TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner are proposing new legislation to authorize Gadugi Corps, a new volunteer and national service program empowering citizens to improve their communities.

The proposed Gadugi Corps Volunteer and National Service Act of 2023 would authorize up to $3 million annually over four years for the program. Gadugi Corps participants would focus on the following priority areas:

  • Supplemental education programs for Cherokee communities and public school districts with academic deficiencies
  • Community-based volunteer and service projects, partnering with non-profit organizations
  • Youth mentorship
  • Community disaster and emergency response
  • Volunteer and service opportunities for Cherokee citizens living outside the Cherokee Nation Reservation

“Cherokee Nation’s strength has always been at the grassroots,” said Chief Hoskin. “Gadugi, the Cherokee word for ‘working together,’ has always been our central organizing principle and it informs everything we do at Cherokee Nation. Gadugi Corps can harness the spirit of service and volunteerism that is in the heart of every Cherokee.”

By executive order in August, Chief Hoskin established a task force to identify opportunities to increase volunteer and national service opportunities for Cherokee Nation citizens. In his September State of the Nation Address, Chief Hoskin identified Gadugi Corps as a major initiative of his and Deputy Chief Warner’s second term.

Led by former Councilman Shawn Crittenden and Deputy Secretary of State Canaan Duncan, the Gadugi Corps Task Force issued a report in October, laying out an ambitious plan to empower Cherokee citizens and community organizations at the grassroots to focus on local problem solving and community support, plans embraced in the proposed legislation.

Members of the Gadugi Corps Task Force also included cultural advisor Dawni Squirrel, Freedmen Community Liaison Melissa Payne, Chief of Staff Corey Bunch, Language Department employee Kristen Thomas and Education Department employee Shelly Dreadfulwater.

“Gadugi Corps puts structure and resources behind what many Cherokees do every day and what many more are willing to do if they have the support they deserve,” said Deputy Chief Warner.

Crittenden, now a Deputy Executive Director in the tribe’s education department, will oversee Gadugi Corps.

“This is an exciting new program full of possibilities,” said Crittenden. “Obviously when we start any new program it will take a while to reach our full potential, but I expect in year one we can achieve success and build on our success year after year and continue to help our communities through service and volunteerism.”

The proposed law would provide funding for paid national service as well as support for volunteers.

Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner’s proposal calls for the program to sunset at the end of the 2027 fiscal year, with an opportunity for the Council to reauthorize the program.

One of the legislation’s lead sponsors, Councilor Johnny Jack Kidwell, expressed optimism that the Council will approve it at the December 11 Rules Committee meeting and at the regular full Council meeting scheduled for later that evening.

“The Gadugi Corp legislation includes the types of ideas and initiatives the Council has consistently supported over the years but does so on a larger scale with specific priorities and opportunities for Cherokees on the reservation and at-large to participate,” Councilor Kidwell said.