Cherokee Nation celebrates citizens, organizations in virtual holiday ceremony

The Cherokee Nation on Sept. 2 celebrated tribal citizens and organizations for their statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the tribe during a virtual Cherokee National Holiday Awards Ceremony. 

TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation on Sept. 2 celebrated citizens and organizations for their statesmanship, patriotism, community leadership and devotion to the tribe during a virtual Cherokee National Holiday Awards Ceremony.

The tribe also honored Apple, Google and Microsoft for helping to preserve the Cherokee language and expand its use globally via technology. 

“Each year, the Cherokee Nation pauses to pay recognition to Cherokee citizens, as well as our non-Native friends, who have worked tirelessly to promote and advance the efforts of the Cherokee Nation,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This year’s honorees have gone above and beyond in their service both here on the Cherokee Nation Reservation, and around the world. Their efforts will have generational impacts.” 

The Medal of Patriotism Award is given to those who answered the call of duty, made great sacrifices and risked their lives in service to the CN and the United States, defending and promoting freedom and liberty.

Harley Buzzard, of Eucha, is a Vietnam-era veteran who served from 1967-70. He previously served as director of the CN water and sanitation program and director of the tribe’s community infrastructure program, working to bring road improvements, clean water and better facilities throughout the reservation. He also served 12 years on the Tribal Council. In presenting the award, Hoskin noted that Buzzard was known for asking tough but fair questions, always focused on making the work of the CN the best it could be. Buzzard also served on the National Inter-Tribal Association, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission Advisory Board and other organizations. 

The Statesman Award is given to those who, as public servants, epitomize the servant leader ideal, exemplifying Cherokee values and acting with respect, dignity and graciousness while working for the betterment of the CN and its citizens.

Charlie Soap, of Adair County, formerly served as the CN executive director of community services. He, along with his wife and former Principal Chief, Wilma Mankiller, worked tirelessly to create and improve water access in communities now serviced by the Cherry Tree Rural Water District, including the historic Bell waterline. That planning and work as a community organizer started in the early 1980s. In 2021, Hoskin signed the Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act, injecting needed funding and strategic planning into the tribe’s efforts at increasing availability of clean water across the tribe’s reservation. 

The Community Leadership Individual Award is given in recognition of CN citizens who have given their time to make their communities more vibrant, livable places. Their example of servant leadership embodies Cherokee values, and is held in high esteem by their peers for strengthening the bonds of CN citizens. 

• Jade Day, of Muskogee, advocates for increased awareness for rare diseases in Indian Country and the challenges patients and their families face. She was named by the National Organization for Rare Disorders and the Oklahoma Rare Action Network as an ambassador for Oklahoma to serve as liaison to state agencies, networks and officials to increase awareness of rare diseases and disorders. In 2020, Hoskin established the tribe’s first rare disease committee, naming Day a member. 

• Channce Condit, of Modesto, California, serves as a field representative for the California State Assembly. He began his career in public service by assisting constituents. In 2018, Condit was elected to the Ceres, California City Council, and in 2020, he was elected to the Stanislaus County, California Board of Supervisors. As his community has battled the COVID-19 pandemic, Condit has made public health awareness and highlighting the work of county employees a priority in his public outreach. 

• Mary Flute-Cooksey Buzzard, of Flute Springs, has been guided by the Cherokee principle of “Gadugi” throughout her life. She has served on the Elder Advisory Board of Muskogee for more than 15 years and has assisted the CN in different roles, including her service on the Tribal Council and working for CN Elder Services. Recently, she volunteered in a door-to-door effort that brought fresh produce to households in the Marble City area, and even as COVID-19 has impacted the reservation, she has led the organization in continuing its growth and has spearheaded capital projects. 

• Dr. Clint Carroll, of Longmont, Colorado, has worked closely with the CN for more than 20 years, assuring that Cherokee traditions can be practiced, respected and preserved. Carroll has been active with ethnobotany research and preservation and the Medicine Keepers, a project that shares Cherokee traditions by connecting Cherokee youth and elders. 

The Community Leadership Organization Award is given in recognition of CN communities that have demonstrated the spirit of working together through servant leadership, as well as applying Cherokee values to make communities a better place for CN citizens. 

The Marble City Food Pantry and Youth Services provides critical resources in the Marble City community and Sequoyah County. The organization was an important partner during the CN’s COVID-19 emergency food distribution program and assisted in distributing hundreds of food boxes in the community. Its volunteers are passionate about bringing food security to CN citizens and neighbors. 

The Samuel Worcester Award is given to non-Cherokees who have made substantial contributions to the preservation of Cherokee heritage, culture, community and sovereignty. 

• Dr. Craig Cornelius has worked in internationalization at Google since 2007, and introduced the CN Language Department to the engineering team at Google, which has led to advancements in Cherokee language technology. Google Search and Gmail support the Cherokee syllabary thanks to the efforts of Cornelius, and an open-source Cherokee font is also available on millions of Android phones and tablets. 

• Peter Lofting collaborated, as lead font developer for Apple, with the CN Language Department to incorporate the Cherokee syllabary into Apple’s mobile devices and computer systems. The fonts he developed allow every Apple device in the world to support the Cherokee syllabary. He shares recognition with the late Steve Jobs, whose legacy lives on in his wife, Laurene Powell Jobs. 

• Don Lionetti joined the Microsoft Corp., in 2002 and established its vertical tribal government and gaming market. As director of sales, Lionetti leads a team that provides solutions for Native American tribal government, gaming and Alaska Native organizations. He is passionate about technology and helping Native clients discover solutions that gain efficiencies and provide better service for constituents and stakeholders.