TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation has named Debra Proctor as Senior Director of the tribe’s innovative ONE FIRE Victim Services department, which has helped support and protect approximately 2,000 victims of domestic violence since its inception.
Proctor assumed her role as senior director on June 27.
“The issue of domestic violence is both challenging and sensitive, but as Cherokees, we must remain committed to addressing it head-on through education, conversation and victim services, and under the leadership of Senior Director Debra Proctor, our ONE FIRE Victim Services program is poised to take our preventative and supportive efforts to new levels,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Debra knows that, as Cherokees, our culture teaches us to do all we can to live in harmony and respect each other, without having to worry about living or working in fear. Under her leadership working to care for our citizens, our award-winning ONE FIRE Victim Services program will continue its mission of empowering survivors of domestic violence and providing them the crucial resources to safely rebuild their lives.”
In August of 2021, Chief Hoskin created the Task Force to Protect Women and Families and implemented new policies across Cherokee Nation government to address domestic violence and support survivors. He re-convened the task force in January of 2022 to continue the important work of the group. Chief Hoskin has also worked with the Council of the Cherokee Nation, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service on legislative changes to better address domestic violence.
“Building a comprehensive team focused solely on the important, deep-rooted issues surrounding domestic violence is a critical step in ensuring we continue to provide that blanket of protection that Chief Hoskin often talks about to protect everyone who lives in, works in or visits the Cherokee Nation Reservation,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “Supportive networks like our ONE FIRE Victim Services program will allow us to identify and prevent dangerous situations before they escalate. That proactive approach, coupled with all of the other steps we are taking as a tribal government, will help protect families and allow us all to work toward the goal of eliminating domestic violence once and for all.”
Proctor has dedicated 46 years of her career to the health care field, serving in leadership positions for Cherokee Nation as well as in grant-funded and private-sector settings. She most recently has worked in Cherokee Nation Contract Health Services, and has also been an integral part of the Cherokee Nation’s Task Force to Protect Women and Families.
“I grew up on the grounds of four Indian boarding schools, where my father, Goodlow Proctor, worked with my mother, Phyllis. The things I witnessed and experienced as a young child in my formative years, coupled with my career, have given me a deep understanding of inter-generational trauma in our Native communities and how critically important it is to stop the cycle of domestic violence in Indian Country and help people on their recovery journey,” Proctor said. “I am passionate about serving Cherokee Nation, Native American communities, and the efforts to protect women and families. I am grateful and excited to be joining the Cherokee Nation ONE FIRE Victim Services and working with the dedicated staff to continue making a difference in our communities.”
National statistics show acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds across the country and that 4 in 5 American Indians – both women and men – have experienced violence in their lifetime.
Last year, Cherokee Nation was among six tribes honored nationwide with the Harvard 2021 Honoring Nations Award, receiving high honors for its ONE FIRE Victim Services office and its work supporting and protecting victims of domestic violence.
As of May, 98 percent of the Cherokee Nation workforce had completed domestic violence training courses created by the Cherokee Nation Human Resources Department as part of Chief Hoskin’s efforts to prevent domestic violence. The tribe’s training program covered how to recognize the warning signs of domestic violence and prevent abuse of co-workers, friends and loved ones. The sessions also walked survivors through the steps they can take to get to a place of safety and seek help for themselves and their children.
Employees also received information on internal and external resources such as the regional Help-In-Crisis nonprofit organization and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Cherokee Nation’s Task Force to Protect Women and Families meets monthly and will submit a report to Chief Hoskin in October with recommendations on how to address domestic violence in the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
Chief Hoskin and the Council of the Cherokee Nation have also addressed domestic violence issues through legislation. The Cherokee Nation Domestic Violence Lethality Reporting Act of 2021, signed by Chief Hoskin and sponsored by Council members Candessa Tehee of District 2 and Deputy Speaker of the Council Victoria Vazquez of District 11, requires reports of domestic violence to include a lethality assessment to better inform the response of law enforcement, prosecutors and victim support service providers. And in January of 2022, Chief Hoskin signed legislation sponsored by Tehee, Vazquez and District 12 Councilor Dora Patzkowski strengthening the tribe’s law against domestic violence involving strangulation.
The first Task Force to Protect Women and Families initiated in 2021 also previously issued a report to Chief Hoskin calling for measures to further improve the tribe’s response to domestic violence with recommendations ranging from better training for tribal employees, to an increase in staffing and other resources to serve victims. The report also recommended grass roots and cultural engagement with Cherokee community leaders to raise awareness about domestic violence.