Cherokee Nation assists citizens in and out of jurisdiction
9/24/2010 10:19:30 AM

BY CHRISTINA GOOD VOICESenior ReporterTAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation provides many forms of assistance to its citizens, but most require citizens to live within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.“The Cherokee Nation is a government and we have a defined territory, just like the United States has a defined territory or the state of Oklahoma has a defined territory,” said CN Secretary of State Melanie Knight. “Your residential location often reflects where a citizen receives social services or is taxed.”Many of the tribe’s programs are funded with federal or state resources and often restricted to a “service area” that the CN identifies.“Typically, this area must correspond to our historic boundaries,” Knight said. “These are the rules followed to prevent encroachment on another government’s territory. Most of our assistance programs are funded not necessarily because we are Cherokees, but because the programs serve low-income people.”The tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction is a governmental boundary that was originally larger and first established under the fee patent that deeded the land from the United States to the CN in 1838 following the Treaty of New Echota, Knight said. “This original boundary was reduced by the Treaty of 1866 and by federal Act in 1893,” she said. “The resulting 14-county governmental jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation existed before Oklahoma statehood. It is this governmental jurisdiction for which the Nation is authorized to apply for federal programs and services.”Knight said citizens living within the jurisdiction are eligible to buy a CN vehicle tag while citizens living outside the Nation aren’t. She said it’s the same reasoning behind a resident of one state not being able to buy a car tag in another state.“If you live in Texas you cannot get an Oklahoma car tag,” she said. “This is the same for most social services. It is fortunate that our citizens hold dual citizenship with the United States, which makes them eligible for federal and state programs no matter where they live in the (United States.)”Holding dual citizenship with the United States and the CN also allows CN citizens to apply for other forms of assistance through other organizations. “People who are low-income and live outside our jurisdiction are still eligible for similar programs, but must apply through the state, another tribe or possibly the federal government,” Knight said. Approximately 114,405 CN citizens reside inside the 14-county jurisdiction, and more than 162,000 CN citizens reside outside the jurisdiction, according to CN Registration numbers. “Our citizens living outside the Nation are equally deserving (of receiving CN assistance,)” Knight said. “However, these citizens live within another government’s service area and therefore must apply with that government’s programs.”Other tribes that receive the same grants from the federal or state government are subject to the same restrictions as the CN when using those funds. “Every tribal nation has the choice on how to expend the money that tribe generates for itself through its businesses, taxes, leases and other forms of tribal revenue,” Knight said. “For instance, the Cherokee Nation almost always restricts its spending of funds generated specifically by the tribe or its businesses solely on tribal citizens, rather than the broader definition of all Indians within our borders.” Services available to citizens WITHIN the 14-county jurisdiction: 
  • Cherokee Nation vehicle tags
  • Human Services (LIHEAP, School Clothing Voucher Program)
  • Family Assistance (Food Distribution, Burial Assistance, Emergency Assistance)
  • Housing Services and its various programs
  • Emergency Loan Program (retain home ownership and to maintain or obtain shelter and/or basic utilities)
  • Scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students
  • Access to the tribe's eight health centers and hospital
  • Women, Infants and Children Program
  • Child Care Assistance
  • Citizens may run for elected positions in the tribe as principal chief, deputy chief and Tribal Council

Services available to citizens residing OUTSIDE the 14-county jurisdiction:

  • Indian Child Welfare services
  • CN satellite groups and community organizations
  • Online Cherokee History and Language courses
  • Annual cultural celebrations held in locations in other states
  • The tribe’s eight health centers and hospital have an “open door” policy and are available to all CN citizens
  • Indian Health Service urban outpatient clinics
  • Other IHS and tribal health facilities if they have an “open door” policy
  • Scholarships are available to citizens living in contiguous counties of the CN
  • Some Cherokee Nation Education Corporation scholarships are open to students living outside the jurisdiction
  • Valedictorian/salutatorian awards are available to citizens living in contiguous counties of the CN
  • Cherokee students from anywhere in the United States may attend Sequoyah Schools (9-12) and reside on campus
  • The Cherokee Phoenix is available for free to all citizen households
  • All citizens have the right and responsibility to exercise their right to vote
  • Citizens living outside the jurisdiction may hold a seat on the Tribal Council as an at-large representative

For more information about other services, call (918) 453-5000 or toll-free 800-256-0671.

christina-goodvoice@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3825
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