Monday, July 14, 2014

Fighting Obesity with Community Gardens in Cherokee Communities

It’s a sad fact that Native populations have the highest rates of obesity and diabetes of any ethnicity. The
Centers for Disease Control says Native Americans are 1 1/2 times more likely to be obese than other ethnic groups. Other studies have shown low-income, preschool-aged Native children have the highest obesity rate at 20 percent, and that rate is rising.

Creating a healthier Cherokee Nation has been my top priority as chief of the Cherokee Nation. We have made record investments to expand health care facilities and buy world-class equipment. However, to truly create healthier people instead of merely treating symptoms we must start educating our youngest citizens from the start.

Serenity Terhune, of Locust Grove, waters the vegetables 
at Cherokee Heights Head Start in Pryor.
Obesity is an epidemic that plagues Native communities nationwide. Tribal nations have the ability to address this deadly issue head on. Creating environments conducive to physical activity, teaching improved family nutrition, increasing access to healthy foods and starting community gardens are some of the ways to combat this growing problem.

Cherokee Nation’s ‘Learn to Grow’ community garden program teaches children how to grow their own fruits and vegetables, leaving a lifelong impression about proper nutrition and health. The program reaches more than 3,300 children in certified Cherokee Nation child care programs.

By planting, tending and harvesting their own community gardens, Cherokee kids get active and stay fit. The project is a joint effort between the tribe’s Child Care Resource and Referral office and Healthy Nations. Now in its second year, the program keeps improving. More than 100 child care facilities in Craig, Mayes, Delaware, Nowata and Ottawa counties are now participating by having community gardens nearby.

With the help of their caretakers, children grow nutritional and traditional foods like squash, corn, beans, peppers, melons, tomatoes and lettuce. We are making changes that not only combat obesity, but also promote physical fitness and healthier eating in Cherokee communities.

Studies show that children who participate in growing their own food become more interested in good nutrition. The simple act of growing their own produce makes kids more inclined to eat healthy fruits and vegetables. These are easy changes we can make in Indian Country to prevent chronic diseases and lower the mortality rates associated with obesity. 

That vested interest of where their food source comes from is something we hope these children maintain for a lifetime. Watching children become active contributors in their gardens, and seeing the pride and ownership they take in their crops, is inspiring to say the least.

The program also teaches children an important cultural lesson, as sustainable foods have always been a part of the Cherokee Nation’s heritage and traditions.

Generations ago, growing our own food and maintaining our natural environment were the things Cherokees passed from generation to generation. With this garden program, coupled with our Heirloom Seed Bank Program, the Cherokee government and its people are getting back to that way of thinking.

I’d also like to thank our partners in the Learn to Grow project. The OSU Extension Office, the Department of Human Services Licensing and the Native American Associations of Ketchum and Adair have been integral to the success of this program.

An informed community willing to ensure access to healthier foods and physical activity where we live, work and play will result in happier and healthier kids.

Friday, June 6, 2014

On the passing of Chester Nez, the last original Navajo code talker

"The walking on of Chester Nez is a sad day for the Navajo Nation and all of Indian Country. Our thoughts and prayers will be with our brothers and sisters form the Navajo Nation as they mourn the loss of their last original code talker. The Navajo code talkers used their traditional language to transmit messages for the U.S. military during WWII. Along with code talkers from other tribal governments, these men were the secret weapon that helped secure victory and ensure our freedoms as American citizens. We must always honor these warriors, including Chester Nez, for their courage and humility in defending the United States. They are truly great American heroes.”

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cherokee Nation Chief Bill John Baker on Diane Humetewa's confirmation

I applaud the appointment and confirmation of Hopi citizen Diane Humetewa as federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Arizona. Our federal judicial system should have a fair representation of American Indian citizens serving as judges. This is something we must keep pushing for as tribal governments, as so many of the cases that affect our tribal sovereignty and self-determination are heard in federal courts. I respect and admire President Obama for fulfilling a commitment to increase the visibility of Indian people across his administration and the federal judicial system. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker on Earth Day

Commemorating Earth Day is important for the Cherokee Nation and tribal governments across the country. Indian people are the Nation’s first conservationists and our tribal history is based on a balanced and harmonious relationship with our land, our resources and our environment. As such, we honor and celebrate Earth Day every day.  It is our responsibility to leave the world a better place for today, tomorrow and the next seven generations. We do that by being accountable and making decisions that benefit our people and preserve our natural world. At the Cherokee Nation, we embrace our role to lead by example in caring for the Earth.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One Year Later: Delivering on a Promise to Cherokee People

Over the past 12 months, I have been fortunate to travel across the Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties, meeting with tribal citizens on the issues and programs that mean the most to them.

During all those community events, speaking engagements and suppers, one constant remained true: There is nothing more important to the Cherokee Nation today, tomorrow and years from now than access to quality health care. This is the single most important thing we can do as a government to improve the lives of our people.

It was just one year ago that I announced we would use more than $100 million of Cherokee Nation Businesses’ casino profits to fund renovations and expansions at existing health centers, as well as a new surgical hospital in Tahlequah, our capital city. We have been successful financially, and I’m proud that we are finally investing casino dollars directly into our tribal infrastructure to ensure we have future generations of healthy Cherokees. Our business success belongs to our people.

I am also pleased to report that our vision to reinvest CNB business profits into our people is flourishing. Our businesses were created to generate a profit for our tribal citizens to share in. In the past 12 months, we have delivered on those promises to improve health care.

We have broken ground on these health centers:

A new 30,000-square-foot health center expansion and 11,000-square-foot renovation at Cherokee Nation Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw

A new 28,000-square-foot Cherokee Nation Cooweescoowee Health Center in Ochelata

A new 42,000-square-foot health center in Jay

A new 28,000-square-foot health center expansion of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell.

That equals 128,000 feet of new space and 11,000 feet of refurbished space to provide quality care.

No Cherokee citizen will have to drive more than 30 miles to get treated. Later this year we will break ground on a state-of-the-art, 150,000-square-foot surgical hospital.

I truly believe that every Cherokee Nation citizen deserves a long and healthy life. Living that long and happy life means our people, who make more than one million health care visits annually to our facilities, receive world-class care.

We have the biggest health care system in all of Indian Country and it should also be the best. Our centers offer medical, dental, lab, radiology, public health, WIC, nutrition, contract health, pharmacy, behavioral health, optometry, community health service and mammography. When we open these expansions, the wait will be shorter and the services will be faster.

With more space, more staff and more education, we can focus on prevention. Investments in wellness awareness will make our health care system more efficient and will have a lasting effect on preventing chronic disease. When we create healthier people today, we will preempt health crises tomorrow.

Additionally, each expansion means good construction jobs are being created. Our own Cherokee CRC, a CNB business, is responsible for production and assembly. That means Cherokee capital investments are creating Cherokee jobs to improve the health of Cherokee people. In 12 short months we have made huge strides for our people.

I promised the Cherokee Nation would strive for a world-class health care system and no Cherokee would get second-class health care. These expansions make good on that promise.

I was taught that every decision we make today will impact the next seven generations. The investment we are making to build a world-class health care system will sustain the health and economy of the Cherokee Nation for generations to come.

Breaking ground on the expansion of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell with Frankie Hargis, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; S. Joe Crittenden, Deputy Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation; ; Jodie Fishinghawk, Cherokee Nation Tribal Council; Chuck Hoskin Jr., Cherokee Nation Secretary of State; and Shawn Slaton, CEO of Cherokee Nation Businesses.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Three CNB executives honored by The Journal Record

The Journal Record, an Oklahoma-based media company that specializes in business, legislative and legal-related information, recently announced the 2014 honorees for their fifth annual Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs event. Among those honored are two Cherokee Nation Businesses executives.

Shawn Slaton, chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Businesses, and Cheryl Cohenour, president of Cherokee CRC, were both recognized for excellence in leadership.

The Journal Record created the award to recognize executives who succeed beyond the bottom line. The effectiveness of executives can have more to do with their ability to engage their employees and spark creativity. The honorees were selected by an industry panel from dozens of nominations and will be profiled in the Oklahoma’s Most Admired CEOs magazine to be published on Feb. 6.

As part of this event, four executives will be recognized with financial stewardship awards. Among this esteemed list is Doug Evans, chief financial officer of Cherokee Nation Businesses.

The financial stewardship award recognizes excellence in financial management, strategic thinking and contribution to the company's reputation, among many other attributes.

Congratulations to Shawn Slaton, Cheryl Cohenour and Doug Evans.