In 2012, Principal Chief Bill John Baker initiated the program to help elders offset the financial burden of utility costs in their homes.
Every February and August, applications are open for elders to apply. Those who qualify receive two payments of $200 toward the utility of their choice.
“The income guidelines are federal poverty (level) plus 50 percent. So you can make a little more than poverty level, but not much more, 50 percent. For example, if you had one in the household they could earn $1,471 dollars a month,” Lisa James, CN Family Assistance manager, said.
James said those who receive help from the tribe’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program are already eligible for EIN funds. She said LIHEAP has to pay for an elder’s heating source such as propane, and if an elder uses central heat and air and needs to pay for their electric, then EIN payments can go toward that source or another such as water.
Family Assistance Manager Janet Ward said summer cooling funds are for elders 60 years and older and for disabled people who received LIHEAP assistance during the winter. Payments are made directly to electricity sources.
“We will send out an update form for them just to fill out for their electric company just to make sure that’s good. We usually make our payment about the end of July, first part of August,” she said.
Family Assistance also has an air conditioner loan program for those in need of refrigerated air.
“We have an air conditioner loaner program that if someone has a medical condition and requires that they have refrigerated air…they cannot have a working central heat and air or an air conditioner already in their home. We can’t supplement it,” Ward said.
Officials said five years ago more than 23,000 citizenship applications were pending and another 15,000 CN citizens were awaiting Certificate Degree of Indian Blood cards under the previous system.
“When I took office, one of the most common complaints I received was, ‘Why does it take so long to get my child’s tribal citizenship?’ It made no sense that there was a two- or even three-year wait on some of these cards,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “So one of my top priorities was to make the process simpler, more efficient and, most importantly, faster. I’m happy to say that after several years of hard work, we’re finally there.”
Officials said that backlog is now wiped out and a system is in place to keep pace with the number of applications submitted, which is about 1,500 citizenship applications a month.
To lower waiting times on those applications, officials said the CN added nearly 2,000 square feet to the Registration Office for more employees. The department also received a budget increase, which now stands at $2.1 million for fiscal year 2017, more than twice the budget from FY 2011. The additional funding added 22 full- and part-time employees.
Cherokee Nation citizen Crystal Jones visits the tribe’s Registration Office along with her 7-year-old son Trenton, 4-year-old daughter Amiyah, 3-year-old daughter Sarina and 1-year-old son Nathan. Registration employee Francis Duvall told Jones that the citizenship enrollment process for Nathan could take as little as a month. COURTESY
CN cultural outreach specialist JP Johnson is set to speak about Cherokee and Southeast Indian tattoos. Tattooing has been widely used by Cherokees for thousands of years. Johnson will discuss traditional methods, materials and symbols used during this ancient art form.
The presentation is free and open to the public. A complimentary lunch will be provided. For those unable to attend in person, the presentation will be live streamed and archived on the tribe’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/LV3KBgZDDO0.
The series is held at noon on the third Thursday of each month in the Osiyo Training Room at 17725 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, email email@example.com.
TERO Administrative Functions Manager Willard Mounce said the fair is important for two reasons. “We wanted the opportunity to thank our EMS people, our fire people, plus provide the public with educational material on fire safety and other dangers.”
Mounce said it’s best to teach safety practices early to children and that he was pleased to see so many children attend. Besides the educational materials that were available, TERO staff members also served hot dogs, drinks and gave away door prizes.
Other organizations participating in the fair included CN Emergency Management, Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, area fire departments, Bureau of Indian Affairs National Forestry Services, CN EMS professionals and CN Risk Management.
Emergency Management Director Jeremie Fisher said events such as the Safety Fair helps his department exhibit the ways they can help in emergencies.
Hospital officials said the fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist their Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA.
“We will have Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA and Disabled American Veterans to assist with the application processes,” Sheila Dishno, Claremore Indian Hospital patient benefit coordinator, said. “Please make plans to attend and bring your financial information (income and resource information) and DD-214 (military discharge) papers.”
If already enrolled, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6507 or 918-342-6559 so that hospital official can update your file.
“We in our department want to hold these programs to get our community and our employees more active, more physically fit and trying to make steps towards healthier choices,” she said. “I think it’s important for our community members and our employees to make time for themselves to get out and be more physically active. A group setting definitely helps encourage that.”
Davidson, who is a CN citizen, said the program is 12 weeks and meets at noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the tribe’s One Fire Field west of the Tribal Complex.
She said participants should eventually work their way up to walking an hour.
“The course is not necessarily by distance but by time, so it’s a progressive program in where we will start at a certain time, 25 minutes, and then we will build on that from there,” she said.
Cherokee Nation public health educator Sonya Davidson, left, helps CN employee Martha Cummings sign up for the tribe’s 12-week “Little Steps, Big Gains” walking program on April 4 at the tribe’s One Fire Field in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Davidson said the program is open to employees and community members. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Since it’s the organization’s inception, Black has used his funds to help, but he’s hoping the benefit will give him more of an opportunity to help more Cherokees.
“We will be selling hamburgers and hot dogs. We will have games for all ages, an auction and a good time,” Black said. “We are still taking donations for items to be auctioned off. All proceeds go into the funding of the organization. If you won’t be able to make it and would like to make a cash donation, please send a message and we will gladly help you.”
Black said during the years he’s watched family, friends and other “good people” struggle, and he wanted to do something to help.
“I had this vision about a year ago, so I thought it was time to do something about it,” Black said. “My goal is to go out everywhere and help our Native people all over not just here in Oklahoma.”
Principal Chief Bill John Baker and CN Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said the parcel of land for the project had been purchased back when they were both Tribal Councilors, more than two decades ago.
“This land was purchased over 20 years ago during the Joe Byrd administration” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “It was purchased by the housing authority (of the Cherokee Nation) of that time with some sort of housing in mind.”
Hoskin said during the past two decades, the CN housing program “sort of ebbed and flowed” and that prior to Baker becoming principal chief, CN’s housing construction program had shut down.
“So when Chief Baker reinstituted the home construction program, we started to look at this property and see what would work,” he said.
Cherokee Nation officials and other dignitaries on March 17 break ground on home construction in Vinita, Oklahoma. From left are Oklahoma Deputy Assistant for Native American Affairs Brian Hendrix, Vinita Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tonya Moorhead, Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett, CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Vinita City Street Commissioner Allen Goforth, Vinita Mayor Ronnie Starks, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Craig County Commissioner Mike Fitzpatrick, CN Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin, his daughter Amelia Hoskin, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor, Vinita Fire Chief Kevin Wofford, Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, Hoskin Jr.’s daughter Jasmine Hoskin and Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Executive Director Gary Cooper. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX