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