Hoskin: Tag funding change to ensure Cherokee students’ rights respected
Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett addresses the Tribal Council on Nov. 12. In his monthly report, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett noted that the top official in Pope County, Arkansas, offered his support for CNB’s casino application. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – A newly passed amendment to the Cherokee Nation’s motor vehicle licensing code offers the tribe leeway to withhold tag funding from schools that prevent Cherokee students from observing cultural practices such as wearing eagle feathers at graduation.
“I think this gives my administration the marching orders to look at the schools and make sure they are adhering with those rights, but to also lend a hand of cooperation to make sure we help them,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “I think it will continue to be a harmonious relationship. But I have heard enough over the years from constituents, from council members, that we ought to mean what we say when we say that their rights ought to be respected.”
Each year, the tribe distributes to schools within its jurisdiction 38% of revenue generated from motor vehicle tag sales. Schools receive money based on the number of CN citizens enrolled, but the tribe does not categorize the funding, and districts can use awards to benefit all students.
On Nov. 12, the Tribal Council approved the amendment, which includes language referring to cooperation and “extending a hand of guidance” to schools.
“The Office of the Principal Chief shall monitor schools receiving funds under this Act with honoring the rights of Cherokee students to engage in protected activities of cultural expression, provide appropriate guidance to school districts as to same and, in the case of egregious acts interfering with said protected activities, determine whether funds distributed under this Act should be conditioned on future compliance,” the amendment states.
Earlier this year, the CN disbursed a record $5.7 million to 108 schools within its jurisdiction.
During an Education Committee meeting earlier in the day, Education Services Executive Director Ron Etheridge said the day the tribe distributes the money to schools is a “fun day.”
“It’s a happy day because they all have a smile on their face,” he said. “They’re all receiving some revenue they can spend however they deem. Of course, you just passed some legislation that says they can still do that, but they need to take into consideration our heritage when it comes commencement time, and those sorts of things.”
In his monthly report, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett noted that the top official in Pope County, Arkansas, offered his support for CNB’s casino application.
Of five interests hoping to build a casino in Pope County, only CNB’s application has the support of the Pope County Quorum Court, signed Aug. 13, and now from the county judge, Ben Cross, who serves as CEO of the county government.
“So now we are the exclusive holder of letters of support from both the Quorum Court and the Quorum Court judge,” Garrett said. “So, we’re looking forward to Nov. 18 when the application window closes, and look forward to working with the (Arkansas) racing commission to receive that casino license.”
The CNB casino proposal – created with the sports, stadium and entertainment company Legends – calls for a $225 million venue with 50,000 square feet of gaming space; a sports book within a sport-themed tavern; a 200-room luxury hotel with a fitness center, pool and spa; 15,000 square feet of conference space; restaurants; a 100-space RV park; an outdoor music venue; and a water park.
The Tribal Council also appointed John Sparks and Shawna Baker to the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission, Kristy Sturgill to the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board and Roberta Gibson to the Sequoyah High School board of education.