- By Chuck Hoskin Jr
Guest Opinion. Nothing is more important to me as a husband, father and grandfather than protecting my family. That’s a value shared by most Cherokees everywhere. At the Cherokee Nation, we extend the value of family by working to protect all our citizens.
Unfortunately, too many vulnerable family members still don’t feel safe in their homes. We know domestic violence harms countless individuals and families across the country and across our 7,000-square-mile reservation. However, today we are doing more than ever to prevent domestic violence and help survivors.
Cherokee Nation recently hosted the inaugural Families Are Sacred Summit. Over three days, the summit brought together law enforcement officers, health care providers, advocates and others. They attended workshops and shared best practices for making sure survivors of domestic violence receive safe and effective services.
During the summit, we announced several Cherokee Nation initiatives to empower survivors to rebuild their lives. Escaping domestic violence can sometimes mean facing poverty and homelessness without clear prospects for earning new income. That scary situation can make victims feel trapped with an abuser. By offering financial literacy support and educational programs, the Cherokee Nation is breaking down barriers and giving survivors the resources they need to succeed.
Our Education and Career Services departments already offer many useful programs, and we are adding additional funding specifically to remove obstacles that may prevent survivors from accessing them. Whether it is help with the financial burden of school or career training or even meeting application deadlines, there are a number of ways our tribal government can help. Additionally, survivors will go to the top of the list for grants and scholarships as they begin a new life chapter and receive a stipend for additional support.
Expanded access to temporary housing programs for survivors is also a critical step. We don’t want our people to leave the sanctuary of one of our domestic violence shelters only to have no place to turn. So, we will increase funding of temporary housing through the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation.
Cherokee Nation is also expanding partnerships with domestic violence advocacy groups and organizations across the reservation. We are blessed to have so many agents of change across northeast Oklahoma who, like Cherokee Nation, are working every day to protect their communities. Eight domestic violence non-profits in the region will receive $25,000 to help extend and improve their efforts. By working together and investing in our nonprofit partners, we create a stronger network of support for survivors.
We also announced a new agreement with Oklahoma State University on efforts to better recognize, prevent and treat the effects of domestic violence. Together, we will boost training on identifying survivors of domestic violence within the Cherokee Nation Health System, as well as provide culturally competent survivor groups that focus on preventative factors rooted in Cherokee values. The partnership also includes expanded telemedicine for survivors of domestic violence, including behavioral health services and counseling.
The Families Are Sacred Summit was born from the tribe’s task force assembled by First Lady January Hoskin, Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and me to address domestic violence. Cherokee Nation's approach to addressing domestic violence is deeply rooted in our culture and core values. By sharing successes and lessons learned, the Cherokee Nation is guiding other communities and becoming a leader on domestic violence response.
We want any Cherokees suffering from domestic violence to know that, no matter how difficult your situation feels, the Cherokee Nation has your back. We are strengthening the network of helpers, from health care and law enforcement to housing, job training and family support. Families are sacred, and Cherokee Nation is committed to living that value every day.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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