TAHLEQUAH – March 18, 2021, marked a year since the first Cherokee Nation citizen and Oklahoman, Merle Dry, lost his life to COVID-19. 

Cherokee Nation officials gathered at the Tribal Complex the evening of March 18 for a virtual memorial to honor and to remember all of those who have been lost in the last year. 

“Today we honor and remember those Cherokees lost to COVID-19,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This has been a year in which we have lost too many, which we have lost too much. Each Cherokee life lost to COVID-19 had great meaning. To the families there is unspeakable loss, but there are more memories and there is love and that love is eternal.” 

The virtual event was aired live on the CN Facebook page in which several CN officials spoke and shared condolences to the families of lost loved ones. 

“How do we build one another up? It’s simple, with kindness, with love, and with compassion, something that we’ve shown throughout this pandemic,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Because of the great loss that we’ve had and our hearts are grieving, we must have that compassion as we move forward. We must use that kindness, we must wrap everything in love that we do. Let us remember today those who’ve passed from this earth and let us honor them by extending the grace and mercy that our creator extends to each and every one of us.”

Hymns were sung by the Cherokee National Youth Choir, and spiritual leader Crosslin Smith was asked to give a blessing as the memorial came to a close and shared what he referred to as “our traditional amen.” 

The CN has lost 106 of its citizens to COVID-19, 50 of those being Cherokee speakers.  

“Our obligation is to give each of these lives lost more meaning. In their names, my fellow Cherokees let’s keep each other safe. In their names let’s have each other’s back. In their names let’s live each day to the fullest. My fellow Cherokees in their names let’s embrace this coming spring and let’s find a way to embrace each other,” Hoskin said.