STILWELL, Oklahoma – This year marks a shared 50th anniversary for Cherokee Nation Industries and Lizzie Duvall, one of the company’s first employees. Duvall’s career began the same day CNI first opened its doors on June 16, 1969. She’ll be honored for her years of service and the company will celebrate her well-earned retirement later this month.
Cherokee Nation’s first enterprise was formed specifically to provide meaningful employment in Adair County and continues to serve an integral role for both the tribe and the local community. Duvall was a young, widowed mother of two small sons when she was first hired at CNI, and she embodies the company’s purpose and its triumphs.
“Our success as a company has always been achieved through the unwavering dedication and commitment of our workforce,” said Chris Moody, executive general manager of Cherokee Nation Businesses' engineering and manufacturing companies. “We owe a great amount of gratitude to our earliest employees like Lizzie, whose work ethic, skills and years of proven productivity paved the way for the rest of us to continue supporting our tribe and the community.”
Duvall can still recall the names of every employee who began work with her on the first hot day 50 years ago. She also remembers starting work, like most of her colleagues, with very little formal education and being thankful for not having to commute 100 miles or more to support herself and her children after her husband passed away.
“It has changed a lot here. Every person on the line uses computers now, but I can remember that when we started, we didn’t even use electricity,” Duvall said. “It’s been a great job, and I’ve really enjoyed it. Most of all, I enjoyed working close to my children and being able to be present for them and their activities when they were young. It’s also been fun to work with my family and extended relatives.”
Duvall’s long-running career has allowed her to work alongside multiple family members, including her son, nephew, grandson, several cousins and daughter-in-law. Three generations of her family still work together at the Stilwell location until she retires later this month.
“I feel honored and privileged to have Lizzie on my team,” said Dan Chuculate, production supervisor at the plant. Chuculate actually discovered that he and Duvall are also related after they began working together. “As one of the first employees at CNI, she has seen a lot of change in products, programs and people throughout the years, so she doesn’t hesitate to offer advice or to help with anything she has past experience with. She is a true treasure to me and to our entire company.”
Duvall’s last day of work is June 26, 50 years and 10 days after her first day at Cherokee Nation Industries.
CNI is now a part of Cherokee Nation Businesses’ engineering and manufacturing segment, supporting federal and commercial clients. From Cherokee Nation locations such as Stilwell, Tulsa and Pryor, the company provides products and staffing solutions to some of the largest companies in the world. It also serves the needs of the U.S. warfighter and provides valuable products and electrical systems to federal agencies and global organizations such as the Department of Defense, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Sikorsky and even NASA’s International Space Station.
CNB owns 35 companies focused in the entertainment, federal and commercial contracting and economic development markets. With more than 7,300 employees across 47 states, 25 countries and two U.S. territories, CNB generates profits to fund health care, housing, education, elder services and other critical programs for Cherokee Nation. Since 2008, CNB has contributed nearly $500 million to Cherokee Nation for these and other programs and services.