The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians Tribal Council has given its approval for the Education Department to partner with BancFirst to create a school savings program for UKB students.

The program, discussed during a meeting Saturday, Dec. 4, will allow students to accrue funding to attend college or a trade school. The minimum deposit to start is $100 per account. Students can then earn additional money by completing certain activities, such as performing community service or maintaining good grades.

The funds cannot be accessed until the student completes high school and enrolls in either a college or university. Those who choose not to enroll can acquire the funds when they turn 21. The program will reportedly start with fifth- and sixth-grade students.

Assistant Chief Jeff Wacoche said it's a win-win for UKB students.

"It also encourages community and civic opportunities for our students to get out and be active out in the community, and they can be rewarded for that from the tribe," he said. "This is a great opportunity."

The council also approved creation of a "mother account" to disburse funds into individual school savings accounts.

The tribe adopted the Bureau of Indian Affairs handbook to update its Lighthorse Police policies. Chief Joe Bunch said last month that the tribal police's policies were written 25 years ago and needed to be modernized.

Councilors approved consolidating all UKB tribal properties under the name of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.

An item to allow employees to sell back accrued vacation leave to assist with balance maintenance and to allow employees to sell leave in time of financial need was passed.

The council approved filling the comptroller position with Noah Nofire.

During his report to the council, Bunch said officials recently held a meeting with Indian Health Service to inform Interim Director Elizabeth Fowler about the UKB's needs. He said the tribe has been looking at the number of people who are being serviced at IHS hospitals.

"Through that, we found out that we were either the very healthiest tribe on the earth, or we're being miscounted," he said. "We had about 10 percent of our population as being serviced at those hospitals - about 1,200. I was informed we've come up a little bit and we now have 1,500 folks being serviced at the hospitals."

What's next

The next UKB Tribal Council meeting is Jan. 8, 2022, 10 a.m., at the UKB Wellness Center.

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