Chief Baker says Cherokee Nation ‘not just surviving, but thriving’


Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker says the tribe is thriving 175 years after the Trail of Tears during his State of the Nation address Saturday.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Principal Chief Bill John Baker gave a powerful State of the Nation address Saturday with a key message that 175 years after Cherokees walked the Trail of Tears, the Cherokee Nation is not just surviving in northeastern Oklahoma, but thriving.

Chief Baker told a crowd gathered on the Cherokee National Courthouse lawn that the iconic red brick building is a symbol of the strong spirit living within the Cherokee Nation. It was built by ancestors who had just experienced one of the worst tragedies in American history.

“It was 175 years ago, we arrived here in eastern Oklahoma and began our greatest chapter – building the largest, most advanced tribal government in the United States,” Chief Baker said. “Our ancestors were pulled from their homes in the east, forced into stockades and marched here to Indian Territory by a federal government that tried to brutally extinguish us. But in 1839, right here in Tahlequah, we reconstituted our government and we rebuilt our schools. We rebuilt our courts and recreated the commercial success we had in the southeast.”

“We are prospering like at no other point in our history,” Chief Baker added.

Chief Baker highlighted the investments the Cherokee Nation is making to benefit the Cherokee people, such as building new homes, expanding health centers and services, and increasing hope through job creation.

Mandy Adair, a retail clerk in Tahlequah, and her son became homeowners through the tribe’s New Home Construction Program. Since 2012, nearly 300 homes are lived in or under construction.

More Cherokees this year are also working for the tribe. Eighty percent of the more than 9,000 Cherokee Nation employees are Cherokee Nation citizens.

“All of these successes are what help us to have a $1.3 billion economic impact on this state,” Chief Baker said during his speech. “And never before in the history of the Cherokee Nation has there been such an emphasis on health care.”

Four Cherokee Nation Health Centers, in Ochelata, Stilwell, Sallisaw and Jay, are currently under construction.

During the 62nd Cherokee National Holiday State of the Nation address, the Chief’s cabinet also gave updates on the tribe’s strong finances, statewide car tag expansion, and $29.5 million court settlement that will benefit Cherokees by purchasing new medical equipment and providing new service in tribal health centers.

“I believe our ancestors would be proud of where we have been, the progress we are making today and where we are going,” Chief Baker said. “Sovereignty has always been our most precious and treasured possession, and we carried it with us to Indian Territory 175 years ago. That’s when the last of our ancestors arrived and established our modern-day Cherokee Nation, which still stands strong today.”

For 62nd Annual Cherokee National Holiday photos, video and speech visit

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