STILWELL, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation celebrated the opening of a new domestic violence shelter in Stilwell on Tuesday, Dec. 20, to help families and children who suffer at the hands of violence.
The 11,000-square foot shelter and three additional transitional houses will house up to 10 families.
“Ensuring our families and children are protected from the hands of violence is a priority and something Deputy Chief Warner and I have spent the last year advocating for and making significant changes to address,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We are extremely proud to open not only this shelter today, but to also be implementing several new initiatives in the year ahead that will make sweeping and lasting changes across the reservation to keep our families and children safe.”
The new shelter has an indoor children’s playroom and on-site staff available to help empower families, provide them with skills to live independently and free from violence, and begin the process of healing from trauma. Those staying at the facility may be housed for between one and 24 months.
“When Cherokees are forced to flee an abusive situation at home, it’s essential they have a safe and secure place to go,” Cherokee Nation First Lady January Hoskin said. “The addition of a domestic shelter in Adair County has been in development for some time and it means that more Cherokee women and families in northeast Oklahoma will be taken care of when an emergency need arises. This site, combined with the efforts outlined by the Cherokee Nation’s Domestic Violence Task Force, which has been diligently led by Christine Neuhoff, better ensures safety across the reservation. The physical and mental well-being of Cherokee families is very important to me, both as the First Lady of the Cherokee Nation, and also as a mother and grandmother of Cherokee children.”
As part of the Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner’s initiatives to address domestic violence within the Cherokee Nation, the Families are Sacred Summit will be held in April 2023 at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. The summit will provide comprehensive training for law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, court staff members, emergency medical service workers, health care providers, advocates and other Cherokee Nation employees involved in addressing domestic violence issues in Oklahoma. Registration for the summit will be free and open to all participants, and representatives from all 39 tribes in Oklahoma are invited.
The tribe will also conduct more grassroots training with cultural programming. The tribe will work with Cherokee organizations to address mental health and community values, including roles and responsibilities of those within the community.
Cherokee Nation will also implement other recommendations that came from the Domestic Violence Task Force, such as holding community listening sessions for a better understanding of community needs, working with school districts to educate youth on dating violence at an early age, and deploying financial empowerment programs and other initiatives.
The tribe also will hire or train an existing staff member to be a Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and hire 12 domestic violence advocates to expand staffing strategically throughout the 14 counties.
“The Cherokee Nation is taking major steps to bring awareness and education on what domestic violence looks like and adding the resources needed for our people who suffer,” Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said. “Having this shelter for families and children, and more to come, is another important step we can take to do our part.”
Chief Hoskin signed an executive order in January 2022 to re-establish the tribe’s Task Force to Protect Women and Families, which implemented new policies across Cherokee Nation government to address domestic violence and support survivors. Those policies included requirements that tribal government employees self-disclose arrests and active protective orders as well as required training for employees to recognize, prevent and report domestic violence.
The task force chaired by Cherokee Nation citizen Christy Neuhoff issued an end-of-year report to Chief Hoskin calling for measures to further improve the tribe’s response to domestic violence.
National statistics show acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds across the country and that four in five American Indians – both women and men – have experienced violence in their lifetime.
The Cherokee Nation’s ONE FIRE Victim Services Office has served 1,097 citizens since 2021.
Last year, Cherokee Nation was among six tribes 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.
The Cherokee Nation workforce completes required domestic violence training courses created by the Cherokee Nation Human Resources Department as part of Chief Hoskin’s efforts to prevent domestic violence.
Administration and the Council of the Cherokee Nation have also addressed domestic violence issues through legislation. That includes the Cherokee Nation Domestic Violence Lethality Reporting Act of 2021, which requires reports of domestic violence to include a lethality assessment to better inform the response of law enforcement, prosecutors and victim support service providers. And in January of 2022, Chief Hoskin signed legislation strengthening the tribe’s law against domestic violence involving strangulation.
The full task force report can be found online at https://www.cherokee.org/media/kxvjyuoe/12-01-2022-report-of-cherokee-nation-task-force-to-protect-women-and-families.pdf.