The agenda for Monday’s Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting featured no new or old business, but councilors met throughout the day to hear reports from various departments.

In the council meeting, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Chuck Garrett said the tribe’s business arm is still recovering from the closure of its venues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but CNB’s financials are trending in a positive direction. Garrett added that he would be sharing numbers from August with the council during next week’s executive and finance committee meeting. He said the fall racing schedule at Will Rogers Downs is now officially underway, and the racing is open to public.

Garrett briefly discussed the tribe’s new partnership with between the Cherokee Nation Film Office and the Oklahoma Film & TV Academy to develop talent in the film and television industry.

“We have collaborated to offer 50 new scholarships for certificate courses,” said Garrett. “The scholarships will be offered to citizens of any federally recognized tribe, with preference given to Cherokee Nation citizens in pursuing the film industry.”

Secretary of Natural Resources Chad Harsha said during a Resource Committee meeting that the tribe is requesting consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss the state of Oklahoma’s recent request to give it authority to exercise environmental jurisdiction over tribal lands. He said there are concerns on enforcement gaps and 35 years of existing EPA policy requires issues to be considered when they impact reservation lands.

“So we’ve asserted that claim, had a series of consultations, and have asked for additional time to discuss specific issues,” said Harsha. “The initial window of time we had was about three weeks, and I don’t think that’s appropriate for us to fully consider this issue. But the EPA is taking a pretty hard stance on this and the language is complicated for us in some ways. But I do think we have an option here to explore additional time to review what this means, and certainly we’ll continue to object to the course of action the state has requested.”

During the Health Committee meeting, Dr. Stephen Jones, director of Cherokee Nation Health Services, updated the council on the tribe’s COVID-19 efforts. He said CNHS is following 330 active cases.

“That number has continued to increase over the past week to two weeks, so we’re starting to see a little bit of an uptick on cases that we’re actively monitoring,” said Jones. “The largest percentage of those, currently, is the 18-35 [year old] range, but we have seen an increase in the school-age range, also.”

Officials with the tribe’s health care system aim to get in on a study with Gilead Sciences regarding a medication Jones said has shown promise toward reducing the time it takes to recover from COVID-19. If CNHS gets approval, it will be able to conduct a blind, voluntary study in which some participants would be given the medication remdesivr and others would be given placebos.

“That’s exciting news for us, and our infectious disease team is working hard to get us approval on that,” said Jones. “We’ll know in the next couple weeks if we get approved for that.”

What's next

Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has called for a special session of the Tribal Council, which will be held Thursday, Sept. 24, at 3:45 p.m. The council will also meet that day to hold Public Health, Rules, and Executive and Finance Committee meetings.

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