Scott faces unexpected challenges as Cherokee Nation treasurer
In 2018, when she was an attorney for Cherokee Nation Businesses, Tralynna Scott was named by The Journal-Record as an Achiever Under 40. In 2019, she was named among The Journal-Record’s Women of the Year. CHEROKEE NATION BUSINESSES
TAHLEQUAH – A person can find his or her work plate pretty full when serving as the Cherokee Nation’s treasurer.
During the decades, the tribe has grown its finances considerably, and the treasurer is expected to oversee and protect those assets.
For more than a year, Tralynna Scott has served as treasurer during difficult times brought on by external circumstances.
“The two biggest challenges have been COVID and the McGirt decision,” Scott said. “Either would have been overwhelming in any year, but we’ve had to deal with both at the same time.”
Scott oversees all funding for the CN, be it tribal or federal. Frequent sources of federal funding are the Indian Health Service and the Department of Justice. Grants are also common. Scott said federal funding includes restrictions and reporting requirements. Tribal funding comes through Cherokee Nation Businesses and other sources such as car tag sales, and the CN has more discretion about how its revenue is spent. The treasurer’s office compiles the tribe’s annual financial audit and books revenue to where it has been designated by the Tribal Council. Accounting is conducted to ensure the money is spent as directed and under applicable regulations.
With the onset of COVID, there has been a downturn in tribal revenue and challenges maintaining manpower as many departments stagger working hours or send staff to work from home.
“COVID has been difficult for everyone,” Scott said. “It was hard in the beginning when we sent a large portion of the staff home. We were trying to do all we could to help citizens, but without additional federal relief funding. It was a scramble to find enough funds without impacting other services we provide like food security, and enough masks for workers and citizens. But then we got the extra relief funding. It has been a blessing and allowed the Cherokee Nation to do great things. It is hard to keep up with the normal workload plus manage $500 million in additional federal funding with time limits and limited staff.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma, the CN has operated under the assumption that the finding of a surviving Muscogee (Creek) Nation reservation likely applies to the other Five Tribes. The decision clarified some jurisdictional issues and generated others.
“We are so similar legally with the other (Five Tribes) treaties,” Scott said. “It is overwhelming to go from zero to 100 on being the governing entity that has the jurisdiction to prosecute criminals. The amount of infrastructure to do that properly – we need more marshals, more attorney generals, the list goes on and none of that is free. We will go after any federal funding and grants, and possibly exercise our taxation jurisdiction, but none of that helps right now. Those are long term plans.”
Scott said she is fortunate to have a talented and dedicated team putting in long hours to meet challenges.
“I’m impressed on a daily basis by their commitment to the Nation and its citizens,” she said. “I think (Cherokees) have a very ‘we before I’ mentality. It isn’t about us individually – it’s about the tribe. We tend to think of things in those terms.”
After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame in 2006, Scott earned a juris doctor and a master’s degree in taxation from the University of Tulsa. She has been married for 13 years to Brandon Scott, CNB director of communications and former Cherokee Phoenix executive editor. They have twin daughters, ages 8.
“I thank the chief (Chuck Hoskin Jr.) and the deputy chief (Bryan Warner), and the Tribal Council for confirming me,” Scott said. “I wouldn’t be here but for those people, and I’m appreciative that they have put that much trust in me. I’m also appreciative of the finance team, because one person cannot do this job. They’re the rock stars and deserve the kudos.”