- By Chuck Hoskin Jr
Guest Opinion. Cherokee culture emphasizes unity, community and working together for the common good: “gadugi.” This concept is a deep part of the traditions that have sustained Cherokees for generations.
Today, as we grow into the boundless potential of our people and tribe, we are inspired by gadugi to establish a new program for Cherokees to help other Cherokees. Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I recently announced the establishment of the Gadugi Corps. Although it will be uniquely Cherokee, it draws inspiration from historic and modern federal programs, such as the Civilian Conservation Corps and AmeriCorps. Gadugi Corps is part of our commitment to build our tribal nation from the grassroots up and make sure every Cherokee can find a way to give back to their people.
To launch Gadugi Corps, Deputy Chief Warner and I turned to two great leaders who possess a heart for Cherokee communities and sharp minds to turn ideas into action. My Executive Order places former Council members Shawn Crittenden and Canaan Duncan, who now serve as Deputy Executive Director of Education and Deputy Secretary of State, respectively, over a task force which will explore the concept of Gadugi Corp in a thoughtful and inclusive way.
The Gadugi Corps Task Force — which includes cultural advisor Dawni Squirrel, Freedmen Community Liaison Melissa Payne, Chief of Staff Corey Bunch, Language Department employee Kristen Thomas and Education Department employee Shelley Dreadfulwater — will evaluate our existing volunteer and service programs, identify barriers and prioritize areas for improvement.
The Task Force will engage stakeholders and solicit public input. The group will develop a legislative framework that includes a range of areas in need of volunteers and national service participants that Deputy Chief Warner and I can propose to the Council of the Cherokee Nation. Through this process, Cherokee citizens and leaders can develop what I hope will be a landmark piece of legislation that strengthens the Cherokee Nation for generations to come.
As the largest tribe in the country, the Cherokee Nation’s outreach extends far beyond the reservation's 7,000 square miles in northeast Oklahoma. The more than 460,000 Cherokees live in every state in America and across the globe. No matter where we live, we are bound through shared family, values and culture. The Gadugi Corps can be a draw for at-large Cherokees to return to the Cherokee Nation Reservation for deeply meaningful service.
We all possess ideas and talents that can power our communities and our tribe. The Gadugi Corps includes several branches to tap into the diverse talents of Cherokees. The Gadugi Education Corps will focus on enhancing education in areas with clear gaps. The Gadugi Community Service Corps is dedicated to grassroots projects in our local communities. The Gadugi Mentor Corps will help Cherokee youths see the world of possibilities before them, no matter where they live, because as the saying goes, "you can't be what you can't see."
In times of disaster, the Gadugi Disaster Response Corps will unite local volunteers and national service participants to aid our communities effectively and swiftly, bolstering our resilience in a crisis. The Gadugi At-Large Service Corps extends a hand to Cherokees living beyond our reservation, as well as giving at-large Cherokees a way to reconnect, share their unique expertise and contribute to the well-being of our tribe.
The Gadugi Corps concept is an opportunity to strengthen Cherokee Nation consistent with our cultural values and the example set by our ancestors: focusing at the community level, building from the grassroots up.
With more opportunities to volunteer in national service, we will not only address local challenges but also strengthen the collective Cherokee identity. We will help this generation put their stamp on the idea of gadugi, while honoring our history and building a better future. As more details are rolled out, we must remember that success depends on the participation of Cherokee citizens. Together, we can celebrate the spirit of gadugi within all of us.
Chuck Hoskin, Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
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