Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. reflected on a year of difficulties and triumphs in his State of the Nation address.
A recorded speech was made available at noon Saturday during the Cherokee National Holiday. The 68th version of the annual event was held virtually because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The coronavirus, of course, has been the tribe’s primary challenge in 2020. Cherokee Nation has more than 1,500 cases, and 17 citizens have died. Hoskin said he is proud of their response.
"Our response and recovery is not just the best in Indian Country, it’s the best in the country. The reason is that we are guided by medical science, facts and compassion. I refuse to allow politics, ignorance or our natural impatience with this virus lead us to bad decisions," Hoskin said.
As part of that response, the tribe will break ground Tuesday on nine building projects totaling $25 million dollars. They range from personal protective equipment manufacturing to food outreach and are funded through Cherokee Nation's allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds.
Hoskin said outside of the pandemic, his aim is to invest in the tribe’s culture.
"Over the course of the next year, we will take major steps to create the kind of world-class experience at the heritage center envisioned by those who founded it in 1963. That is something we simply must do for Cherokees today and for generations to come," Hoskin said.
Last year, Hoskin announced a $16 million investment in language programs.
One of the Cherokee Nation's triumphs came in July, when a federal judge ruled gaming compacts between tribes and the state of Oklahoma automatically renewed on Jan. 1, contrary to Gov. Kevin Stitt’s assertion they expired, making continued casino gambling illegal as he sought to renegotiate the agreements.
"We stood up for ourselves in federal court, and we won. As chief, I will always try to work with other leaders, but Gov. Stitt has learned that I will not tolerate disrespect for the Cherokee Nation and I will stand up for our rights," Hoskin said.
Hoskin said when it comes to issues of tribal sovereignty, the Cherokee Nation also had a major victory when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled reservations were never disestablished and has made progress in seating a delegate in Congress as federal treaties allow for.
Hoskin said the Cherokee Nation is strong, and he believes it will be even stronger next year.
"I believe this because I believe that now, more than ever, we recognize that we’re all in this together. We recognize that what unites us a Cherokees is stronger than what may divide us from time to time," Hoskin said.