At the Cherokee Nation we are committed to protecting our air, water, land and wildlife for future generations. That’s why I recently announced the first-ever appointment to an important Cabinet-level position in my administration. This position was originally established by the 1999 Constitutional Convention. Unfortunately, it was never filled, but this key advisory role cannot go vacant any longer.
I have appointed attorney Sara Hill as the new secretary of Natural Resources, and last month she was confirmed by the CN Tribal Council and took her oath of office. In her role as secretary she will ensure our natural resources are properly preserved for the future of the CN and our people. I am so proud to say we are finally making our natural and environmental resources a priority. Our natural habitats and environment must be a factor in every decision we make. We have a responsibility to leave this land, this water and this air pure and clean for future generations.
Sara previously served as the deputy attorney general of the CN, with expertise on environmental issues, water rights and natural resource protection. Her hard work has helped the CN maximize our inherent sovereign rights, and she has been critical in developing preservation programs that benefit our citizens.
She chairs the CN Interdisciplinary Water Work Group and is working on the feasibility of a potential hydroelectric project on the Arkansas River. Sara has long served the CN in many ways, successfully representing our interests before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Nomura – a case that successfully upheld full compliance of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act for out-of-state Indian child adoption cases. Additionally, she is a dedicated special assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.
Part of her mission will be ensuring that sustainability is a part of every conversation we have and every decision we make at the CN. Since time immemorial Cherokees have considered the impact of our actions on our environment and our surroundings. Our elders teach us about our connection to plants, animals and all natural elements.
We must be steadfast in the stewardship of our natural resources. We have an obligation to protect these precious resources for the next seven generations. As our teachings tell us, that is the Cherokee way.
We cannot leave today’s environmental issues for our children and grandchildren to solve. That is an unfair burden. The secretary of Natural Resources will work at the highest level of my administration, assuring that we are protecting and preserving our natural resources and environment. We have a better vision of preservation, and we must take action to ensure we reach our goals.
With the secretary of Natural Resources in place, coupled with the leadership of the Tribal Council, we have the ability to develop laws that will truly enhance the sustainability of our land, water and air for generations to come. The Cherokee people deserve that. Clean air, safe water and a fertile land will always be our foundation for long-term health as a tribe and a people.
With today’s modern technologies, it seems almost everything can be done online. Now, count your Cherokee Nation health care among those things done with greater ease, thanks to technology.
Transitioning CN data into the modern era is critical for the tribe to be efficient in providing critical services to our citizens. That’s why we’ve recently made digital upgrades a priority.
The CN health system, the largest tribally operated health system in the United States with more than 1 million patient visits annually, recently embarked upon an effort to upgrade to electronic health records. This moves our eight health centers and W. W. Hastings Hospital into a new era of ease and efficiency.
The transition from the old system to the new system requires some patience. Change and modernization are not always easy, but in the end we will be more efficient and effective with the delivery of health care. To me, that is one of the most important things we can do.
Once fully transitioned, this will allow patients to access medical records from their computers or even their smartphones. That means faster and more complete access to test results, diagnostic records and treatment history. This makes it easier for patients to actively participate in their health care by creating more direct engagement and better coordination with their caregivers.
CN health centers will soon have portals for self check-in and patients will be able to schedule appointments and view their records online. Patients will also be able to use the system to renew prescriptions, view X-rays, check medical records, review visit summaries and read instructions from doctors.
This is revolutionary compared to the old system. It also empowers our citizens to be more in control of their health care by having direct access to their own medical data.
Health care customer service for our Cherokee people has been stuck in a bygone era, making it hard for patients and health care providers to communicate and share information. This new system conforms to today’s modern, electronic world.
Currently, half of the Nation’s patient health records are paper and half are electronic, and many patients have multiple charts at multiple CN health centers. That has made it difficult to access all of a patient’s files quickly or even to share information between health professionals.
The new electronic health record system creates one universal chart number for each patient, easily shared not just within our health system, but also with outside hospitals for contract health services.
Lab work and radiology results will post electronically as soon as they’re available. Ultimately, doctors will have more accurate data at their fingertips, which means making better decisions for overall patient health care.
We strive to ensure CN remains your health provider of choice. Without a doubt, we have one of the finest health care systems in Oklahoma, and throughout Indian Country. We are continually striving to make it bigger, better and faster for our patients.
I look forward to this new electronic health record system as it makes health care in the CN more navigable, more pleasant and more efficient. We are proud of these advancements and hope you, our citizens, are too. Even though culture and tradition are the foundation of our tribe, it is extremely important for us to use emerging technology to bring our people together and to make our services more efficient and convenient.
Wado to all Cherokee Nation citizens who participated in the recent elections for principal chief, deputy chief and Tribal Council. Regardless of whom you supported in the election, if you took time to vote, you expressed your voice and participated in our democratic process, which is critical to our future success. I thank God, my family, my friend Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and our supporters for the honor and opportunity to serve another term.
I invite you all to the inauguration ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 14 at the Sequoyah Schools gymnasium, “The Place Where They Play.” The address is 17091 S. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah.
It’s critical that our citizens engage in our leadership selection process. I encourage all Cherokees to become involved and learn about the issues and processes that shape our government.
Moving beyond the election, we now return our focus and attention to what truly matters, and that is the future of the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee people. Another term in office will allow us the opportunity to keep building upon the progress we’ve made together during the last four years.
We have multiple projects in motion that will be absolute game-changing endeavors for our future, and over the next four years we will continue to focus on building a better world for all Cherokees.
The most important issue for our future is access to quality health care. Four years ago, Cherokees agreed our tribal health care was at a crisis point, so we invested $100 million from casino profits into health care expansion and improvements. Our record-breaking gaming profits should be utilized to benefit Cherokee Nation citizens. That is the reason we pursued gaming in the first place 25 years ago. This has allowed us to build new clinics in Jay and Ochelata and expanded health centers in Stilwell and Sallisaw. Soon, we will break ground on a 450,000-square-foot facility at the W.W. Hastings Hospital site in Tahlequah. The planned facility at that location will provide space for 1,200 new employees who will, in turn, provide quality care for our people.
Once the facility is built, we can launch our own medical school, where we hope to partner with Oklahoma State University to provide hands-on education right here in the Cherokee Nation. This means we will educate and train health care professionals who will one day staff our clinics and new hospital.
We will keep advancing our economic growth and finish major retail and entertainment expansion projects in Tahlequah and Catoosa. Additionally, we will implement statewide hunting and fishing licenses for all Cherokee Nation citizens near the end of year. We are also investing in our iconic structures by making a major renovation to our tribal headquarters in Tahlequah, a project that has been ignored for almost 40 years. Along with that, the refurbishing of our historic Cherokee capital building in downtown Tahlequah shows our commitment to the future.
It’s imperative that we convince even more Cherokee Nation youth that a college education is possible with our tribal scholarships. No qualified student who applied last year was turned down, and we supported nearly 4,000 Cherokees in college, a record number. We will help even more students in the future, honoring our ancestors’ deep commitment to education.
We want more Cherokees to enjoy the American dream of homeownership and put our Cherokee tradespeople to work building these homes. Hundreds of folks are taking advantage of our housing program, and thousands of Cherokees are now employed building those homes, including cement finishers, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers and plumbers.
Financial success for Cherokee families is equally important. We will keep advancing job development and driving the economy of northeast Oklahoma. We have a talented staff that is adept at securing federal grants to create jobs, programs and provide services for Cherokee people. Additionally, increased diversification of Cherokee Nation Businesses in our jurisdiction will continue to create cash flow for our tribe and increase self-sufficiency for our citizens.
Over the next four years, we will keep up that momentum and continue building on this successful foundation. We will continue looking for partnerships that create opportunities for our people, such as the Macy’s expansion in Owasso that is creating thousands of good jobs for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike.
We’ll be sharing even more updates and more exciting news during the Cherokee National Holiday State of the Nation address. Please make plans to join us this coming Labor Day weekend for our annual homecoming event the first weekend in September.
With great enthusiasm and pleasure, we look forward to serving you, the Cherokee people, for another four years.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, the new election for the Dist. 14 Tribal Council race between William “Bill” Pearson and Keith Austin will be held on July 25, the same day as the runoff races for the Dist. 6 and At-Large Tribal Council seats.
The EC scheduled the Dist. 14 election after the CN Supreme Court on July 8 determined that a winner could not be determined with mathematical certainty.
Pearson was certified the winner of the Dist. 14 race after the June 27 general election by one vote. Following a recount on July 2, his lead had been extended to six votes.
However, Austin appealed the recount results to the Supreme Court alleging that ballots were cast that should not have been accepted, ballots were cast that should have been accepted and two absentee ballot envelopes could not be found.
“There is one challenged ballot that was rejected that should have been accepted; there are eight voters who live outside of Dist. 14 who are incorrectly registered to vote in Dist. 14 who voted; there are two voters who voted by absentee who ballots were rejected that should have been accepted; there is one voter whose absentee ballot was accepted, but the commission cannot locate his affidavit envelope and there are two absentee voters who the commission has not given voter credit to,” Austin’s appeal stated.
After hearing testimony, the court ruled in Austin’s favor and ordered the EC to schedule a new election.
According to an EC statement, the EC will accept absentee ballot requests from CN citizens registered to vote in Dist. 14 through July 13. It also states that in-person absentee voting, or early walk-in voting, will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18 and July 21-23 at the Election Services Office at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road. EC officials also said a secured drop box for the personal delivery of absentee ballots would be available at the Election Services office from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 21-25.
EC Chairman Bill Horton said voters who received an absentee ballot in the first election would automatically receive one for the July 25 elections. However, if a CN citizen didn’t vote in the general election wants to vote absentee on July 25, then he or she must complete an absentee ballot request.
Precinct locations for Dist. 14 and 6 will not change for the upcoming elections.
Dist. 14 covers parts of Rogers, Craig and Tulsa counties. Precinct locations are at the Rogers County Building’s Front Room located at 416 S. Brady in Claremore, the Boys & Girls Club located at 119 N. Ash St. in Chelsea and the Oologah Assembly of God Church located at 13462 S. Hwy. 169 in Oologah.
The Dist. 6 runoff is between Natalie Fullbright and Bryan Warner. The district covers the eastern part of Sequoyah County.
Precinct locations for that district are in Sallisaw at the United Methodist Church located at 2100 McGee Dr., in Belfonte at the Nicut/Belfonte Community Center at 474894 State Hwy. 101, in Marble City at the Town Hall located at 120 A N. Main St. and at the Cherokee Community Center at 603 N. Main St. in Muldrow. For a precincts map, go to <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Portals/0/Documents/ElectionCommission/2014/precinct%20map%2010-14-14%20approved.pdf" target="_blank">http://www.cherokee.org/Portals/0/Documents/ElectionCommission/2014/precinct%20map%2010-14-14%20approved.pdf</a>
The At-Large runoff is between Betsy Swimmer and Wanda Hatfield. It has no precinct and is voted by absentee.
For more information, call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895 or email <a href="mailto: Election-Commission@cherokee.org">Election-Commission@cherokee.org</a>.
Economists at Oklahoma City University recently released a report detailing the Cherokee Nation’s economic impact in northeast Oklahoma. The results were what we expected and already knew for the most part – business is booming in the Cherokee Nation. What we didn’t expect was to what extent our economic footprint had grown – by more than 50 percent during the past four years.
Dr. Russell Evans of the Meinders School of Business at Oklahoma City University prepared the report. It showed in 2014 CN had an impact to the tune of $1.55 billion on our 14-county jurisdiction. That doesn’t even include spillover effects on the rest of the state. The same economists previously prepared economic impact reports for the CN. They showed in 2012 that number was $1.3 billion, compared to just over $1 billion in 2010. Clearly, the CN is growing by leaps and bounds.
But what does a $1.55 billion impact really mean to the Cherokee people? Perhaps most importantly, it means jobs to our economy. The CN was either directly or indirectly responsible for 15,610 jobs in northeast Oklahoma in 2014. Folks, that’s an impact that can’t be understated.
When we build roads, bridges, waterlines or homes, we’re employing people. The CN is making it possible for the good people responsible for those projects to provide for their families. We make it possible for them to have good insurance and opportunities to send their kids to school and enjoy an improved quality of life.
In addition to employing people to build those projects, we have to get the supplies from somewhere. That means the CN is purchasing lumber, concrete, pipes, paint and everything else that is needed to improve infrastructure for the Cherokee people. When we purchase those items, we’re supporting local, small businesses, allowing them to hire more people to meet our demand.
Likewise, our casino operations are providing opportunities we could not have imagined 10 or 15 years ago. We recently opened a new casino in South Coffeyville, bringing more than 100 jobs to Nowata County. In a county with barely more than 10,000 people, that’s huge. The boost of 100 jobs there will mean more paychecks pumped into local businesses and more out-of-town traffic that will bring new dollars to the area.
As is true with all our casinos, we need supplies ranging from food and beverage, uniforms, cleaning materials, furniture and other goods to meet our guests’ needs. Much of that is purchased locally, all across the 14 counties and from TERO-certified vendors. Every employee at every casino is guaranteed at least the CN minimum wage of $9.50 per hour, with many earning much more than that. Every full-time employee is also eligible for full medical, dental and vision insurance as well as 401(k) and paid vacation and sick leave. Where else in the CN can a restaurant server enjoy the same generous benefits as the CEO of their organization?
But a $1.55 billion impact also means services to our people. When our businesses succeed, services such as housing, health care, education and elder care are better funded and access is expanded. It means we reach more people with more services. Since restarting the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation in 2012, we’ve built more houses than in the previous decade. In 2014, we sent more college students to school on CN scholarships than ever before. And I’m proud to say we are treating more people through contract health services than ever before.
This is proof of what a 50 percent increase in economic impact means over just four years. It means expanded opportunities and new services for Cherokees and, as a by-product, for all Oklahomans. Folks, our future is bright and getting brighter. With many new projects in the works, we look forward to expanding our impact to employ more Cherokees, support more Cherokee-owned business, send more Cherokees to school and build more Cherokee homes in the future.
In the interest of transparency, we’ve put the full report online for you to view yourself. It can be found at <a href="http://www.CherokeeNationImpact.com" target="_blank">www.CherokeeNationImpact.com</a>. We hope you visit the website and see for yourself the progress we are making by leaps and bounds.
Part of my sworn oath as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation is to preserve, promote and advance the language and culture of the CN. We’ve seen some wonderful examples of that recently. Our Cherokee Language Immersion School children successfully competed in a language competition at the University of Oklahoma; we showcased our culture to the world at the Smithsonian’s Cherokee Days; and we’ve done something no other tribe has done – introduced a television and online program called “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People,” which highlights the stories, language, history and culture of the Cherokee people.
Last month our immersion school kids traveled to Norman to compete in the 13th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, a competition that showcased the skills of young Native speakers from more than a dozen Oklahoma tribes. They made all of us so proud, as they brought home awards and recognition from many categories.
This is a testament to the efforts and achievements of our Cherokee language programs. Our immersion school teaches children from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade all the subjects required by Oklahoma, but entirely in the Cherokee language. The school has become a model for all other tribes in the preservation and advancement of Native languages.
Other language programs are paying off as well. Our translation department has worked with technology giants like Microsoft, Google and Apple to bring the Cherokee language into the 21st century. Their most recent achievement was getting Cherokee on Android smart phones.
Our newest endeavor is one I am excited about. We just launched a Cherokee language master-apprentice program that provides one-on-one instruction to adults for 40 hours per week, so they can go back into their communities and teach it to others. These programs, in addition to online classes, community classes and satellite programs in schools, ensure our Cherokee language is not just preserved, but advances.
We also just returned from Cherokee Days, hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. The three-day event was a joint effort between the CN and our brothers and sisters from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to showcase our shared culture and art forms, as well as each tribe’s unique traditions and cultures that developed following the Trail of Tears.
More than 25,000 people visited the museum over the weekend, taking in live art demonstrations, Cherokee storytelling, traditional dance and melodies of the Cherokee National Youth Choir and Eastern Band performers. Exporting our culture to our nation’s capital is a priceless opportunity. Visitors from countries around the world come to the three-day event for the specific purpose of learning about Cherokee culture and customs. These are people who’ve never been to the CN and may never visit, but now they know our accomplishments and legacy, and what it means to be Cherokee. Many visitors were so impressed they are already planning a trip to our CN to learn even more. This could be an economic boon for our tribe and the local economy.
This was our second straight year of participation in Cherokee Days, and it’s something we hope to continue with the Smithsonian for many more years to come.
Another new effort to share our culture and educate others has been through our new television and online program, “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People.” Our third episode debuted in April to much praise. It’s an endeavor unlike anything the CN or any other tribe has ever undertaken. The show introduces us to Cherokee people who are excelling in their fields, making a difference in their communities or inspiring others to greatness. It also tells the true history of the CN and the figures who helped shape our tribe and make it what it is today. But perhaps most importantly, it tells the stories of what a true Cherokee looks like and what his or her daily life is like. It shows Cherokee people are a modern people who contribute to and value their communities, while preserving our priceless culture, language and heritage.
The program airs in northeast Oklahoma, northwest and western Arkansas and southwest Missouri. Full episodes, individual segments and local showtimes can be found at www.Osiyo.tv. The positive feedback over the last three months has far exceeded our expectations. If you have not watched this program yet, I urge you to do so.
All these efforts combined make me so proud to be Cherokee, and I know each of you shares that same feeling. I want to thank all of you for your contributions to our tribe, our culture and our many successes. God bless each and every one of you, and God bless the CN.