OPINION: The Cherokee Nation: Rising Together
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.
In my inauguration speech, I mentioned that I am only the second principal chief of the Cherokees to hail from Vinita, Oklahoma. When Principal Chief Tom Buffington was elected in 1899, he took office to oversee a CN in decline. In Chief Buffington’s time, our tribe was soon to be displaced by allotment and the creation of a new state. He was forced to watch as the sun was setting on the great Cherokee democracy.
Fortunately, in the intervening decades, our people have been blessed with a revitalization of our Nation. I’m taking office under quite different circumstances than Chief Buffington. Under the guidance of former Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, amazing things have taken place over the past eight years. Although Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I have our own important initiatives, we will be building on the successes we’ve seen. Our new first lady, January Hoskin, has some initiatives of her own that will further build on our success.
Though I’ve only been in office for a little over a week, we have hit the ground running and begun launching initiatives intended to grow our communities, strengthen our families and preserve our culture.
As principal chief, I recently:
• Proposed the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act. This calls for $30 million to repair hundreds of Cherokee homes, remodel community buildings and create construction jobs across northeast Oklahoma. This initiative will provide our most vulnerable citizens to get the help they need. The investment includes state-of-the-art improvements, such as solar power and other green energy measures.
• Announced a plan to raise employee pay at the CN. The $11 minimum wage is simply the right thing to do. Wages at Cherokee Nation Businesses will soon follow suit. We must ensure our employees have a living wage that allows them to support their families.
• Called on the U.S. Congress to implement the CN’s first delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives, a right guaranteed in multiple federal treaties and reaffirmed in our tribal government’s Constitution.
My goal is to accomplish something each day that builds healthier communities and stronger Cherokee families, things that preserve our language, our culture and our way of life. This will be the foundation of our success going forward.
I am honored to lead the CN today, at a time when the Cherokee people are clearly working together, moving forward together and rising together.