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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation, a leading employer in northeastern Oklahoma, is now providing all of its government employees with a total of two hours of paid mental wellness leave each month.

Top leadership at the Cherokee Nation recognize that the Covid-19 pandemic has added stress and barriers in the lives of its employees. So, on Tuesday Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner signed an executive order that adds the two hours paid for mental wellness.

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“Cherokee Nation employees and citizens have faced unique barriers and hardships throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees in all Cherokee Nation departments have taken on additional tasks that have focused on the mitigation of the Covid-19 virus, providing additional services, health care and other life-sustaining resources to our elders and families that go far and above their typical work load,” Chief Hoskin said.

The new benefit allows employees to use the two hours at their discretion each month. The mental wellness leave is intended to provide employees with opportunities for personal growth outside of the workplace, including additional family time, health and wellness activities, therapy or counseling appointments, or other activities focused on improving morale and mental wellness.

“Often with limited staffing to ensure office safety, employees have delivered traditional services and also served more than 10 times the number of citizens with Covid-19 individual assistance over the last year,” Hoskin said. “Our employees have been instrumental in helping citizens who experienced the loss of family members and friends, the loss of income, the loss of a residence and so much more. At the same time, many of these employees were experiencing similar personal circumstances. I believe providing our employees with time to care for their own mental wellness is vitally important to the health and wellness of the Cherokee Nation as a whole.”

Hoskin also announced on Tuesday plans to construct walking trails and other outdoor spaces at a number of Cherokee Nation facilities throughout the tribe’s reservation, which will offer employees and citizens an opportunity to improve their mental and physical wellness.

The executive order was signed into effect Tuesday morning.

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