TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke to thousands of Cherokee citizens and guests from the heart of the tribe’s capital city Saturday morning for his fourth State of the Nation address, emphasizing the strength of the tribe and its more than 430,000 citizens who live on the Cherokee Nation Reservation and around the world.
Chief Hoskin delivered the remarks through a video pre-recorded on Friday after he was cleared from his first positive case. He tested positive as a “rebound” case on Saturday morning and remains isolated per public health requirements. He addressed the assembled crowd by phone before his pre-recorded remarks were presented.
After years of facing a global pandemic, staring down opponents of tribal sovereignty, and seizing opportunities to make the lives of the Cherokee people better, the state of the Cherokee Nation in 2022 remains strong, Chief Hoskin said.
“Our Nation’s strength comes from the people,” Chief Hoskin said. “When we measure our strength as a sovereign Nation, we often speak of numbers. From our over $2 billion annual economic impact, to our workforce of over 11,000, to our 7,000-square-mile Cherokee Nation Reservation, to our population of more than 437,000 citizens - these are surely measures of our strength. But, my fellow Cherokees, our strength derives from the people. Therefore we must measure our strength by how well we are serving the people. This requires us to listen carefully. This calls upon us to undertake efforts to meet the most important needs, the greatest hopes, and the highest aspirations of the Cherokee people. The state of our Nation remains strong because as Cherokee people we listen to each other, learn from one another, and we have each other’s back. Our administration, the Deputy Chief, and the Council take this to heart. We have been doing our level best to deliver a government that is worthy of the people.”
Chief Hoskin said over the last three years he has listened to what Cherokee Nation citizens want and need, and is laying out plans in the year ahead to incorporate them.
Chief Hoskin unveiled a proposal asking the Council of the Cherokee Nation to create the “Cherokee Nation Violence Against Women Act,” which is part of his administration’s historic and ongoing efforts to protect women, children and men and bolster the tribe’s criminal justice budget and staffing needs in recent years.
Chief Hoskin noted in his speech that during his three years in office, the Cherokee Nation Marshal Services budget and staffing capacity increased by 267 percent and over 240 percent, respectively.
“Expanding Cherokee Nation’s criminal justice system weighs on the shoulders of every leader of this Nation – and will continue to for generations to come,” he said. “We must get this right.”
The Cherokee Nation Violence Against Women Act will appear before the Council of the Cherokee Nation in September to help protect families and the tribe’s most vulnerable citizens by putting “a blanket of protection around victims and survivors of domestic violence,” Chief Hoskin said.
“When Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I took office, we also heard from the people that housing, particularly for our elders, is a high priority and that we should do more,” Chief Hoskin said. “We worked with the Council on the Housing, Jobs & Sustainable Communities Act to inject $30 million into repairing homes for elders and improving the community centers that serve them. Earlier this year, the Council extended the Housing, Jobs & Sustainable Communities Act with a $120 million investment. We will continue building and improving community centers. But, we are also focused on affordable housing for young Cherokee families.”
The Cherokee Nation will soon break ground on a 25-home housing addition in Tahlequah and hundreds of new homes across the reservation in the coming years.
“These homes will change people’s lives, make communities stronger and every penny the homeowners pay back will go to fund housing programs for the next generation,” Chief Hoskin said.
The Cherokee Nation will also once again host its Elders Summit to help tribal officials reach those who may be facing danger. Chief Hoskin said the Elders Summit will provide opportunities for creating new laws and programs to help protect Cherokee elders from fraud and abuse.
Upon taking office in 2019, Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner, with support of the Council, set aside historic funding as part of the Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act, which provided $16 million to build a modern Cherokee language campus.
“Our language is our culture. Our language is part of that unbroken chain that links us back to our creation,” Chief Hoskin said. “That chain will not be broken on our watch. We will send legislation to the Council this year to do even more. We will further expand our most promising programs. Together, all of us are on a mission to make sure that the chain remains unbroken, to make sure we save our language.”
Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner are also proposing a $3 million Cherokee Artist Recovery Act.
“Our culture, of course, is rooted in our history and reflected in our art,” Chief Hoskin said. “After some difficult years for our great artists, the Cherokee Artist Recovery Act will provide more opportunities for our artists to sell their art, teach their craft and therefore perpetuate our beautiful culture and lifeways across the reservation and across the country.”
During his State of the Nation address, Chief Hoskin also reflected on the tribe’s extraordinary investments in creating a healthier Cherokee Nation through a focus on rural health care initiatives and the creation of crucial health and wellness programs. Along with constructing a new W.W. Hastings Hospital and upgrading rural health centers across the reservation, the Cherokee Nation is also building wellness centers in communities such as Kenwood and Stilwell, and is committed to addressing drug addiction and mental health challenges through state-of-the-art treatment facilities that will bring healing to Cherokee families and communities.
In a nod to Cherokee Nation First Lady January Hoskin’s advocacy on the issue and the tribe’s recent opioid lawsuit settlements, Chief Hoskin said during his remarks: “First Lady, I am pleased to report that we will build a new drug treatment center – and we are making the opioid industry pay for every penny of it.”
Chief Hoskin also called on the United States Congress to keep the country’s promise to the Cherokee people and to seat Kim Teehee as the Cherokee Nation’s delegate to the House of Representatives.
“I am calling on the House of Representatives to hold a committee hearing before the end of this month to decide whether America is a country that keeps its word,” Chief Hoskin said.
“All of these efforts, and so many more, are rooted in the hopes, ideas and expectations of the Cherokee people. Our job as leaders is to do our level best to put those hopes and ideas into action and to meet those expectations,” he said. “The State of our Nation is strong. But, what really matters is that we work together to keep it strong.”