Cherokee Nation Principal Chief signs executive order recognizing Martin Luther King Jr. Day as an official Cherokee Nation holiday

January 8, 2018

This is the first time the tribe has recognized the holiday

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed an executive order recently declaring Martin Luther King Jr. Day a Cherokee Nation National Holiday for the first time ever. In his executive order, Chief Baker said the declaration was not only a tribute to Dr. King’s contributions to equality for all, but is a reminder that every day we can all play a part in continuing his critical work.

“A Cherokee Nation national holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a time to celebrate the life and legacy of a man who dedicated his life to serving others and fighting for justice and equality for all people,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “He was a remarkable advocate for change for all people of color in America, including Indian Country.”

In Dr. King’s 1963 book, “Why We Can’t Wait,” he wrote about colonization and the genocide and injustices committed against indigenous peoples. “Our nation was born in genocide when it embraced the doctrine that the original American, the Indian, was an inferior race,” Dr. King wrote. “Even before there were large numbers of Negroes on our shores, the scar of racial hatred had already disfigured colonial society. From the sixteenth century forward, blood flowed in battles of racial supremacy. We are perhaps the only nation which tried as a matter of national policy to wipe out its Indigenous population. Moreover, we elevated that tragic experience into a noble crusade. Indeed, even today we have not permitted ourselves to reject or feel remorse for this shameful episode. Our literature, our films, our drama, our folklore all exalt it.”

In recognition of the holiday, all Cherokee Nation government offices will be closed and employees will be granted one day of paid administrative leave on the third Monday of each January. Chief Baker encouraged employees and Cherokee Nation citizens to dedicate a day of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to better their communities and follow the legacy of Dr. King.

“By devoting this day to service and care of others, we move closer to Dr. King’s vision of living and working together as one community,” Baker said. “Through our deeds, we honor Dr. King’s legacy. That commitment to service on the third Monday of January going forward will hopefully better unite and strengthen each of us, and the entire Cherokee Nation.”

This year Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be observed on Monday, Jan. 15.