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.

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 www.cherokeekids.org 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.

www.cherokee.org – 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.

www.cherokeesatlarge.org – 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.

www.anadisgoi.com – 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.

www.osiyo.tv – 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 FNX.org 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 www.osiyo.tv. The show profiles exceptional citizens, current events and stories on Cherokee history and cultural preservation.

www.cherokeephoenix.org – 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. 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheCherokeeNation
Twitter: www.twitter.com/CherokeeNation
YouTube: www.youtube.com/CherokeeTV
Instagram: www.instagram.com/thecherokeenation

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: www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship or call (918) 458-6980.

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