During this time of year, let’s keep in mind those Cherokee children who need a loving, nurturing home. I hope strong Cherokee citizens and families can find a place in their hearts and their homes this Christmas season for some beautiful Cherokee children who badly need a long-term solution.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker
We are in dire need of Cherokee families willing to be adoptive or foster families. Currently, the tribe’s Indian Child Welfare office is working to place nearly 1,500 Cherokee children. In the past year, the number of adoptive homes increased slightly, but we still need people to adopt sibling groups and children over the age of 3.
In ancient Cherokee times, adoption or fostering was somewhat unnecessary because the children were raised within their clan. Even through our removal with so many children “orphaned” on the Trail of Tears, they belonged to the tribe and tribal people took responsibility for them. Sadly, through modern federal policy, where Indian children were shuffled away from Indian families, we have gotten away from our traditional ways.
My good friend Sally Wilson, who works in the Cherokee Nation ICW office, relayed to me a moving story of her first Christmas with her two adopted children. She meticulously created a picture-perfect Christmas for them: perfect gifts, Christmas carols, train rides and holiday lights. The children created wonderful holiday memories, and they experienced a Christmas like never before. But Sally never expected the blessings she felt as a new adoptive mother. Her daughter and son tremendously enjoyed the gifts, but the sense of family is what truly touched her heart and made their lives more full than any gift that Christmas morning.
Children need to feel like they belong, and we as adults long to be needed.
Giving of yourself and your home will be returned a hundredfold in the joys and love you receive from providing a stable home for a child. Although Christmas is the season of giving, providing a loving home for children also makes it a season of receiving.
We have a cultural value, i-ga-tse-li-ga, which means “we belong to one another.” Through a Cherokee child’s eyes, this tribe and our future belong to them. These kids are our most precious resource. They are our legacy as a tribe.
You can make a lifelong difference in the life of a child. Each of us is only one person in the world, but we can be the world to a Cherokee child.
I encourage you to visit www.cherokeekids.org to be part of the solution.
Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.