New Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. Tells Cherokees to Rally Around Common Goals
Ten newly elected Cherokee officials took their oaths of office Wednesday in Tahlequah, including the new Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Wearing a white ribbon shirt made by his wife, January, and a gold gorget given to him by former Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Hoskin was sworn in by Cherokee Supreme Court Chief Justice John C. Garrett.
In his inaugural address, Hoskin told Cherokee citizens to rally not around him but around common goals, like taking care of elders, helping small towns thrive and preserving their language.
Hoskin said the tribe must also come together and insist to the state and federal governments their friendship be built on respect for the Cherokee Nation. Hoskin said when that comes to gaming compact renegotiations proposed by Gov. Kevin Stitt, it means remembering the tribe increased investments in education and other areas as the state pulled back funds.
"If the state of Oklahoma will look at how the Cherokee Nation governs and what priorities we set, I think the state will be in better shape. The state, though, should not look to the Indian nations that have done so much — and, frankly, were here before there was a state of Oklahoma — to bail it out of some fiscal irresponsibility of the last decade," Hoskin said after the inauguration.
Hoskin is the second chief from Vinita. The first, Thomas Buffington, saw the tribe in decline as the federal government broke up tribal land. Hoskin said he sees Cherokee Nation growing stronger.
"I see a Cherokee people working together, moving forward together and rising together. So proud to be your chief. Wado," Hoskin said to end his address.
Hoskin and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner take over for term-limited Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden.
Over their eight years, Cherokee Nation broke ground on the largest tribal health center in the U.S., increased investments in education and language preservation, and saw their business arm pull in $1 billion or more year over year.
Crittenden said the bar has been set.
"I won’t say it’s been set high, but we know where it’s set. History will record that," Crittenden said. "These young men right here are going to set it higher. I believe that with all my heart."
Hoskin was Baker's secretary of state. Hoskin has already announced two initiatives for his first 100 days in office: putting an additional $30 million in a fund to repair Cherokee-owned homes and community buildings, and raising the tribe's minimum wage from $9.50 to $11 an hour.
In addition to Hoskin and Warner, eight Cherokee Nation council members were sworn in Wenesday.