Even through this national health crisis, the business of our tribal nation carries on. We are committed to providing the housing, health care, education and other essential services that our people expect from a responsible, caring government. During the pandemic, we are doing more than ever to help our Cherokee Nation citizens meet basic needs through food distribution and telemedicine. Cherokee Nation is not alone in the endeavor – 37 other federally recognized tribes in Oklahoma are also executing strategic plans to keep their government flexible and responsive.
In this time when we are all dealing with a shared crisis, collaboration between tribes is especially important. I and many of my Cherokee Nation staff draw strength and ideas from the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes, an organization that unites the tribal governments of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations. Together these five nations represent about 750,000 Indian people throughout the United States. Even though we each have unique cultures and histories, we are forever connected in our mission to improve the lives of our citizens and the communities we serve.
Cherokee Nation is the host of the first virtual Inter-Tribal Council meeting. Gathering by videoconference, dozens of representatives from each of our tribal governments exchanged best practices on issues ranging from CARES Act funding and distribution to the renewed gaming compact to the digital divide that affects many of our rural communities and schools. We examined pending Supreme Court cases that could potentially transform Oklahoma by recognizing our historic tribal reservations. We discussed the national debate on Native American mascots, as well as our shared efforts to uphold our Native cultures.
I always look forward to meeting with my fellow tribal leaders on the executive committee, which is composed of the five elected leaders of the five tribes. At the heart of almost all issues that come before the executive committee is the governmental status of our tribal nations, including our sovereign right to self-determination.
Culturally, it has always been important to meet face to face when discussing issues of this gravity, but because of the coronavirus pandemic that is simply not possible. With technology, we are able to meet our friends and colleagues, conduct essential business and take a collective stand on issues impacting our governments.
As president of the Inter-Tribal Council, I want our tribal citizens to know that our business does not stop. We will never stop creating and advocating for policies that serve us all. We know the Cherokee Nation, the Five Civilized Tribes of Oklahoma and all Indian Country can help carry a national message of unity and hope in this trying age. And we know that what we collectively accomplish today will serve our tribal nations long after COVID-19 has been defeated.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.