After more than a year of battling COVID, life is finally getting closer to normal across the Cherokee Nation reservation. Cherokee parents and young people may be especially excited that the tribe’s programs for youth and young adults are picking up again after going on hiatus last summer.
Suspending these activities was a difficult but necessary decision to protect our kids, employees and loved ones, but now the success of our anti-COVID efforts means we can move forward again.
We look forward to providing our talented young leaders with a wide range of personal growth opportunities to help Cherokee youth and young adults gain back some of what they lost over the past 15 months.
Among the programs that are again active is the groundbreaking Remember the Removal bike ride. Our team of young riders departed together in late May and are returning home via the northern route of the Trail of Tears later this month. It’s a tremendous opportunity for our Cherokee riders – four young adults and two mentors – to learn firsthand about that dark chapter in our history and honor the legacy of their Cherokee ancestors who endured it. When they return home, I know they will have been forever changed by the experience. They will bring a deeper understanding of Cherokee history and their own strength and perseverance.
Another program returning soon is Camp Cherokee, which kicks off in late June for Cherokee students aged 16 and older. This all-inclusive camp brings together arts, culture and STEM to create a unique academic and cultural experience. At Camp Cherokee, young minds are exposed to a wide variety of activities and ideas so they might discover what inspires them. Campers also connect with their heritage through traditional Cherokee activities like basketmaking and stickball.
The tribe’s Career Services Department has been active again this summer in placing young people in internships and summer jobs. These talented Cherokees are gaining workforce experience and learning to apply their academic knowledge in a real-world setting. The positions over the summer are equally important for Cherokee youth and for our tribal government and Cherokee Nation Businesses. Including young people in our tribe’s important work builds an empowered citizenry and a strong tribe in the next generation.
Many Cherokees are celebrating our pandemic recovery by becoming college and career ready. June 15 marks an important date for many young Cherokees: the college scholarship deadline. I expect a record number of Cherokees to visit the College Resources Center on our Cherokee.org website in the coming days to apply for up to $2,000 per semester in assistance. Likewise, many young Cherokees are participants in our lineman and fiber optic installation training programs. My administration is hard at work crafting new programs for college and career readiness to keep up with the enthusiasm and interest of thousands of young Cherokees eager to learn and grow. Cherokee Nation’s recovery from the worst public health crisis in living memory will be marked by a generation of Cherokees more equipped to secure rewarding careers than any generation of Cherokees in history.
Watching young Cherokees bring new ideas while maintaining deep connections with our tribe’s culture and history gives me hope for the future. We have closed out what was one of the hardest school years in modern history, but the good news is that we are making significant strides to return to normal. These summer offerings are a wonderful opportunity to help kids in 2021 reconnect with their tribe and emerge from the pandemic stronger and more resilient, in the spirit of the Cherokee people.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.