TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is asking citizens who live within the tribe’s 14-county reservation to participate in a water quality study as part of the Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act signed by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. in 2021.
Under the Mankiller/Soap Water Act, at least $2 million in additional funding is being invested annually into improving access to clean water across the reservation, effectively doubling the amount Cherokee Nation spends from the tribe’s own revenues.
“Last year, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I asked the Council to support this critical legislation. They jumped on board and we are already making great strides in addressing water quality needs of Cherokee citizens across the reservation,” Chief Hoskin said. “One of the next steps is to ask citizens living within the reservation to participate in a short online survey intended to help us understand which homes are experiencing water quality issues. This feedback is an integral part of the Cherokee Nation’s ongoing effort to address barriers to clean, safe water.”
The short survey is accessible by visiting the Gadugi Portal at https://gadugiportal.cherokee.org and selecting “Applications” from the top, blue navigation bar. From the Applications page, select “Water Survey” from the list of available programs.
The survey takes approximately five minutes to complete and responses are anonymous. Participants will be asked what type of water supply they have, whether they face any water quality concerns or problems such as low water pressure, and other water- and wastewater-related questions.
“Chief Hoskin and I wanted to name this legislation in honor of the legacy of former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller and former Executive Director of Community Service Charlie Soap, who worked to create and improve water access in Cherokee communities in Adair County. They understood that access to water was critical to Cherokees, and they worked hard to make that happen 40 years ago,” said Deputy Chief Warner. “I am proud that we are refocusing our attention on bringing clean and safe water supplies to Cherokees throughout the reservation. I hope you’ll take the time to participate in this short survey.”
Along with injecting at least an additional $2 million annually into eliminating barriers to clean water access in the reservation, the Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act calls for the tribe to develop expert recommendations and help find solutions to remedy any deficiencies that negatively impact the health, safety and overall quality of life of Cherokee citizens.
The legislation requires the Cherokee Nation Department of Transportation and Infrastructure to conduct biennial studies to identify Cherokees who lack access to water systems, then develop a plan of action to provide access to each Cherokee citizen identified through the studies.
Another aspect of the legislation will identify the number of Cherokees within each county of the reservation whose access to water is limited to a well water supply, and develop long-term strategies to bring rural water access to as many Cherokee citizens as possible.
Chief Hoskin said that in addition to the Gadugi Portal survey, Cherokee Nation will engage in community-based efforts to better understand water system needs.
Funding will also support community water system projects, with the tribe prioritizing rural water systems based on infrastructure deficiencies.