Education Services

Early Childhood Unit

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Early Childhood Unit is to bring about a greater degree of social competence in children who may be disadvantaged.

The ECU’s approach is based on the philosophy that a child can benefit most from a comprehensive, interdisciplinary program to foster development and remedy problems through the involvement of the child’s entire family as well as the community.


Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit offers two options: Head Start, a classroom environment promoting early childhood development stages; and Early Head Start, serving children aged 6 weeks to three years old.

Head Start serves children age three to five at centers in these areas: Brushy, Hulbert, Inola, Kenwood, Stilwell, Pryor, Rocky Mountain, Salina, Shady Grove, Tahlequah, Webbers Falls, and Zion.

Early Head Start serves children age six weeks to three years at centers in these areas: Tahlequah, Cherry Tree, Jay, Pryor, Stilwell, Salina, and Nowata.

Tribal and Federal Funds for FY 2020:


  • $629,724 from the Tribal Council Head Start Act.
  • $31,267 from the Motor Vehicle Tax.


  • $9,283,589 DHHS Head Start Grant.
  • $43,626 DOI Self-Governance funds.

Total Tribal Funds FY 2020: $660,991
Total Federal Funds FY 2020: $9,327,215

Program Information Report  

Funded Enrollment: Head Start 680, Early Head Start 200.
Average Monthly enrollment: 95%-100%.
Families Served by: Head Start, 712; Early Head Start, 258.

Head Start: 44% of children served are income or categorically eligible.
Early Head Start: 71% of children served are income or categorically eligible.

Head Start: 94% of children received medical screenings.
Early Head Start: 91% of children received medical screenings.
Head Start dental screenings: 90% of children received exam.

Head Start
Early Head Start
Income Eligibility 2020/2021

Family Size


















For each additional family member add $4,480 to the amount shown above.


Eligibility Requirements

  • A Cherokee Nation citizenship card or citizenship card from any other federally recognized tribe.
  • Within 14 county Jurisdictional area
  • Income Guidelines

Additional Requirements

  • Age Verification Record: Birth Card, Birth Certificate.
  • Immunization Record
  • Income Verification in the form of documents including: W-2; 1040 tax form; recent pay stub; employer's letter; TANF letter or SSI documents.

Applications are screened and prioritized for enrollment opportunities. All children accepted for enrollment must submit a completed physical and dental upon entry into the program. If an application is on file, please contact the office to ensure the most current address and phone number are listed.


  • CNECU Annual Report
    This document is a general profile of current Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit operations.
  • Eligibility Enrollment Criteria List
    Early Childhood Unit eligibility enrollment criteria list for 2021-2022.
  • Enrollment Application
    Early Childhood Unit intake applications for 2021.