Millions Invested in Our Communities Generate Priceless Returns

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

Guest Commentary

The Cherokee Nation covers all or part of 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma. That’s more than 7,000 square miles, with Cherokee communities dotting the landscape. Basic infrastructure like roads, bridges, waterlines and sanitation systems are what keep those communities going.

As important as those basic civic amenities are, we often take them for granted until something goes wrong. In other instances, we may never realize how deficient our infrastructure is until it undergoes a major improvement.

Here at the Cherokee Nation we never take for granted how important basic infrastructure is. We show that concern for our communities regularly, and this month has been a shining example of that commitment. In July alone, we invested a whopping $5.8 million into local communities for roads, bridges, water lines, sanitation projects and law enforcement. That nearly $6 million in projects will be felt by countless families spread across Adair, Delaware, Cherokee, Mayes, Muskogee and Sequoyah counties.

Here is a quick snapshot of all the projects we either completed or pledged to fund this month. Many have been cooperative agreements, where we provide the funding and the local entity supplies the labor.

* $2.8 million – Road improvements for Nicut Road in Adair and Sequoyah counties

* $349,000 – Waterline from Kansas to Colcord in Delaware County

* $900,000 – Locust Grove water treatment plant in Mayes County

* $60,000 – Three Cherokee County law enforcement agencies (Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department, Tahlequah Police Department, Hulbert Police Department)

* $1.5 million – Bridge near Adair in Mayes County

* $190,000 – Waterline extension near Two Mile Road in Muskogee County

In previous months this year, we’ve completed projects in other Cherokee Nation counties as well, such as Rogers, Nowata, Craig and Washington. These are basic civic amenities that everyone in the community uses, whether they’re Cherokee or not. When we lay a new waterline, help upgrade a city sanitation system or build a new road or bridge, we don’t require everyone using those services to be Cherokee. That’s because we are good community partners. When the Cherokee Nation does well, so does all of Oklahoma.

We know many of these small communities struggle with basic needs, so stepping up as a good partner is the right thing to do.

After signing the agreement to upgrade Locust Grove’s sanitation and water treatment system, the mayor said to me, “I don’t know how any of these communities get by without the help of the Cherokee Nation.” That sort of gratitude warms my heart and lets me know that what we’re doing is changing lives.

I look forward to growing these types of partnerships and helping the relationships continue to flourish. Working together to bring about positive results for all and leading by example are what will help the Cherokee Nation, and all of Oklahoma, prosper for many, many years to come.

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

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