Cherokee Nation Principal Chief calls for more transparency in government


Cherokee Nation Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden congratulates Sequoyah students Lisan Tiger-Blair and Sharon Stanley after Principal Chief Bill John Baker presented each with a certificate for placing second and third respectively in the Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare art contest. Contest winner Baylee Herrin is not pictured.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. —  Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker opened the May Tribal Council meeting by calling for more transparency and strengthening of the Cherokee Nation’s Freedom of Information Act. A Tribal Council work group is currently reviewing changes to the law.

“In my time on the Tribal Council, I voted three times to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act. Only four months into my tenure as Principal Chief, I had the privilege of signing into law even more protections for FOIA,” Baker said. “The Cherokee Nation has always been a beacon of progress among all tribal nations, and we should continue to be a leader in all areas, including transparency.  I recommend that the work group consider changes to the law, which only strengthen and increase our transparency.”

The council’s work group will study the legislation over the next two weeks. The group will share its findings at the Tribal Council rules committee meeting on May 28.

The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council also passed a resolution Monday to provide equal per capita funding to all eligible Johnson-O’Malley students at all public schools within the tribe’s jurisdiction.

The resolution adds three new schools to the Cherokee Nation Education Services’ JOM funding list, which will serve more than 250 additional students in the 2015 fiscal year. Lowrey Public School, Shady Grove Public School and Mosley Public School were added to the list. All previously did not receive JOM funding for eligible Native American students.

“The Cherokee Nation must guarantee all of our students are given equal opportunity to succeed,” said Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick, chair of the education and cultural committee. “Creating equal per capita funding for all JOM students within the Cherokee Nation gives each student access to educational programs that will only enhance their learning capabilities and open more doors that lead to successful lives.”

The JOM program aids the educational development of Native American students attending public and some tribal schools through the use of supplemental education programs. Schools use JOM funds for programs such as tutoring, preschool programs, gifted programs, summer school classes, cultural enrichment, field trips, transportation and school supplies.

“Today we are making critical investments in the next generation of Cherokee leaders. Successful JOM programs in our service area not only ensure all Cherokee children receive the educational tools they need to succeed, like books, fees and equipment, but they also incorporate our tribal heritage and culture in the local education curriculum,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We have a responsibility to keep pushing for greater successes and raising the bar for our JOM programs. With those increased opportunities comes hope for a brighter future for our youth.”

In health care news, the council approved a capital budget modification redirecting $3.3 million from the Tribal Council House building fund and $2.7 million health carry over funds to Cherokee Nation Health Services for new health equipment and supplies at tribal health centers. The $6 million worth of equipment and supplies will go inside the four new health centers currently under construction and the new Cherokee Nation hospital, slated for construction later this year.

In other business, the legislative body passed the following:

Resolution authorizing a grant application for youth shelter services to the U.S. Family and Youth Services Bureau in the amount of $83,333 to supplement the emergency shelter operations and supportive services of the John A. Ketcher Youth Services Center.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Tribal Council recognized Cherokee citizen and former Remember the Removal bike rider LaTasha Atcity, of Tahlequah, for being crowned Miss NSU. Atcity competes for the Miss Oklahoma crown next month in Tulsa.

A trio of Sequoyah High School students and their art teacher, Brandy Adair, were also recognized for placing in Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare’s Foster Care Awareness Month art contest. Baylee Herrin, Lisan Tiger-Blair and Sharon Stanley placed first, second and third, respectively, and received prize money from Principal Chief Bill John Baker. The contest theme was “Their Tribe-Their Home-Our Future.”

The next Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., June 16, at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah.
Cherokee Nation News Release
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