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Cherokee minds can change the world. That’s been true throughout our history, and it’s just as true today. We could not have survived and thrived as a people without the willingness to pursue knowledge, adapt to new ideas, and use them to benefit all of us.

That tradition has been bolstered by the Comprehensive Cherokee Nation Education Act of 2024 – a historic expansion of Cherokee Nation’s longstanding commitment to higher education. Its unanimous approval by the Council of the Cherokee Nation reflects the deeply engrained values of the Cherokee people. I am especially excited for how this law creates new ways for Cherokee students to give back through service projects and cultural learning.

A key highlight of the act is the infusion of $95,000 into merit scholarships, adding to the impressive $19 million allocated for the primary Cherokee Nation scholarship program this year. The Comprehensive Cherokee Nation Education Act of 2024 introduces a range of opportunities for undergraduate Cherokee students, including the Cherokee Nation Council Leadership Scholarship for each respective district, the Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Leadership Scholarship for all Cherokees nationwide, and the Cherokee Nation Deputy Principal Chief Leadership Scholarship for all Cherokees nationwide.{

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The Cherokee Nation Foundation will administer the new merit-based leadership scholarships. These $5,000 scholarships are separate from the tribe’s primary scholarship program and can provide more avenues to pursue academic aspirations.

To further bolster scholarship initiatives, the Cherokee Nation government will match the first $50,000 of employee contributions to the Cherokee Nation Foundation. The foundation generates about $430,000 in scholarships for Cherokees annually, and it also administers scholarships for behavioral health careers through a $5 million Public Health and Wellness Fund Act endowment set up last year and funded through the tribe’s opioid settlement funds.

Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr.

The 2024 act also earmarks $30,000 for additional scholarships to at-large tribal citizens, underscoring our commitment to expanded educational opportunities for those Cherokees who live outside our reservation in northeast Oklahoma. These dollars come on top of the funding for at-large students under our primary scholarship program. I very much appreciate at-large Councilors Johnny Jack Kidwell and Julia Coates for encouraging us to reach an all-time high in funding for at-large students.

Last year, we worked to increase the tribe’s primary scholarship program. The Cherokee Nation scholarship is now $2,250 per semester and will increase to $2,500 per semester in the fall of 2024.

The tribe’s traditional scholarship program, operated by the Cherokee Nation Education Services Department, has historically required 20 hours of community service each semester. As we increase our investments in scholarships, we are enhancing and expanding scholarship service opportunities. 

Going forward, Cherokee Nation scholarship recipients will be able to fulfill their community service through Cherokee language learning efforts or active participation in the new Gadugi Corps program. This forward-thinking measure aligns with the broader goal of preserving and promoting Cherokee culture among the younger generation. We drew inspiration for these changes from District 2 Councilor Candessa Tehee, a champion of Cherokee language learning and community service.

The legislation represents a strategic investment for the Cherokee people. With every class of students, we are creating more opportunities to develop their skills and follow their passions. This new commitment ensures that Cherokees will continue to push the frontiers of knowledge, culture and the shared development of our great people.

Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.

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Author: Chuck Hoskin JrEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.