Tribal Council backs $1.1B budget
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. gives his first monthly address during the Sept. 16 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Topping $1.1 billion, the Cherokee Nation’s largest annual budget to date was approved Sept. 16.
“It’s clear by looking at this budget – the largest in our tribe’s history – that we are committed to education, health care, language, culture and the many other tribal services that better the lives of Cherokees,” Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said.
The 17-member Tribal Council unanimously approved an act approving the 2020 comprehensive budget of $1.16 billion. Included is $26.2 million for construction or expansion of CN Child Development Center facilities, a $16.3 million increase to the Contract Health budget and an increase of more than $100,000 in funding for community-based programs.
The budget also includes funding for Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.’s initiative to increase the CN minimum wage from $9.50 to $11 per hour. Cherokee Nation Businesses was expected to follow suit with a minimum wage-related announcement Sept. 18.
“So this is, as Council members have told me time and time again, an investment in our people,” Hoskin said. “Our people work for the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses. They work hard. They are so much of the reason for our success in recent years. That success deserves to be rewarded.”
Chuck Garrett, the new CNB CEO, said CNB employs more than 7,500-plus people in 47 states, 25 countries and two U.S. territories.
“Of those 7,500 employees, we’re able to exercise preference on 4,534 of these positions,” Garrett said. “Of those positions, we currently have 70 percent Cherokee utilization with another 6.4 percent from other tribal nations.”
The tribe’s new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.Congressional Delegate Update
Hoskin, who took office Aug. 14, offered his first monthly “state of the nation” speech, touching on a recent visit to Washington, D.C.
There, he and others advocated for enactment of an unused treaty provision that calls for a tribal delegate to the U.S. House of Representatives.
“We went to meet with members of Congress to talk about the assertion of our treaty right,” Hoskin said. “It is, I think, quite something to go to Washington, D.C., to assert a right under the Treaty of New Echota, our removal treaty. I will tell you that the response from members of Congress on a bipartisan basis was very encouraging. The questions posed were posed in the manner of not whether this should happen, but how it should happen and when it should happen.”
The congressional delegate provision is outlined in two treaties with the U.S. government, in Article XII of the 1785 Treaty of Hopewell and in Article VII of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota. It is also outlined in the tribe’s 1999 Constitution.
According to the 1999 Constitution, a delegate will participate in congressional activities, advocate for the best interest of the Cherokee people, make reports to the Tribal Council and principal chief on congressional activities and administrative matters in relation to federal law and policy and produce an annual report to the Cherokee people.
The tribe selected Kimberly Teehee to serve as delegate. She is the CNB vice president of government relations and a former adviser to President Barack Obama.
“As I said when we announced the appointment of Ms. Teehee, it is a long journey that we need to be prepared for,” Hoskin said. “But the Cherokee people have always been prepared for long journeys.”
In other business, the Tribal Council:
• Elected Taylor as council secretary,
• Confirmed Lynna Carson to the CNB board,
• Confirmed Linda O’Leary to the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission,
• Passed a resolution opposing a change to federal regulations that would allow non-Natives to possess and use eagle feathers for religious purposes, and
• Approved a resolution authorizing the CN to become a member of the National Congress of American Indians.