Recently, we announced a historic $16 million investment to expand Cherokee Nation’s language initiatives. It is the largest infusion of resources in the history of the Cherokee Nation to preserve and revitalize the Cherokee language.
THE CONVERSATION VIA AP – Increasingly, Columbus Day is giving people pause.
More and more towns and cities across the country are electing to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an alternative to – or in addition to – the day intended to honor Columbus’ voyages.
The Cherokee people have spent generations surviving and persevering through a series of federal policies that conspire to destroy our government, break up our families and relegate our people to the pages of history. As most of us know, it has been going on a long time.
In 1835, the Treaty of New Echota led to the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from our homelands in the southeast to Indian Territory, while at the same time ceding vast amounts of traditional and prosperous homelands. Thankfully our leaders, while at the table negotiating with the federal government, had the foresight to insert into the treaty a long-term provision they knew would serve in our best interest for generations to come. They bargained with the federal government, as mutual sovereigns, for the guaranteed right to have a Cherokee Congressional delegate, so that we would always have a voice in Washington, D.C.
Today, more than 63% of our nearly 380,000 tribal citizens reside outside Cherokee Nation’s legal jurisdiction. One thing we’ve heard loud and clear: Our at-large Cherokees want to be involved with their tribe. To better engage the perspectives of our at-large citizens, the CN has established the At-Large Cherokee Advisory Committee.
When I served as secretary of state, one of my greatest joys was visiting our Cherokee communities and hearing input from our citizens across Oklahoma and throughout the country. And today as principal chief, I remain committed to enhancing civic and cultural engagement between the CN and our at-large CN citizens.
I am humbled and grateful for your confidence in me to serve our great Cherokee Nation as your principal chief for the next four years. Being elected to this office brings me the unique opportunity to lead our Nation and to work with other leaders, both within and outside our tribe, as I serve the Cherokee people. I look forward to what we can achieve together. Serving as principal chief of the largest tribe in the nation is a great responsibility but also presents a tremendous opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of my fellow citizens. Our tribal government, along with our businesses, is a conduit for progressive growth for our citizens and communities.
The past eight years have been the pinnacle of my public service career. Nothing has been more important to me than serving the Cherokee people. I had the privilege of working side by side with a man of great moral integrity, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. It has been the blessing of a lifetime, and I am so proud of the monumental things we achieved. They are not only making life better for Cherokees today, but will be empowering our tribe generations from now.
My grandparents had a saying: If you leave the woodpile a little higher than when you started, it benefits all of us. I think we have done that, left the tribe in a better spot than when we assumed office.
In a recent op-ed, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt called for a renegotiation of the highly successful tribal gaming compacts, government-to-government agreements that have fueled our home state, public education and job creation for more than 15 years. He argued that new compacts should reflect “market conditions for the gaming industry,” which he implied would set tribes’ payments to the state at a much higher percentage of revenues.
Unfortunately, Gov. Stitt’s approach ignores the history of tribes in Oklahoma and the many contributions made by tribes, including the Cherokee Nation, to our state. The ability of tribes in Oklahoma to thrive as sovereign nations is one of the state’s greatest competitive advantages. It would be a serious mistake for our state government to engage with tribes like we were just any another industry, ignoring our unique economic, cultural and governmental contributions.
A key presidential election is approaching. The U.S. Supreme Court hears a case with powerful political implications. The court rules, but the populist president doesn’t care. Our national commitments – to the Constitution, to morality, to the rule of law – seem at risk. Then, the president backs down. The nation survives.
This might be the story of President Trump’s short-lived threat to get a citizenship question on the census in defiance of the Supreme Court. Instead, it’s the story of President Andrew Jackson and Worcester v. Georgia, decided in 1832.
Like the modern relationship between the president and the court, the case dominated public debate, raising deep questions about the endurance of the rule of law. At the height of the crisis, former President John Quincy Adams wrote, “The Union is in the most imminent danger of dissolution.”
Fifteen years ago, the citizens of Oklahoma approved State Question 712, and the Oklahoma Legislature passed laws permitting the state to enter into gaming “compacts” with the federally recognized Indian tribes located in Oklahoma.
Within a few years, Oklahoma led the nation in the number of tribal gaming casinos and was near the top in terms of gaming revenue. By any measure, Oklahoma’s tribal gaming industry, and its economic impact on our state, have been a huge success and emerged as a big business. As a Cherokee Nation citizen and governor of the great state of Oklahoma, I am proud of what this partnership has accomplished.
Today, tribal gaming is the eighth-largest industry in Oklahoma. We are now the third-largest gaming market in the country, behind only Nevada and California, generating an estimated $4.5 billion in annual revenue for the tribes, and home to the world’s largest casino.
When I first heard it, I didn’t realize it was making an impression on me. I thought I was just watching Saturday morning cartoons. But looking back, “Kill da wabbit! Kill da wabbit!” was probably the first time I remember hearing classical music.
Granted that scene of Elmer Fudd singing to Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” while trying to get Bugs Bunny might make the classic classical music fan nauseated, I found it funny and I liked the music.
There were others, such as Bugs massaging lotion onto Elmer’s head to Gioachino Rossini’s “Barber of Seville Overture,” a young Daffy Duck quacking to Johan Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” and Bugs fleeing Yosemite Sam to Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”
The Cherokee Nation was recently bestowed a great honor by the U.S. Navy, which has decided to name its latest rescue ship after our tribal nation. The forthcoming USNS Cherokee Nation will be launched in summer of 2021 and will be a testament to the service and contributions the Cherokee people have made to the Navy and Marine Corps.
The naming of a ship is the highest honor the Navy issues, and as patriots of this great country, we are extremely honored by this distinction. It is a true testament to generations of Cherokee men and women who have humbly and bravely served in the United States military.