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Cherokee Nation leaders seeing progress on federal matters but still ready for statehouse lobbying

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Cherokee Nation leaders are seeing progress on issues at the federal level, but that doesn’t mean they’ve turned a blind eye to the state capitol.

First up is the special session to redraw state legislative and congressional district boundaries, which starts Nov. 15. Cherokee Nation Director of Government Affairs and Cherokee Nation Businesses Senior Vice President of Government Relations Kim Teehee said the tribe’s geographic information systems team has analyzed various redistricting proposals.

"For example, we know that we're going to lose District 18, Sen. Kim David's seat, because the Oklahoma City population is growing more. And so, as those details come about, we're able then to determine how many Cherokee citizens, how much footprint we have in that area, and then we're able to educate the legislators about that," Teehee said during a virtual event.

Cherokee Nation plans to lobby for legislation next regular session to let the tribe certify language teachers at its immersion school, which is an Oklahoma public charter school for kindergarten through sixth grade.

"Our hope is that as we grow our language initiatives that we can certify our own language teachers and have more teachers to share their information so that they can help with our language preservation efforts," Teehee said.

Cherokee Nation officials are also in talks with Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall about an income tax credit for rural physicians, including those working in tribal facilities.

"We worked hard to educate about the need to make sure that doctors that work in our environments are, in fact, handling rural health care for the communities in which they live. And so, there's great benefits to that," Teehee said.

Another priority for Cherokee Nation in 2022 will be protecting all tribes’ rights under state gaming compacts. Gov. Kevin Stitt sought to renegotiate those agreements and even entered into new ones with some tribes until courts found he lacked that authority.

One outstanding matter at the federal level is having the tribe's delegate to Congress seated. Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. named Teehee the Cherokee Nation delegate in 2019, citing provisions in their treaty with the U.S. that allow for one.

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