TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. implemented a new policy this week that strengthens the tribe’s response and support of domestic violence, including launching a new task force.
Chief Hoskin signed an executive order Monday during Domestic Violence Awareness Month that will now require tribal government employees to self-disclose arrests and active protective orders; to mandate training for employees to recognize, prevent and report domestic violence and launch a task force to examine current policies and make further recommendations.
“The Cherokee People are counting on us to eliminate domestic violence, to provide care and comfort to victims and to bring those who will abuse our fellow citizens to justice,” Chief Hoskin said. “This Executive Order and task force will further us down that path.”
The Task Force to Protect Women and Families will review current protocols and policies dedicated to helping domestic violence victims and their families, and develop recommendations and more effective strategies and issue a report of its findings to the Chief’s office by December 1.
Task Force members include: Shawna Baker, Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice; Sara Hill, Cherokee Nation Attorney General; Chrissi Nimmo, Cherokee Nation Deputy Attorney General;
Sandy Crosslin, Cherokee Nation Senior Assistant Attorney General; Shannon Buhl, Cherokee Nation Marshal; Kim Teehee, Cherokee Nation Delegate to Congress; Candessa Tehee, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor; Shawna Duch, One Fire Executive Director; January Hoskin, First Lady of the Cherokee Nation; Debra Proctor, Cherokee Nation Health Services and Christy Shero Neuhoff, J.D., M.B.A. will serve as the Task Force Leader.
“Our Cherokee culture tells us to hold one another sacred and this dedicated task force will embody that tradition by making lasting changes to prevent domestic violence and to protect all those who need support in both our Tahlequah community and our entire tribal community,” said Tribal Councilor for District 2 Candessa Tehee.
The Cherokee Nation ONE Fire Victim Services office which assists domestic violence victims and families with critical services supported 334 new clients this year and continues serving more than 200 clients from 2020. The Cherokee Nation also filed 400 cases in Cherokee Nation District Court involving domestic violence, threats of violence, kidnapping or sexual violence since March of 2021. The need is great and task force members say they look forward to helping even more.
The task force will work to assess the existing programs within the tribe’s Attorney General’s office, Marshal’s office, Health Services and Human Resources and make recommendations to improve response once abuse comes to the attention of the Cherokee Nation.
“The scourge of domestic violence affects all of us. As First Lady of the Cherokee Nation, it is important to me that Cherokee Nation lead in addressing domestic violence. We have dedicated leaders and staff across Cherokee Nation departments who care deeply about this issue. For the sake of the victims of domestic violence, it is important that we listen and that we give Cherokee Nation staff all of the resources and tools necessary to address this problem,” said January Hoskin, Cherokee Nation First Lady. “I am humbled to serve on the Task Force, and encouraged by the caliber of professionals also serving. I am confident that the Task Force can develop recommendations to make Cherokee Nation’s efforts to end domestic violence more effective.”
The task force will also work to enhance collaboration with victims and their families, law enforcement, victims’ advocates, health care professionals, investigators and prosecutors to improve prosecution outcomes.
“Our goal is to implement changes in policy that will directly correlate to an immediate and dramatic reduction in the number of domestic violence incidents occurring throughout our tribal nation and the number of domestic violence cases brought before our courts. Furthermore, our utmost priority is ensuring victims have access to and are the recipients of the resources necessary to ensure their protection and promote their healing,” said Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice Shawna Baker.
The task force will also make recommendations to reduce the occurrence of domestic violence in tribal communities and reduce the likelihood that convicted abusers will reoffend.
Community Advocates praised the Cherokee Nation for its commitment on domestic violence.
“As advocates for women and families in northeast Oklahoma, we applaud Cherokee Nation’s leadership in looking for new and better ways of dealing with and intervening in dangerous domestic violence situations within our communities,” said Kelsey Samuels, Executive Director for Community Crisis Center, with offices in Grove and Vinita. “Any time there is an opportunity to collaborate and improve the safety net inside the tribe’s reservation, that is a positive thing. We know domestic violence does not discriminate, and anyone - tribal or non-tribal - can one day find themselves in a life or death situation. That’s why it so important that we keep talking about this issue, working with the Cherokee Nation’s new task force and ONE FIRE Office and making more services readily available.”
More on the task force and executive order can be found at https://www.cherokee.org/media/otjnvxlk/2021-08-cth.pdf