Hoskin assumes post of Cherokee Nation principal chief
Chuck Hoskin Jr.
TAHLEQUAH – After the summer’s elections, the Cherokee Nation has a new chief – sworn in Aug. 14 – who was part of the previous administration and wants to continue many of its policies, with enhancements.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is now principal chief after serving as secretary of state, in which he often represented the Nation in negotiations with other governments, be they local, county, tribal, state or federal.
“I’ve seen the recipe for success,” Hoskin said. “We need to continue that. I’ve seen what a difference it makes when a chief takes the resources that the Cherokee Nation can harness from our businesses, from the federal resources that we have, and puts them toward priorities that are really investments for the Cherokee people and their future.”
On several occasions, Hoskin has stated he intends to focus on health care – particularly access.
“We are poised to open the largest outpatient facility in the country for Native Americans here in Tahlequah,” he said. “We have, in the last eight years, seen a dramatic improvement in the health care infrastructure of the Cherokee Nation with the outlying clinics and opening a medical school. I think health care is the most important service we can provide our people, because it is so fundamental to a good quality of life. If we can provide good health care to our people, we can help them to live the kind of lives they want to live.”
Hoskin said another priority of his administration will be job creation, adding that good work with good pay contributes to quality of life.
“We will continue to grow our businesses, and we will diversify what we do in our businesses,” he said. “The most important thing we will see in the coming years is the Cherokee Nation creating an environment in northeast Oklahoma where jobs can be created in our communities. They may not necessarily be jobs the Nation creates, but jobs created because we fostered an environment where there is a workforce ready to work, infrastructure in place that can attract capital investment, and that this is all happening in communities that in many ways the rest of the world forgot about. These small towns that Cherokee Nation and its people created generations ago, they are still here and still need a champion, and I think the Cherokee Nation and its leaders can be that champion.”
With a vibrant economy, northeast Oklahoma and the CN can retain its young professional and trade workforce, Hoskin said.
Hoskin’s administration also plans to continue to prioritize education. Hoskin said projections of scholarship funding often fall short of demand, which he said was “a great problem to have – more Cherokees going to college.”
“We have to find more dollars every year to meet that need,” he said. “That means the Cherokee people are more oriented to going to college and realizing a dream for many people, to get a higher education so they can get jobs that pay a good salary.”
Hoskin said the Nation must also ensure access to job training and trade schools for those who do not wish to go to college, and a further priority will be preservation of the Cherokee language.
Further diversification of tribal revenue streams will also be a goal, Hoskin said.
“We’ve done a good job with diversifying, particularly in federal contracting, and it has impacted our expertise to engage in health care management, construction, IT and security,” he said. “We have a business presence in 47 states and a dozen or so countries around the world. The challenge for my administration is to increase capacity and expertise to shift focus closer to home, so there is even more of a presence in the 14 counties. There is nothing wrong with creating jobs around the nation and the world, because you increase revenue and bring dollars home. We have created 500 jobs in the 14 counties just to support those operations. But there are chances to diversify beyond gaming in the 14 counties. If we use those, we can create an even stronger business portfolio, and it can be a hedge against economic ups and downs.”
The first big challenge faced by the Hoskin administration may be the state’s insistence that the gaming compact be renegotiated. He said he was often “the face” of the tribe during intergovernmental bargaining.
“I was fortunate to have a good team to help with those negotiations,” Hoskin said. “That included government relations, managed by Kim Teehee, and colleagues in the Cabinet such as the attorney general and the secretary of Natural Resources. People have titles, but my expectation is that we will work with others to accomplish things, and that means working and dealing with other governments. As I take office, we are facing a state government that is looking to renegotiate the gaming compact, which has been win-win for the state and the tribe. I expect that to consume a lot of time in the months to come.”
Hoskin said his ambition to become principal chief did not really arise until after he became secretary of state in 2013. He said politics is an honorable profession, “if you do it honorably.” He called public service the second-most rewarding pursuit of his life, after his family.
“I’m so grateful to the Cherokee people for giving me the opportunity to serve,” he said. “The offices don’t belong to individuals. They belong to the Cherokee people. We occupy the offices of a while, then we give them back. I will do my level best to serve the people. January, the first lady, and I look forward to getting out into the communities.”