Cherokee Nation Angel Project Makes the Holidays Brighter & Better for Children in Need

(L to R) Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare employees Brandy Lemley, Sally Wilson and Howard Paden hang angels on the tree, which contain children’s ages and gift wish ideas.

(L to R) Cherokee Nation Indian Child Welfare employees Brandy Lemley, Sally Wilson and Howard Paden hang angels on the tree, which contain children’s ages and gift wish ideas.

Guest Commentary


Every child deserves the joy of a bountiful Christmas morning and the experience of tearing open a neatly wrapped gift selected specifically for them. As a father and grandfather, it’s something I never grow tired of watching.

We are blessed at the Cherokee Nation to have a wonderful program in place for our Cherokee children, ensuring them that magical feeling on Christmas morning. This year the Cherokee Nation’s Angel Project will serve thousands of our most in-need children, allowing them the special feeling of knowing there is a gift under the Christmas tree for them this holiday season.

The angel program began back in the early 1990s and continues to grow each year. It serves Cherokee children 16 years old or younger who reside within the 14-county tribal jurisdiction. Last Christmas, more than 2,000 Cherokee children were provided for. These are kids who may not otherwise have anything to celebrate on Christmas morning.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Principal Chief Bill John Baker

The angel tree sits in the lobby of the main tribal complex in Tahlequah, and the angels hanging on it represent children in our communities. Each ornament contains the child’s information and his or her Christmas wish list. The children’s needs range from necessities, like socks, underwear and coats, to the not-so-necessary but oh-so-fun toys and games the little ones enjoy so much. No matter the gift, we know with your help we will create a happy holiday memory that will last these children a lifetime.

I encourage all of you to find it in your heart to adopt a Cherokee angel, or even two or three if you have the means. If you can attend, we invite you to our Cherokee Nation Angel Project kickoff ceremony on Nov. 24 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. It will take place at 4 p.m. in the main lobby.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our generous employees for their participation in the program. Each year, I’m amazed at how they pull together to adopt as many angels as they possibly can. The generosity in their actions is proof that it truly is better to give than to receive. And for the employees who run the Angel Project, it is a massive undertaking. They administer the program every year, during one of the busiest times for families, while still keeping up with their regular job duties.

The Angel Project is run completely on donations and with the assistance of the community, but it also draws interest from all over the country. People all over the United States hear about it and send donations, since they can’t pick up an angel in person.

As Christmas draws closer, every wish of every angel will eventually be fulfilled, and no child is turned away or left out in the cold. That’s where my office, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and Cherokee Nation Businesses come in. If any angels are left on the tree, we see to it that each one is covered.

CNB has been beyond generous, donating thousands upon thousands of dollars each year to make sure the remaining wishes are fulfilled, and I thank them for their continued contributions.

To adopt an angel, visit the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, 17675 S. Muskogee Ave., Tahlequah, or contact Rachel Fore at 918-453-5000 ext. 6919, or Additionally, if you want to make a financial donation to the Cherokee Nation Angel Project, please visit, scroll to the bottom and click on “Giving to the Cherokee Nation.”

We wish each and every one of you a happy upcoming holiday season and hope to see you at our kickoff Nov. 24 at 4 p.m.


Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

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