TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner announced the tribe is awarding nearly $13 million in grants to its area first responders to help with public safety.
The county and local public safety agencies will receive up to $50,000 per grant.
Chief Hoskin announced the program during his remarks at the annual Firefighter Appreciation Banquet in which 136 rural or volunteer fire departments were in attendance Thursday in Tahlequah.
“At Cherokee Nation, we not only value our relationship with county and local first responders and these vital public safety agencies, we do all we can to provide support for their efforts,” said Chief Hoskin. “We all have a stake in effective police, fire and other emergency services, so when we have the resources to assist, we should do so.”
Across the 7,000-square mile Cherokee Nation Reservation, approximately 260 local and county agencies provide some form of public safety services, including:
- County sheriff departments
- Municipal police departments
- Volunteer and municipal fire departments
- Emergency Medical Services
- Emergency management services
- Emergency 911 services
The new Public Safety Partners Program is funded under Cherokee Nation’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild Plan, funded under the American Rescue Plan Act.
The grants of up to $50,000 per eligible agency can be used to support capital and equipment needs. Grants may be reduced to no less than $25,000 depending on whether Cherokee Nation provided funding to the agency through other Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan programs.
Deputy Chief Bryan Warner said the program is designed to be a one-time boost to the various other forms of assistance Cherokee Nation provides to these agencies.
“The last few years have presented great challenges for public safety agencies. These men and women are our friends, family and neighbors from our own communities, who are answering the call to assist our loved ones in times of greatest need,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “Economic conditions, the pandemic and dramatic changes in the jurisdictional landscape have challenged these agencies and created many unmet needs. We look at this type of assistance as an investment to benefit all of us, to protect our citizens and to show support to our first responders.”
Under the tribe’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan, Cherokee Nation has already committed over $40 million to its own public safety programs, including a new ambulance fleet and a state-of-the- art public safety facility.
Cherokee Nation has also increased its Marshal Services budget by over 260% since 2019 and boosted spending in its attorney general’s office, courts and victim services programs.
“When Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner and the Council set aside funds for public safety, we naturally put our tribal programs first,” said Mike Shambaugh, Speaker of the Council of the Cherokee Nation. “But, we didn’t forget about our friends, neighbors, or grandparents in the communities across the reservation. From my personal experience serving in law enforcement for more than 34 years on the Cherokee Nation Reservation, I know this is a wise investment because together we can do more.”
“This $50,000 is a lot of money for a lot of rural departments,” said Daniel Richards, with Roland Fire Department. “For Roland, we’ll probably use the funding for SCBAs (self-contained breathing apparatus). Funding from the Cherokee Nation is always extremely, extremely important for fire departments.”
The new Public Safety Partners Program is an additional stream of funds to millions of dollars Cherokee Nation contributes annually to law enforcement agencies, emergency services and fire departments.
Cherokee Nation will provide application information directly to the eligible agencies in the coming weeks.
At Thursday’s Firefighter Appreciation banquet, Cherokee Nation also awarded $476,000 to 136 rural and volunteer fire departments, which the tribe has contributed to annually for decades.
Five volunteer firefighters were also recognized as firefighters of the year, and two departments were chosen as fire departments of the year.
Firefighters of the Year are:
• Scott Felkins, Collinsville Fire Department
• Sam Curtis, Whitehorn Fire Department
• Michael Farrier, Inola Fire Department
• Dwight Keen, Liberty Fire Department
• Charles Holmes, Inola Fire Department
Fire Departments of the Year are:
• Roland Fire Department
• Oaks Fire Department