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.