Tahlequah, Okla. — Cherokee Nation employees can now contribute to college scholarships through the Cherokee Nation Foundation by choosing to withhold specified amounts from their paycheck.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. signed an executive order Monday encouraging support for the Cherokee Nation Foundation and other charitable causes through Cherokee Nation employee payroll deductions.

“The Cherokee people are, by nature and throughout our history, compassionate with a willingness and desire to help their friends and neighbors,” Chief Hoskin said. “Cherokee Nation’s workforce demonstrates this spirit of compassion and charity on a regular basis but our tribal government has lacked a convenient way for employees to contribute to worthy charities through payroll deductions until now.”

The tribal government has 4,300 employees and includes elected officials.

Sara Ryals, of Tahlequah, will graduate Northeastern State University in May with her master’s in nonprofit organization leadership. She receives a $2,500 per semester scholarship from the Cherokee Nation Foundation on top of her Cherokee Nation scholarship.

“Personally, the Cherokee Nation Foundation Scholarship helped me get through college because at one point I was working three jobs,” Ryals said. “I think the employee contributions is an amazing idea and can help so many Cherokee students that employees may not even realize how many need help.”

The Cherokee Nation Foundation non-profit provides education opportunities to Cherokee students. CNF served more than 5,000 students in 2020-21 with a variety of programs and awarded nearly $228,000 to high school and university students through private, tribal and institutionally based scholarships and endowments.

During COVID-19, new challenges emerged such as taking programming virtual and finding new ways to help students navigate that, while the foundation provided more programs and reached more students than ever before, said Janice Randall, executive director of the Cherokee Nation Foundation.

“The mission of the Cherokee Nation Foundation is to help Cherokee youth reach their full potential, and this executive order is an innovative way to help us reach ours as well,” Randall said. “We’re thankful to Chief Hoskin, Deputy Chief Warner and the Council of the Cherokee Nation for the opportunity to raise awareness about Cherokee Nation Foundation, and for the selfless contributions of Cherokee Nation employees who choose to support the educational dreams of their fellow Cherokee. By giving even one dollar per paycheck, their contribution will help support financial literacy efforts, college and job readiness, ACT Prep, and scholarship opportunities.”

The employee contributions to the non-profit can be any amount. It can also be a tax deduction, with the payroll deduction process able to assist employees with record keeping of the donations.  

“Employees who wish to contribute just a quarter each paycheck or make larger contributions can really make a meaningful impact in the lives of our citizens and we hope this can help generate thousands more dollars each year to such a worthy cause,” Deputy Chief Warner said.

The executive order calls for a February 28 implementation for the employee deduction system in place. By June 1, other recommendations for other charities to be added will be made to administration.

The executive order was signed Monday surrounded by tribal leaders, Cherokee Nation Foundation staff and students currently helped through college on the CNF scholarships.

The public can also donate to the CNF by visiting https://www.cherokeenationfoundation.org and clicking on “donate” at the top right of the page.