BAKERSFIELD, Calif. – The Cherokee Nation held its first at-large community gatherings since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, meeting with hundreds of Cherokee citizens in Northern California during visits to Bakersfield, Fresno and Napa April 22-24.
More than 700 total Cherokee citizens participated in the three meetings along with Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., First Lady January Hoskin, at-large members of the Council of the Cherokee Nation Julia Coates and Johnny Kidwell, Jr. Miss Cherokee Leah Gardner, and representatives of a number of Cherokee Nation departments.
“Of more than 413,000 Cherokee citizens around the world, there are well over 23,000 Cherokee Nation citizens living in the state of California,” Chief Hoskin said. “It only makes sense that after more than two years of responding to and recovering from the worst public health crisis this generation has seen, we begin our cautious return to in-person fellowship with our friends and family in northern California. We had a great time catching up and sharing the amazing progress we are making in areas such as physical and mental health care, education, language perpetuation, at-large community outreach and many other matters that are important to Cherokees all over the world – not the least of which is defending our inherent sovereignty as a tribal nation. I look forward to visiting with many of our other Cherokee community groups around the country as public health guidance allows this year.”
Participating community groups included Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley, Cherokee Society of the Greater Bay Area, Cherokees of the Greater Central Valley, and Cherokee Community of Central California.
Speaking to Cherokee citizens at all three meetings, Councilor Coates thanked the Cherokee Nation Language Department for working to find new ways to connect at-large citizens to Cherokee language lessons, including new initiatives currently in the planning stages. She also highlighted the tribe’s efforts to secure federal COVID-19 relief funds to help the Cherokee Nation and its citizens recover from the pandemic during the past two years.
“We have been living through some really critical things, both good and bad, and I am really, really grateful for the strong leadership that we have had during the McGirt decision -- ramping up to take on all of that -- but also during this pandemic for the last two years,” said Councilor Coates. “That’s been a monumental thing to safeguard the employees of the Cherokee Nation, employees of Cherokee Nation Businesses, as well as the Cherokees in our communities. The Cherokee Nation’s efforts under Chief Hoskin have been really, really strong. We all grieve the losses of our Cherokee speakers and elders due to COVID-19, but we are all very, very grateful that it wasn’t worse, as it was for so many other tribes.”
Councilor Kidwell reported that the Council of the Cherokee Nation continues to collaborate with Chief Hoskin’s administration to find more ways to serve at-large citizens and keep them connected with the tribe’s shared language, culture and traditions. He highlighted recent legislation expanding the Cherokee Nation Health Services hearing aid program to at-large citizens living in the United States as an example of expanding services.
He also spoke to Cherokee veterans, encouraging them to connect with the tribe by registering as a veteran in the Cherokee Nation Gadugi Portal system’s Warrior Database.
“We need all veterans to register in the Warrior Database. We revere our warriors, and we want you to know that there are things going on in the Cherokee Nation that impact veterans living inside the Cherokee Nation Reservation as well as those living at-large,” said Councilor Kidwell. “As a veteran myself, I’m signed up in the Warrior Database and I wouldn’t ask you to do anything that I would not do. So, please take a moment to sign up. It’s important that we know where our veterans live and how we can directly connect with them with information and programs specifically for our Warriors.”
During the Cherokee Nation’s at-large community meetings, citizens not only receive tribal updates from elected representatives but also have an opportunity to register to vote in Cherokee Nation elections, learn traditional games and crafts, and meet Cherokee National Treasures who showcase their knowledge and skills of traditional Cherokee practices and provide entertainment for those attending.
Updates regarding future at-large gatherings will be made through the official Cherokee Nation Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/TheCherokeeNation. The tentative dates for future upcoming at-large gatherings include the following:
- June 4 – Atlanta, Georgia
- July 16 – Albuquerque, New Mexico
- July 17 – Denver, Colorado
- August 20 – Portland and Eugene, Oregon
- August 21 – Seattle, Washington
- August 23 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- September 17 – Austin/San Antonio, Texas
- September 18 – Houston, Texas
- October 15 – Riverside, Anaheim, Los Angeles, California
- October 16 – San Diego, California
- November 19 – Phoenix, Arizona
- November 20 – Tucson, Arizona