Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'Tis the season for gratitude

Cherokees have a long tradition of coming together to support our families, friends and communities. That collective goodwill is one of the most respected and shared values within the Cherokee Nation. I am proud to say it remains a critical characteristic in the work we do every day for our people. 

Our tribal and business employees, as well as citizens throughout the Cherokee Nation, continually exemplify the generous and giving characteristics necessary to uphold this vital aspect of our culture. Our business arm, Cherokee Nation Businesses, incorporates this concept into the company’s mission of growing Cherokee Nation’s economic footprint. That success supports the tribe, our citizens, and the programs and services that positively impact Cherokee lives. 

As the economic engine of our tribe, all of CNB’s profits are reinvested into either job creation or social services like health care, housing, human services, career services and education.

CNB also offers support through the Community Impact Team, a companywide endeavor promoting volunteerism and community engagement for all employees. Each of our Community Impact Team employee volunteers at CNB are true champions of our tribe and are making real differences in northeast Oklahoma. The people who benefit the most from this commitment to community are some of our neediest Cherokee Nation citizens, especially youth and elders. 

Our CNB employee volunteers, through the Community Impact Team, engage in a variety of outreach assignments across the tribe’s 14 counties. Almost 940 employees have participated and given more than 3,300 hours of volunteer time to hundreds of worthwhile causes. They offer their time to organizations like Iron Gate, New Hope Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation Angel Project, and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s Trash-OFF and Adopt-A-Highway programs. They also coordinate events like local school supply drives, blood drives, the tribe’s Heart of a Nation annual fundraising campaign and many other efforts throughout the year.
It is especially important during the holiday season and upcoming harsh winter months that we, as a tribe, uphold our values of giving back and making stronger families and communities. It helps ensure every Cherokee Nation citizen feels the support of the tribe and receives the helping hand they may need, even more during this time of year. 

During this season of giving and celebration, it is only appropriate to recognize and say thank you to the many individuals who volunteer, give their time and donate personal funds to support their fellow citizens throughout the year. These everyday heroes exemplify the Cherokee tradition of working together as a community and show our tribe’s love and dedication to all of our citizens. 

I offer my personal gratitude to you all. God bless each and every one of you this Christmas season. 


Sunday, December 11, 2016

In remembrance of Janelle Lattimore-Fullbright

The Cherokee Nation has lost a true patriot. Janelle Lattimore-Fullbright was a longtime servant to the Cherokee people, dedicating her time to the Cherokee Nation in so many capacities they are too numerous to mention. She was a Tribal Councilor for eight years, tirelessly fighting for the people of Sequoyah County and making quality health care for Cherokees her top priority above all else. She served as the Deputy Speaker of the Tribal Council, as well as on the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission and was most recently a valuable member of the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors, guiding our business interests with the same priorities in mind that she did our government – always for the betterment of Cherokee Nation citizens. On a very personal level, she was one of my closest friends and I will miss her dearly. She truly was a Cherokee treasure and will be missed by all who knew her. Please pray for her extended family, including husband Alfred and children Cody and Natalie, and keep them in your prayers during this difficult time. 

- Bill John Baker 
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Cherokee Nation files suit over ‘Broken Treaties’

The Cherokee Nation recently filed a lawsuit against the federal government to uncover details about how the United States throughout history managed the tribe’s trust fund, which includes money, property and other resources. The claim was filed in federal court in the Western District of Oklahoma on the 231st anniversary of the Treaty of Hopewell, the first treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the United States government. In the Treaty of Hopewell, the United States agreed its actions would be for “the benefit and comfort” of the Cherokee Nation. Sadly, the United States violated this treaty and every other treaty signed with the Cherokee Nation’s government.

This current lawsuit is about holding the federal government accountable; it is about making sure there is an accurate accounting of the vast Cherokee trust fund, the money and natural resources, including the land, coal, timber, water, grazing, and oil and gas, that the federal government agreed to hold in trust for the benefit of the Cherokee Nation.

As a trustee, the federal government managed the Cherokee trust fund, handling the money earned off the land and resources. The federal government’s reports state that Indian trust funds were handled with a “pitchfork.” As a result, many of the recorded transactions are lost or scattered across the country in epically disorganized accounting books. Our hope and desire are to address the information and management gap at the core of the federal government’s mishandling.

At different  times throughout history, Cherokee lands in Indian Territory were taken, sold or leased by the federal government, the most powerful and sophisticated government in the world. Yet, because of the federal government’s management, we cannot get an accurate accounting of what it did with the revenue from our natural resources. The resources relate to the treaty lands of the Cherokee Nation, including the current 14-county jurisdiction of our tribe.

The federal government can’t tell us what it did with our trust fund resources; it can’t tell us what profit was realized from the sale of those resources; it can’t tell us where the money went or whether it was fairly and justly allocated to the tribe as negotiated and agreed upon. We believe the United States government should live up to its word, and we think most Americans feel the same way.

This is a tremendous opportunity for the United States to reconcile its management of the Cherokee trust fund over the centuries and to finally account for the resources that it was legally obligated to manage for the benefit of the Cherokee people. We believe the Cherokee Nation is in a position of strength in this litigation and that the Nation is able to pursue its legal interests to hold the federal government accountable. Yes, lawsuits by nature are adversarial, but this is a chance for the government of the United States to do what is right. This can chart a path of healing and of stronger cooperation between our governments going forward. 

The United States has a trust responsibility to the Cherokee Nation, and similar duties to other tribes nationwide. In the recent past, the United States was sued by other tribes seeking an accounting like the Cherokee Nation seeks in this lawsuit. The United States, ultimately, never provided any accountings in those other cases, but instead it has paid other tribes the values of the trust funds for which it cannot account. To date, there have been dozens of such settlements spanning the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations.  

Without a doubt, this lawsuit is overdue, and as Principal Chief it is essential for me to hold the United States accountable for the promises made. As a leader among tribal governments, we hope Cherokee Nation’s lawsuit helps all of Indian Country move forward. We have very strong claims, and we are hopeful for a positive outcome in the courtroom. This suit will mean a brighter future for the Cherokee Nation.

Learn more at

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline announcement

Cherokee Nation applauds the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and leadership from the Obama Administration for exploring ways to reroute the Dakota Access Pipeline and protect the safety of the Standing Rock Sioux people. A revised plan with input from tribal leaders will hopefully protect the water and the sacred lands of the tribe. This is a testament to our ability to find a better way. In the most powerful and progressive country in the world, we should be able to find solutions that do not jeopardize what we as Native people value, including our land and water. When I visited Standing Rock, I saw firsthand the passion and purpose of the water protectors. They have prayed and resiliently fought for this just and honorable decision. I hope President-elect Trump will continue to work collaboratively with the Standing Rock Sioux and all tribal governments. We support the development of good energy policies, ones that respect the sovereignty of Indian people and include tribes as part of the solution. We must have the ability to protect our homeland and families for the generations to follow. That’s what being a good steward means. I look forward to tribes, like the Cherokee Nation and the Standing Rock Sioux, being part that dialogue with the incoming Administration. 

- Bill John Baker
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Deciding the future of the Illinois River Watershed

For decades, Cherokees have been noticing a change to our water resources. When I was a boy the Illinois River was pristine, even in the deepest areas, and at Lake Tenkiller visitors and locals alike flocked to the crystal-clear waters during the warmest parts of the summer. Like most people in this region, I treasure the memories of swimming, fishing and catching crawdads in the creeks and rivers that make up the Illinois River Watershed. The entire watershed west of Arkansas is within the Cherokee Nation, making it a uniquely Cherokee water resource.

Today during the summer months when visitors are at Lake Tenkiller they can see only a few inches into the water and the Illinois River is often plagued with thick, green algae that chokes the riverbed. Sadly, after the algae blooms and dies, vital oxygen is removed from the water resulting in fish kills that depend on the delicate balance of the river’s ecosystem.

Parents in our community worry whether their children and grandchildren will even be allowed the simple pleasure of growing up in a place with clean water to fish and swim. That is a birthright for every Cherokee in northeast Oklahoma since our people came here on the Trail of Tears.

Oklahoma has set a standard for water quality on the Illinois River, but just last week an expert panel chosen by Arkansas and Oklahoma politicians got together to review a study on algae in the Illinois River- a study funded entirely by the state of Arkansas. This group, which has excluded the Cherokee Nation and EPA from its decision-making process, will make recommendations on whether to allow even more pollution into the Illinois River in the coming years. It will convene again on Friday, Dec. 2nd at 9:00 a.m. at the Renaissance Tulsa Hotel and Convention Center to discuss what the Illinois River should look like for the next seven generations.

The Illinois River is sacred and deserves to be protected. It is a truly scenic river and outstanding water resource that our tribal culture and communities depend on every day. Cherokees and Oklahomans alike need to be asking questions and attending the meetings of this committee.

We must have the power to decide for ourselves what the future of our water resources will be, and not leave theses decision up to out of state policy makers. Negative impacts to our water resources that happen upstream in Arkansas could harm our natural resources for generations.  We can’t afford to sit idly by and hope that those involved make the right decisions, so we have to make our voices heard on this important issue. These are the waters that belong to the Cherokee Nation and flow through northeast Oklahoma.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Spirit of Native people unbowed at Standing Rock

Recently, I had the fortunate opportunity to visit the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation and the Sacred Stone Camp, where close to 10,000 people were standing in solidarity with the tribe in its righteous campaign to protect its historic and sacred sites, along with its precious natural resources.

I was deeply touched by the resolute spirit and collective power of the water protectors, and I am so proud the Cherokee Nation is standing united with our brothers and sisters from North Dakota. It was a powerful moment to stand shoulder to shoulder with friends, associates at the Cherokee Nation and tribal citizens from around the country to lend our voice and support for the Standing Rock people in their just fight to reroute a proposed oil pipeline that could harm historic and sacred sites, and potentially contaminate the water supply for 18 million people.

It is simply amazing what tribal people can accomplish when we come together in times of need. We delivered vital supplies, including firewood and winter clothing that our Cherokee Nation Youth Council collected. It marked the third official trip from our government, not to mention the hundreds of individual Cherokees who have traveled to support the cause. We have contributed funds for the legal battle and much needed firewood and supplies for the upcoming winter months, which on the North Dakota prairie can be brutal.

It’s the right thing to do and is a plight worth supporting. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, like Cherokee Nation, has always been a good steward of the land.  Like the Lakota people, we've experienced hardships, removal and termination policies. We’ve had treaties broken, guarantees ignored and our lands and natural resources pillaged time and time again.  It’s an unfortunate history that all Indian nations share in this country and Indigenous populations share all over the world. However, Native people can and should be part of the solution for a sustainable future and for the development of clean, safe energy. We must have a seat at the table before decisions are made impacting the safety, health and natural resources of our communities because economies can no longer be built on the backs of Native people.

At the Sacred Stone Camp, water protectors are prepared for a long winter and ready to peacefully defend the water that sustains so many communities down the river. Like others across Indian Country, I hope for a positive and safe outcome and the federal government truly takes into account all tribal concerns. We pray that the well-being of the community will be prioritized ahead of profit and corporate interests.

This battle is really about more than just one tribe. It’s about protecting our sovereign rights. It’s about defending our precious water and Mother Earth. It’s about all tribal nations coming together for a common cause to say, ‘our rights must be respected and upheld.’

We went to Standing Rock as the largest tribe in the United States to amplify the message and voices that are rallying around this critical cause and to let all of Indian Country know that at Cherokee Nation, our heart and our spirit is with the Standing Rock Sioux people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Back home: Cherokee Nation secures ownership of Sequoyah’s Cabin

Cherokee Nation was the first tribe to adopt a written language, and the impact the syllabary has had on our people and the advancements of our tribe continue still today. Sequoyah, also known as George Gist, gave us one of the most significant gifts in our history. Sequoyah’s invention of the syllabary had an immeasurable impact on us as a tribe.

Recently, Cherokee Nation finalized the purchase of Sequoyah’s Cabin, near Sallisaw, from the state. We are so proud to assume ownership and management of the historical site and have the opportunity to give it the respect and reverence it deserves.

It’s unimaginable that sites, like Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello or George Washington’s Mt. Vernon, would be operated by anyone other than the United States government. Likewise, it is only fitting that Sequoyah’s Cabin site, which is a vital part of our story, would be operated by the Cherokee Nation.

In our tribe’s long and unique history, Sequoyah made an everlasting impact and truly changed the way our people communicate, share ideas and preserve history. He was a genius who advanced the Cherokee Nation and our rich culture. Sequoyah is one of our most well-known statesmen and historical figures, and his contributions to the Cherokee Nation are immeasurable. The Cherokee syllabary is the single most important contributor to the advancement of the Cherokee people and Cherokee society.

He reshaped the future of Cherokees and all Native people, not just seven generations but infinite generations.

Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, in his role as a state legislator, singlehandedly led the effort to secure Sequoyah’s Cabin for our people. We are so fortunate that his strong relationship with the Oklahoma Historical Society and its executive director, Dr. Bob Blackburn, helped pave the way for our purchase of this important piece of our history.

We commend the state for being such good stewards of the 200-acre site and former home, and now it is time for Cherokee Nation to lead the preservation effort. Our relationship with Dr. Blackburn and the state’s historical society is a true partnership and will allow this project to advance for the benefit of the Cherokee Nation, the state of Oklahoma and the thousands of tourists that visit this historic site each year. Yes, it is unfortunate that after 80 years the state no longer has the resources to manage and maintain the property. But that’s where our tribal government can step in and ensure the preservation meets the highest standards. Together, we will guarantee this beautiful and historic site thrives and continues operation forever.

It is a historic achievement to add this land and site back into the tribe’s land base and bring Sequoyah’s home back to the Cherokee Nation and place it under our cultural protection. Our operation of the cabin and the surrounding land will enable us, as Cherokees, to tell the story of Sequoyah through a uniquely Cherokee perspective. We will be able to do it in our own words and in our own language, which Sequoyah helped advance. 
Signing the certificate of transfer with Dr. Bob Blackburn.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Diversifying the Cherokee portfolio through federal contracts

Cherokee Nation’s entertainment venues are thriving these days and provide budget dollars that fund services for our people.  That is a good thing for all of northeast Oklahoma.  However, real, long-term success for the tribe and for our future cannot hinge on just one industry. Diversification is essential.

At Cherokee Nation, it is important to become less dependent on gaming dollars, so our businesses are making a concerted effort to diversify, broaden and expand.  Today, we have 35 active business enterprises with a far-reaching scope of services.

In fiscal year 2015, about 33 percent of CNB’s revenue was earned by diversified businesses. That represents about $312 million in annual revenue.  

We have worked diligently to expand and diversify our economic mix. Federal contracting for tribes, or 8(a) contracting, is a critical part of our business portfolio for the future. For the Cherokee Nation, there is no faster growing industry.

Recently, we hosted the national conference of the Native American Contractors Association, and our vice president of government relations, Kim Teehee, was elected to be the president of this important group in the upcoming year. Cherokee Nation Businesses ranks among the top five largest tribal federal contractors in the nation. We remain a leader among tribal nations in this arena.

We are proud to play an important role in some of the nation’s biggest and most important research, scientific and defense stories.

We have been providing services to the Department of Defense through CNB’s federal solutions sector. We have secured contracts for unmanned aerial vehicle research on how hurricanes form. We have completed construction projects for Bureau of Indian Affairs schools as well as military installations. We have secured contracts to help the Internal Revenue Service with data management and security.

Our ability to secure these federal contracts means the federal government has confidence in us to provide the highest quality of work.  We have plans to build on our capabilities and secure federal contracts that match our management expertise.

These advancements mean jobs. We want to fulfill these federal contract obligations by hiring our citizens to execute the contracts.  CNB has always been committed to filling employment opportunities with qualified Cherokees. We have about 11,000 direct employees and support thousands of other jobs related to our business endeavors. The opportunity to impact the lives of Cherokee citizens and grow the economy of northeast Oklahoma is our motivation and greatest gratification.

When the Cherokee Nation succeeds, so does all of Oklahoma.  It means improved health care, better schools and access to new and safer homes.  

The Cherokee Nation is in an exciting new era. Cherokee Nation Businesses’ portfolio of tomorrow will be greatly diversified with our business lines serving private and government clients.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Cultural tourism is important to Cherokee Nation

Cultural tourism is important for Cherokee Nation and all of northeast Oklahoma because, while it showcases and preserves our rich culture and tradition, it also creates jobs and economic opportunities for so many of our citizens. As the global interest in Native culture grows, it is important for tribes to realize the benefits of sharing our unique heritage with travelers from around the world.

Our tribal culture, heritage and history matter and always will. As chief, I have taken an oath of office to preserve and defend those things. It’s a responsibility I take very seriously.  Preserving those cultural values and traditions connects us to the past, to all our ancestors who went before us, and it is what guides the path toward our collective future. While our heritage is the core of our unique identity as Indian people, we still treasure the language and traditions of our ancestors in the southeast United States, our home before removal. 

And we, as Cherokees, have always been eager to share our heritage in an appropriate way.
Across our 14-county jurisdiction, cultural tourism efforts have led to the preservation and restoration of multiple historic buildings. Our home is marked by an abundance of lakes, rivers, state parks and nature trails. Tourism is already part of our way of life. Cherokee Nation has a $1.5 billion impact on the state, and cultural tourism is an important part of our business portfolio.

Recently, Cherokee Nation led tribal efforts to pass the NATIVE Act that was just signed into law by President Obama. The NATIVE Act, which was authored by Cherokee Congressman Mark Wayne Mullin, will require federal agencies with tourism responsibilities to include tribes and Native organizations in national tourism efforts and strategic planning.

Tourism in the United States and in Indian Country is one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the U.S. economy:  International tourism to Indian Country grew 181 percent from 2007 to 2015. That resulted in $8.6 billion in direct spending, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

This is a win for Oklahoma’s tribal communities and will benefit the state’s 38 federally recognized tribal governments and its citizens. As tribal governments we partner on a multitude of efforts, including tourism. It’s important for tribes, like the Cherokee Nation, to be able to tell our story from our own perspective.

Preserving and sharing Cherokee culture is so important to us that we have taken steps to ensure money does not limit our capability to tell our story through museums, art procurement and our TV program, “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People,” which runs statewide. The tribe actively partners with renowned institutions, like the Oklahoma Historical Society and the Gilcrease Museum, to preserve and showcase our culture. Additionally, our own world-class museums complement annual events, like Cherokee National Holiday, to offer visitors a unique glimpse of Cherokee culture.

Our stories are both vast and personal – we have a culture like no other. It’s critical to knowing who we are today, to know where and what we have been in the past.  

I was taught that we honor our ancestors by living quality lives that leave our world better for the next seven generations. Today, we are dedicated more than ever to the betterment of our people and the continuation of our legacy. Our cultural  tourism efforts play a vital role in sharing that story around the world.  

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Stewards of land means promoting clean energy

At Cherokee National Holiday this year, I spoke of a renewed effort for Cherokees to become stewards of our land. To advance that effort, I appointed the first ever secretary of natural resources. We also established the Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association. Now, we’ve expanded that effort into another arena: clean energy.

The Cherokee Nation owns about 4,000 acres of agricultural pastureland around the site of the former Chilocco Indian boarding school near Newkirk in Kay County in north central Oklahoma. After more than 10 years of studying the feasibility and environmental impact of such a project, the Tribal Council approved a lease of that tribal trust land to wind farm developer PNE Wind to develop a wind farm and help lessen the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

A wind farm isn’t just good for the environment and for the United States as a whole. It will come at a great benefit to Cherokee people by bringing in a considerable amount of new revenue for the Cherokee Nation. Our ground lease agreement with PNE Wind will generate about $1 million per year, on average, for tribal programs and services over the life of the lease. This is a much-needed boost for our tribal programs, as we always try to stretch every dollar as far as it will go to help Cherokee Nation citizens.

The development of a wind farm is a great step toward advancing clean energy and moving away from coal-fired power. This is what it means to be stewards of our land. Wind energy is pollution free, doesn’t require fuel or water, and the land beneath the wind farm will still be used for agricultural purposes. Currently, we collect lease payments from farmers and ranchers who run cattle on that pastureland, so this project will help us collect lease payments for both operations. PNE Wind is also obligated to restore the land to its present condition should the company ever cease operations.

Chilocco Indian School operated from 1884 to 1980. The Cherokee Nation and several other tribes have owned parcels of land in the area since the 1980s, and there has been much discussion over the years about how to best utilize those parcels. After careful thought and consideration about the environmental impacts, and what is best for the Cherokee Nation operationally, the current agreement is by far the best scenario. This agreement brings us in line with other tribes in the area to develop a project that is profitable for all involved, while maintaining the integrity of the land.

I am proud the Cherokee Nation is part of the clean energy movement sweeping our country, and I applaud the Tribal Council for agreeing it is in the best interest of our tribal people, and for future generations, to explore energy options that leave our land, our water and our air in better condition than we found them.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Youth Summit focused on culture, leadership skill development

Cherokee Nation is hosting the first ever Cherokee Nation Youth Summit on Saturday, Oct. 22, inside the ballroom at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.  It’s designed to ensure tribal youth have access to the tools and resources that will positively impact their families, schools and communities. The summit has about 150 allocated slots for teens and is free to any Cherokee or Native youth.

We have a responsibility to invest in our young people and give them every opportunity to succeed. We have a chance to build a brighter future, one that addresses the unique issues that challenge our young people day in and day out head-on.

Our Cherokee Nation Youth Summit is coordinated by the tribe’s My Brother’s Keeper task force in partnership with the Cherokee Nation Youth Council, and Cherokee Nation Businesses is the primary sponsor.  Our hope is that it becomes an annual event like our Elder Summit.

The Youth Summit’s primary objective is bringing together our young people to develop leadership skills through peer discussion, cultural activities and Cherokee history, which will highlight the tribe’s leadership from the past, present and future.  Additionally, we will be able to better connect attendees with critical resources and programs available to them from our government and outside networks. We can gain invaluable information from today’s youth on the things most important to them, where the gaps of unmet needs reside and how we can better fill those needs.  

The Cherokee Youth Council will help provide the point of view and discussion. They have been active in the planning and production of the summit.  One issue the Youth Council will advocate and discuss is the Generation Indigenous challenge, "Cherokee Language 2020 Challenge."  They will give lessons on the Cherokee language and ask attendees to start using simple Cherokee phrases throughout the event and the next four years.  

Other summit activities include information on educational resources and healthy relationships. We all know that navigating the balance between family, friends, school, community, technology and extracurricular activities can be a challenge for any youth today.

We hope to help our citizens develop goals, set benchmarks for themselves and learn new ways to reach those objectives. Growing skills they can use in everyday life will help them fully develop into the next generation of leaders for the Cherokee people. These efforts strengthen the individual, yes, but also our communities and tribe. Our hope is that our youth will be inspired and more connected with each other and their tribe, so that they return to their school and family with a stronger foundation of self and knowledge that they can make a positive change in the world.

We must build up our best and brightest kids so they believe they can achieve the great things God intended for them. This summit will connect them with similar young leaders, challenge them to strive for more and cultivate the skills that will allow for success.

For more information about the Cherokee Nation Youth Summit, call (918)453-5705. Or to register, visit

Youth Summit focused on culture, leadership skill development

Cherokee Nation is hosting the first ever Cherokee Nation Youth Summit on Saturday, Oct. 22, inside the ballroom at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.  It’s designed to ensure tribal youth have access to the tools and resources that will positively impact their families, schools and communities. The summit has about 150 allocated slots for teens and is free to any Cherokee or Native youth.

We have a responsibility to invest in our young people and give them every opportunity to succeed. We have a chance to build a brighter future, one that addresses the unique issues that challenge our young people day in and day out head-on.

Our Cherokee Nation Youth Summit is coordinated by the tribe’s My Brother’s Keeper task force in partnership with the Cherokee Nation Youth Council, and Cherokee Nation Businesses is the primary sponsor.  Our hope is that it becomes an annual event like our Elder Summit.

The Youth Summit’s primary objective is bringing together our young people to develop leadership skills through peer discussion, cultural activities and Cherokee history, which will highlight the tribe’s leadership from the past, present and future.  Additionally, we will be able to better connect attendees with critical resources and programs available to them from our government and outside networks. We can gain invaluable information from today’s youth on the things most important to them, where the gaps of unmet needs reside and how we can better fill those needs.  

The Cherokee Youth Council will help provide the point of view and discussion. They have been active in the planning and production of the summit.  One issue the Youth Council will advocate and discuss is the Generation Indigenous challenge, "Cherokee Language 2020 Challenge."  They will give lessons on the Cherokee language and ask attendees to start using simple Cherokee phrases throughout the event and the next four years.  

Other summit activities include information on educational resources and healthy relationships. We all know that navigating the balance between family, friends, school, community, technology and extracurricular activities can be a challenge for any youth today.

We hope to help our citizens develop goals, set benchmarks for themselves and learn new ways to reach those objectives. Growing skills they can use in everyday life will help them fully develop into the next generation of leaders for the Cherokee people. These efforts strengthen the individual, yes, but also our communities and tribe. Our hope is that our youth will be inspired and more connected with each other and their tribe, so that they return to their school and family with a stronger foundation of self and knowledge that they can make a positive change in the world.

We must build up our best and brightest kids so they believe they can achieve the great things God intended for them. This summit will connect them with similar young leaders, challenge them to strive for more and cultivate the skills that will allow for success.

For more information about the Cherokee Nation Youth Summit, call (918)453-5705. Or to register, visit

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Moving away from Columbus Day and embracing Indigenous Peoples Day

Oklahoma, our people and our communities are ready for a bold move that would rename the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day rather than Columbus Day. As the Principal Chief of the largest tribal government in Oklahoma and in the United States, I believe it is something that would honor the tribal people and tribal governments of Oklahoma.

We do not and will not recognize Columbus Day. The National Congress of American Indians has spearheaded the shift to Indigenous Peoples Day, and I applaud that effort. It is a truer and more accurate title because Native people had a history and heritage in the Americas long before Christopher Columbus set sail across the Atlantic. Since Columbus didn't actually discover a “New World,” why do we perpetuate this idea? Even more troubling is that history has shown us Columbus and his crew brutalized and murdered the Native people he encountered. We should no longer celebrate those highly inaccurate chapters of human history.

Instead we should honor the heritage, culture and values of Indian people, especially here in Oklahoma, the heart of Indian Country.

As Indian people, we have made and continue to make an undeniable impact in America, and that is particularly true in Oklahoma. The state’s 38 federally recognized tribes contribute more than $11 billion annually to the state's economy and tribal citizens represent about 10 percent of the state population. This gives Oklahoma one of the largest Native American populations in the United States.

The time is long overdue for this change. I hope other cities and municipalities will follow the lead of communities like Tahlequah, McAlester and Anadarko, who have embraced the change to Indigenous Peoples Day.  A shift from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day would show Oklahoma is a leader in honoring the culture, heritage and traditional lifeways of our ancestors, and acknowledge who Natives are today as a modern, sovereign governments.

Last year, our Cherokee Nation Tribal Council passed a resolution recognizing this day as Cherokee Nation Leadership Day. It is a way to honor the achievements and service of our leaders, scholars, entrepreneurs, military veterans and artists. Cherokee Nation Leadership Day acknowledges all those who paved the way and continue to create new paths to advance the tribe and improve the lives of the Cherokee people.

This year, we will again recognize Cherokee Nation Leadership Day simultaneously with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Reclaiming the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day would be a powerful and empowering move. We all know American Indians, including the Cherokee people, have contributed immensely to our communities, our state and to our great country. I believe this move is important and the right thing to do. I hope you will join me in supporting the transition away from Columbus Day and embrace Indigenous Peoples Day.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Honoring Cherokee senior citizens during Elder Appreciation Week

Last June, we had our first Cherokee Nation Elder’s Summit and delivered a tremendous amount of helpful information to our beloved elders. It was so well received that we did it again in 2016 and doubled the number of Cherokee citizens reached. We recently hosted summits in Vinita and Tahlequah and catered to about 700 senior citizens. We added more content to better connect Cherokee senior citizens with programs and services that can help them.

These Elder Summits are a day of fellowship and learning. The Cherokee Nation serves elders through nutrition sites, senior housing facilities and housing rehab, health care programs, and programs such as Elders In Need, Home Health Services, the Caregiver Program, Cherokee First Elder Stipend and many, many more.  As a responsible tribal government, we serve our elders in so many diverse ways.

Cherokee elders are the keepers of our traditions and customs and are invaluable resources of information. Our elders should be respected and appreciated for their experience and cultural knowledge. Honoring and protecting them has always been a part of our Cherokee heritage.  It’s part of the values and culture we all grew up with.

Our seniors are the foundation of all our successes as a tribe. It’s our responsibility to ensure our most valuable, and in many cases our most vulnerable, citizens remain safe from abuse, whether it’s physical or financial or emotional.

Last year, we launched our Elder Fraud Protection Initiative, which was led by Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, the Attorney General’s Office and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service. That initiative seeks to put an end to the growing problem of elder abuse. The coalition we formed that day worked collaboratively with tribal, state and local agencies to prevent elder abuse and prosecute individuals who financially exploit or otherwise abuse Cherokee elders.  According to data from the U.S. Congress, more than 30 percent of financial scams are perpetrated on elders. Elder abuse is something we must address in Oklahoma. Often elders experiencing abuse or exploitation don’t know where to turn or how to seek help. Together, we can protect our elders and we can stop elder abuse.

One step in protecting elders and preventing this kind of abuse is to ensure we are all educated on how to identify abuse. We are teaching our elders tips to protect themselves and teaching friends, family and loved ones how to better ensure their beloved elders remain safe and protected. 

Keeping senior citizens active and engaged is important. Currently, we are working with Cherokee Nation Businesses to develop a plan to transport and host Cherokee elders at our various Cherokee Nation museums.

If you need information on services available to senior citizens, please call Cherokee Nation Human Services at (918) 453-5422. I encourage all Cherokees to review the programs and services the tribe offers that could be helpful. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Cherokee Nation plays critical role in attracting jobs, companies to northeast Oklahoma

Creating jobs and economic opportunities for our citizens in northeast Oklahoma is critical to Cherokee Nation’s continued success. We are creating Cherokee Nation jobs as we expand our businesses and reach into new markets and new industries. But equally important is our growing tendency to partner with the Oklahoma governor’s office and department of commerce to position the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation as an ideal place to grow, expand and relocate.

Recently, the tribe’s career services department hosted a job fair for the Macy’s fulfillment center in Owasso. While Macy’s has announced some of its U.S. stores will close due to increasing online sales, more Americans shopping online is actually good news for the fulfillment center. The center has the capacity to stock, pack and ship as many as 250,000 packages a day for shoppers all over the United States during the peak holiday shopping season and they’ve asked our staff to help find more than 3,500 workers to meet that increased demand. That’s up from the 2,500 employees we helped recruit last holiday season. Those new jobs are in addition to the 1,000 full-time positions created when Macy’s opened its 2.1 million-square-foot facility last year. 

The company has made hiring Cherokees a priority, which is why we worked so hard to recruit Macy’s to Oklahoma. This success story was the result of a partnership between Cherokee Nation, the city of Owasso, Tulsa County and the state of Oklahoma. Without Cherokee Nation at the negotiating table, the deal would not have worked out and the center may have gone to Texas. It speaks volumes that a respected 100-year-old retailer has come to understand the value of working with a Native American tribe, and has put faith in us that we’ll deliver. The Macy’s partnership has been transformative for Oklahoma, our communities and families. 

We recently announced similar good news in Nowata County. With the help of Cherokee Nation, 260 new jobs will soon be coming to South Coffeyville.

Star Pipe Products, a Texas-based company that specializes in manufacturing, casting, machining, metal fabrication, assembly and production of customized cast iron and ductile iron products, will grow its workforce from its current staff of 88 current workers to nearly 350.The company's direct investment will be more than $40 million into the local community and we will play our role in ensuring their new staff is trained and prepared to fulfill the opportunity.

Like Macy’s, Cherokee Nation's career services department help Star Pipe recruit and train a quality workforce so that many of those new hires will be Cherokee. Star Pipe will infuse critical payroll and infrastructure dollars into South Coffeyville and all of Nowata County. That will improve the lives of area families for years to come.

Star Pipe and the new jobs coming with it is again directly attributable to the collaborative efforts between the Cherokee Nation, state and local governments. We have proven our willingness to play our role in training or helping with infrastructure needs if it will help grow the area’s economy. Together, we all play a role in making economic opportunities possible.

Attracting new business, industry and investments in the region remains a priority for the tribe. Good, quality jobs make our families, our schools and the entire Cherokee Nation stronger. Securing the Macy’s and Star Pipe expansions are both big wins for the Cherokee Nation and our communities. It shows that with the power of partnerships anything is possible in Oklahoma’s effort to expand economic development. Every job created in our 14 counties doesn't have to be a Cherokee Nation job. As long as Cherokees are gainfully employed, that’s a step in the right direction.

For more information on career services programs or to find out about job fairs in your area, call (918) 453-5555 or email

Monday, September 19, 2016

Record budget allows Cherokee Nation to expand critical programs

Almost a billion dollars will be invested in the coming year to improve Cherokee lives. The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council passed a historic $934.2 million budget allocation for fiscal year 2017, the largest comprehensive budget in the history of the Cherokee Nation.  

Those dollars have a direct benefit to our people. The increased annual budget means Cherokee Nation citizens and employees will see our tribal programs and services expand to meet the growing needs of our citizenry.

The fiscal year 2017 budget represents a $167.2 million increase from last year’s annual budget, and, like any good government, we plan to allocate our resources pragmatically. This extraordinary financial growth is directly attributable to the unparalleled growth of Cherokee Nation Businesses, coupled with strategic investments and a concerted and successful effort to pursue more federal grant funding opportunities. 

The increase of funds will help put more citizens into new homes and jobs and help Cherokee elders and families with utility assistance, health care and child care services.

The fiscal year 2017 budget also includes the construction budget of the forthcoming health expansion at Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. To better accommodate the more than 360,000 patient visits per year, we will soon break ground on a new facility at the Hastings campus. It will be a state-of-the-art, 450,000-square-foot facility and cost about $170 million. Cherokee Nation Businesses has pledged $58 million to the project after construction begins.

Year in and year out, the Cherokee Nation’s excellent financial stewardship means we are able to have a positive impact on the lives of our people. It means we are building a strong foundation for a bright future, and that is something we, as Cherokees, can all take pride in.

We have come so far with our businesses being able to fund tribal government. I remember less than 20 years ago when the tribe’s entire budget was under $200 million and we had just over $1 million in unearmarked dollars to use.

It is amazing where the Cherokee Nation is today. We are truly blessed, and we will continue to prosper and move forward. Our past is one of perseverance, and our future prosperity is grounded in that knowledge, history and values.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cherokee National Treasures keep tribal heritage alive

2016 Cherokee National Treasures Demos Glass, Richard Fields and Vyrl Keeter
Cherokee National Treasures are prestigious citizens who actively work to preserve and revive Cherokee cultural practices that might otherwise be lost from one generation to the next. They exemplify the very best values of our tribe, and their efforts collectively make us better, stronger and more beautiful. 

The Cherokee National Treasure Award was created in 1988 and is given each year to a select few during our annual Cherokee National Holiday. Since its inception, about 100 Cherokee Nation citizens have been recognized for their work. Each awardee possesses a true gift, and those talents help shape the Cherokee Nation and preserve our heritage. Recently we added three more: 
  • Richard Fields, a master bow maker from Tahlequah, has been crafting traditional Cherokee long bows for more than two decades. 
  • Demos Glass is an artist with more than 20 years of experience in contemporary, mixed media and metalsmithing.
  • Vyrl Keeter has 40 years of experience in flint knapping and is dedicated to teaching others the traditional art of flint knapping through classes and demonstrations.
As Cherokee people, we are taught to leave the world a better place for the generations to come, and I can tell you all three of these men in their own, humble way have done that.

Honorees are selected based on their skill and cultural and historical knowledge, and each of them is committed to education and cultural preservation. They are all actively involved with the preservation and continuation of traditional cultural practices.

These men and women preserve different aspects of our unique Cherokee culture for future generations, including craft-making, language, graphic arts, contemporary arts, storytelling, music and other art forms. 

Because of their love and commitment to their respective discipline, the spirit and heritage of the Cherokee Nation remain as vibrant today as ever.

I believe it speaks volumes about our tribal government that we strive to honor the people who are keeping our traditional ways alive. These individuals exemplify the values that we hold dear as a people and sovereign government.

Our community, our culture and our commitment as Cherokees have taught us to leave the world a better place for today, tomorrow and the generations ahead.

I am honored to know our Cherokee National Treasures. I thoroughly admire them all and respect their talents. They all deserve our deepest respect and gratitude because they are role models for young and old alike, and their positive influence propels us all, as Cherokee people, forward. 

To each of them I say a heartfelt Wado. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

CNB revenues climb, spur growth in northeast Oklahoma

Cherokee Nation Businesses’ annual year-end audit shows the tribe’s economic development arm ended another fiscal year with record revenues. The company’s revenues grew by $96 million year over year, with revenues topping $925 million in fiscal year 2015. Our businesses continue to experience record growth and remain vital to economy of northeast Oklahoma. More importantly, those business successes mean we can do more to improve the lives of Cherokee people.

Cherokee Nation has a $1.5 billion economic impact on the state’s economy and the existence of our business arm achieves two fundamental priorities: the first is to grow the economy of the Cherokee Nation through jobs, and the second is to provide fiscal funding that supports the services and programs utilized by our citizens, like housing, health care and education.

We are also investing in things like first responders, community infrastructure like road and bridges and waterlines, as well as public parks and splash pads that improve the quality of life for area families. You can see we are all over the 14 counties and have improved so many lives. We have seen the positive impact we are making on the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee people.

As our businesses continue to grow and succeed, so does our ability to further support the tribe and remain a positive community partner for our state, and we are partnering with local businesses and local chambers to bring in work and jobs. Part of that is ensuring we have a capable and highly skilled workforce that fulfill those quality jobs. Today, we have more students on higher education scholarships in the history of the tribe, and we expect to issue more than 4,000 higher education scholarships for the coming fall semester.

The tribe’s overall workforce grew in 2015. The company now employs roughly 6,500 people. More than 4,900 of those jobs are scattered across northeast Oklahoma. The opening of new casinos in South Coffeyville and Roland created 400 new jobs, and a new casino in Grove will soon bring 175 new jobs to that community.

Besides gaming and hospitality, the tribe’s financial arm operates businesses in industries such as aerospace manufacturing, health care, real estate, information technology, office solutions, telecommunications, environmental and construction, and security and defense.

Last year, CNB's diversified businesses portfolio secured hundreds of federal and commercial contracts totaling more than $437 million, with revenue being spread across multiple years.

In addition to a 35 percent dividend to the tribe, CNB also completed a major portion of a $100 million capital investment in Cherokee Nation’s health care system. For the first time ever, we’ve taken our casino profits and directly invested them into the health of the Cherokee people. Using casino profits earmarked for the construction of new health centers as well as the expansion of existing health facilities, the tribe opened new health centers in Ochelata and Jay and expanded health centers in Sallisaw and Stilwell in 2015.

We are addressing the housing needs of our people much quicker. Along with construction on health centers, the company is also helping build neighborhoods for the Cherokee Nation Housing Authority in communities like Vian, Roland and West Siloam Springs. These efforts better ensure Cherokee families have a better opportunity at homeownership.

I believe our citizens see the benefits of using our businesses to grow the economy. When our businesses are doing well, so are our people, our communities and our state. We have laid a strong foundation here in northeast Oklahoma, and we are building a brighter future. Just look around and you can see that.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Statement on DA Pipeline protest in North Dakota

The Cherokee Nation stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its effort to halt the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I applaud our Tribal Council for showing the support of the legislative body of the Cherokee Nation as well. 

The Standing Rock people have an inherent right to protect their homelands, their historic and sacred sites, their natural resources, their drinking water and their families from this potentially dangerous pipeline. The Cherokee Nation supports safe and responsible energy development, and energy development in Indian Country is only responsible if it respects the sovereign rights of tribal governments and includes meaningful consultation with tribal officials. 

As Indian people, we have a right to protect our lands and protect our water rights. That’s our responsibility to the next seven generations. The Standing Rock Sioux should be allowed a place at the table to express their legitimate concerns on a pipeline plan that could be detrimental to their tribe for many future generations. 

Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association: For Fun and For the Future

Protecting the environment and being forward-thinking stewards of our land is an inherent Cherokee value and something our people have always passed down from generation to generation. It’s a responsibility I take seriously as Chief of the largest tribal government in the United States, with more than 340,000 enrolled citizens.

It is well known that American Indians, including Cherokees, were this country’s first conservationists. The environment impacts every single one of us on a daily basis through the water we drink, air we breathe and ground we walk upon. In that spirit, I appointed the first-ever Secretary of Natural Resources. Sara Hill is responsible for shaping our environmental policies.

One of the first initiatives in this renewed focus on natural resources was guaranteeing our hunting and fishing rights. We began issuing Cherokee Nation hunting and fishing licenses last year that allow Cherokees to hunt and fish in all 77 Oklahoma counties. We have issued about 115,000 of those to date.

Now, I am proud to announce our next brick in the foundation of our environmental preservation work, the formation of the Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association. Members of this association will be among the first to know when new opportunities arise to continue the work of our ancestors as modern-day stewards of our lands.

The association is for Cherokees Nation citizens; however, non-Cherokees can sign up as friends of the association and opt in to receive notifications that may be of interest to any outdoorsman or environmentalist. We will maintain a separate list of Cherokee Nation citizen-members and a list of friends and supporters of the association. Participation is voluntary and free of charge.

Along with information about the hunting and fishing license, members and friends will get relevant information about Cherokee Nation initiatives, tips for hunters and anglers, and useful information for hobbyists interested in nature and wildlife conservation. Members will receive a membership card, a vehicle sticker and access to exclusive wildlife and hunting and fishing information in the “members only” area of the website.

Traditional Cherokee wildlife habitat and management information, lake levels, calendars, regulations, and maps for hunting and fishing seasons will be included in the information.

Additionally, public events will be part of the association’s efforts. We are currently in the planning process, and potential events include conservation projects, special hunts, fishing tournaments, archery lessons, hunting and safety classes, and recommendations for gun and bow owners.

You’ll also have an opportunity to provide feedback, so we can tailor our programs to support the outdoor recreational activities that you enjoy throughout the Cherokee Nation.

We are proving how we can be a state and national leader in environmental conservation, as well as a trailblazer in Indian Country, setting the standard for other tribal governments. No other tribe has started an association that resembles this effort. Cherokee Nation is again leading the way.

The Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association will make it a priority to better protect and preserve wildlife, teach better land stewardship, safeguard our water and air resources, provide our citizens and friends, especially our youth, with informative environmental data, and make a concerted effort to play our part to combat global climate change.

Northeast Oklahoma is one of the most beautiful places on Earth. It is my home. It is in these hills and waterways that I grew up hunting, fishing and hiking and being connected to nature.
I believe preserving that right forever is our moral obligation.

We can all join together to form an organization, the Cherokee Nation Fish and Wildlife Association, that makes our natural world a priority. This work will benefit nature enthusiasts and sportsmen alike.

I know that many of you will want to join us to build a brighter future for our children and grandchildren, and I applaud you. It is our duty to make our world livable for future generations. That’s why I hope we can empower, engage and encourage youth leaders to be active within this new association.

Through this effort and every decision we make, we strive to keep our land clean, our water safe and our air pristine. Stewardship, as a guiding principle, must be embraced at every level, and what we do today at the Cherokee Nation will impact whether our resources are sustainable for the next seven generations to come.

I encourage everyone interested in protecting the environment to join the association as either a member or a friend, because protecting and conserving shared resources for the future is a responsibility all Oklahomans share. During Cherokee National Holiday, we will have opportunities to sign up for the association, and soon a new website will be coming online for members and friends. For more information, contact Dale Glory at the Cherokee Nation at (918) 453-5333 or

Friday, August 12, 2016

Celebrate history, culture during annual Cherokee National Holiday

It is my favorite weekend of the year. Labor Day weekend always means it is time for Cherokee National Holiday. The 64th annual event, which runs Sept. 2-4 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, will again draw a crowd of more than 100,000 visitors to our capital city. I invite anyone who has never experienced Cherokee National Holiday to join us for fellowship and fun as we celebrate the history, heritage and hospitality of the Cherokee Nation. And, of course, we always look forward to seeing the thousands of friends that return every year, while meeting new friends this homecoming weekend.

As we come together this year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our tribal government and our bright future. We share our Cherokee traditions and values. The first Cherokee National Holiday was held in 1953 to commemorate the anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution.
This year’s Cherokee National Holiday theme, “Stewards of our Land,” is a reminder that Cherokee people have, since time immemorial, protected our earth and safeguarded our precious natural resources. Cherokee people were among the first conservationists in this country’s history, and today that spirit lives on in our important work.

We proudly celebrate the natural world and strive to keep our land clean, our water safe and our air pristine. Every decision we make is deliberate and with our natural resources in mind. One of the things we achieved in the past year is establishing a secretary of Natural Resources, who’s responsible for shaping a policy to preserve our land, water and air. We also secured a historic hunting and fishing compact with the state and a portion of those earmarked funds go specifically to statewide conservation efforts. We have an inherent responsibility to the next seven generations of Cherokees to leave the world a better place.

The 2016 Cherokee National Holiday design, which was created by Cherokee National Treasure Dan Mink, is simply beautiful and ties so many of concepts together in one piece of art. It will be exceptional on a shirt or a poster. At the center is a deer sugar skull decorated with elements of predator and prey. Inside the skull are snakeskin, fish scales and patterns associated with Southeast Woodland design, native to the Cherokee people. The cape feathers directly under the deer embrace the tribe’s 14 counties. The blue background is the horizon over Lake Tenkiller, marked with the seven-pointed star. The circle is encompassed by three patterns, including deer tracks to embody a successful hunt, stylized turkey feathers and scales. The three patterns represent the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. Lastly, the seven Buffalo Carp fish under the circle honor the seven Cherokee clans.

Every year the Cherokee Nation offers its citizens and visitors an array of entertainment, cultural and athletic events to participate in. The Cherokee National Holiday has something of interest for all walks of life, from traditional foods and music to competitive marbles, a car show, softball and stickball tournaments and the annual children’s fishing derby, hosted by pro angler Jason Christie. Additionally, I encourage history enthusiasts to explore our local museums during the holiday weekend. They all highlight different aspects of Cherokee events and people.

Visitors will be able to experience the annual marquee events like the powwow, parade and state of the nation address. The always-popular Cherokee National Holiday parade travels down Muskogee Avenue in downtown Tahlequah and is the only parade in the state to be announced in both Cherokee and English. The Cherokee National Holiday Intertribal Powwow is also routinely one of the biggest draws of the annual celebration and has been profiled as one of the best powwows in America. The two-night event offers thousands of dollars in prize money for Southern Straight, Northern Traditional, Fancy, Jingle and other dance categories.

Friends, I hope you will allow the Cherokee Nation to showcase our vibrant culture and rich history this Labor Day weekend. You’ll find a wealth of kind hearts, determined minds and resilient spirits, while making memories you and your family will cherish for a lifetime. You may even leave town with a cornhusk doll or a woven Cherokee basket. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the Cherokee Nation.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Tribe’s small business expertise allowing ideas to flourish

Oklahoma’s small-business community represents an important part of our state’s ability to generate wealth and drive our economy. According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Oklahoma consistently ranks among the top states in America for entrepreneurial activity and entrepreneurs per capita. That speaks volumes about what we do here in Oklahoma and how important entrepreneurship is to the economy of Oklahoma.

Cherokee Nation is playing a vital role in the landscape of creating a strong environment for small-business owners and startups. We certainly want to help our citizens find the right resources that will allow their unique business ideas to bloom.

Since 2010, the Cherokee Nation Economic Development Authority has issued more than 200 small-business loans. That has created 940 jobs within our tribal jurisdiction and represents an investment of more than $8,914,000.

Entrepreneurs are the future of Indian Country’s economy, and in order to keep growing the local economy, we must support the development of Cherokee entrepreneurs in Oklahoma. That’s why we offer our tribal citizens who aspire to open and operate their own business financial support through a variety of loans, as well as technical assistance and training to help them start and grow their business ideas.

The business world is driven by those willing to take a risk and turn their dreams into reality. As a small-business owner myself, I understand the desire of working for yourself and making a positive impact on your families and your community.

 We’ve seen many great stories emerge from our small-business loan program:

  •  Janet’s Beauty Salon, owned by Janet Binam in Locust Grove, has expanded and modernized to keep a business open and thriving on the community’s main street.
  • Bo Gaines opened his specialty coffee shop in downtown Pryor next to his church, where his idea started when he brewed and gave coffee to members on Sunday mornings .Today, he’s grown that idea into a standalone coffee shop.
  • Rita Drywater expanded her business in Grove by opening a second location in Pryor. Rita is making a real difference in the lives of area families by offering a sober living residence for women that helps address the disease of addiction and substance abuse.
  •  In Vian, Morning Sky and Evening Shade Mercantile has rejuvenated the downtown area with its unique retail offerings. Callie Prier along with her mother, Suzanne Sullivan, have created a destination shopping boutique.
  • Currently, we are supporting Robert and Jeanne Burgess in opening Junk and Disorderly in downtown Grove. They are renovating an old vacant building and bringing new life to Grove’s downtown district.

These are all Cherokee Nation small-business owners that we have invested in and helped sustain, creating a clearer path to success. Small businesses are Oklahoma’s lifeline in the present and represent a bright future. The bulk of our state’s workforce is employed through small-business ventures. 

I encourage you to explore the possibility of small-business ownership, and if you need assistance, please contact the Cherokee Nation Small Business Assistance Center. Our staff can help you understand different financial options and any other funding availability. 

Please visit or email or call 918.453.5536 for more info.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Cherokee Nation hosts important National Native American Veterans Memorial conversation

Cherokee Nation recently hosted a gathering for a public and open discussion on a project that is important to me and all of Indian Country: the future Native American Warrior Memorial in Washington, D.C. The forthcoming memorial will be housed on the campus of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

Our good friend Kevin Gover, director of the NMAI, led the discussion along with other members of the advisory committee for the memorial, including Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran. The advisory board is comprised of tribal leaders and veterans from across Indian Country and represents every branch of the Armed Forces.

The Native American Veterans Memorial is important because Indian people serve at a higher rate than any other racial group in this country, and our Native warriors have fought in every American battle since the Revolutionary War. Sadly, outside of Indian Country most Americans do not know these facts.

I am proud of all the contributions Cherokees and American Indians have made to America and to the U.S. military. Throughout centuries, many fine, young Native men and women have served. To all of them, through the generations, we owe a debt of gratitude. They are true American heroes and deserve to be included when Americans come to the U.S. capital to remember their veterans. These men and women represent every tribe in America, more than 565 unique sovereign governments, and each one has its own culture and customs.  

Of all the monuments that are in Washington, none of them recognize Native veterans. All of our tribes have always honored and revered our warriors, and it’s time we change this disservice. Honoring and taking care of the very people who keep us free is our way, the Native American way, of showing appreciation. It’s the right thing to do.

A nod of gratitude goes to Cherokee Nation citizen and U.S. representative from the second district, Markwayne Mullin, for pushing through a bill in Congress that would set aside space on the National Mall in D.C. as a sacred place to honor the sacrifices and service of so many Native American warriors.

The estimated date of unveiling the monument will be sometime in 2020, which allows ample time for consultation, fundraising and design discussion. The NMAI was dutiful in coming to Oklahoma to seek input for our local Indian veterans about what the memorial should include and how it should look and feel for visitors and families of those who have served.

I look forward to seeing what it will look like one day. It will represent in perpetuity our respect and admiration of Native veterans in a meaningful way. Our heritage as soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and coast guard is something we should all take pride in.

If you have ideas or input on the memorial, there is still time to comment. Please visit or send an email with your input to