OPINION: Natural Resources secretary to ensure habitats, environments remain clean

BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
11/03/2015 10:30 AM
At the Cherokee Nation we are committed to protecting our air, water, land and wildlife for future generations. That’s why I recently announced the first-ever appointment to an important Cabinet-level position in my administration. This position was originally established by the 1999 Constitutional Convention. Unfortunately, it was never filled, but this key advisory role cannot go vacant any longer.

I have appointed attorney Sara Hill as the new secretary of Natural Resources, and last month she was confirmed by the CN Tribal Council and took her oath of office. In her role as secretary she will ensure our natural resources are properly preserved for the future of the CN and our people. I am so proud to say we are finally making our natural and environmental resources a priority. Our natural habitats and environment must be a factor in every decision we make. We have a responsibility to leave this land, this water and this air pure and clean for future generations.

Sara previously served as the deputy attorney general of the CN, with expertise on environmental issues, water rights and natural resource protection. Her hard work has helped the CN maximize our inherent sovereign rights, and she has been critical in developing preservation programs that benefit our citizens.

She chairs the CN Interdisciplinary Water Work Group and is working on the feasibility of a potential hydroelectric project on the Arkansas River. Sara has long served the CN in many ways, successfully representing our interests before the Oklahoma Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Nomura – a case that successfully upheld full compliance of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act for out-of-state Indian child adoption cases. Additionally, she is a dedicated special assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Part of her mission will be ensuring that sustainability is a part of every conversation we have and every decision we make at the CN. Since time immemorial Cherokees have considered the impact of our actions on our environment and our surroundings. Our elders teach us about our connection to plants, animals and all natural elements.

We must be steadfast in the stewardship of our natural resources. We have an obligation to protect these precious resources for the next seven generations. As our teachings tell us, that is the Cherokee way.

We cannot leave today’s environmental issues for our children and grandchildren to solve. That is an unfair burden. The secretary of Natural Resources will work at the highest level of my administration, assuring that we are protecting and preserving our natural resources and environment. We have a better vision of preservation, and we must take action to ensure we reach our goals.

With the secretary of Natural Resources in place, coupled with the leadership of the Tribal Council, we have the ability to develop laws that will truly enhance the sustainability of our land, water and air for generations to come. The Cherokee people deserve that. Clean air, safe water and a fertile land will always be our foundation for long-term health as a tribe and a people.

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