For Cherokee families and businesses to thrive in the modern era, we must have well-maintained roads, clean water, fast internet connectivity, and access to great education and job training. Cherokee Nation knows the importance of both the “hard” infrastructure of steel and asphalt and the “soft” infrastructure of economic development and family supports. That’s why we have long been a strong leader and partner in building infrastructure to strengthen our region’s economy.
One of my first actions as Principal Chief was to sign the Career Readiness Act, doubling our investment in workforce development and training. We did not stop there. My Administration has invested millions to bring broadband connectivity to rural Cherokee communities, which is even more important during the pandemic. I also recently signed the Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act, funding improved clean water access across our reservation.
We are supporting jobs and citizens through facilities like the residential veterans center in Sallisaw, and we are bolstering growth and attracting tourism with projects like the WOKA Water Park under construction near Siloam Springs. The Cherokee Nation recently became the first tribe in the country to join the U.S. Department of Transportation Self Governance Program, giving us autonomy to plan and finance road improvement and transit projects within the reservation. With these investments and more, Cherokee Nation is building bright economic futures.
That’s why I welcome President Biden’s American Jobs Plan as a valuable contribution to that effort. The American Jobs Plan would invest tens of billions of dollars into tribal communities to strengthen our economies and infrastructure. It would bring back a strong spirit of investment that America has not seen since this country was building the interstate highways and winning the Space Race.
Recently, the $550 billion Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal was announced and it will have major implications for Indian Country. Among the highlights are a $6 billion set aside for safe water system development, as well as an additional $2 billion for broadband connectivity growth in tribal communities. We know Cherokee Nation will benefit long-term from this historic legislation, and our Delegate to Congress Kim Teehee played an essential role in ensuring tribal sovereign governments were rightfully part of the federal allocation process. This funding will enable Cherokee Nation to keep investing in priority areas, like our emphasis on clean and sustainable energy, and it will make our reservation stronger and safer for generations to come.
As Principal Chief, I am committed to holding the federal government accountable for its trust and treaty responsibilities. By investing directly in the most critical needs of Indian Country, such as job training, broadband, transportation, and water, and ensuring tribal governments have flexibility to spend these dollars effectively and efficiently, the federal government will be one step closer to living up to its word.
When the federal government invests in Indian Country, it is not only tribal citizens who benefit. Oklahomans of all backgrounds – oftentimes, unknowingly – drive on the roads we pave, drink water from a line we have built, or secure a well-paying job we attracted through our economic development efforts. The American Jobs Plan will enable us to do even more as resources flow into Indian Country. It will bring significant resources to Oklahoma and the region.
As I watch our citizens move from struggling to make ends meet to supporting their families and contributing to their communities, I know that we have made the right decision to invest in their success. I also know that Cherokee Nation needs every resource we can access to keep our momentum. We are leading the way not only in Indian Country, but across the nation. The American Jobs Plan will bring these vital resources to our reservation, and I am committed to working with Congress and the White House to ensure this once-in-a-generation legislation becomes law.
Chuck Hoskin Jr.