The COVID-19 pandemic threatens Cherokee Nation like it does the rest of the world, but we are responding in ways that make our Nation stronger.
Our sovereign government is making investments that will address immediate health, safety and economic needs during this crisis. These measures also create jobs and ultimately will increase prosperity for Cherokee families for years to come.
We recently broke ground on a series of Respond, Recover and Rebuild projects that will meet immediate emergency needs and will pay huge dividends for a more secure future.
Using $25 million in CARES Act money, the Cherokee Nation is constructing eight 4,000-square-foot buildings, plus remodeling four existing properties. These projects include a new health center for Cherokee Nation employees in Tahlequah, a drive-through public health outreach facility in Stilwell, and personal protection equipment manufacturing sites in Hulbert and Stilwell. We’re adding office space in Catoosa and Muskogee to allow for social distancing and storage, and food outreach spaces are planned in Belfonte, Jay, Kansas and Vinita.
One of the endeavors I am most excited about is Cherokee Nation’s move into manufacturing our own PPE. Because of this sound business and health care decision, the Cherokee Nation will always have access to PPE supplies. We never want to be in the position of scrambling to provide our citizens and health care professionals with essential protective equipment. By investing our CARES Act dollars in PPE manufacturing, Cherokee Nation can ensure our brother and sister nations across Indian Country also stay well supplied.
Another needed initiative is the continued growth of food security efforts for vulnerable citizens. New construction, along with expansion and renovation of current community buildings, increases our ability to store food and host healthy food giveaway events, something we are now doing almost daily across the Cherokee Nation reservation. Even before the pandemic, too many Cherokee families struggled with food insecurity, and the problem became even more pronounced this year. Our new investments will help get us through the current situation and will address future needs that arise.
We fought hard to get our fair share of federal CARES Act funding. Because Cherokee Nation is a responsible government, we are using that funding to meet critical needs for our citizens and communities in northeast Oklahoma. I can’t think of a better use of those dollars than providing jobs and safety equipment, making sure our elders have plenty of healthy food, creating space for our employees to safely do their jobs without risk of being infected, and providing accessible health care near our Tahlequah headquarters that can treat a variety of illnesses and offer COVID-19 testing.
Our citizens and our communities are the foundation of our great tribal nation. Like others across the globe, we have experienced devastating hardships in the past year. We are coming together and looking out for the Cherokee people and our neighbors, and we will all emerge even stronger.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.