Monday, October 16, 2017

‘Chosen One’ campaign seeks increase in Cherokee foster and adoptive homes

The Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare team has launched a new initiative to recruit foster and adoptive parents, as well as collect some of the vital items needed for children in need. “Chosen One” is a contest featuring Cherokee Nation citizens the ICW staff has selected. These "chosen" participants were selected to assist the ICW department in recruiting Native foster and adoptive homes and will be advocating for others to get involved by donating items like diapers, backpacks, clothing and car safety chairs. These individuals are respected leaders and will be competing with one another in the “Chosen One” challenge, which will be an annual drive. The contestant with the most applicants and items donated to Cherokee Nation ICW will win the challenge.  

Some of the best ways to gain new foster and adoptive families are to get the word out with new voices and recruit new recruiters, who can utilize their circles of influence as well as their social media connections. One of the strategies evident in the “Chosen One” push is to look at stakeholders in our communities that others value and respect.  

“Chosen One” participants this year include Matt Anderson, Casey Baker, Greg Bilby, Shannon Buhl, Susan Chapman-Plumb, David Cornsilk, LeeAnn Dreadfulwater, Canaan Duncan, Alayna Farris, Rhonda Foster, Brian Hail, Daryl Legg, Debra Proctor, Brandon Scott, Kevin Stretch, Mark Taylor, Bryan Warner, Kara Whitworth and Tommy Wildcat. These 19 people have been tabbed because they possess leadership skills and have great compassion for our people. They understand the need, they care about our children’s future, and they will be excellent assets for our ICW recruitment team. It is no secret that when notable people speak, we all pay attention and respond. The deadline for the contest is the end of November, giving participants about six weeks to compete for the most new homes and desired materials. 

The campaign is the creative idea of our ICW team, which is constantly devising new ways to spread its important message. It is fun and a positive way to get Cherokees involved with recruitment and keep this issue in the public eye. Our ICW workers are dedicated and committed, but they cannot do this work alone for our children. They need fellow Cherokees to step in and step up to help. As we communicate with family, friends and co-workers, it is critical that we all work to share Cherokee Nation’s ICW’s vast needs with the public. 

Everything the ICW team does to garner support for our children and families is centered on Cherokee cultural values, including “digadatseli,” which means “we belong to each other.” Taking care of our children, protecting our future, requires all of us to be part of that circle.  

Today, Cherokee Nation’s ICW office works with more than 1,900 children. That figure includes children in Oklahoma’s custody, tribal custody and children involved in civil guardianships and adoptions. About 630 of those 1,900 children are in the state’s custody within our 14-county jurisdiction, and another 70 Cherokee children are in the Cherokee Nation’s custody. Seventy percent of the youth in state custody are in need of American Indian foster care placement. Unfortunately, we have only 50 certified foster homes at this time.  

No doubt the need is immense. We see a myriad of reasons, from historical trauma to lack of parenting skills to addiction, that have caused a spike in the numbers of kids in need. Innocent children deserve every opportunity to grow into what God intended for them. I am asking Cherokee families to look in your heart and, if possible, open your doors and your lives to a Cherokee child. If that is not possible, please give what you are able to and support our ICW office as it fights for Cherokee children. 

To find out more about the “Chosen One” campaign or to learn more about our foster and adoptive programs, visit or call 918-458-6900.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Physician compensation plan positions Cherokee Nation health care for better future

The Cherokee Nation recently took a major step towards a stronger and brighter future for our health system. By boosting the compensation of the doctors and other health care professionals who care for our Cherokee people, we have laid a stronger foundation for consistent quality care. The professionals in our system are responsible with caring for our patients. They improve, and literally save, so many Cherokee and Native lives each year.

The new plan increases pay and incentives for doctors and advanced providers. The increase includes raising base pay, about a $35,000 increase for physicians in primary care, as well as providing a quarterly incentive based on work quality. Under this plan, every physician and advanced practitioner will see a raise. It will raise the threshold pay to the region’s market rate, which will affect about 120 doctors and advanced level providers who administer care in the tribe’s nine health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital.

We devised a plan to raise salaries that is responsible and affordable. Our health leadership team, led by Connie Davis and Dr. Charles Grim, along with my cabinet leaders, studied the issue, listened to our doctors and sought input from the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council. Collectively, we are all committed to providing the best health care possible to the Cherokee people. We want our citizens to have access to the best quality care, and that starts with our physicians. Building a level of trust and peace of mind for our doctors will only improve health care opportunities for our people in the long term.

To meet the growing demands on our system, we need to recruit and retain the best doctors we can. We recognize that in the competitive environment of rural health care, we had to take immediate steps in order to attract and retain quality doctors.

Cherokee Nation operates the largest tribal health system in the United States, and our hospital and clinics see more than 1 million patient visits per year, and we are growing rapidly. We are investing $200 million to build a new facility through a joint venture with Indian Health Service. IHS will provide more than $90 million annually for staffing and operations.  It will make Hastings the largest tribal health campus in the United States. It will open in 2019, and we will need to fill close to 900 new health care jobs.

This will only help us maximize our substantial commitment and investment to improved health care. In the end, these dollars will come back to us in the form of better health for the Cherokee people, more competitive applicants and more stability within our health facilities.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Celebrating Native and Indigenous Peoples

Tulsa is the heart of Indian Country in America, and I applaud the city’s leaders for adopting Native American Day on the second Monday in October. This move is important and the right thing to do. Tulsa has been and will always be shaped by the tribes that live in the region. It is part of Cherokee Nation’s history and jurisdiction. Almost 35,000 Cherokees live in the Tulsa area. Tribes, including the Cherokee, Osage and Muscogee Creek, have lived and embraced this region prior to statehood.

The city of Tulsa, the state of Oklahoma and our country itself should recognize this truer and more accurate celebration of life, culture and influence. Native people had a history and heritage in the Americas long before Christopher Columbus ever set sail.

Proper historians know that Christopher Columbus did not discover America. The truth is that he committed atrocities, including slavery and genocide, against Native peoples. He was a destroyer of culture. Perpetuating the Columbus myth does not make us better as Americans, in fact it does the opposite. It makes all less aware of our history and our reality today. Celebrating antiquated and highly inaccurate chapters of history does a disservice to everyone, especially our youth, and our future together.

Every tribe's history is different, but largely, the United States of America and its founding documents grew up around and within Native American tribes and our cultures. My hope is that Native American Day will encourage people to learn about and respect Native contributions to history and this country.

Tulsa joins other Oklahoma cities like Anadarko, McAlester, Norman and Tahlequah, the capital city of the Cherokee Nation, to embrace the day’s name. Nationally, cities with high Indian populations have rebranded the day as Indigenous Peoples Day, a national movement led by the National Congress of American Indians. Major cities like Albuquerque, Minneapolis, Phoenix and Seattle have joined states like Alaska and South Dakota in making the transition.

The Greater Tulsa Indian Affairs Commission, an intertribal group and a city of Tulsa appointed commission that has many strong Cherokee leadership voices, deserves credit for spearheading this effort. Thanks goes to Mayor G.T. Bynum as well. Early in his tenure he made a commitment to work with and listen to Tulsa’s tribal partners like the Cherokee Nation and has fulfilled that promise.

As Indian people, we have left an undeniable impact in America and here in Oklahoma. We have one of the largest Native American populations in the United States. Cherokee Nation alone has an economic impact in northeast Oklahoma of more than $2 billion. The other 37 federally recognized tribes also make significant contributions, both financially and culturally, to our home state.
Tribes are a good partner in Oklahoma’s success from job creation to infrastructure development, and we are good stewards of our vital natural resources – air, water and land.  I think these things are worth celebrating.

It is time to embrace Native American Day or Indigenous Peoples Day. Whatever it is called, the spirit is honorable and justified.  Oklahoma should be the national leader in honoring the culture, heritage and traditional lifeways of our ancestors and of who we are today as successful and modern sovereign governments. This day honors our tribal people and the tribes of Oklahoma.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Array of online tools allow Cherokees to remain connected and informed

With such a large population across the globe, it is important we keep all Cherokees as informed and up to date as we can. The value of staying connected is especially important when the Cherokee Nation is involved in high-profile national efforts like the hurricane relief efforts in south Texas.

The Cherokee Nation has almost 360,000 citizens, and more than 224,000 of our enrolled citizens live outside the tribe’s northeast Oklahoma jurisdiction. Tribal citizens in at-large communities across Oklahoma and the United States are a vital part of our government and are important to our success.

Ensuring citizens feel connected to their government and remain informed and updated on the issues and policies is critical. At-large council members Mary Baker Shaw and Wanda Hatfield reminded me recently of how important this is, particularly for citizens who live far from home.  They encouraged me to do more to spread the world about Cherokee Nation's online content, which can be accessed for free. Below you will find out how to access some of our award-winning websites, television shows and publications. – official website of the Cherokee Nation
Every program and service offered by the tribe is highlighted and profiled here. Applications and essential contact information are available here. On the homepage are links to the various media platforms where you can follow the official Cherokee Nation and stay plugged in: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We just recently launched an Instagram account as well. – resource for at-large Cherokees
At-large citizens have a unique site, dedicated exclusively to connecting Cherokee Nation citizens residing beyond the tribe’s 14 counties with information on federal and tribal programs and services. The site features unique information for Cherokee Nation citizens on home loans and IHS health care options. There are details about higher education scholarships available to any Cherokee, no matter where you live. – our award-winning online newsroom
Every Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses media release, op-ed and photograph we produce and send out is housed here. Also, an online copy of the Anadisgoi magazine can be viewed. – our Emmy-winning television show
“Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” has a new home. It can be viewed live in Oklahoma on Sundays on OETA and on the following stations in neighboring states:
Oklahoma Statewide:  OETA (PBS) Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
Tulsa: RSU-TV Thursdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.
Fayetteville and Fort Smith: KHBS/KHOG (ABC) Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Joplin: KSN (NBC) Mondays at 12:30 p.m. and KODE (ABC) Sundays at 9 a.m.
FNX-TV: Check your local television listings or for times.

Full episodes of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” as well as the individual stories from the show can be streamed online at The show profiles exceptional citizens, current events and stories on Cherokee history and cultural preservation. – our independent, award-winning newspaper
Cherokee Phoenix, the tribe’s historic paper, is online, and viewers can read every story as seen in the hard-copy edition. I encourage all Cherokee Nation citizens to read the Phoenix, one of the few tribally owned free press publications in Indian Country. Call (918) 207-4975 to order a monthly home newspaper subscription of the Cherokee Phoenix.

Social Media Platforms
Stay connected with Cherokee Nation through official social media. 

Keep Current by Mail
In order to receive hard copies of our tribal publications and mailers, keep your current address on file with Cherokee Nation's registration department. These publications include the quarterly Anadisgoi Magazine and our annual report. Address correction forms are available here: or call (918) 458-6980.

These are all excellent ways for Cherokees to interact, participate and remain connected to our government at no cost.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Cherokee Nation distributes STEM funding to public schools

Cherokee Nation is proud to provide additional financial assistance to public schools in northeast Oklahoma, especially during this era of declining budgets across the state. Last week, we issued more than $444,000 to public school districts in Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties. We sent 107 school districts a one-time award of $4,150. The money, allocated by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council from the tribe’s Motor Vehicle Tax fund, will help students in the constantly evolving areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics programming.

Our hope is this help will ensure our children get the education they deserve. The Oklahoma State Legislature routinely has failed our communities and our children by severely underfunding our public school districts year in and year out. Cherokee Nation, which already contributed more than $5 million to public education this year, has taken the lead in filling the gap so that our youth are prepared for a better and brighter future. STEM education must continue to be a priority in Oklahoma for children in K-12. We need more funding in these core subjects so that we remain competitive in the future. Comprehensive STEM courses are the only way we can ensure a competitive workforce is prepared for the modern, global economy. Now more than ever, Cherokee Nation’s role as a partner to public education is critical to northeast Oklahoma.

Each school district will determine the best use of the financial assistance. We know some school administrators plan to purchase science lab equipment or math tutoring software. Others will use it for robotics programs, and some will purchase computers and printers. I know our partners in public education will be creative and utilize the funding to enhance STEM activities for students.

In our effort to provide more opportunities for schools, we have contracted with a lifelong educator from Pryor to assist schools within Cherokee Nation as they develop STEM curriculum and programs. Frances Head, wife of former Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Charles Head, is passionate about our youth and their education. Her experience and expertise are available to the 107 school districts in our 14-county jurisdiction. Our hope is to assist schools in STEM development as they navigate trying to do more with less state money. This will benefit both Cherokee and non-Cherokee students as they pursue their educational dreams.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Youth ambassadors represent Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation remains blessed to have strong young leaders who annually act as role models and ambassadors on behalf of our tribe. Our Miss Cherokee, Junior Miss Cherokee and Little Cherokee Ambassador representatives always remind me that the future of the Cherokee Nation is in the right hands.

Miss Cherokee represents the Cherokee Nation as a goodwill ambassador and promotes our government, our history, our language and our culture. We recently saw former Miss Cherokee Sky Wildcat pass along her responsibilities to a new Miss Cherokee, 18-year-old Madison Whitekiller. She plans to advocate on a platform promoting the empowerment of Cherokee women.

As she travels across Oklahoma and the United States in the coming year, Madison will be a voice of the Cherokee people as she educates people of all ages and from all walks of life. Miss Cherokee traditionally reflects the best qualities of Cherokee youth, and Madison is no different. Over the past 12 months, Sky often spoke about environmental preservation. Her passion and efforts for environmental conservation left an impression, especially since we made plans to abolish the use of foam paper products like Styrofoam and lower the carbon footprint at Cherokee Nation.

The first Cherokee royalty was recognized in 1955, when Sequoyah Vocational School student Phyllis Osage was named “Queen of the Cornstalk Shoot” during the Cherokee National Holiday. Her job was to award trophies to the winners of the cornstalk shoot. Two years later, the title changed to Miss Cherokee Holiday, and in 1962, the first Miss Cherokee was crowned.

More than 60 women have now worn the Miss Cherokee crown. While they act as role models for others, the titleholders also develop their own sense of pride in the Cherokee Nation and better understand how to develop leadership skills in a highly visible role.

Another youth leader, Junior Miss Cherokee, often makes appearances alongside Miss Cherokee, also representing the Cherokee Nation at public events. She shares information and knowledge about our people and our traditions across the country. This year’s Junior Miss Cherokee is 17-year-old Danya Pigeon, who’s following in the footsteps of Lauryn Skye McCoy.

Six Little Cherokee Ambassadors, ages 4-12, represent us on a more local level. These children remind us that it’s never too early to teach our children to value our heritage and share it with the world. Our Little Cherokee Ambassadors for 2017-2018 are 5-year-old Avery Raper, 6-year-old Dante Anguiano, 8-year-old Cooper Dorr, 9-year-old Alayna Paden, 10-year-old Leah Gardner and 10-year-old Preston Gourd.

As a grandfather, I know Cherokee youth have a unique perspective on today’s world, and these young people play an integral part in preserving all that we hold so dear to our hearts. We can learn so much from them.

I’m proud of the women and men who have been a voice for the Cherokee people over the past 60 years, and I’m anxious to see what our newest ambassadors will accomplish in the coming year. Our future is bright so long as we always support and encourage our youth to be bold leaders on behalf of the Cherokee Nation and our people.


Cherokee Nation, Gilcrease Museum unite for historic Cherokee exhibit

For Cherokee Nation citizens, few things are more important than preserving who we are as a tribe and sharing our story with others. A new exhibit hosted by the Gilcrease Museum, called “After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation,” tells the story of the Cherokee Nation from forced removal, also known as the Trail of Tears, to the tribe’s settlement in Tahlequah and the formation of a new government in Indian Territory. The time span of the exhibition illustrates not only an important time in the history of the Cherokee people, but also an important moment in the history of the eventual state of Oklahoma.

This exhibit is not a summary of our past, but rather a reminder of how far we as a people have come and the strength and perseverance it took to do so. It features more than 100 items of original artwork and artifacts that illustrate the most pivotal moments in Cherokee history, from forced removal of our people to the rebuilding of our great tribal nation. The museum’s narrative is compelling for any Cherokee Nation citizen or advocate of United States history. 

From the “After Removal: Rebuilding the Cherokee Nation” exhibit:

In the 1830s, after a hard legal and political battle, the Cherokee people were forced to give up their ancestral homeland in the south Appalachians and establish new homes in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The forced removal resulted in considerable hardship and suffering for those who made the journey and then faced the daunting challenge of creating life anew in an unfamiliar land. John Ross was the Principal Chief from 1828 to 1866 and led his nation through this traumatic event. This exhibition tells a story of Cherokee Nation’s loss and rebuilding in the 19th century through the stark contrasts of the human experience – discord and harmony, war and peace, success and failure – and, in the end, the creation of a solid foundation for the future of the Cherokee people.

The Gilcrease Museum has repeatedly proven to be a great partner to the Cherokee Nation, and together we have created an exhibit that highlights some of the most significant documents and artifacts in the rich history of our people. Together we made a steadfast commitment to create an exhibit with a narrative that is authentic, accurate and appropriate.

The exhibit in Tulsa runs through January 2018.