When Cherokees need to flee an abusive situation at home, they must have a safe place to go. That’s why we recently opened a new Cherokee Nation-led domestic violence center in Adair County. It will immediately help families and children who are suffering at the hands of abusers. Our hope is that this shelter can break cycles of violence for our citizens and enable them to rebuild their lives.
Cherokee Nation’s widely recognized ONE FIRE Victim Services program will operate the shelter with a dedicated on-site staff. They will provide services and education so that survivors can properly heal and live independently, free from violence. The 11,000-square-foot shelter, along with three newly-constructed individual homes on the campus, can house up to 10 families at a time.
Those staying at the new facility may be housed for between one and 24 months, as they receive help with job assistance, finances, behavioral health and other life skills. The three transitional homes behind the shelter were built by the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation.
Sadly, there is a great deal of domestic violence in our modern society, and the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee society are not immune. The need for domestic violence intervention has grown at a fast pace over the past two years, and the ONE FIRE office has assisted more than 1,100 citizens since 2021.
Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I have made it a high priority to advocate for victims and support the important work of ONE FIRE and other responses to domestic violence. We have a responsibility to protect the victims and bring justice to prevent violence from continuing. We are extremely proud of the new site in Stilwell, and we have implemented several new initiatives that will make lasting changes for the better across the Cherokee Nation Reservation.
Those efforts have been led by the Cherokee Nation Task Force to Protect Women and Families. In 2022, I signed an executive order reestablishing the task force, which met many times over the past year to evaluate and recommend policies and innovative approaches to implement across the Cherokee Nation to address domestic violence.
Initiatives planned for 2023 include a “Families Are Sacred” domestic violence training summit in April. The tribe will also conduct more grassroots training with cultural programming. The tribe will work with Cherokee organizations to address mental health and community values, and responsibilities of those within the community.
Cherokee Nation will also implement other recommendations that came from the task force, like holding community listening sessions to better understand community needs, working with school districts to educate youth on signs of violence at an early age, and deploying financial empowerment programs. We also plan to hire an additional 12 domestic violence advocates across the 14-county reservation.
The Cherokee Nation is taking major steps to bring awareness and education on what domestic violence looks like. National statistics show acts of domestic violence occur every 15 seconds across the country and that four in five American Indians – both women and men – have experienced violence in their lifetime.
As Cherokees, we have always respected and revered women; it is part of our cultural values. Creating a place like our new shelter in Adair County will aid in much-needed healing and will bolster the sacredness of Cherokee families.
Among those for whom I am so grateful for bringing the Stilwell domestic violence shelter from dream to reality is our First Lady, January Hoskin. She has shined a brighter light on the issue and encouraged us to step up our efforts to aid domestic violence survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. Our First Lady has encouraged us to make the Stilwell facility a model for future expansion across the reservation.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.