The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council confirmed the largest budget in its history during a regular meeting Monday.
The council approved a general operating budget of $2.98 billion and a capital investment budget of $418.5 million. American Rescue Plan Act funds accounted for about 40 percent of the revenue sources for the FY22 budget, along with grants, tribal dollars and revenue from federal programs. The budget increase will help with COVID-19 response programs, and provide staffing and services to expand the tribe's criminal justice system, upholding obligations under the U.S. Supreme Court McGirt ruling.
"In a time when our people have struggled through COVID-19, we will make significant changes with this budget to help Cherokees recover and have the best health care, education, language, housing, infrastructure and jobs and so many other services they need," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. "We will also continue building up the largest criminal justice system in our tribe's history in record speed to provide a blanket of protection within the Cherokee Nation Reservation for all citizens."
During his monthly state of the nation address, Hoskin responded to a legal filing in the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court after a former council candidate challenged the validity of this year's election results.
David Comingdeer, who ran for the CN District 7 Tribal Council seat, filed a challenge against his opponent - now District 7 Tribal Councilor Joshua Sam - and the CN Election Commission, citing election fraud. After the case was dismissed, Sam and the EC have sought thousands of dollars in damages and attorney fees from Comingdeer.
In his objection to the cost of damages and attorney fees, Comingdeer argued that the courts of the modern Cherokee Nation have never legally established jurisdiction over CN citizens, and have no authority over criminal or civil cases.
Hoskin said the argument is one that could have come from Gov. Kevin Stitt, Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor, or special interest groups - all of whom he called enemies to tribal sovereignty. He also said the argument would "almost be laughable, if it were not so serious."
"And yet, it is a argument that I think will echo across the country, across Indian Country, and I think it will be embraced by the enemies of our sovereignty," Hoskin said. "… I will stand against these kind of attacks, and I believe every member of this council will. I think we have to. There are going to be times that we disagree on how to approach protecting our sovereignty. That's what free governments do that freely elect their government officials. When it comes to an attack on whether our courts are legitimate, I think we all have to stand shoulder to shoulder."
District 9 Councilor Mike Shambaugh was confirmed as the speaker of the Tribal Council; District 11 Councilor Victoria Vazquez was approved as the deputy speaker; and District 12 Councilor Dora Patzkowski was confirmed as the secretary.
Dewayne Marshall was confirmed as a board member of the Cherokee Nation Sequoyah High School Board of Education.
A resolution confirming Stuart Grayson as a member of the Cherokee Nation Foundation was approved.
The reappointment and appointment of J. Blake Fletcher and Marilyn Vann, respectively, to the Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission were approved.
Frank Delozier was confirmed as a commissioner of the CN Gaming Commission.
An act to amend the Cherokee Nation Code Annotated, which changed the definition of drug paraphernalia to exclude the use of syringes or needles prescribed by harm reduction programs or medical providers for infection control or prevention.
The Cherokee Nation Vessel and Motor Registration Act was approved by the council. The act establishes laws against operating a vessel with ten horsepower on waters within the Cherokee Nation without a certificate of title or registration. It also established a law against altering or changing a permanent number issued for a vessel under CN, state, or federal laws.
The next Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting is Oct. 12 at 5 p.m. All council meetings can be viewed on the Cherokee Nation YouTube page.