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.