http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation employees walk in support of Indian Child Welfare in May. With about 120 employees, ensuring the safety of Cherokee children is ICW’s primary job and has procedures in place to act quickly once a referral is received about a child possibly in danger in a home. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation employees walk in support of Indian Child Welfare in May. With about 120 employees, ensuring the safety of Cherokee children is ICW’s primary job and has procedures in place to act quickly once a referral is received about a child possibly in danger in a home. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Indian Child Welfare prioritizes tribal families, children

Charla Miller
Charla Miller
08/07/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare, ensuring children’s safety is its essential job component. And to do that, ICW has about 120 employees at five locations who follow specific protocols.

Charla Miller, ICW program manager and Child Protective Services intake, said ICW acts quickly once a call is received regarding a possibly endangered Cherokee child.

Miller, a CPS intake for 16 years, said although ICW receives the same guidelines as state child agencies, it approaches situations differently.

“We are Native people working with Native children and families. We understand, and we try to, as best as we can, honor their culture and traditions while maintaining the safety of children. Sometimes you don’t receive that on the state side,” she said.

ICW receives referrals from throughout the United States, but most are from the 14 counties in the tribe’s jurisdiction, she said.

“We treat all of our referrals as an emergency. We don’t delay going out or initiating them. At the beginning it is just an allegation, but we still treat each case quickly,” Miller said. “From the onset of when we do an investigation to determine if the child is safe or not happens within a day.”

Once a call is received and a child is in known danger, an ICW investigator is assigned and begins making contact with the child. After contact, the investigator interviews the child and the family. Miller said the investigators ask questions to determine every child’s safety and have to make quick determinations about a child’s safety because ICW will not speculate about a child’s safety.

“We do make efforts to prevent removal because...removal is not part of our goal,” she said.

Although the process is fast, ICW undergoes many checks and balances to provide approval for removal from the home. Once a worker calls Miller, she consults with the ICW executive director to decide if it is an emergency situation.

“If the executive director does approve, we go to the next level of approval, which is the (CN) attorney general’s office. If approval is given, we contact our tribal court judge and ask for removal,” she said.

During the first 48 hours, ICW staff members work without leaving the scene and work through checks and balances to be certain the case is on the right track. Miller said during this time ICW is investigating, looking for placement, purchasing items needed by the child and scheduling parental visits.

“It is almost five days of little sleep, no lunch and no breaks. It is just full on. We are hands on with our children by being back in the home or placement within three days,” she said “Our ultimate goal is always reunification. We transport our parents back and forth to court if we need to.”

ICW has cases assigned to four investigators who cover the tribe’s jurisdiction. Assignments may include covering Claremore Indian Hospital, W.W. Hastings Hospital, health care clinics on tribal land, Cherokee Heights in Pryor, the Birdtail Housing Addition in Tahlequah and individual allotment lands under ICW responsibility.

Miller said being familiar with tribal land ensures that referrals aren’t going unnoticed. “We have to look at an address and say, ‘I think I know where that area is at and it could be tribal land.’ We constantly are verifying to make sure we aren’t missing referrals that come through.”

Because it doesn’t have the high numbers of cases like the state’s Department of Human Services, ICW can focus on the problem’s source and try to fix it for each family. Miller said ICW always has the best interest of Cherokee families in mind.

“We aren’t just running in and running out trying to make a fix. We truly try to get to the bottom of what is happening. Nobody knows our families better than we do because we are their tribe,” Miller said. “Nobody can have more care and concern about how our children are raised than us.”

As of publication, nearly 80 children were in ICW care with most being in 45 foster homes. Each year, ICW works on roughly 1,400 cases. For more information about CN ICW, visit


12/10/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix recently made a change to its Elder Fund to make U.S. military veterans eligible for free yearlong subscriptions to the Cherokee Phoenix. Thanks in part to a donation from Cherokee Nation Businesses, as well as donations from Cherokee Phoenix individual subscribers, it was possible to expand the fund to include Cherokee veterans of any age. “The Elder Fund was created to provide free subscriptions to Cherokee elders 65 and older,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Due to an influx of recent donations, we had the ability to extend the Elder Fund to include Cherokee veterans. We will continue to give free subscriptions to our elders and veterans as long as we have money in our Elder & Veteran Fund.” Using the newly renamed Elder & Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older and Cherokee veterans of any age can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the Elder & Veteran Fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto:"></a> or <a href="mailto:"></a>. No income guidelines have been specified for the Elder & Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Elder & Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder & Veteran Fund donations. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website,, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
12/06/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Experience the first Cherokee Christmas through a holiday exhibit at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum. Cherokee Christmas shares the story of how Moravian missionaries brought holiday celebrations to the Cherokee people in 1805. The exhibit features information about how traditions began and displays decorations similar to what was used at the Vann’s Georgia home during the first Cherokee Christmas. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is at 122 E. Keetoowah St. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Originally built in 1844, it is Oklahoma’s oldest public building. The 1,950-square-foot museum features exhibits in three historic aspects: the Cherokee national judicial system, the Cherokee Advocate and Cherokee Phoenix newspapers and the Cherokee language, with historical items, including photos, stories, objects and furniture. For information call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/04/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation issued its 100,000th photo identification citizenship card on Nov. 29 to Terry Shook, 58, of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, who expects to use it for traveling and tribal services. “I’m a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Springdale and took a vacation day – one of the few I ever get to take during the holidays – to come over and get a photo ID,” Shook said. The tribe’s Registration Department began issuing photo IDs in 2012. Department officials have traveled to various and Washington, D.C., to issue the cards to at-large citizens. “We’ve issued a Cherokee Nation photo identification card to almost one-third of our 350,000-plus tribal citizens, and that is a significant achievement,” Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “Over the past five years, the tribe’s Registration Department has traveled to 11 states and Washington, D.C., so our at-large citizens also have the opportunity to receive a photo ID. They are not only useful for traditional photo ID needs such as traveling, but have also proven effective when used for tribal services. Having a Cherokee Nation photo ID is a source of pride for our people, and I would encourage all citizens to check into getting one at their earliest convenience.” The tribe’s upgraded photo ID citizenship cards are similar in appearance to a driver’s license and feature the citizen’s CN registration number, photo and signature along with the official registrar and principal chief’s signatures and a CN hologram seal for validation. Citizens can opt for their official Bureau of Indian Affairs Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood on the card’s back. Photo IDs are free, but a replacement ID is $5. To upgrade to a photo ID “blue card,” visit the Registration Department from 8:15 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday in the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. Children 18 and under can also get a photo ID card but must have a parent or legal guardian present. For more information, call 918-456-6980 or 1-800-256-0671, or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
12/04/2017 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution program recently earned a perfect score on a U.S. Department of Agriculture Management evaluation, a testament on how it has improved during the years in serving tribal citizens. “To be awarded a perfect score is already a big accomplishment for our team, but to be told that we made history, that was a huge credit to the program. The USDA Management evaluation is an extensive process where they examine many aspects of the operational processes,” Jennifer Kirby, Family Assistance interim director, said. Beginning in 1983, the program began as a monthly tailgate service to ensure qualifying families received food. Funded by the USDA and CN, staff members traveled to locations in the tribe’s jurisdiction to distribute food. “We used to take the food to them. We put everything on our trucks, and we took it to them,” Food Distribution Assistant Manager Felicia Foreman, who has worked in the program since it opened, said. “It was hard especially in the summers and the winters because it was either really hot or cold and families might have to take, their kids and the elderly had to wait in it. But it was really rewarding too when you know at the end of the day you helped somebody feed their family and the elderly.” Families lined up at the sites for packaged and canned foods. Although the tailgate sites ended in December 2016, Kirby said they still make home deliveries under certain circumstances. “It really was a big issue about getting it out in a timely manner and not having any loss...getting it out before it spoiled, to our families. And if they couldn’t make it then you kind of had to bring it back and hope everything stayed at top condition by the time you brought it back,” she said. “But we can make home deliveries if someone isn’t medically able to get come get their commodities. We make 80 home deliveries among the elderly and handicap.” Not only can participants now visit grocery store settings and shop, but they also have more foods from which to choose. “We now have a variety of foods, which is really good for our clients because they have more options to choose from. We started out with about 50 items of food and that’s not a lot to choose from. Then we went up to 72 items and now we are at 108 different items that they choose from,” Kirby said. Along with more variety is better food quality as the USDA changed some products to cater to healthier needs. The tribe’s stores offer fresh produce such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole-wheat tortillas and low-sodium products. The program also offers traditional foods such as wild rice, filleted salmon and bison. The Food Distribution team is also working on getting filleted catfish. “They try to listen to the different tribes and what their traditional foods are within that region and catfish was one of the traditional foods bought up in our area for our tribe,” said Kirby. Officials said across its seven locations, Food Distribution served 135,602 individuals in fiscal year 2017. Although the hope is to not see those numbers increase, Kirby said if they do the program wants to provide top quality foods and variety. “If our numbers increase I think we feel there is more hungry in the 14 counties, but if we need to be here to service more people we want to service more people. But our hope is to continue to offer more varieties of food and to continue to increase the quality,” she said. To qualify, one must be a federally recognized tribal citizen and must provide proof of income, proof of address and identification cards for each household member. People can apply at Food Distribution stores in Collinsville, Nowata, Stilwell, Sallisaw, Jay, Salina and Tahlequah. The stores are closed the last three working days of the month. For more information, call 1-800-865-4462 or 918-207-3920 or visit<a href="" target="_blank"></a>. <strong>Food Distribution Centers</strong> Tahlequah 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. 918-453-5700 Collinsville 1101 N. 12th 918-371-4082 Jay 1501 Industrial Parkway Road 918-253-8279 Nowata 1018 Lenape Dr. 918-273-0050 Salina 904 N. Owen Walters Blvd. 918-434-8402 Sallisaw 3400 W. Cherokee 918-775-1120 Stilwell Hwy 59 South, Industrial Park 918-696-5171
11/29/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation on Dec. 8 will temporarily open its Mutual Help/Rural Rental Homeownership waiting list for qualified Native American families in Wagoner County. Families may submit applications at the Leon Daniel Heights office located at 701 W. Fox in Tahlequah to live in re-inventoried homes in Wagoner County. HACN staff will be available to distribute and accept applications for three- and four-bedroom homes beginning at 9 a.m. The first 10 completed applications will be accepted. A completed application must be signed by both head of household and spouse. Applicants seeking a four-bedroom unit must be a household of six. Applicant or spouse must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe and meet income guidelines and other requirements of the program. Each family’s maximum income limit will be based on 80 percent of the Nation Median Income. Cherokee preference will apply, but applicants from all federally recognized tribes are welcome to complete application for housing. Applicants are encouraged to bring tribal citizenship cards or Certificate Degree of Indian Blood cards, Social Security cards for each person in the household, copies of driver’s license or state-issued identifications for each person 18 years of age or older, copies of marriage license/divorce decree and proofs of income for all people who will be listed as living in the household. Award letters verifying SSA, SSI or VA benefits must be dated within 120 days. For more information, call 918-456-5482.
11/28/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Mortgage Assistance Program, located within Commerce Services, helps qualified Cherokees become first-time homeowners through homeownership preparation and down payment assistance. “A house is a person’s biggest investment that they’re ever going to make in their life, basically. And it’s an appreciable asset, so it increases in value over time,” Commerce Services Executive Director Anna Knight said. The MAP provides participants classes that educates them of the process of becoming a homeowner such as pre-qualifying for a non-predatory loan, having good credit, finding a realtor, finding a home and having the home inspected. The program is income-based and funded through the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act program. To qualify, a participant must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, household income must not exceed 80 percent of the current National Median Household income, attend homebuyers education classes, not owe any outstanding delinquent debt to the CN and purchase a home in the CN jurisdiction. The program recently underwent policy changes regarding the amount of assistance for which a participant is eligible, the housing price and the definition of a homebuyer. Knight said prior to the changes, eligible participants received $20,000 in assistance and down payment. The new policy tiers the funds based on income, which enables MAP to help more people with a 3 percent down payment and closing cost. The tier system, per the National Median Household income, states that 60 percent and below receive $20,000; 60.01 percent to 70 percent receive $15,000; and 70.01 percent up to the maximum of 80 percent income receive $10,000. Prior maximum housing prices went up to $200,000. Now the limit is $150,000. The definition of a homebuyer used to be a participant could not have owned a home in the past three years. Now participants must have never owned a home to be eligible. Since the program’s 2008 inception, 1,707 participants have become homeowners such as CN citizen Feather Smith-Trevino. Smith-Trevino and her husband entered the program in 2010, at a time when they rented an apartment but wanted something permanent. “I never really like renting. I always felt like that I wanted to put our money towards something that was going to last longer. I wanted a house of our own,” she said. Not knowing anything about homeownership, the couple was in the program for nearly a year before purchasing a home in July 2011. “We knew that we wanted to be able to get a house that we were going to be happy in and be able to live,” Smith-Trevino said. “We’ve been in our house now for six years.” CN citizen Morgan Hogner and her husband participated in MAP intending to build a home. “The program has helped us tremendously with budgeting. It has also greatly expanded our knowledge of the processes of construction and financing a new home,” Hogner said. Applying for MAP in 2014, Hogner said she and her husband attended the required homebuyers classes and monthly meetings with their counselor while planning their home’s construction by drawing up floor plans and getting necessary construction estimates. “The process took a long time to complete for us due to the fact that we were doing our build in baby steps. We were trying to play it smart as to not overwhelm ourselves and get in over our heads,” Hogner said. Hogner moved into her new home in August. She said the home was created to be “self-sufficient” meaning it is solar-powered, has well water, is designed to vent heat without an air conditioner to keep it cooler in the summer and has three layers of insulation to retain heat for the winter. “We are very grateful for this program. We figured it would be years before we would be able to even start with construction on our own. We truly appreciate the tremendous love and support our family has given us throughout our journey,” Hogner said. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.