TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Members of the 2020-2021 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council were sworn into office by Cherokee Nation Chief Justice Lee W. Paden during a virtual inauguration ceremony earlier this month.

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. gave the keynote address during the inauguration ceremony, which also included remarks by Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Speaker of the Council of the Cherokee Nation Joe Byrd, and Chief of Staff Todd Enlow.

“I am proud to see this group of young Cherokees stepping up to serve their communities and to provide important feedback to Cherokee Nation leadership,” Chief Hoskin said. “They are to be commended for their efforts, and Deputy Chief Warner and I look forward to the great things they are sure to accomplish as they serve on the Tribal Youth Council.”

The 17-member youth council will have an opportunity to help shape future tribal policy by learning the Cherokee Nation Constitution and bylaws.

“It is an honor to serve on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council and it means a lot to me to be in this position of leadership,” said Zane Harbaugh, a Tribal Youth Councilor from Owasso. “I hope to learn more about the history of the Cherokee people and more about our culture and traditions.”

The Tribal Youth Council also strives to identify issues affecting Cherokee youths, and to pass on recommendations to the Tribal Council and Cherokee Nation administration.

“Serving as a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council has allowed me to further establish a foundation of knowledge, including the language, history, culture, and government structure of the Cherokee Nation,” said Tribal Youth Council President Chelbie Turtle, of Park Hill. “I am very thankful for the experiences and opportunities the Tribal Youth Council has provided, allowing me to engage and serve the Cherokee people through community service projects. I hope to continue gaining knowledge and developing valuable leadership skills throughout this term.”

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council leadership program began in 1989. Members meet monthly, but also serve as ambassadors of the Cherokee Nation on a daily basis.

“Serving on the Tribal Youth Council has expanded my knowledge on my Cherokee culture. It has allowed me to grow closer to my tribe by serving my people,” said Abby Lowe, of Wellington, Kan. Lowe serves as Tribal Youth Council parliamentarian and represents at-large communities on the Council. “This will allow me to keep my heritage alive for future generations. Serving as the at-large member, I represent a large citizenship of Cherokee people, and I am so honored to do so.”

Its establishment gives Cherokee youth a platform to learn leadership skills and a chance to service their communities.

"By being a part of Tribal Youth Council, I am able to inspire other Cherokee youth to chase after their dreams, as well as doing my part to learn more about the culture, language, and history of our people,” Lauryn Fields of Sequoyah County said. “I am grateful to the Cherokee Nation for this opportunity to grow and for their continued support of our Nation’s youth."

The 2020-2021 Tribal Youth Council members include Watie Byrd and Madison Walters of Muldrow, Makaya Crisp and Gracyn Rains of Pryor, Kennedy Weedon, Cason Wright and Lauryn Fields of Sallisaw, Jaden Jackson and Zane Harbaugh of Owassa, Baleigh James and Camerin Fite James of Fort Gibson, Taylor Pearce of Rose, Daley Reynolds of Claremore, Charlcie Gatewood of Welch, Abby Lowe of Wellington, Kansas, and Chelbie Turtle and Faith Springwater of Park Hill.