Osyio. I would like to thank all the Cherokee Nation citizens who participated in the recent election and look forward to serving the Cherokee people for another four years. To those voters, I say wado. Whether you supported me or not, you expressed your voice and participated in our democratic process, which is critical to our future success. I thank God, my family, my friend Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and our supporters for the opportunity to serve another term.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker
The election is over and we can now focus our attention on what truly matters, the Cherokee people. We can continue the progress we’ve made the last four years for the Cherokee Nation. We have multiple projects in motion that will be game changing endeavors for our future. Over the next four years, we will continue to focus on building a brighter future for all Cherokees.
The most important issue for our future, bar none, is access to quality health care. Four years ago, people agreed our tribal health care was at a crisis point so we invested $100 million dollars from casino profits into health care expansion and improvements. Our record-breaking gaming profits should be utilized to benefit Cherokee citizens. That is the reason we pursued gaming in the first place 25 years ago.
We’ve built new clinics in Jay and Ochelata, expanded health centers in Stilwell and Sallisaw, and will soon break ground on a 450,000 square foot facility at the W.W. Hastings health campus in Tahlequah. That new space will provide space for 1,200 new employees that will in turn, provide quality care for our people.
Once the facility is built, we can launch our own medical school, where we will partner with Oklahoma State University to provide hands-on education at our own facility. Growing our own health care providers is critical for our future wellness. We will be able to educate and train health care professionals that will one day staff our clinics and new hospital.
Other projects include the implementation of statewide hunting and fishing licenses for all Cherokee citizens, the major renovation and facelift of the tribal complex, a project that has been ignored for almost 40 years, and the refurbishing of our historic Cherokee capital building in downtown Tahlequah, our tribe’s most iconic structure.
We will keep advancing job development and driving the economy of northeast Oklahoma. We have a talented staff that is adept at securing federal grants to create jobs, programs and services for the Cherokee people. Additionally, increased diversification of our Cherokee Nation Businesses efforts around the 14 counties will continue to create cash flow for our tribe and increase self-sufficiency for our citizens.
We want to convince even more Cherokee Nation children that a college education is possible with our tribal scholarships. No child who applied and was qualified last year was turned down. We supported almost 4,000 Cherokees in college and we can do even more in the future. That record number of scholarships honors our ancestors’ deep commitment to education.
We want more Cherokees to enjoy the American dream of homeownership, and put our Cherokee trades people to work building these homes. We’ve had hundreds of folks take advantage of our housing program and thousands of Cherokees employed building those homes, including cement finishers, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers and plumbers.
Over the next four years, we will keep up that momentum and continue building on this successful foundation.
We will continue looking for partnerships that create opportunities for our people, like the Macy’s expansion in Owasso that is creating thousands of good jobs for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike.
I look forward to announcing updates and more exciting news during the Cherokee National Holiday State of the Nation. I cordially invite you all to join us for this annual event on Labor Day weekend.
Bill John Baker is principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Last month he was elected to his second term as principal chief.