For Immediate Release: April 3, 2008
Senate Recognizes Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith at State Capitol
The Oklahoma State Senate recognized Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith and his wife Bobbi on Thursday with a standing ovation. Smith, along with several other members of the Cherokee Nation were there as part of the 8th annual Cherokee Nation Legislative Day at the State Capitol.
Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, introduced Smith and credited him and the Cherokee Nation for partnering with the state on a variety of projects including education, healthcare and transportation.
“The Cherokee Nation is the largest employer in the northeastern part of the state with over 6,000 employees,” Wilson said. “They have partnered with the state and other counties on projects that are helping to improve the lives of all Oklahomans. Chief Smith and the rest of the Cherokee Nation leadership should be congratulated for their accomplishments and continued hard work.”
The Cherokee Nation is the second largest tribe in the United States and the largest tribe in Oklahoma with over 160,000 tribal members living in the state. The tribe has annual expenditures in excess of $450 million.
Wilson said the Cherokee Nation has continued to make contributions through its partnerships with the state. A portion of the Cherokee Nation’s gaming revenue goes to the state to help fund educational and compulsive gambling programs. In 2007, Oklahoma received $11.5 million in gaming proceeds from the tribe. Wilson added that in 2006, the Cherokee Nation partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to repair eight bridges in six counties throughout northeastern Oklahoma.
Smith told the Senate that education plays a key role in the success of the Cherokee Nation. He said Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah is home to 12 Gates Scholars and offers college prep courses as well as concurrent enrollment with Northeastern Oklahoma State University. In 2006, Sequoyah students earned more than $500,000 in scholarships. Since 2002, the tribe has funded over 10,000 scholarships.
In 2007, the Cherokee Nation donated $1.5 million to the University Of Oklahoma College Of Medicine to help address cancer and diabetes. It currently has four health care facilities under construction located in Muskogee, Sequoyah, Nowata and Cherokee Counties, representing a $35.5 million commitment to the people and local economies.
“We believe in coming together and working together for the benefit of our communities,” Smith said. “That’s why we have developed partnerships with our counties and cities in the state. We now serve 126,000 Indians with healthcare. We have helped build with county commissioners 500 miles of roads in rural areas and we have helped with education, healthcare and social services.”
Wilson added that in addition to the Cherokee Nation’s financial commitment to the state of Oklahoma, “The tribe has made innumerable contributions to the state’s culture, heritage and pride. Oklahoma is identified nationwide as Native America. That wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of the Cherokee Nation.”
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