Cherokee Nation spurs growth in Ochelata


(L to R) Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay and Ochelata Mayor Sydney Barnes stand in front of the new $9 million Cooweescoowee Health Center being built in Ochelata.

OCHELATA, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is helping breathe new life into the small town of Ochelata in Washington County, where Main Street is now repaved, city water is clearer, and a $9 million health center is bringing new jobs.

In the past year, the Cherokee Nation has invested nearly $9.5 million to improve the quality of life in Ochelata, a town of about 500 people just south of Bartlesville.

“Ochelata is a great success story. It’s a small community on the rise, and it's wonderful to see it doing so well," said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. "With the leadership of a visionary mayor, who is a Cherokee citizen, along with the tribe’s partnerships on important infrastructure and health care investments, the town of Ochelata is poised to thrive for a long time. That kind of growth can only happen when everyone in the community is working together toward a common goal."

Projects funded by the Cherokee Nation include the $9 million Cooweescoowee Health Center and an $84,500 road project on Main Street. The Cherokee Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians and Town of Ochelata also signed an agreement earlier this summer to develop a new $1.67 million wastewater treatment plant that will serve 66 tribal and 141 non-tribal homes in the town of Ochelata.

With the help of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, the Cherokee Nation secured $395,000 from Indian Health Service. Another $7,000 in tribal funds will be used to build the new wastewater treatment plant. The town of Ochelata will cover the remaining project costs.

The 28,000-square-foot health center will replace an existing 5,000-square-foot Cherokee Nation Bartlesville Health Center. It is projected to open in early 2015. Ochelata Mayor Sydney Barnes, a Cherokee citizen, expects the new health center to further grow the town’s economy.

“The Cherokee Nation health center is a huge deal for the town of Ochelata because it will not only provide quality health care, but bring major traffic and economic growth to our small town,” said Barnes. “Partnering with the tribe on the wastewater plant, road project and health center gives an economic boost to a small community that lacks the resources of larger communities. Our partnership with the Cherokee Nation has opened up numerous doors for continued economic growth here in Ochelata.”

A portion of Main Street that leads to the newly restored Caney Valley Elementary School was widened and repaved. The highly traveled road had been in disrepair, but through tribal funding, quality road conditions now exist for Ochelata citizens and Caney Valley Public School buses. The Caney Valley schoolhouse was built in the 1930s as a Work Progress Administration project. Citizens of the Caney Valley School District passed a $5.4 million bond issue that restored the historic building.

"The relationships of the Cherokee Nation with our citizens and our communities in the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction are strong. The roads we fund and the community water and wastewater improvement projects we fund are greatly needed and appreciated by tribal citizens and by the communities we serve,” said Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, who lives in Ochelata. “The work we are doing in the Ochelata community has been warmly received by the community, and the city council has done everything they can to welcome the Cooweescoowee Health Center into the community and to fast track our efforts."

For more information on Cherokee Nation Health Services, engineering program or roads program, visit

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