Monday, December 30, 2013

New Year and Expanded Objectives for the Cherokee Nation

The beginning of a fresh, new year is always a great time to reflect on our achievements and develop resolutions that can be accomplished in the upcoming months. In 2013, we achieved many dreams for the Cherokee Nation.  
The hardworking staff of the Nation worked diligently to fulfill the hallmark of my administration: Homes ~ Health ~ Hope. More than 100 Cherokee families celebrated Christmas in new homes built by our housing department, and every month more Cherokee families are moving into their brand-new homes. We made a record $100 million investment to provide better health care for Cherokee citizens. This includes new and expanded clinics, which will make it easier to provide essential health services. We also are increasing hope by investing more funds in educational opportunities. At Cherokee Nation Businesses we saw record-breaking growth as we continue to expand our business portfolio. We built a state-of-the-art Veterans Center at the Cherokee Nation so that our military men and women will always have a place of their own at our tribal headquarters.
In 2014, I will continue to focus on what truly makes a difference in Cherokee people’s daily lives: Homes, Health and Hope. As a tribal government, we are stronger when our people are healthy and secure and optimism abounds.
Additionally, we will continue our focus on new job creation. My goal is to eventually arrive at a place where every Cherokee citizen who wants to work in a Cherokee-related job has that opportunity. We will continue to partner with the state and local entities to attract new companies and help others expand. Recently, the Cherokee Nation partnered with the governor’s office and the State Department of Commerce to secure a new Macy’s distribution center in northeast Oklahoma. This effort will create 1,500 new jobs, and many of those will be filled by Cherokee citizens.
I want to streamline the citizenship process for our people. Our new tribal photo ID card effort has been successful, but we can be better in our methodology to verify and grant citizenship. I pledge to you that we will make the process easier and faster. It should not take years to confirm citizenship.
At the state level, we will continue our productive relationship with the governor’s office. In the past year we signed two new compacts: we were the first tribe to expand car tags statewide, and we signed a new tobacco compact with the state, which our tribal smoke shop owners are happy with. Another dream is for a hunting and fishing compact, where Cherokees can hunt or fish with their blue card as their license. We could be the first tribe in Oklahoma to secure this historic compact.  
We must make sure we are mindful of the next seven generations, and that’s why I am committed to making Cherokee Nation greener and expanding access to recycling at Cherokee Nation tribal buildings and CNB. We have a responsibility to protect our natural resources and establish a policy of sustainability.
A good government makes life better for its people and for future generations. That is what we are striving for at the Cherokee Nation, and that is what we deliver every day. I am proud of what we have done and enthusiastic about what we will accomplish in the upcoming year.
Happy New Year to you and your family!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

SNAP funding critical to Cherokee Nation, Indian Country

As part of the Farm Bill reauthorization in the House of Representatives, the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funding will be substantially cut. This cut is harmful for Cherokee Nation citizens and will hurt Indian Country.

In many homes, food stamps are the only means and access to quality, nutritious foods. A proposed nearly $40 billion cut in SNAP, which funds our state’s food stamp program, will have a dire effect on hundreds of Native families in northeast Oklahoma, harming the health and well-being of many Cherokee citizens. Nationally, those cuts, coupled with the recession and the high unemployment rates in heavily concentrated Native communities, could have a catastrophic impact.

Across Indian Country, 24 percent of Native households receive SNAP benefits, and 27 percent of Native people live below the poverty level, nearly double the national rate. Tribal citizens are more than twice as likely as any other demographic to depend on SNAP assistance to meet basic food needs to feed their families.

Oklahoma has one of the largest populations of American Indians, and it is one of the poorest states in the nation. More than half of Oklahoma counties have an average income at or below the federal poverty level. Oklahoma’s poverty rate of 17.2 percent is well above the national average and our child poverty rate is almost 25 percent, and those figures are highest in communities of color—Native, Hispanic and black homes.

We can and we must do better for all our people. To put it bluntly, we need an agriculture policy where access to healthy food for our citizens is part of the equation. We must have a commitment to take care of the most vulnerable among us: children, elders and those in need.

Cutting the $40 billion will only drive up health care costs and create real problems for the generation that follows us. Tribal citizens often face more obstacles in acquiring an adequate diet than other American citizens.

Educators nationwide agree that healthy bodies build healthy minds, and people learn better when properly and adequately fed. It is unacceptable to have our children and their families denied access to the foods they need to survive and to succeed. Food insecurity can impact a child’s health and create behavioral and psychological conditions, which limit a child’s God-given talent. This assistance, through alleviating hunger, provides our students access to achieve and become successful citizens and community leaders.

According to the National Congress of American Indians, the proposed Farm Bill “will allow states to end SNAP benefits to most adults who are receiving or applying for SNAP—including parents with children as young as 1 year old—if they are not working or participating in a work or training program for at least 20 hours per week despite being in areas with little-to-no employment opportunities. This would cut off an entire family’s food aid, including their children’s, for an unlimited time. States are incentivized to invoke this because they can keep half of the federal savings and cut critical funding for SNAP’s nutrition education program, which promotes healthy eating choices for low-income households.”

It’s time the federal government upheld its trust responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives. As Indian people, we do not deserve legislation that will severely cut food assistance to our communities. We do deserve a better agriculture policy in Oklahoma, for the Cherokee Nation and for Indian Country. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 Remembrance

Today we honor our fellow Americans who lost their lives and their loved ones 12 years ago on 9/11. While we remember the tragedy of 9/11 we also remember the hope, the coming together of our Nation and the pride that were forged on that day.

We honor those victims, survivors and the emergency responders left in the wake of the attacks on America.

And we are reminded of that feeling once again of working closely with our friends, our families and our neighbors to improve our world.

We all remember where we were that fateful day as we watched the tragedy unfold on TV and we must never forget the sacrifices made that day.

As a Nation, our resolve never wavered and today we honor that.

I encourage each of you to do an act of good will today as a remembrance and tribute to those who made the supreme sacrifice.

If every Cherokee does one good deed, one gesture of volunteerism to a greater good, the ripple effect will be felt well beyond our borders. 

God bless you, God bless the Cherokee Nation and God bless America.


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cherokee Nation, State Sign Historic Car Tag Compact

Cherokee Nation citizens living in all 77 Oklahoma counties can now buy a Cherokee Nation license plate. With a recently signed compact in place, all Cherokee citizens will soon have the opportunity to display a Cherokee tag on their car or recreational vehicle. The Cherokee Nation is the first tribe to sign a compact with the state of Oklahoma that will offer car tags to its citizens statewide.

This is an historic agreement between the state of Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation, and a testament to our sovereign government-to-government relationship.

Signing historic car tag compact with Governor Mary Fallin. 
Governor Mary Fallin is right when she said, “Local schools, county roads and other important priorities will benefit from this agreement.” Revenues from Cherokee Nation car tags are split between the Cherokee Nation and state and local governments. Nearly 40 cents of every dollar in Cherokee Nation car tag sales goes to public education.

Within the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction, 38 percent of tax revenues from the sale of tribal car tags is distributed to about 90 public school districts each year. In April, we awarded those schools $3.2 million. The new compact will do the same for even more districts that border the Cherokee Nation, but are technically outside our jurisdiction. Schools in Wagoner, Tulsa, Muskogee, Rogers and Mayes counties all stand to benefit in the same way as neighboring schools.

Outside the 14-county jurisdiction, revenue from the sale of vehicle tags will be distributed to schools and local and county governments in the same manner as state tags.

At-large Cherokee citizens residing in Wagoner, Tulsa, Muskogee, Rogers and Mayes counties will be able to purchase a tribal car tag by the end of the year.  Statewide car tag sales start in June 2014, and can be purchased from any of the five Cherokee Nation tag offices.

Like our tribal photo ID cards, the car tags are a source of Cherokee pride. But the benefits are deeply felt across the Cherokee Nation. So far this fiscal year, more than 100,000 vehicle tags have been issued. Through our partnerships, we are strengthening our sovereignty, creating more jobs, lowering the costs of car tags for thousands of Cherokees and providing even more resources to public schools for our children.

The Cherokee people are the heart of everything we do, and I made a commitment to do more for them, regardless of where they live in Oklahoma. Cherokees living outside of our jurisdictional boundaries have asked for tribal license plates for years, and we are finally able to make good on those wishes. It’s another goal we have achieved for the Cherokee people.

The new compact was successfully negotiated with the governor’s office by Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree. I thank him for leading the way for us in these complicated issues. The Cherokee Nation is stronger today for the work he has done in creating a compact that will benefit not just Cherokees, but all Oklahomans in the coming years. The Cherokee Nation values our government-to-government relationship with the state of Oklahoma, and contributes in other ways as well. We also hold gaming, tobacco and intergovernmental compacts with the governor’s office. 

In addition to this latest compact, we’ve expanded health care and housing programs, pumped record amounts into college scholarship programs and created new ways to help our elders.

We are building a stronger Cherokee Nation, and our car tag program allows us the capacity to keep doing more for our people, and for the people of our great state.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Vinita Community Mtg Last Night

Enjoyed seeing a lot of old friends and catching up with Cherokee Nation citizens at the community meeting held last night at the Vinita Cherokee Health Clinic. We had a great crowd and we updated citizens on programs and efforts at Cherokee Nation.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

New Spider Gallery Now Open

Cutting the Ribbon on Cherokee Nation's
new art center - the Spider Gallery 
The newly expanded and more visible Cherokee Arts Center “Spider Gallery” is officially open in downtown Tahlequah.

“This new space gives the Cherokee Nation an opportunity to showcase our fabulous artists’ work,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “It’s not only a place to display it, but a place to sell it, a place for us to help advertise it around the world, a place for us to help Native American artists carry on our culture, our history, our art and the story of the Cherokee people.”

The Spider Gallery, formerly located on Water Street, has made its new home in downtown Tahlequah inside the revitalized Cort Mall. There, more than 50 Cherokee artists from eight area counties, as well as Alabama, New Mexico and Texas, have art on display. It ranges from traditional pottery, jewelry and paintings to contemporary assemblage sculptures, with costs ranging from $10 to $12,000.

The name of the gallery is taken from traditional Cherokee folklore.

“It’s a reference to the Cherokee legend of the water spider that brought the fire, light and warmth to the dark and cold side of the earth,” said Callie Chunestudy, Arts Center cultural specialist. “Like the water spider, we aim to bring illumination through art by fostering and celebrating the talent and ingenuity of the Cherokee people.”

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes Statement on Federal Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed on Behalf of Veronica Brown

Statement from Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes:
Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker, President of Inter-Tribal,
Muscogee Creek Nation Chief George Tiger,
Choctaw Nation Chief Greg Pyle,
Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, and
Seminole Nation Chief Leonard Harjo

RE: In Support of the NCAI/NARF/NICWA Civil Lawsuit to Defend the Civil Rights of “Baby Veronica” and Her Right to a Fair Best Interest Hearing

“We stand today representing our five nations and joining with sovereign Indian nations across the United States and multiple national Native American organizations in support of the civil rights lawsuit filed in South Carolina on behalf of Veronica Brown, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. On July 17, 2013, the South Carolina Supreme Court ignored the child’s and the Brown family’s right to due process when it ordered the finalization of Veronica’s adoption by non-Indian parents and her removal from her biological Cherokee father and Cherokee family.

“The South Carolina Supreme Court’s order flies in the face of its previous determination and the U.S. Supreme Court. As elected leaders of sovereign tribal governments, we are outraged by the actions taken by the South Carolina Supreme Court. The reckless order to rush Veronica’s adoption will negatively impact Native children and family preservation efforts nationwide. Most importantly, though, it will take a happy and well-adjusted child from the only family she knows: her father, sister, stepmother, extended family, tribe, community and culture.
“A severe injustice has been committed to an innocent Cherokee child and her loving family in Oklahoma. The Brown family, including Veronica, deserves their due process. They do not deserve to have their lives forever transformed by the South Carolina judicial system without cause or consideration.

“Indian children being removed from their families and homes is not a new story in Indian Country. Those dark days have reared their head again sadly in South Carolina. We will stand with Veronica, the Browns, and national tribal organizations fighting for fairness and justice."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cherokee Phoenix Column: Cherokee Foster Families Needed

Cherokee Foster Families Needed
By Principal Bill John Baker

When I was elected Principal Chief, I promised I would do everything in my power to improve the lives of Cherokee youth. We have enjoyed many successes including more monies for education, and expanded health care coverage.

However, we are still in dire need in one area: foster and adoptive families for our Indian Child Welfare program. As you know, our children ensure the continued existence of our tribe, they are our future.  As Cherokee people, we all come from one fire and the Cherokee Nation belongs to our children. 

I hope strong Cherokee citizens and families can find a place in their hearts and in their homes for our beautiful children, who badly need a safe, nurturing environment. This is an issue that is deeply personal to me. We talk about taking care of our people, being a shoulder in a time of need and putting our Cherokee children first.

Now, I am asking Cherokee citizens to step forward and accept this huge responsibility. You can become a resource for our children.

Within the past five years, our Cherokee ICW office has had court involvement with 1,200 – 1,600 Cherokee children annually. The caseload increases each year and no decline is in sight.

Approximately one-third of these cases are children needing Cherokee homes.  Currently, we have about 140 certified resource homes - 100 are adoptive homes and 40 are foster homes.  The numbers of homes available for placement of our children has decreased drastically in the past five years, due in large part to issues related to the economy. 

Out of the 100 adoptive homes available, most request to adopt one child only in the range of zero to two years of age.  Most of the foster homes request only children from infancy to six years and generally do not want placement of more than two siblings.  We have no homes willing to accept the placement of teenagers.

Our greatest needs do not line up with our available resources.  We need foster homes for children over the age of six that are typically part of a sibling group and we need adoptive homes for children over the age of two that also have siblings.   

We need homes within our jurisdictional boundaries and throughout Oklahoma and in the communities where high numbers of Cherokees live – Texas, Arkansas, California, New Mexico, and elsewhere.

When we do not have safe homes to offer, we run the risk of our Cherokee children being placed in non-Native homes.  This goes against our basic Cherokee values and everything the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) represents and can make the battle difficult for Cherokee Nation ICW workers, who not only have to advocate for the best interest of the child and the Nation, but also many times must educate the local and state court systems on the importance of ICWA. 

Some people are unsure of whether or not they even qualify to foster or adopt. I encourage you to inquire if you have any capacity in your life and in in your home to help a Cherokee child.

My hope is this message will resonate with families who have love to offer and are willing to accept the responsibility of providing a foster or adoptive home.  Remember, while each of us is only one person in the world, we can be the world to a child.

Visit  or call 918-458-6900 to be part of the solution. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Statement on "Baby Veronica" case decision today from SCOTUS

"While we are thankful that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Indian Child Welfare Act and protected a law vital to the survival of Indian country, we are deeply, deeply disappointed that this case was not fully resolved.

We believe Veronica Brown’s best interests are served continuing to live in a loving home with her biological father Dusten Brown.

My heart, and no doubt the hearts of all of Indian Country, goes out to Dusten, our fellow Cherokee citizen, and his entire family – his parents, his wife and two small children, including Veronica.

Everything this family has gone through the past few years, just to keep his biological child—HIS baby girl— is more overwhelming than any of us can imagine.Keeping Veronica Brown with her family is what’s best for her, her family, the Cherokee Nation and all of Indian Country.

The Cherokee Nation remains committed to the protection of all Indian children and families.

And we will continue to support the Brown family with our thoughts, prayers and every available resource we have, so that they can keep their family whole.

Their fight is our fight, and we will be there every step of the way."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Teaming with State to Create Jobs

This profile is from the NW Arkansas Media...

LED-maker moves plant to U.S.

Arkansas-based firm will manufacture in Oklahoma

By John Magsam

NextGen Illumination Inc. is moving its manufacturing operation from overseas to Oklahoma.

The Fayetteville-based maker of light-emitting diode lighting for industrial, commercial, residential and agricultural applications has struck a deal with Cherokee Nation Industries to build products in Stilwell, Okla., a few miles from the Arkansas border. The company’s manufacturing operation had been in Asia.

NextGen had always wanted to produce its lights in the United States but cost had been a factor, said Patrick Rush, the company’s legal officer and director of media relations. With labor costs rising outside the United States, along with savings the company could realize through no longer paying duties and certain taxes and dramatically reducing shipping costs, it seemed the timing was right to bring the operation to Oklahoma, he said.

The shift to U.S. production gives the company more flexibility and more control over its products, Rush said. Eventually, more supportstaff is expected to be added to the company’s main office in Fayetteville.

“Those are all things that have frustrated us over the years,” Rush said.

Founded in 2008, Next-Gen’s LED lights use less energy than standard bulbs, last longer and don’t use toxic chemicals in their construction, Rush said. The company supplies lights for a variety of applications, including use in the poultry industry, where its patented dimming technology is considered advantageous.

NextGen will work with Cherokee Nation Industries to train workers to produce, assemble and package the company’s products. Theoperation will supply Next-Gen’s clients in North and South America.

Rush said the jobs will be tech-based, including spots in simple assembly and management.

Cherokee Nation Industries is a Cherokee Nation company. It was established in 1969 to serve as the economic and work-force arm for the Cherokee Nation, according to its website. It specializes in aerospace and defense manufacturing but also works in telecommunications and distribution services. It operates a 120,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Stilwell. Key clients include Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Chris Moody, president and chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Industries, said in an interview Thursday that the Stilwell plant’s work force is well-trained in electronic assembly, so manufacturing the NextGen products is a good fit. He said some of the nearly 300 workers at the Stilwell operation have been trained to make the NextGen products and work will begin soon on the first order. He said additional workers likely will be added when production increases.

Cherokee Nation citizens make up 85 percent of the Adair County plant’s work force, Moody said. The workers primarily live in Adair County, but a small percentage commute from Arkansas. Adair County borders Arkansas’ Washington, Benton and Crawford counties.

Adair County’s unemployment rate for April was 6.5 percent, up slightly from6.3 percent for the same period last year, according to statistics from the federal Department of Labor. Oklahoma’s unemployment rate for the period was 4.4 percent, down from 4.6 percent in 2012. Adair County’s labor force for April was 10,143, according to preliminary data, down from 10,563 for the same period in 2012.

Moody said the working relationship with NextGen also meets a long term goal of Cherokee Nation Industries - diversification. He said working with companies like NextGen will help keep work steady at the plant, because demand in the defense and aerospace segments can be spotty at times.

“We’ve been looking for a good commercial program,” he said.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Cherokee Heritage Center opens Diligwa

New village portrays most authentic Cherokee experience based in early 1700s

Cherokee Heritage Center officials celebrated Monday the opening of Diligwa, a new village portraying the most authentic Cherokee experience based on life in 1710.

Diligwa replaces the Ancient Village, which opened in 1967 and was originally designed as an interpretive area to showcase Cherokee daily life prior to European contact. The new village is a more accurate representation of the past due to the resources available today and more in-depth research.

“This is a monumental moment for the Cherokee Heritage Center,” said Cheryl Parrish, interim executive director for the Cherokee Heritage Center. “Our mission is to preserve and promote Cherokee culture, and Diligwa allows us to do that better than ever by more accurately showing what life was like 300 years ago.”

Diligwa is a name derivative of Tellico, a village in the east that was once the principal Cherokee town and is now underwater. Tellico was the Cherokee Nation capital and center of commerce before the emergence of Echota in Monroe County, Tenn. Tellico was often referred to as the “wild rice place” and became synonymous with a native grain that grew in the flat open spaces of east Tennessee.

Many believe when the Cherokees first arrived in Indian Territory, the native grasses that grew in the open spaces around the foothills of the Ozarks reminded them of the grassy open areas of Tellico. They called their new home “Di li gwa,” Tah-le-quah or Teh-li-co, “the open place where the grass grows.”

“We created a world-class venue that gives users a firsthand look into the Cherokee Nation’s culture and traditional lifeways,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “The new village will be an authentic educational experience for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike. We are proud to use this new setting to promote the tribe’s history and ensure our culture tourism efforts remain second to none.”

The new village provides visitors the chance to experience Cherokee life in the early 18th century and features 19 wattle and daub structures, 14 interpretive stations, and a detailed historic landscape set on four acres of land adjacent to the Cherokee Heritage Center.

Visitors can witness daily life as they are guided through the interpretive stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told, and Cherokee lifeways are explained.

Diligwa includes eight residential sites, each with a Cherokee summer house and winter house, which will soon feature a corn crib, a “kitchen garden” and additional landscaping, including the placement of foliage at the fenced perimeter. The public complex consists of the primary council house and summer council pavilion overlooking a large plaza that served as the center of community activity.

In addition, two recreation areas featuring a marble field and stickball field will showcase the Cherokee games that are still played today.

Rounding out the list of contributors is Tom J. and Edna Mae Carson Foundation, $250,000; Cherokee Nation Businesses, $250,000; Mary K. Chapman Foundation, $100,000; Boyd Group, $36,000; and the Gelvin Foundation, $2,500.

The project began with planning and design from Feb. 2007 to Dec. 2010. Implementation began with site preparation from Jan. to July 2011, and construction began in Oct. 2011.

The Cherokee Heritage Center is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive, Park Hill, OK 74451. It is the premier cultural center for Cherokee tribal history, culture and the arts. For information on the 2013 season events, operating hours and programs, please contact the Cherokee Heritage Center at(888) 999-6007 or visit It can also be found on Facebook by searching “Cherokee Heritage Center.”

Friday, May 31, 2013

Cherokee Nation employee named Oklahoma Special Olympics Coach of the Year

I’m so happy for Bea Dougherty being named 2013 Special Olympics of Oklahoma Coach of the Year in Oklahoma.

It is well-deserved recognition. She inherently embodies the values we hold in such high regard at the Cherokee Nation: dedication and commitment to youth, community and family. I respect the time and energy Bea invests in her athletes, encouraging them to set individual goals and train with them to attain their dreams.

Bea, who works as a family social worker for the Cherokee Nation Child Development Center in Tahlequah, received the title in front of a standing ovation of more than 4,000 Special Olympic athletes, coaches, families and friends earlier this month during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics of Oklahoma’s Summer Games.

Read more.

"Remember the Removal" riders leave for Georgia

The 2013 Remember the Removal Bike Ride commemorates the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears. 15 young Cherokee nation citizens will spend the next three weeks on bikes retracing their ancestors’ footsteps along the northern route, which passes through seven states.

These men and women will retrace our tribal nation’s route to Oklahoma – from our ancestral homelands in the east to our current capital city. It will be a personal and life-changing journey for them. As a student of history, and specifically Cherokee history, I am envious of the journey they are undertaking and the understanding they will attain by travelling the route of removal.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cherokee Nation on standby to help Moore tornado victims

Words simply cannot describe how heartbreaking the scene in Moore and the surrounding area is, and will continue to be. Our hearts, minds and prayers are with all those affected by this terrible tragedy, especially the two dozen victims and their families, a number which includes at least nine innocent children. The Cherokee Nation is in constant contact with emergency management teams in the area, and we have offered every available resource to assist with rescue, recovery and ongoing support. Teams of volunteers, including the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, first responders, Cherokee Nation employees and our Cherokee Nation Businesses entities, are ready and standing by. However great the need, it will be met. We stand committed to our fellow Oklahomans and will do everything in our power to help lift them up during this time of immense tragedy. As our neighbors in central Oklahoma begin to rebuild, our support will not waver as we look forward—together—to brighter days for all.

The Cherokee Nation has offered immediate and ongoing support to victims in the Moore area, following yesterday’s devastating tornadoes. The Cherokee Nation’s emergency management team is organizing tribal resources and is on standby for further direction from those managing the crisis that continues to unfold in central Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation will deploy at the discretion of emergency management teams in the area and will be notifying Cherokee citizens and employees of ways to help.   

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Message for New High School Graduates

All across America, Oklahoma and the Cherokee Nation, high school seniors are preparing to graduate, and are busy making plans for their futures, whether they go directly to work or choose to continue their education. It is an exciting time, and life offers a series of options. I remember my graduation from Tahlequah High School like it was yesterday, even though it has been a little bit longer than that. It was a time of both possibility and uncertainty.

Like many high school graduates, I didn't know for sure what I wanted to do or what my future would hold. I certainly didn’t think I would someday be the principal chief of the largest tribal government in the nation. I didn’t think I would testify before Congress or meet with the President of the United States. But I always hoped that I could somehow make a difference for my people.

I attended Northeastern State University and followed the path that has deep roots in my family: history and education. Eventually, I settled into a career as a small business owner, but never wavered on my commitment to public service and helping others.

To all of our Cherokee graduates, I encourage you to do the same. Pursue your passions – and always remember, you're allowed to have more than one. If I could impart a short list of advice to my then 17 year old self, I would offer these ideas as a road map:

·        Find work that you love, commit yourself to it and excel. Invest in yourself every day. Invest in your spiritual and physical health.
·        Explore new ideas and opportunities. Always expand your horizons and knowledge.
·        Accept and embrace change. Most things are fleeting, enjoy them in the moment and know change is always around the corner.
·        Don’t worry too much about what others think of you. Your opinion of yourself is what’s most important; Make good decisions and always be proud of them.
·        Talk to people from all walks of life. People of all ages and all levels in society can be your teacher. Ask them questions and listen to their answers – they just might hold the key to unlocking your imagination or your future.
·        Take full advantage of all your resources. Your family, your tribe, and your circle of friends all want you to succeed.  Lean on them and us – we are all here to help you be all you can be and reach your dreams. 

This time is a time of growth and change, embrace it and always remember who you are and lead with your Cherokee heart. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

See You at the Stilwell Strawberry Festival

The 66th Annual Stilwell Strawberry Festival will be held this weekend and the Cherokee Nation will be in the parade and have info booths set up. Every year, crowds of thousands come to Stilwell to sample the local berries. Go to for more information.

Did you know....Cherokee Female Seminary Hall history

Did you know...

The original Cherokee Female Seminary Hall was destroyed by fire on Easter Sunday of 1887. On May 7, 1889, the rebuilt site was dedicated from the second story porch behind the east wing of the building.

The Cherokee Female Seminary was the one of the first institutions for higher learning for women west of the Mississippi. Its original site was located where the Cherokee Heritage Center is today. Pillars that survived the fire remain standing in front of the cultural center.

Seminary Hall stands as a testament to the Cherokees’ dedication to education. The reconstructed Seminary Hall serves as an historic center point for Northeastern State University and classes continue to be held there today.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

New Inter-Tribal Council President

(Left) Assuming the duties of Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes President today from Chief George Tiger of the Muscogee Creek Nation. We hosted the meeting at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

I look forward to working for this organization as chairman in the upcoming year. I think together we can achieve great things for our collective tribal nations. It is the spirit of cooperation that fuels our mission as an Inter-Tribal Council.

Together, we can better protect our tribal sovereignty and do more good for our people, our governments and our state.

As tribal leaders and senior staff working for our respective Nations, I think we all benefit from this time together - sharing best ideas and practices. It strengthens our tribal sovereignty when we are able to partner with other tribal governments to promote an agenda at both the federal and state level.

Cherokee Nation hosts U.S. Sen. Tom Udall

The Cherokee Nation recently hosted New Mexico Sen. Tom Udall in Tahlequah and showed him the successes of our housing, education and health care programs. As a member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Senator Udall has earned a well-deserved reputation as a principled leader who has the integrity to do what is right for sovereign tribal governments. Without a doubt, Sen. Udall is one of the biggest champions for Indian Country in Congress.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One Fire Center Launched

The Charles L. Head ONE FIRE Center was created to immediately wrap our arms around women and children who have survived domestic violence and child abuse. We will provide our Cherokee women and children a safe haven from dangerous situations.

And we will help them begin the healing process through our Cherokee Nation programs. We will work to meet their needs for health care, jobs, housing, legal counsel and other services.

It is a basic human right to live a healthy life - free from fear and intimidation.

The late Secretary of State Charles L. Head was determined to protect victims of violence. The ONE FIRE Center will protect the right of Cherokee citizens and carry on his vision.

Read more about the One Fire Center here

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Testimony Before U.S. House on American Indian/Alaska Native funding

I delivered testimony today in Washington, DC before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies. It was part of a tribal leader’s panel invited to deliver comments on funding for American Indian/Alaska Native programs.

The testimony in full:


Chairman Simpson, Ranking Member Moran, and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. My name is Bill John Baker and I am the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

The Cherokee Nation is proud of what we’ve accomplished under self-governance. We are proud partners with the Department of Interior, and are pleased the department and this administration continue to support tribally-owned businesses.

However, we continue to be disappointed that the government does meet its obligations, and does not treat sovereign tribal nations the way it treats other federal partners. The United States has a legal obligation and trust responsibility to 566 tribes. This responsibility was established by treaties and agreements – where sovereign tribal governments agreed to cede land in exchange for federal commitments.

If the government would meet its responsibility, or even come close, we could provide even more effective levels of health care, education, and housing. Policies of self-determination have worked well for our Nation. Just recently the Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses announced the next 100 million dollars of our business profits will go towards expanding our healthcare system.

The Nation supports 1.2 million patient visits annually. As a comparison, this is slightly more than Johns Hopkins Community Physicians. We are going to build health clinics and a hospital – creating jobs in our community – while shortening lines, and ultimately providing better care for our people. People like Debbie, a Cherokee citizen who lives in Vinita, OK, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  She worried about affording treatment for such an expensive disease, but because of our clinic, she is able to receive care in her hometown.

If our budgets had not been reduced because of failure to fully pay contract support costs,
or projected losses due to sequestration, we could do even more.

Because we operate the largest tribal health care system in the United States, our success depends on whether we have funding to cover fixed costs. This is more than a trust issue. It is a civil rights issue.
Indian tribes are the only federal partners forced to pay these costs up front.  When the federal government does not fully pay contract support costs to tribal partners, it means we have to reduce the services we provide our people.  While I am thankful that IHS received an increase in the President’s budget, I am frustrated that the same budget also proposes a cap on IHS and BIA contract support cost payments. The federal government is not treating us like other federal partners, and is failing to meet its trust responsibility and fully fund programs like IHS. 

This is only the backdrop to our current cuts due to sequestration.  The Congressional Research Service states that certain Tribal and Indian trust accounts, all prior legal obligations of the federal government, and Indian Health Services and facilities should be exempt from sequestration cuts. Why was Indian Health Services not protected when Social Security, Medicaid, and numerous other programs were exempt from sequestration cuts?

The Cherokee Nation spends a federal dollar better than any federal agency ever could. The Nation’s audits are clean. Our Treasurer operates our Finance Department with a standard of excellence in efficiency and effectiveness. This should be rewarded. 

Instead, the Cherokee Nation is forced to cover the shortfall caused by Congress, forcing us to reduce direct services, quality of care, and funding to our health care programs. The Cherokee Nation has been successful in providing for our citizens, but there is so much more we can and will do if the federal government will honor its legal duty to sovereign tribal governments. 

We ask the federal government to fully fund IHS support costs, support our schools, assist with safe and affordable housing, and start treating Cherokee Nation the way it treats other federal partners.   Furthermore, I urge this committee to strongly oppose efforts to impose a cap on contract support costs. Neither I nor any other tribal leader should have to stand before this committee, reminding the United States of its obligations.  They are outlined in agreements, treaty after treaty, and law after law.  I urge you to fulfill the trust obligation owed to the Cherokee Nation and to every other tribe across Indian Country.


Kudos to Dianne Barker Harrold for Well Deserved Honor from DOJ

My good friend Dianne Barker Harrold was recently given a 2013 National Crime Victims’ Service Award from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Read about her journey here.

Meeting with U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack

Recently met with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at a University of Arkansas’ distinguished lecture series event. We discussed the USDA’s Keepseagle legal settlement and the Cherokee Nation’s commitment to revitalizing the role Native American agriculture plays in today’s society. Additionally, I thanked Secretary Vilsack for the opportunities to support USDA through federal contracts with Cherokee Nation Businesses. 

Cherokee Nation citizen and UARK Law School Dean Stacy Leeds arranged for Secretary Vilsack to speak at the Fayetteville, AR campus. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Investing CNB Profits Into Cherokee Health Care

The Cherokee Nation recently launched an overhaul to our health care system – the country’s largest tribally operated health system – with a $100 million investment from Cherokee Nation Businesses. 

For the first time ever, we are utilizing our businesses profits to grow tribal infrastructure and improve the health of our people. We are at a moment in time when we can make the right kind of choices that will reap benefits for generations of Cherokee citizens. This is exactly what our businesses were designed to do and our financial success belongs to the Cherokee people.

We created economic opportunities through CNB to make the Cherokee Nation stronger. Financially, we have succeeded and we are experiencing robust growth across all CNB platforms – hospitality and entertainment, security and defense, information technology, construction, real estate, health care services and telecommunications. We have laid a strong foundation for long-term financial stability.

As a business philosophy, we seek smart investment opportunities that pay back profitable dividends. That is what we are doing now with this investment in health care. 

 Making the Cherokee Health Care announcement at the Hard Rock .
 CNB’s construction division will serve as the project’s prime contractor and construction manager.  By managing this project in-house, our construction division grows its capabilities and gains an invaluable experience that can be used to help secure future projects from the federal government and private developers.

Growing the economy, creating jobs and improving health care access, it is an all-around winning model for the Cherokee Nation.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Remembering What Matters Most on Easter Sunday

Today, my family and I will join many Oklahomans and Cherokee citizens nationwide in celebrating the Easter holiday. It marks an annual day to share in the miracle of resurrection and enjoy the blessings of family, cherished friends, and community. This holiday is a joyous time to celebrate our salvation, give praise to our heavenly father and be grateful for new beginnings.  Jesus is a reminder that hope can find its way out of darkness and despair.

Even in these difficult economic times, a renewed sense of hope can be felt at the Cherokee Nation, as we work on issues vital to our people: health care access, new homes, more jobs and educational opportunities. Faith shapes our values, guides our work and gives our daily lives perspective.

As we celebrate this miracle, it is also important to remember our neighbors who may be struggling and give them the assistance and support they need to overcome their burden whether it be financial, emotional or spiritual.

Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden and I will use the day as reflection, to consider the tremendous sacrifices made for all of us to live the lives we lead. We will focus on the things that matter most in our lives – our family, loved ones, country and community. These are our links to the past and to history, but they are also our hope for the future.

On this Easter weekend, let’s celebrate the thread of humanity and compassion that connects every single one of us – Cherokee and non-Cherokee alike. Let’s remember our military men and women, many away from their families at this time. Let’s remember humility and value the grace bestowed on us by the creator.
God bless you. I offer you best wishes for a Happy Easter from my family and Deputy Chief Crittenden’s family.


Monday, March 18, 2013

CNB Secures $4M Contract With U.S. Army

Cherokee Nation Red Wing has been awarded a $4.2 million contract with the U.S. Army to provide logistical management and support services for the precision fire rocket and missile systems at Red River Army Depot.

As Chief, few things make me prouder than knowing our companies are supporting the great servicemen and women of this country. The Cherokee Nation’s commitment to the military spans generations. Many of our citizens have dedicated their lives, and some have made the ultimate sacrifice, to protect the United States of America.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

U.S. Attorney's Office Visits Cherokee Nation

Today, the Cherokee Nation hosted Danny Williams, U.S. Attorney of the Northern District of Oklahoma.  The Cherokee Marshals and the Cherokee Nation Attorney  General's office joined the conversation about working together, improving the government to government relationship to make a stronger and safer Indian Country.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Cierra Fields - A Cherokee Champion of Change

Cherokee citizen Cierra Fields was recently named a “Champions for Change” by the Center for Native American Youth in DC. She was recognized for  raising awareness for cancer prevention.
The Cherokee Nation is proud of Cierra for the passion she displayed to educate our people on ways to live healthier and reduce the risk of cancer. I admire her willingness and honesty to tell her personal story in the hopes that it will effect real change and improve the lives of Native people through prevention. 
The Cherokee people have always been strong in mind, body and spirit, and Cierra is a living example of that.
Read full story here.