TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation celebrated Charles L. Head Day on Thursday with its annual honoring ceremony in Tahlequah.
The event honors the life and legacy of Charles L. Head, the late Cherokee Nation Secretary of State and founder of the tribe’s innovative ONE FIRE Victim Services Department. The event also honors all of the survivors and victims of domestic and sexual abuse, and recognizes the advocates who help support them.
“We know all too well that domestic violence is a challenging issue that impacts all of us either directly or indirectly, so we must remain vigilant in addressing it head-on through education, conversation and victim services. The late Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Charles Head understood the significance of the Cherokee Nation providing victims with criticial services and resources,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Today, his legacy lives on through Cherokee Nation’s amazing ONE FIRE Victim Services department and the life-changing work their team does each and every day.”
Cherokee Nation ONE FIRE Victim Services works to increase safety for victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and dating violence. The program has helped support and protect more than 2,600 victims of domestic violence since its inception, including nearly 400 so far in 2022.
“Because of the vision and the heart of the late Secretary of State Charles Head, today, the Cherokee Nation is blessed to have a team like our ONE FIRE work family who is so committed to helping victims of abuse weather the storms they are facing,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “ONE FIRE was built to help Cherokee citizens who are often facing some of the darkest and most uncertain times in their lives. It’s hard work, and I am thankful this program exists and is continuing to serve this important need.”
During the ceremony, the tribe honored ONE FIRE victim advocates, recognized the family of the late Secretary of State Charles L. Head, and dedicated a butterfly bush symbolizing wings of hope for survivors of domestic violence.
“So far in the first seven months of 2022, the ONE FIRE Victim Services department has seen nearly as many clients seeking support and assistance as we saw the entire year of 2021. That may be in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the added stressors that has had on many of our Cherokee citizens for more than two years. I think another reason for the rise is that more and more people are finding out about what ONE FIRE does,” said ONE FIRE Senior Director Debra Proctor. “We have been so fortunate to have a dedicated staff, with advocates who are often helping clients 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Indian Country is deeply impacted by domestic violence. The evidence and data are there, we just have to be able to help victims and then sustain a healthier way of life.”
National statistics show acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds across the country and that 4 in 5 American Indians – both women and men – have experienced violence in their lifetime.
In August 2021, Chief Hoskin created the Task Force to Protect Women and Families and implemented new policies across Cherokee Nation government to address domestic violence and support survivors. He reconvened the task force in January of 2022 to continue the important work of the group. Cherokee Nation’s Task Force to Protect Women and Families meets monthly and will submit a report to Chief Hoskin in October with recommendations on how to address domestic violence in the Cherokee Nation Reservation, further expanding on the findings and recommendations issued by the first Task Force’s report.
First Lady January Hoskin is a longtime advocate for addressing issues related to domestic violence and is a member of the tribe’s second Task Force to Protect Women and Families.
“Serving on the Task Force to Protect Women and Families, I am often reminded of how grateful and thankful I am that the Cherokee Nation has a team of so many talented, committed, hard-working, resourceful and caring people who truly care about those who seek help as they face the complexities of domestic violence,” First Lady Hoskin said. “They choose to work hard today to help build the Cherokee Nation into what we know it will become in future generations. Every step we take is another step closer, and it’s wonderful to see such innovative progress from our ONE FIRE Victim Services programs, which were near and dear to the late Secretary of State Charles Head.”
Cherokee Nation was among six tribes last year to be honored nationwide with the Harvard 2021 Honoring Nations Award, receiving high honors for its ONE FIRE Victim Services office and its work supporting and protecting victims of domestic violence.
Chief Hoskin has also worked with the Council of the Cherokee Nation, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service on legislative changes to better address domestic violence.