Chief Hoskin discusses his first 100 days in office

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
11/21/2019 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signs the Durbin Feeling Cherokee Language Preservation Act on Oct. 15 at the Tribal Complex. Seated to his left is Feeling’s brother, Russell Feeling. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., sitting center, announced and signed the Career Readiness Act on Oct. 16 in Pryor during a construction trade class surrounded by students, Tribal Councilors and other CN officials. The act doubles funding to $2 million per year to train Cherokees in areas of construction, health, information technology and lineman trade jobs. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. speaks Oct. 7 at the tribe’s then-partially finished outpatient health center in Tahlequah. Also shown are Medical Director Roger Montgomery, left, and Chief of Staff Todd Enlow, center. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – When Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. prepared for office in August, he said he would prioritize a set of initiatives in his first 100 days.

Among those initiatives were further funding for elder housing, pay increases, seating a delegate in the U.S. House of Representatives and preserving and promulgating the Cherokee language.

On Nov. 19, Hoskin said he’s taken substantive steps on several of those fronts.

“Most of these 100 days things take a lot longer to actually execute,” he said. “We are just now seeing the funding come forward on the Housing, Jobs and Sustainable Communities Act, and the Language Preservation Act. Putting those dollars into real concrete action that affects the lives of Cherokees is what we need to work on.”

Housing is being added and enhanced through the HJSCA, which will be obtained via dividends from Cherokee Nation Businesses, amounting to $10 million per year for three years. Three-quarters of the funding goes directly toward the expense of renovating homes, but $7.5 million will go to remodeling or installing energy efficient measures – including solar panels – on non-residential structures such as tribal community centers.

“We are using resources generated by businesses to address the problem of elder housing,” Hoskin said. “We’ve put $30 million into elder housing, with part of that going into community building upgrades. That helps the communities where many of these elders live. That is a substantial accomplishment because it is returning those resources down to the grassroots level…It will also create some opportunities for sustainable projects at the community level such as solar, power for our community buildings and some better Wi-Fi conductivity.”

CN employees saw pay increases in October, and the tribe increased its minimum wage from $9.50 to $11 an hour.

“On the government side alone, it is an investment of about $9 million,” Hoskin said. “It was also a substantial investment on the business side to increase the pay up the scale a bit. That’s important because our workforce consists almost entirely of Cherokees. It impacts Cherokee families and communities. It is good to leverage those resources that we generate from our businesses, and put them in the pockets of our talented workforce.”

Hoskin also appointed Kimberly Teehee to assume the tribe’s seat in the U.S. House – a position that has never been filled and may take some time to clarify. The Treaty of New Echota, which created the nonvoting seat, is nearly 200 years old. It was used by the federal government as justification for the tribe’s removal to Indian Territory.

“The congressional delegate is a significant step toward holding the government … accountable for our treat rights,” he said. “Although the delegate is drilling down to a very specific provision in one treaty, I think it is more broadly an effort to remind the country that these treaties are still the supreme law of the land, and that they ought to be taken seriously. Getting Kim Teehee seated will benefit the Cherokee Nation by having that delegate in the House of Representatives, but it will also benefit Indian Country in terms of making sure the U.S. remembers that treaty rights matter.”

The Hoskin administration has also made language preservation a goal. He said the effects may not be noticed until after he leaves office, but the investment would bear fruit over decades.

“The strategy behind saving the language will, in a generation, give us Cherokee speakers in our communities,” he said. “It won’t just be a language that is saved, but revitalized. It’s important that we do this now, because there will come a time when all the money in the world wouldn’t bring back the Cherokee language. We need to make sure we don’t get into that situation as a people.”

A principal chief term lasts much longer than 100 days, and Hoskin has other issues he wants to address with the help of his administration and the Tribal Council.

One is the position of secretary of Language, Culture and Community, which has not been filled. He hopes to see the secretary atop an organizational structure that includes a realignment to put the CN’s community, culture and language programs within a department.

He also spoke of enhancing efficiencies within or between departments. He mentioned ensuring that Human Resources has the necessary toolkit to hire personnel efficiently, which in turn allows other departments to continue their work.

“We also want to do more historic preservation,” Hoskin said. “We have some precious historical sites here in the Cherokee Nation and in our original homelands, and we need to have a strategic plan to preserve these and make them accessible to our citizens and the world.”

An unexpected draw on the administration’s time has been prepping for possible negotiations with the state regarding tribal gaming compacts. Gov. Kevin Stitt has suggested the compacts need renegotiated to award the state a larger revenue share.

“We’re in the midst of the gaming compact with the state,” Hoskin said. “A lot of the focus has been on ensuring our interests are protected with the gaming compact. That has taken a good deal of time, but it is definitely time well spent.”
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