As Chief of the Cherokee Nation, I am proud of the progress we are making for our citizens and for all of Oklahoma. One critical way we share our accomplishments with state lawmakers is the Cherokee Nation Legislative Day at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker
It’s an annual opportunity to educate our policymakers about the issues we care about and the multitude of programs Cherokee Nation provides in northeast Oklahoma. This year, the Capitol rotunda was filled with Cherokee Nation staff, cultural presentations and information booths.
We met with Oklahoma Secretary of State Chris Benge, a Cherokee Nation citizen; Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, a Muscogee Creek Nation citizen; and House Speaker Jeff Hickman. I joined Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and our Cherokee youth ambassadors on both the Senate and House of Representatives floors to address our lawmakers.
The Cherokee Nation has an incredible story to tell:
- Over the past year, the Cherokee Nation made substantial investments in its housing program for Cherokee families, increased minimum wage and extended maternity leave for our employees.
- The Cherokee Nation’s car tag compact expanded statewide, and that means the tribe is making even more quality investments in education for our youth.
- We have more Cherokee students who have earned higher education scholarships than at any time in our history.
- We are employing more Cherokees than at any time in our history.
- The Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses have a $1.3 billion economic impact in Oklahoma.
Many lawmakers outside of our jurisdiction aren’t aware of all our achievements. Cherokee Nation Legislative Day is also an opportunity to advocate for issues that affect our people and Native people statewide. That’s why this year we championed increased access to health care for Native Americans and supported legislation to better monitor prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma.
In keeping with the health care theme, W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail and Salina’s A-Mo Health Center Medical Director Dr. Brett Gray served the State Capitol as Nurse of the Day and Doctor of the Day, respectively, during Cherokee Nation Legislative Day. I was so proud to see them both honored for their service.
During my one-on-one meetings with state leaders, I told them quite simply, the success of the Cherokee Nation means a stronger Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation provides prosperity and jobs in our communities and counties within the tribe’s boundaries, and all across this great state. As a tribal government, we are a great partner to the state government. Together, we can ensure Oklahoma remains the best place to live, work and raise a family.
Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma.