Friday, December 11, 2015

New edition of New Testament enhances Cherokee culture

Copies of the New Testament in Cherokee syllabary have been in circulation since 1860. In any language, the New Testament is the most read and sought after publication in the world. That’s why I am proud to announce the Cherokee Nation has reviewed and corrected the text, and has printed new editions of the Holy Bible in the Cherokee language.

The completed 1860 Cherokee New Testament was primarily the work of Evan Jones, Samuel Worcester and Stephen Foreman, conducted over the course of a couple of decades during the mid-19th century. It was first published through the Park Hill Mission Press in 1860, and all subsequent reprints since then have been by the American Bible Society. Thanks to hard work by the tribe’s language and translation team, the Cherokee language in the New Testament has now been improved dramatically.

Our translators clarified passages of the 1860 version and fixed misspelled words, while our Language Program staff reformatted the new text for large print using a newly designed Cherokee font for clear legibility. Our team cleaned up language errors and made complicated passages more accurate for Cherokee speakers and readers.

This marks the first time our Cherokee Nation translation department has completed an official and proper translation of the Bible, a project that took several years and countless staff-hours to complete. I want to especially acknowledge program director Roy Boney Jr. and Cherokee National Treasure and master translator Durbin Feeling for spearheading the new, edited translation. So many of language teaching tools are workbooks and educational publications, but the New Testament is something that is read, reread and studied over and over.

This represents a big step forward in our constant efforts to preserves Cherokee culture, and now more Cherokee Nation citizens can share the Word of the Lord in our own tribal language. One of the things I am most excited about is the new translation will potentially generate an interest in younger people to pick up the Bible and read it. This is a book families can share in together or readers can study individually.

The new Cherokee Nation-published Bible also marks the first time a Cherokee syllabary Bible includes red lettering of the words spoken by Jesus Christ. The original edition of the Cherokee New Testament did not have red lettering.

I am so proud of what we are doing to perpetuate our Cherokee language and its usage. Creating a publication like this will ensure Cherokee families practice their faith together.

I proudly gifted this first run of new Bibles to the prayer council I formed this past year. Made up of Cherokee Nation citizens who are ministers across the 14 counties of our jurisdiction, these church leaders gather quarterly to offer blessings for the tribe and share the issues and concerns from their communities and congregations.

Within the next few weeks, copies of the official Cherokee Nation New Testament red letter edition will be available for purchase in the tribe’s gift shops. Get your copy at

We are pursuing even more opportunities for our people to engage with the Bible in Cherokee. The Cherokee Nation Language Department is currently working on a translation of the Old Testament. Another project coming soon is an audio recording of the New Testament in Cherokee.

This is just one more blessing we can count as we move closer to the Christmas holiday. God bless each and every one of you this Christmas season, and God bless the Cherokee Nation. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Open your heart to a Cherokee child this holiday season

This time of year let’s keep in mind those Cherokee children that need a loving, nurturing home. As we celebrate Thanksgiving and make plans for Christmas and a New Year, I hope there are Cherokees families out there that can find a place in their homes and in their life for a Cherokee child who desperately needs a permanent home.

We are in need of Cherokee families who are willing to be adoptive parents. This month is national adoption awareness month and our dedicated staff at the Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare department is actively recruiting families. We have an incredible case load not just within our 14-county jurisdiction, but also throughout Oklahoma and across the United States.

We are currently working with 1,561 Cherokee children. That number has increased since last year at this same time and although we have more approved homes, we also have more kids to protect. These are beautiful Cherokee kids who deserve to feel the loving warmth of a committed family.

The essence of the holiday season is giving thanks for what you have in your life and finding a way to share that bounty. I truly believe when you give of yourself and your home, it’s an investment in a brighter and better future for yourself, for our communities and for our tribe. The energy and love you provide will return to you a thousand fold in the joys you get back. 

Our tribal values have always made our children a priority, and we raise our youth so they can one day assume their role in whatever God has planned for them. A safe, loving home can make all the difference in the world to a child and our Cherokee children should have the opportunity to grow up in a loving Cherokee home, where they remain connected to our culture and our heritage.

Sometimes it seems daunting to think about changing the world as individuals. But you can change the world for a Cherokee child. You can become a life changer and make a true difference in the eyes of a young boy or girl. That is a powerful feeling.

I encourage any Cherokee family that has considered becoming an adoptive or a foster family, to look inside your heart this celebratory season and ask yourself “Why not?”  If you have the desire, financial security and the love, adoption is the gift of a lifetime to help a child in need.

These kids are our most precious resource and a critical part of our brighter future at the Cherokee Nation.  They are our legacy as a tribe and as Cherokee people. I encourage you to visit  to be part of the solution for them this holiday season.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Boys & Girls Clubs play key role for many Cherokee youth

One of the most important things we can do for the future of the Cherokee Nation is to ensure there are ample opportunities for the next generation to thrive. We’re proud to be a partner and financially support the Boys & Girls Clubs of America within our tribal boundaries. These community-based groups play a significant role for our people, providing stable and safe environments for Cherokee youth to learn, play and grow.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of America has a large presence in Indian Country across the nation. Just like Cherokee Nation, they have made an investment in our children and truly care about the future of our tribal youth. I can’t think of a better partner or a better mission. That’s why last year we donated more than $205,000 to nine different Boys & Girls Club chapters within the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction in northeast Oklahoma. We will make that investment again this year. Currently, we support clubs in Bartlesville, Gore, Chelsea, Nowata, Tahlequah, Adair County, Delaware County and Mayes County.

Almost 11,000 Cherokee Nation youth receive benefits from these organizations. Club participation can foster lifelong friends and mentors. Local clubs empower youth to support and influence their community, sustain meaningful relationships with others, develop a positive self-image and good character, participate in the democratic process, and respect their own and others' cultural identities. Because of their involvement with Boys & Girls Clubs, those kids have one more positive influence in their young lives.

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

Our young people represent the future of our communities and our tribe. They deserve every opportunity to grow into their full potential. Teaming up with the Boys & Girls Club means better access to education, physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices for our Cherokee youth. Club participation develops character and leadership skills, something we deem important. Many of our local clubs even offer cultural classes based on Cherokee games, crafts and traditions.

There is nothing more critical to our future right now than investing in young Cherokee lives. We look forward to our continued partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs here in northeast Oklahoma. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Updated information ensures timely delivery of Cherokee Nation hunting and fishing licenses

Fall is here, which means many Cherokees look forward to the yearly ritual of hunting deer and other game for both sport and for sustenance. For decades, confusion about jurisdiction and treaty rights has lingered, meaning some Cherokee Nation citizens purchased a hunting and fishing license to exercise their inherent rights as Cherokees, rather than risk possible prosecution from state wildlife officers. Starting Jan. 1, the confusion ends.

Last summer I signed a hunting and fishing compact with Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin that both upholds our inherent treaty rights to freely hunt and fish our own lands, and extends those rights across all 77 counties in Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation is the first tribe to enter into a compact with the state to properly recognize our long-held treaty rights to hunt and fish the lands within our jurisdictional boundaries and beyond.

Beginning in January, Cherokee Nation citizens 16 and over will be issued a license and receive one deer tag and one turkey tag. You will also be reinforcing your inherent, sovereign rights as Cherokees. About half of our Oklahoma Cherokees live outside our 14-county jurisdiction, so this allows Cherokees living in central, southern and western Oklahoma to freely hunt on local land.
In two months we will begin mailing Cherokee Nation hunting and fishing licenses to all Cherokees in Oklahoma over 16 years old. In order to do that, it is vital that we have your correct information on file.

There are several ways to assist in this effort. In the latest issue of Anadisgoi magazine, which should be showing up in your mailboxes soon, we’ve included an updated information form. If you do receive the magazine, please use the form to update complete information for yourself and other Cherokee Nation citizens over the age of 16 in your household.

If you do not receive the magazine or there are multiple people in your household who need updated addresses, the good news is it takes only a few minutes to update online with our registration department. Visit and click on “services,” then “tribal citizenship,” then “update information.” You can print the form, fill it out and return via mail, fax or email. You can also call the Cherokee Nation Tribal Registration Department at (918) 453-5000 to make sure your information is complete and correct.

Maintaining a current address with the Cherokee Nation registration office also ensures your household receives other important news about tribal services and programs. From time to time we will share tribal publications such as the Anadisgoi magazine and other important information like annual reports, expansion of programs and more.

We look forward to issuing licenses early next year, so that hunting and fishing remain a vital part of our survival and will continue to be a way of life for Cherokees for generations to come.

Wado and happy hunting.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New Secretary of Natural Resources will ensure our habitats and environments remain clean and vibrant

At the Cherokee Nation we are committed to protecting our air, water, land and wildlife for future generations. That’s why I recently announced the first ever appointment to an important cabinet level position in my administration. This position was originally established by the 1999 Constitutional Convention. Unfortunately, it was never filled, but this key advisory role cannot go vacant any longer.

I have appointed attorney Sara Hill as the new Secretary of Natural Resources, and this week she was confirmed by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and took her oath of office. In her role as secretary she will ensure our natural resources are properly preserved for the future of the Cherokee Nation and our people. I am so proud to say we are finally making our natural and environmental resources a priority. Our natural habitats and environment must be a factor in every decision we make. We have a responsibility to leave this land, this water and this air pure and clean for future generations.

Sara previously served as the Deputy Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation, with expertise on environmental issues, water rights and natural resource protection. Her hard work has helped the Cherokee Nation maximize our inherent sovereign rights, and she has been critical in developing preservation programs that benefit our citizens.
Sara Hill is sworn into office 
by Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones 
as her husband, Jerry Starkey, holds the Bible.

She chairs the Cherokee Nation Interdisciplinary Water Work Group and is working on the feasibility of a potential hydroelectric project on the Arkansas River. Sara has long served the Cherokee Nation in many ways, successfully representing our interests before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Nomura – a case that successfully upheld full compliance of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act for out-of-state Indian child adoption cases. Additionally, she is a dedicated Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Part of her mission will be ensuring that sustainability is a part of every conversation we have and every decision we make at the Cherokee Nation. Since time immemorial Cherokees have considered the impact of our actions on our environment and our surroundings. Our elders teach us about our connection to plants, animals and all natural elements.

We must be steadfast in the stewardship of our natural resources. We have an obligation to protect these precious resources for the next seven generations. As our teachings tell us, that is the Cherokee way.

We cannot leave today’s environmental issues for our children and grandchildren to solve. That is an unfair burden. The Secretary of Natural Resources will work at the highest level of my administration, assuring that we are protecting and preserving our natural resources and environment. We have a better vision of preservation, and we must take action to ensure we reach our goals.

With the Secretary of Natural Resources in place, coupled with the leadership of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, we have the ability to develop laws that will truly enhance the sustainability of our land, water and air for generations to come. The Cherokee people deserve that. Clean air, safe water and a fertile land will always be our foundation for long-term health as a tribe and a people.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cherokee Art Market returns to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa for the 10th straight year

Cherokee artists and artisans are among some of the most diverse and talented in all of Indian Country, and you’ll find the best of the best all in one place this weekend. The Cherokee Art Market is returning to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa for its 10th year Oct. 10 and 11.
What started as a modest show in the parking lot of the resort 10 years ago has grown into one of the most celebrated shows in the nation. There will be sculptures, woodworking, jewelry, ceramics and glass, photography, mixed media, paintings and drawings, basketry, gourd art and every other type of artwork you can imagine.
When this show began 10 years ago, it was to fill a void in the Native art community. Too many Southeastern artists like Cherokees, Chickasaws, Choctaws, Creeks and Seminoles were being overlooked for what was then the more popular Southwestern artwork. Prestigious art shows like Santa Fe Indian Market were competitive, and many Southeastern artists were not given a second look.
We knew our artists deserved a place to showcase our rich and colorful culture, so we decided to create our own market for Cherokee and other Southeastern artists. Now, 10 years later, the show has grown into one of the most popular and respected juried art shows in the nation. The Cherokee Art Market is now held in the 15,000-square-foot Sequoyah Ballroom at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, and Native artists from around the country clamor to enter the show.
The Cherokee Art Market is a place for artists to sell their art, of course, but also it’s a competitive venue with talented artists and artisans from around the country hoping to win the title of Best of Show. In all, there are 22 categories and $75,000 in prize money up for grabs.
Many of our artists still compete in prestigious shows like Santa Fe Indian Market and others, which have been around for decades. We’re grateful they are able to share their art with the world in those venues, but our own Cherokee Art Market is now competitive with those shows, now even drawing in Southwestern and Plains artists. We feel there’s something special about that — being able to provide another prominent venue, right here in our own backyard.
So I encourage all of you to visit the Cherokee Art Market Oct. 10 and 11 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa and take in the fine artwork of our talented Cherokees and other artists from around the country. I hope to see you there.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Recognizing the life and achievements of Jess Sixkiller

The Cherokee Nation and tribal citizens throughout the country lost a true champion with the tragic passing of Jess Sixkiller. He was the first Native detective on the Chicago Police Force and in Phoenix he continued to champion the rights of Indian people. He was a warrior and advocate for Native rights, especially urban-based Indian people. Throughout Indian Country, Jess will be forever known as a man committed to his Native brothers and sisters who suffered as a result of Federal relocation and assimilation policies. As the leader of the National Urban Indian Organization, he fought tirelessly for the rights of those he said faced a different kind of crisis than Indians living close to their community or on the reservation. Jess was a man who led by example and I was proud to have met and known this iconic activist. He was proud to be Cherokee and we are proud of him. He will be missed immensely, and we are holding his family in our thoughts and prayers.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cherokee Warrior Flight serves as reminder for us all

Honoring the sacrifices and service of our brave men and women who defend this country and our freedoms is a philosophy that’s rooted in our Cherokee history and our Cherokee values. Like most tribal nations, the Cherokee people have always held the highest regard for those who are willing to go into battle to protect and defend all of us.

To say thank you, we have coordinated the second annual Cherokee Warrior Flight. Eleven World War II and Korean War veterans have the opportunity to see the memorials recognizing their valor, provided free of charge by the tribe. They will travel to Washington, D.C., and tour the U.S. Capitol, WWII monument, Korean War monument and other national monuments honoring military service. 

The Cherokee Warrior Flight was created last year to honor these brave men. We want to let them and others who served so bravely know their sacrifices are forever appreciated. Time is critical for us to deliver that message of thanks to these men. Statistics from the U.S. Veterans Administration show there are fewer than one million WWII veterans still alive today of the 16 million who fought in that epic war, and almost 500 WWII veterans pass away every day.

These are the men who embody the traits that make the United States of America the strongest and best nation in the world – a dedication to service and a willingness to accept great responsibility in the darkest of circumstances. 

Last year during the first Cherokee Warrior Flight, the outpouring of support our Cherokee veterans received from total strangers was humbling for the veterans and for the assisting volunteers. They did not expect the level of appreciation and attention they received at the airport, hotel or even in massive crowds of D.C.

The 2015 Warrior Flight has 11 Cherokee Nation veterans representing all military branches from all over the country. We are honored to host a Pearl Harbor survivor, a set of four brothers from Adair County and another pair of brothers living in different states but reuniting for this trip. They range in age from 82 to 94.

The flight includes the following WW II veterans: Navy veteran Bill Durall, of Green Valley, Arizona; Marine Corps veteran Dean Durall, of Mapleton, Utah; Navy veteran Winfred “Wink” Chamberlain, of Texas City, Texas; Army veteran Virgil Carter, of Tahlequah; Navy and Coast Guard veteran Charles Scott, of Palo Alto, California; Army Air Force veteran Gerald Zellner, of Big Cabin; Navy veteran Valentine “Tino” Burnett, of Eucha; and Army veteran Monroe Hembree, of Stilwell.

Korean War veterans include these brave men: Army veteran Dan Hembree, of Westville; Air Force veteran Alfred Hembree, of Westville; and Army veteran Ivan Hembree, of Bunch.

These are humble men who have done and seen amazing things, and they deserve all the respect we can give them. For our Cherokee Nation staff, our Veterans Center and the volunteer guardians assisting on the flight, this project is truly a labor of love. It shines a much deserved spotlight on these members of the greatest generation.

To the Cherokee Warrior Flight veterans, thank you for your service. On behalf of the Cherokee Nation, I can proudly say we will never forget your duty, your valor or your sacrifices. God bless all these brave men, and God bless every veteran who’s served for us to live free.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Record budget benefits Cherokee people and programs

The largest comprehensive budget in the history of the Cherokee Nation means more and better services for Cherokee Nation citizens. In the coming fiscal year, we will spend $767 million on the programs to improve Cherokee lives.

The increase of about $35 million from last year’s budget will allow us to put more Cherokees into new homes and help place more of our people in quality jobs. We have allocated more funding to assist Cherokee elders, and we will make unprecedented investments into education and health care for our families and our youth. This landmark budget includes significant increases to the programs that are making our families happier, healthier and stronger:
  • $30 million increase for Cherokee Health Services
  • $3.5 million increase for our Commerce department
  • $3 million increase for Cherokee Nation Human Services
  • $2.5 million increase for the tribe’s Career Services department
  • $1.5 million increase for higher education scholarships for college-bound Cherokee students

Through our concerted fiscal management efforts and vision for our people, we are taking tribal money and investing where it should be invested. I am so proud that we are expanding our capacity to fulfill the needs of our citizenry.

The extraordinary financial growth is directly attributable to the success of Cherokee Nation Businesses, coupled with strategic investments and a renewed effort in third-party health care billing. 
Additionally, our push to pursue more federal grant funding opportunities has been successful, and today we can offer our citizens even greater access to health care services in new and expanded facilities. 

Our overall excellent financial stewardship means we will better serve the Cherokee people for the future, and that is something we can all be take pride in.

We have come so far. I remember when our tribal government as we know it passed a new constitution.  Back then, the entire budget was only $2 million. It is amazing where our tribe is today in comparison to our recent past. We are blessed, and we will continue to prosper and move forward. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Electronic health records make Cherokee Nation health care easier, more seamless

With today’s modern technologies, it seems almost everything can be done online. Now, count your Cherokee Nation health care among those things done with greater ease, thanks to technology.
Transitioning Cherokee Nation data into the modern era is critical for the tribe to be proficient in providing critical services to our citizens. That’s why we’ve made recent digital upgrades a critical priority.

The Cherokee Nation health system, the largest tribally operated health system in the United States with more than 1 million patient visits annually, recently embarked upon an effort to upgrade to electronic health records. This moves our eight health centers and W. W. Hastings Hospital into a new era of ease and efficiency.

The transition from the old system to the new system requires some patience. Change and modernization are not always easy, but in the end we will be more efficient and effective with the delivery of health care. To me, that is one of the most important things we can do.

Once fully transitioned, this will allow patients to access medical records from their computers or even their smartphones. That means faster and more complete access to test results, diagnostic records and treatment history. This makes it easier for patients to actively participate in their health care by creating more direct engagement and better coordination with their caregivers.

Cherokee Nation health centers will soon have portals for self check-in and patients will be able to schedule appointments and view their records online. Patients will also be able to use the system to renew prescriptions, view X-rays, check medical records, review visit summaries and read instructions from doctors.

This is revolutionary compared to the old system. It also empowers our citizens to be more in control of their health care by having direct access to their own medical data.

Health care customer service for our Cherokee people has been stuck in a bygone era, making it hard for patients and health care providers to communicate and share information. This new system conforms to today’s modern, electronic world.

Currently, half of Cherokee Nation’s patient health records are paper and half are electronic, and many patients have multiple charts at multiple Cherokee Nation health centers. That made it difficult to access all of a patient’s files quickly or even to share information between health professionals.

The new electronic health record system creates one universal chart number for each patient, easily shared not just within our health system, but also with outside hospitals for contract health services.
Lab work and radiology results will post electronically as soon as they’re available. Ultimately, doctors will have more accurate data at their fingertips, which means making better decisions for overall patient health care.

We are excited about these changes and hope you, our citizens, are too. Even though culture and tradition are the foundation of our tribe, it is extremely important for us to use technology to bring our people together and to make our services more efficient and convenient.

I look forward to this new system making health care in the Cherokee Nation more navigable, more pleasant and more efficient.


Friday, September 4, 2015

2015 Cherokee State of the Nation Speech

          It is my honor and privilege to stand before you, the Cherokee people, on this beautiful September day.  Joining me today, as they do at every important occasion, is my beloved family. My rock and the first lady of the Cherokee Nation, Sherry Baker. My mother and my inspiration, Dr. Isabel Baker.  My children and their spouses, who’ve supported me in all that I do.  My grandchildren who are the light of my life. My brothers, who’ve been my strongest allies, and my many nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins and a host of family and friends who enrich my life daily.
          Four years ago, our nation was divided. Passion was running high and tensions were flaring on all sides. When the dust finally settled and I was declared the rightful winner as your Principal Chief, I was faced with the daunting task of unifying our nation. I knew the survival of our nation depended on it. I also knew our success would not be based on words, but on actions. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work, figuring out the best way to provide homes, health and more importantly, hope to our people.
Now, four years later, it is with great pleasure that I announce our actions have spoken for themselves. Not only is the State of our Nation, strong; but it is stronger today than ever before. 
The success we have achieved over the past four years is extraordinary.  I promised 4 years ago to make health care a priority, and I delivered on that promise by investing $100 million dollars of casino profits to better the health and lives of the Cherokee people.  We have successfully completed the expansion and construction of health clinics in Ochelata and Sallisaw.  We will soon open health centers in Jay and Stilwell and begin a major expansion at W.W. Hastings Hospital. 
The Cherokee Nation was one of only seven tribes in the United States to be awarded a joint venture with Indian Health Service. That partnership allows us to make vast improvements and additions at the W.W. Hastings Hospital. When completed, this addition will be almost 470,000 square feet of new space, more than tripling the size of the present facility. And it will contain state of the art medical equipment. We expect IHS to provide upwards of $60 million dollars every year for decades to help staff and operate this new world-class facility. 
The Joint Venture has set us on a path to advance health care for our citizens for generations to come.  This achievement wasn’t by chance, and we didn’t luck into this project. These major accomplishments in our health care system occurred because we have Cherokee people who truly care about the future of our people playing important roles in our administration. 
This new facility will become a bustling hub of training and research, as we partner with OSU to establish a medical school here. This new Cherokee Nation – OSU Medical campus will train and educate Cherokees to become health care providers for other Cherokees.  
These advancements in the Cherokee Nation health care system happened because four years ago this administration had a vision.  The vision became a plan and the plan became a reality.  The past four years have clearly shown this is not an administration that just makes promises; this is an administration that delivers results.
          Four years ago, I also promised more jobs to our people, and through planning and smart decision making, we’ve achieved that goal as well. More Cherokees than ever before are working for our Nation. But economic prosperity doesn’t just mean the Cherokee Nation is employing more Cherokees, it also means we are creating economic opportunities outside the Cherokee Nation through partnerships. This past year we helped lure a massive Macy’s fulfillment center to northeastern Oklahoma. We promised to help build roads and infrastructure, but we also pledged our help in find thousands of hard workers to fill those jobs. I’m extremely proud to say that our career services department is hosting job fairs for Macy’s and hundreds of those jobs will be filled by Cherokee citizens.
          Folks, this is huge.  Partnerships translate to real dollars in the pockets of real people like you and me. We’re also turning dirt and bringing more big plans to reality in Tahlequah. We announced last year that we were developing Cherokee Springs Plaza, a development that will bring dining, retail and more jobs to Cherokee County. If you’ve driven past the site, you’ve noticed the dirt work.
I’m proud to say that our first partners will include a new and larger Stuteville Ford dealership and a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant. Tahlequah has long been ripe to attract name brand restaurants and businesses, and this is just the start. Our economic development team is working hard to show the world what a hidden gem Tahlequah is, with its hard working people, limitless outdoor activities and beautiful scenery. We look forward to attracting more diverse retail, dining and entertainment businesses to this area. I can’t wait to share that with you as more milestones are reached.
This past year the protection and expansion of our sovereignty has been unprecedented.  One of the ways we have advanced sovereignty is by reaffirming our hunting and fishing rights, established by tradition and guaranteed to us by treaty. Although our treaties with the United States reaffirm these rights, these rights have been ignored.  
I’m proud to say that our rights to hunt and fish where we please not only in the Cherokee Nation, but in all of Oklahoma are no longer ignored, but are now recognized.   
This year we reached an agreement with the State that not only acknowledges our hunting and fishing rights inside our jurisdiction, but expands those rights throughout all of Oklahoma. 
Now any Cherokee citizen over the age of 16 living in Oklahoma can exercise their time-honored right to hunt and fish in all 77 counties of the state.  Cherokees can trophy fish in Broken Bow or hunt for pheasant in western Oklahoma without fear of prosecution or harassment. And because we are good stewards of our resources, the agreement also helps us preserve wildlife habitat statewide.
The Cherokee Nation is stronger because of this agreement.  This agreement is the first of its kind and is already becoming a model for all of Indian Country.
          I am blessed and honored to serve a second term as your Principal Chief. At the end of my term of office what will I say that we have accomplished?  Will we be able to say that we dramatically improved the health care of our people?  Yes.  Will we be able to say that we have put hundreds of Cherokees in homes that would not have otherwise achieved homeownership?  Yes.  Will we be able to say the Cherokee Nation is stronger than it has ever been in its history?  Yes. But what will endure? What will be our legacy?
As Principal Chief, I work every day to address the needs of Cherokee Nation citizens. And to me, that also means protecting and preserving this place we call home.
Cherokees have long considered the impact of our actions on generations to come - a philosophy grounded in responsibility and sustainability.
Our elders teach us about our connection to the plants and animals, and to all the natural elements - the water, fire, air, and earth. We aren’t only stewards of these resources today, but we have an obligation to protect them for the next seven generations of Cherokees.
It’s not always easy to do the right thing.  We know that many people and companies prefer profit at the expense of future generations. But that is not the Cherokee way.
I will not leave the problems of today to our children and their children. I will not sit back and wait for others to come up with solutions to our environmental challenges. I will protect our natural resources and I am prepared to tackle these challenges head-on. Every decision made at the Cherokee Nation needs to start by asking: How will this action affect our natural resources and our future generations? Is what we are doing sustainable for the future? Are we depleting resources that we cannot replace? Are there better options than the ones we’re considering?
Like our other accomplishments, this effort will not happen by chance, or by luck.  We have a vision to better protect our environment and natural resources and we must take action to ensure we reach our goals. 
As I have said before, this administration does not just make empty promises; this is an administration whose actions match its words. That is why I am announcing today the nomination of a Secretary of Natural Resources, and respectfully urge the Tribal Council to swiftly confirm my nominee.
This is a cabinet position originally established by the 1999 Constitutional Convention, yet has never been filled. Our natural and environmental resources are much too valuable and far too culturally significant to ignore any longer and let this role go unfilled.
The Secretary of Natural Resources will work at the highest level of my administration assuring that we are protecting and preserving our natural resources and environment.  I am also sending the Tribal Council a comprehensive Environmental Code that I urge you to pass. Working together, we will develop laws that will enhance the sustainability of our land, water and air for generations to come. 
The Cherokee people deserve clean drinking water that is plentiful. Fresh air that is abundant. And a healthy environment to live, work and play.
Preservation of these assets is necessary to build a foundation for our environmental sustainability and our long-term health. Every acre of land we gain and every stream we successfully manage are victories for the Cherokee people. 
The Secretary of Natural Resources will not only work to preserve our natural resources, but to maximize them for our economic benefit and longevity.
As I said during my inauguration address, we are embarking on a new “Golden Age”.  This “Golden Age” envisions a stronger economy where more Cherokees are healthy, live in good homes, and earn good wages at quality jobs. 
But most importantly, this “Golden Age” will create a sound and sustainable path for generations to come. 
At the end of my term of office, I want to report that our natural resources are better protected and that our environment is safe and preserved for future generations. 

With God’s grace, and your help, I know we can get there.  God bless each and every one of you and God bless the Cherokee Nation.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Historic Cherokee council meeting held at Red Clay, TN; first gathering since 1838

History was made on Aug. 28 as elected leaders of the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians gathered for a joint council meeting at Red Clay State Park, Tennessee, a place long revered by our Cherokee people as sacred ground.

It's the first time all three Cherokee tribes have gathered at Red Clay in generations. The last meeting there was to make important decisions for the Cherokee people as the tribe was facing forced removal to Indian Territory in 1838. This tri-council meeting was an unprecedented event, and I was honored to participate as we again came together as one people, from one fire.

The date of the gathering was also significant as it marked the 177th anniversary of the departure of the first detachment of Cherokees who were forced to leave our homelands in the east for modern-day Oklahoma. Red Clay was the Cherokee capital when the removal polices of the federal government were officially enacted and our people began that long and painful trek.

The history of Red Clay is an interesting one. Previously, our capital had been New Echota, Georgia, but sadly the state began passing legislation in 1829 that extended its state laws and jurisdiction over Cherokee territory. These laws, often called the Georgia Harassment Laws, terrorized and displaced many Cherokee families residing in the state. Additionally, Georgia prohibited the Cherokee government and Cherokee courts from functioning. It was an attempt to keep our tribal council from planning, making decisions or protesting federal Indian policies.

To combat this, the Cherokee capital was moved just north of the Georgia state line into Tennessee. There were 11 separate council meetings held here between 1832 and 1837. It was also at Red Clay when the Cherokee people first learned about the Treaty of New Echota, and later, where Principal Chief John Ross made the announcement that the Cherokee people would be removed. Prior to removal, the Cherokee Nation encompassed all or parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Today, Red Clay is a Tennessee state park and a place for remembrance and respect. Seeing the grounds filled with modern leaders from our respective sovereign governments was moving and a memory I will cherish forever. During the meeting, we came together as brothers and sisters and discussed the issues of the day and shared the successes of our people. Although we discussed the issues of today, the fact we were sitting in council at our ancient home, a place where our ancestors made life-altering decisions that shaped our tribe forever, was never far from anyone’s mind.

I can only admire what our ancestors did and the way they kept the Cherokee people alive. The leaders who met at Red Clay ensured we would survive by any means necessary. The burden of leadership in those dark days of our past was immense. They were true Cherokee patriots and statesmen and will be honored for all time.

I want to thank the Eastern Band of Cherokees for being such gracious hosts, and I encourage each of you to visit our ancient homelands if the opportunity arises.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Cherokee National Holiday opportunity for reunion and celebration

This Labor Day weekend, we are planning for another record crowd at the Cherokee National Holiday in Tahlequah. More than 100,000 visitors are again expected to visit the Cherokee capital city for the 63rd installment of our annual homecoming. We look forward to hosting you, your family and friends for the celebration of Cherokee history, heritage and hospitality.

The first Cherokee National Holiday was held in 1953 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution. Every year we gather to honor that event, reaffirm our tribal pride, and reconnect with our fellow Cherokees. As always, a vast array of entertainment and cultural and athletic events are being planned for participants.

This year’s “reunion” theme is one that resonates with all of us. This holiday celebration is a time set aside for family, friends and fellowship. Our reunion will be made up of everything from intimate family gatherings, large-scale activities and cultural ceremonies. This year’s reunion theme is also a reference to the bison herd that has returned to Cherokee Nation soil for the first time in 40 years. Bison are part of our pre-removal history and culture, and they are symbols of our great country. They represent freedom, strength and resiliency—some of the very same traits we identify in ourselves as Cherokee people.

As we come together this year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our tribal government, our people and our bright future. The progress we have made just since our last Cherokee National Holiday is amazing, and I am confident we will build on that momentum in the coming year.

Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and I are humbled and honored to be serving the Cherokee people for another four years. Recently, we took the oath of office for our respective roles. Our administration operates with a simple goal: make the lives of Cherokee citizens better today, tomorrow and for the next seven generations.

I believe our future is brighter than ever. Putting the people first and emphasizing the things that make healthy and strong families are critical for our long-term success. We have more Cherokee Nation citizens working for the tribe and our businesses than ever before. More Cherokees have received academic scholarships than at any time in our history, and we have built more homes for Cherokees in the past year than we did in the 10 years prior.

That’s why when I look around the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation, I realize that we are truly blessed, and we look forward to sharing that bounty with all of our guests during the Labor Day weekend. We assure you that Cherokee National Holiday has something of interest for everyone. From traditional foods, music and storytelling to competitive traditional games, like Cherokee marbles and stickball, there is an abundance of culture sharing. History enthusiasts can explore our local tribal museums, which highlight different aspects of Cherokee history and heritage. Additionally, a car show is planned, as well as a fishing derby for kids and a softball tournament for men and women. Of course, one of the biggest attractions every year is the celebrated intertribal powwow, recognized as one of the biggest and best in the United States.

Cherokee National Holiday will be held Sept. 4-6 and is guaranteed to be a festive celebration that covers the spectrum of Cherokee life—from our traditional roots to our progressive values of family and community. It’s an opportunity to make memories you and your family can cherish for a lifetime.

We hope to see all of you there.

Monday, August 17, 2015

New initiative provides free Cherokee Phoenix newspaper subscription to tribal citizens

Informing and educating our citizens about the Cherokee Nation government is crucial to remaining vigilant in our mission to serve the Cherokee people. Open and transparent communication allows Cherokee Nation citizens their inherent right to a government they can monitor and closely follow. To fulfill this mission we have launched an exciting new project, the Citizens’ Access to Transparency initiative.

Today, the Cherokee Nation population is close to 320,000 citizens, making us the largest tribe in the United States. However, many of the addresses on file are no longer valid due to citizens moving and not updating their contact information. 

Beginning this week, Cherokee Nation citizens with an updated address on file with the tribe’s registration department will receive a free, one-year subscription to the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper.
This will provide tribal citizens with even more access to our government through the news source many follow closely, the Cherokee Phoenix.  The Cherokee Nation has long been a leader in tribal government transparency, and this is one more way we are working to increase that transparency.

The Cherokee Phoenix is an independent media source whose mission is to inform and educate readers about important local, state and national issues that may affect the tribe and our citizens. It contains information on tribal programs and events, but more than that, it brings the Cherokee people news about people they know, their families and their communities. In print since 1828, the paper has a legacy of providing an unbiased perspective about the Cherokee Nation and that is what we want to share with our citizens with this free subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix is published the first of each month and will be mailed directly to each tribal household.

Maintaining a current address with the Cherokee Nation registration office will not only ensure your household receives the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper, but other important news about tribal services and programs. From time to time we will share additional tribal publications such as annual reports and Anadisgoi, an informative, quarterly magazine created by our communications department.

Additionally, as new tribal services roll out like our statewide hunting and fishing licenses, which are set to be mailed in January, an updated address helps ensure Cherokee Nation citizens receive that information on time.   

I encourage all Cherokee Nation citizens to take just a few minutes to update their addresses and ensure our registration office has correct contact information. Please visit and click on “services,” then “tribal citizenship,” then “update information” to print, fill the form out and return via mail, fax or email.

I am proud to offer this service and believe the Citizens’ Access to Transparency initiative improves our capacity to communicate more openly and transparently with our citizens.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In set for Aug. 15

A fly-in at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch is set for Aug. 15, the 80th anniversary of the “crash heard around the world,” when both Will Rogers and Wiley Post died in an Alaska plane crash in 1935. Cherokee Nation Businesses is sponsoring the event.

That day and the lives of Rogers and Post are remembered each year on the Oologah ranch where Will Rogers was born. Usually a Sunday event, it was changed to Saturday to reflect the anniversary of the deaths.

Born in Oolagah, Indian Territory, on Nov. 4, 1879, William Penn Adair Rogers was son to a prominent Cherokee senator, judge and cattleman.

Airports across the country have been invited to join in a special moment of remembrance at 10 a.m. CST at their respective airports to honor those who have lost their lives in small aircraft accidents.

At that same time, a short program at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch airstrip will pay tribute to the lives of Rogers and Post.

RSU Radio will live stream the tribute on 91.3 FM and on their website

The popular duo of Lester Lurk and Joe Bacon, aka “Will and Wiley,” will land about 9 a.m.

The fly-in provides an opportunity for the public to get a close-up look at airplanes and meet the pilots. 

Storyteller Robert Lewis also will be sharing traditional Cherokee stories. There will be antique cars, inflatables and games for children and food concessions. Ample parking is provided with rides to the viewing area.

Admission is free, but donations will be accepted. For more information, visit

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cherokee Nation Inauguration Day: a celebration of our people and our future


It is a time for us all to come together as one nation and move forward collectively to a bright future. Thank you to all Cherokee tribal voters for letting your voices be heard during our recent elections. Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and I deeply appreciate the Cherokee people for placing their faith in our leadership. We appreciate the support and faith in a vision that creates a better quality of life for our citizens and our state. 

During our first term, we started building Cherokee homes again, Cherokee Nation Businesses earned record profits, and we invested more than $100 million of casino profits into the expansion of a world-class health care system.  We’ve done a lot of positive things for our children to grow healthy, for our elders and women to feel protected, and for our families to flourish with access to education and careers.  

But we have an historic opportunity to accomplish more for our people and our Nation. We can assist our elders and we can inspire more children to pursue their education, we can help create more quality jobs, and we can help our Cherokee people raise strong families.

We look forward to continuing our work to create the best future for the Cherokee Nation.   
I respectfully ask that all Cherokees join us for a celebration of our culture, our strong government and democracy. Please join us for the Cherokee Nation official inauguration on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015. The inauguration will begin at 10:30 a.m. at Sequoyah High School’s The Place Where They Play, followed by a traditional meal. 

Also being sworn in are Cherokee Nation Tribal Council members Buel Anglen,  Keith Austin, Shawn Crittenden, Wanda Claphan Hatfield, Rex Jordan, Dick Lay, David Walkingstick and Bryan Warner.

Each of us has been given profound responsibility, bestowed upon us by the Cherokee people, and we are all deeply honored by your faith and trust. 

I'm deeply blessed and honored to be the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. I ask that all who can attend the inauguration ceremony do, and all who cannot to pray for the Deputy Chief, our Council, our tribe and me as we move forward.

I promise to keep fighting for our people, developing programs that grow healthy and successful families and enable our tribal nation to flourish. I know that with the help of this Tribal Council, we will make Cherokee Nation a better government for the people.

Today, we live in challenging times, but we also live in an era of emerging technologies and considerable opportunities.  We stand at the beginning of a new era of possibility and security for the Cherokee people.

Our vibrant culture and heritage and our record investments in health care and education have created a foundation for our economic success. That success will serve the Cherokee people and help create a thriving future for the next seven generations of Cherokees. That’s our fundamental mission.

During these next four years, I believe you're going to see tremendous positive changes for the Cherokee Nation—better than anything you've seen before. I give you my solemn oath that I will continue to work every minute of every day to make our Nation as great as it can be.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Jacksonland Shines A Light on Cherokee History

Jacksonland chronicles the history of the relationship between Chief John Ross and President Andrew Jackson and tells the story of how traditional Cherokee Nation lands became part of the United States expansion. Author Steve Inskeep has paid incredible attention to detail and his references are impeccable and well researched. History often overlooks, or briefly mentions, that one of Andrew Jackson's major initiatives as President of the United States was the removal of Indian tribes, including the Cherokee, from their ancestral homelands. 

The honest and factual detailing of how Cherokee traditional lands were usurped is compelling, and I hope it gives contemporary American readers a new perspective on our collective history.  Andrew Jackson and his political allies in Congress wanted what we had and they simply took it by any means necessary. Clearly, our ancestors didn’t stand a chance. Steve Inskeep tells the story fairly and pays proper due diligence to the politics of the day, especially the treatment of the Five Civilized Tribes.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Increased broadband access critical for our rural communities

Last week President Barack Obama launched a new program called ConnectHome, which will expand broadband access for the rural communities and make high-speed Internet more affordable for low-income families. He made the national announcement in Durant, Oklahoma, the headquarters of our neighboring tribe, the Choctaw Nation.

I appreciate the president’s keen interest to provide broadband Internet across Indian Country because it will help our Cherokee families and students access the resources they need. I know these struggles with connection firsthand. Like many of you, my home is in rural Cherokee County, and I have issues with connectivity.

The ConnectHome initiative is a partnership between the White House and the Department of Housing and Urban Development aimed at providing the most vulnerable families with access to affordable high-speed Internet in their homes. But our Cherokee Nation citizens can also benefit from greater access to the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Fund programs that help low-income families. 

Access to broadband and voice service is important for the education and well-being of our families. It’s vital for northeast Oklahoma to remain competitive in the growing global economy. To attract jobs and train our future workforce it is a necessity. The idea for ConnectHome allows people, including our tribal citizens, to continue learning and working at home.

It’s equally important for the wellness and health of Cherokee families. For example, in Adair County, an elderly couple battling health obstacles recently needed emergency care. Instead of being able to call or email for help, another family member in that household had to walk to another home where coverage and accessibility were better to make the call for help.

We should have the ability to be connected to the larger world. Making investments in access to communications will improve the lives of tribal citizens in Oklahoma and across the nation, where many tribal communities are remote. 

This president has made Indian Country a priority during his tenure. I was impressed that he made time to meet individually with several of our Cherokee students who attended this major announcement. He took the time to hear their needs and concerns. And giving these young leaders an opportunity to meet a U.S. president will resonate with them far into the future.

This opportunity comes on the heels of the historic Generation Indigenous gathering recently held in Washington, D.C., where tribal youth leaders were hosted by the president and first lady and given the opportunity to share the issues most important to them and their communities, including physical and mental wellness, cultural preservation and access to education. Several Cherokee youth ambassadors attended and came home reenergized to make a difference for the future of the Cherokee Nation. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Another term to keep expanding opportunities for Cherokee people


I would like to thank all Cherokee Nation citizens who participated in the recent election and look forward to serving Cherokee people for another four years. To those voters, I say wado.

Whether you supported me or not, you expressed your voice and participated in our democratic process, which is critical to our future success. I thank God, my family, my friend Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and our supporters for the opportunity to serve another term.

The election is over, and we now can focus our attention on what truly matters: Cherokee people. We can continue the progress we’ve made the last four years for Cherokee Nation. We have multiple projects in motion that will be game-changing endeavors for our future. Over the next four years, we will continue to focus on building a brighter future for all Cherokees.

The most important issue for our future, bar none, is access to quality health care. Four years ago, people agreed our tribal health care was at a crisis point, so we invested $100 million dollars from casino profits into health care expansion and improvements. Our record-breaking gaming profits should be utilized to benefit Cherokee citizens. That is the reason we pursued gaming in the first place 25 years ago.

We’ve built new clinics in Jay and Ochelata, expanded health centers in Stilwell and Sallisaw and soon will break ground on a 450,000 square foot facility at the W.W. Hastings health campus in Tahlequah. That new facility will provide space for 1,200 new employees that will, in turn, provide quality care for our people.

Once the facility is built, we can launch our own medical school, where we will partner with Oklahoma State University to provide hands-on education at our own facility. Growing our own health-care providers is critical for our future wellness. We will be able to educate and train health-care professionals that one day will staff our clinics and new hospital.

Other projects include the implementation of statewide hunting and fishing licenses for all Cherokee citizens, the major renovation and facelift of the tribal complex, a project that has been ignored for almost 40 years, and the refurbishing of our historic Cherokee capital building in downtown Tahlequah, our tribe’s most iconic structure.

We will keep advancing job development and driving the economy of northeast Oklahoma. We have a talented staff that is adept at securing federal grants to create jobs, programs and services for Cherokee people. Additionally, increased diversification of our Cherokee Nation Businesses efforts around the 14 counties will continue to create cash flow for our tribe and increase self-sufficiency for our citizens.

We want to convince even more Cherokee Nation children that a college education is possible with our tribal scholarships. No child who applied and was qualified last year was turned down. We supported almost 4,000 Cherokees in college, and we can do even more in the future. That record number of scholarships honors our ancestors’ deep commitment to education.

We want more Cherokees to enjoy the American dream of homeownership, and put our Cherokee tradespeople to work building these homes. We’ve had hundreds of folks take advantage of our housing program and thousands of Cherokees employed building those homes, including cement finishers, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers and plumbers.

Over the next four years, we will keep up that momentum and continue building on this successful foundation.

We will continue looking for partnerships that create opportunities for our people, like the Macy’s expansion in Owasso that is creating thousands of good jobs for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike.

I look forward to announcing updates and more exciting news during the Cherokee National Holiday State of the Nation address. I cordially invite you all to join us for this annual event on Labor Day weekend.