Executive Branch

Principal Chief

The Principal Chief executes the laws of the Cherokee Nation and conducts all communications and business of the Cherokee Nation. The position is popularly elected by the citizens of the Cherokee Nation and may serve up to two consecutive four-year terms.


Bill John Baker is the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest sovereign tribal government in the United States. Raised in Cherokee County, he is the fourth generation of his family born in Tahlequah, the tribe’s capital city. He has devoted much of his life in service to the Cherokee people, having spent 12 years as a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council before being elected Principal Chief in October 2011 and re-elected in July 2015. As a member of the Tribal Council, Chief Baker worked tirelessly to improve education, health care and job creation throughout the Cherokee Nation.

During his tenure as Principal Chief, he has made a commitment to homes, health, and hope for Cherokee people. Under his leadership, new home construction resumed for the first time in a decade, and now almost 700 new homes have been built for Cherokee Nation citizens. He also advocated for a $100 million allocation from Cherokee Nation Businesses’ casino profits, which was directly invested to expand the tribe’s health care system.

In 2019, Cherokee Nation will open a new, 469,000-square-foot health care facility at the W.W. Hastings Health Campus in Tahlequah. It will be the largest tribal health center in the country. The Cherokee Nation has also expanded and built new health centers across the 14-county tribal jurisdiction, which means no Cherokee has to drive more than 30 miles for quality health care. The OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine will soon open a campus in Tahlequah, the first medical school on tribal land in the nation.

Over the past eight years, more academic scholarships have been awarded than ever before, and every eligible applicant who applied was awarded a Cherokee Nation academic scholarship last year. As Principal Chief, he authored an executive order to raise the tribe’s minimum wage, created family leave for Cherokee foster parents and established the tribe’s maternity leave program for expectant mothers.

Chief Baker secured a historic hunting and fishing compact with the state of Oklahoma, and he negotiated an expanded car tag compact for Cherokee Nation citizens statewide. The sale of Cherokee Nation car tags provides more than $5 million annually for public education in northeast Oklahoma.  

With more than 370,000 tribal citizens and more than 11,000 employees, Cherokee Nation and CNB remain among the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma and have an annual economic impact in Oklahoma of more than $2 billion. Today, more Cherokees work for the tribe and its businesses than at any time in history. 

Chief Baker is a graduate of Tahlequah High School and Northeastern State University. He earned degrees in political science and history. He has also been a small business owner for more than 40 years. Chief Baker resides in Tahlequah with his wife, Sherry (Robertson) Baker. They have been blessed with six children and are the proud grandparents of 14 grandchildren and one great-grandson.