the Cherokee Nation. Creating a highly skilled tribal workforce, along with the jobs, will sustain our tribe for generations.

Our mission always will be to grow Cherokee Nation’s economy here at home, and we have done that, but our mission is multifaceted. CNB’s profits outside the 14 counties help support the tribe through an annual dividend. The more success we have in federal contracting, the better we serve Cherokee Nation citizens. I look forward to an even more successful 2018 as our businesses on all fronts continue to grow and thrive.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

For many Cherokee youth, Boys & Girls Club participation plays vital role

For the future of the Cherokee Nation, one of the most important things we can do for our youth is ensure we provide ample opportunities for them to grow mentally and physically in a safe and nurturing environment. The Boys & Girls Clubs of America supports a mission that focuses on the next generation and their development. Cherokee Nation is proud to be a partner and financially support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which has made a sincere commitment to Indian Country and clubs based in Native communities.

Recently, I was a speaker at the 25th annual Native Summit hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of America. The gathering, held in conjunction with Native American Heritage Month, is designed to celebrate and appreciate the important work done by clubs in Indian Country. These educational efforts play a significant role for our people, and they provide opportunities for young Cherokees to learn and grow.

As a tribe, Cherokee Nation donates almost $200,000 annually to eight clubs within our 14-county jurisdiction. We support clubs in Washington, Delaware, Sequoyah, Rogers, Nowata, Cherokee, Mayes and Adair counties. More than 11,000 youth are served in northeast Oklahoma through Cherokee Nation contributions, and about 60 percent of those young people are Native. We have also donated surplus vehicles and a small bus fitted with a wheelchair lift to assist with transportation needs. Additionally, individual Tribal Councilors have given from their community budget funds. Councilor Bryan Warner gave $6,300 to help build a STEM-learning classroom for the club in Sequoyah County, and Councilor Harley Buzzard gave an additional $5,000 for operations at the Delaware County Club.

Locally, one of the most important functions they provide is a safe place for Cherokee kids to go before and after school, as well as during the summer.

Club participation can foster lifelong friends and mentors. Our eight local clubs empower Cherokee youth to work in their community, sustain meaningful relationships and respect cultural heritage. Because of an involvement with the Boys & Girls Club, a child who participates has more influence that is positive in their young life. Teaming up with the Boys & Girls Club means better access to education, physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices for our Cherokee youth, and many of our local clubs offer tradition-based classes based on Cherokee games and arts.

Good character, leadership skills and positive self-image are important for any young person to succeed in school and in life. Boys & Girls Clubs here in northeast Oklahoma help fulfill that potential for Cherokee Nation citizens.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

New pavilion a nod to history and a look to the future

We recently began construction on a new pavilion just east of the Cherokee National Capitol building in Tahlequah. The open-air space will serve many purposes for the Cherokee Nation in our capital city. In addition to beautifying the downtown area, the multipurpose space will soon host community events, live music performances, markets and outdoor cultural classes.

The rectangular structure will be 4,000 square feet and hold around 1,000 people.

The pavilion’s design is a tribute to our history at Cherokee Nation. It is based on the large log structure that was built after Removal to house the reformed Cherokee government. In 1843, the structure housed the largest intertribal peace gathering in 1843. That intertribal gathering was called “the most important Indian council ever held on the American continent” during its era. Chief John Ross saw the need for tribal governments to come together and stand united on issues that would ensure the survival of Native people. At the 1843 meeting, it is estimated 10,000 people attended, and the iconic painting by John Mix Stanley expertly depicts the event. That painting is owned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, and a copy hangs in the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa. A print of the intertribal meeting painting remains on display as well at the Cherokee National Capitol building.

The grounds of the peace gathering later became home to the Capitol Square. The pavilion is expected to be complete in the spring of 2018, just in time for the 175th anniversary of the 1843 peace gathering. We hope to host a unique intertribal event and invite tribes from around the country to celebrate that anniversary and the new pavilion.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Celebrating Cherokee Veterans

November is a special and sacred time in the Cherokee Nation and all across Indian Country. Annually, November is the month we set aside to celebrate and recognize Native American Heritage. It is also the month we honor military heroes and our service veterans. At all Cherokee Nation events we take a moment to ensure we recognize and appreciate our veteran brothers and sisters for their courage and sacrifice. That high standard of support and recognition is something we all take great pride in and a value that we will make sure is always preserved.

As Cherokees, we respect and admire any man or woman who has donned a uniform and made sacrifices to defend America’s freedoms. Cherokee people, like many tribal nations, have a deep and rich history in the American military. Our people have been a part of every America battle since the founding of this country. This is a fact that many of us know but bears repeating at every opportunity: Native people, including Cherokees, serve in the military at a higher rate than any other racial group in America. Our heritage as soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines is strong and widely appreciated.

Historically, Cherokee warriors were prayed for by their family before going into battle or military service. Upon their return, these warriors are rightfully recognized by the tribe and the community for their acts of bravery. It is our tradition and our heritage to celebrate the individual who sacrifices for the larger good. It is the proper way to honor those people willing to fight for our rights to live free.

As a tribe, we have set a high watermark for our commitment to our veterans. Our Veterans Center is a special place that serves as a home and gathering place to socialize and get assistance with available services. We have provided our military veterans with a place of honor at our tribal headquarters, and it has inspired other tribes in Oklahoma to make similar commitments to their veterans. Not only on Veterans Day, but every day, we express our gratitude for the many sacrifices Cherokee veterans have made for all of us.

We all know somebody in our family—a cousin, sibling, parent or grandparent—who has served the Stars and Stripes and the values it represents. That commitment to country and duty is true and inspiring. I encourage you to celebrate their service and tell them thank you for stepping up when America needed them.