TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Council of the Cherokee Nation on Monday passed a resolution that allows Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. to expedite emergency contracts that will secure more protective equipment and supplies for tribal health care workers and food security for Cherokee elders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The approved resolution passed the Council of the Cherokee Nation 16-1, with the opposing vote coming from District 3 Tribal Councilor Wes Nofire.
With the passing of this resolution, Chief Hoskin is authorized to temporarily execute certain contractual provisions that are ordinarily approved on a contract-by-contract basis at regular committee and council meetings, which can take at least 10 days to convene. Under the resolution, contracts are limited to COVID-19 pandemic emergency relief efforts, and include only contracts that are related to personal protective equipment; other medical supplies and equipment; software and other technology agreements to meet remote work and telemedicine requirements; and emergency food, supplies and equipment.
“This is a time that calls for cooperation and unity among government officials, and that’s what we are seeing in the Cherokee Nation,” said Deputy Speaker of the Tribal Council Victoria Vazquez. “Weeks of careful planning, consultation, revision and review led to potentially lifesaving measures approved by this Council.”
The resolution limits Chief Hoskin’s authority to contracts for health supplies, technology and food relating only to the COVID-19 response that do not exceed $1 million, and that the Council will be notified of any contracts no later than one business day after being issued. The resolution is set to expire on June 15, or with the expiration of an Emergency Disaster Declaration, whichever comes first. The measure does not grant Chief Hoskin any additional budget authority beyond what a Council approves in the tribe’s budget.
The measure, which uses the Council’s constitutional authority to approve contractual provisions dealing with pledges of credit and sovereign immunity, was modeled on legislation the Council approved in 2018 to complete the construction of the new outpatient health facility in Tahlequah on time.
“I appreciate the Council for its consideration in these measures to ensure our citizens are taken care of while we continue to battle this public health crisis,” Chief Hoskin said. “The Council and I both understand that our citizens and constituents come first, and we need to act fast in retrieving goods to help keep our Cherokee elders fed and make sure our health care employees and first responders have the tools they need to protect themselves while they can continue to care for our citizens. I am truly proud to work with this Council.”
“The last time the Council approved such a measure, the completion of a construction project was at stake. Today, the lives and health of Cherokee people are at stake. Council’s overwhelming support of the measure is essentially a vote of confidence in how we have handled the COVID-19 crisis, and I deeply appreciate it,” said Hoskin.
The Council also approved a change to the tribe’s budget, shifting more dollars to the tribe’s historic COVID-19 response effort. Funding included nearly $40 million for health care system, over $9 million to support the increased housing needs, and another $5 million to purchase supplies, food, and support public safety programs throughout the Cherokee Nation.
The budget measure also provided authority of up to $100 million for funds anticipated to come from the federal CARES Act, which earmarked $8 billion for COVID-19 recovery for tribal governments across the country. The actual amount of CARES Act funding for Cherokee Nation will be determined by the U.S. Department of Treasury, which could issue the funds within the next week.
The Council met Monday to discuss tribal business for the first time since the Council stopped meeting in-person amid the COVID-19 outbreak. While some Council members dialed into the meeting using a video conferencing system, others wore face masks and gloves, and sat 6 feet away from one another to comply with social-distancing regulations.
In other business, the Council of the Cherokee Nation also took the following actions:
• Passed a resolution opposing the inclusion of Alaska Native Corporations in the CARES Act coronavirus relief fund for tribal governments.
• Confirmed the nomination of Clifton Pettit as a governing board member of TSUNADELOQUASDI Cherokee Immersion school board.
• Approved a resolution in support of Indigenous Language Rights specified in National Congress of American Indians resolution
The next Council of the Cherokee Nation meeting will be Thursday, May 28 at 10:30 a.m. in the Tribal Council offices located at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.