Pictured L-R: Cherokee Nation Executive Director of Housing Programs Todd Enlow, Chief of Staff Dr. Corey Bunch, Deputy Secretary of State Canaan Duncan, District 3 Councilor Lisa Robison Hall, President and CEO of Federal Home Loans Bank Topeka Jeff Kuzbel, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., District 2 Councilor Candessa Tehee, Secretary of Veterans Affairs S. Joe Crittenden, District 8 Councilor Codey Poindexter, District 1 Sasha Blackfox-Qualls, Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Commissioner Tony Yates and Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Deputy Executive Director Shay Stanfill.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Leaders from the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Home Loan Bank gathered to break ground on a new community center to be located at the Sequoyah Heights Housing Addition for elder Cherokees, south of Tahlequah.

The July 9 groundbreaking marks the beginning of construction on a new facility that will provide the community with a place to hold meetings, host family activities and to learn about Cherokee culture and language.

“What has always sustained the Cherokee Nation throughout our history is that we are a Nation that starts at the grassroots level; we have built ourselves up from the grassroots,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “This new community center is going to be where our people gather, and it is an investment that will create a safe place for our elders to come together and a place for community. If we continue to create these spaces for our citizens, I am convinced that we will continue to build the Cherokee Nation up from the grassroots level, into the next century.”

The building will feature an open meeting space for residents, restrooms, a commercial kitchen and a community storm shelter. In addition to the community center, a maintenance building and park will be constructed and improvements to site drainage, sidewalks and roads will be made.

“It simply does not get better than gathering together to break ground on another community building, particularly one that will be located in a residential area for Cherokee elders,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “The Cherokee Nation is blessed to be in a position that allows us to work with friends and organizations to further our Cherokee values and create stronger communities.”

The Sequoyah Heights Community Center is primarily funded through an Indian Housing Block Grant through the American Rescue Plan Act, but was also made possible by a $500,000 grant from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka, working with sponsorship from the Chickasaw Community Bank, through the Native American Housing Initiative.

The NAHI Grants Program provides tribes and tribally designated housing entities with access to grant funds to build communities and support housing for tribal citizens in FHLB Topeka’s district. The program supports tribal organizations working at the grassroots level to identify and address tribal needs.

“FHLBank Topeka was proud to support the construction of the Sequoyah Heights Community Center with a $500,000 Native American Housing Initiatives grant,” said Jeff Kuzbel, President and CEO of FHLBank Topeka. “The NAHI grant program, now in its second year, works on a grassroots level to provide frictionless funding in partnership with our member financial institutions. We appreciated Chickasaw Community Bank’s work as a sponsor for this grant.”

Sequoyah Heights’ rental units were constructed in 2019, with 14 individual rental units located on the property where the community center will be constructed.

Resident Glenn Clarkson, who has lived in Sequoyah Heights since its opening, said there is an excitement in the neighborhood about the new community building and what it means for the residents living there.

“It is a blessing to have this community building here, it will be a place for us to fellowship with one another and share meals as well as providing us with safety during harsher weather,” Clarkson said.

Blue River Architects are overseeing the project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2025.