TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Eight area community members recently received the Cherokee Nation Principal Chief's Leadership Award for their ability to demonstrate Cherokee leadership by always putting the Cherokee people first. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith presents the award annually to deserving individuals.
This year's recipients are William Davis, Marjorie (Johnson) Lowe, Jim McCoy, Thomas Muskrat, Charlie Shell, Wes Studi, Wilson Vann, and Elizabeth Jane Batt Whitekiller. "The strength of the Cherokee Nation lies in our communities," Smith said. "These people are chosen for their leadership and their dedication to Cherokee culture and communities."
Davis is one of the founders of The Cherokee Outlet Indian Organization and currently serves as president.
Lowe is a professional genealogist who assists Cherokees with researching their ancestry and encourages those who qualify for membership in the Cherokee Nation to exercise their voting rights.
McCoy, of Vian, Okla., is a practicing medicine man and assists many individuals who come to him for help. He is a veteran of World War II and is a retired school bus driver for Vian Public Schools.
Muskrat, of Bell, Okla., has served as president of the Bell Community Organization where he worked on many projects such as the Bell self-help waterline project and the Bell self-help housing project. He has also served as a volunteer boxing coach for the Bell Boxing Club and helped organized the first pow wow in Bell, which has become an annual event. A United States veteran, Muskrat represented the Cherokee people in both Singapore and Puerto Rico.
Shell, of Greasy, Okla., is the pastor of the Badger Lee Baptist Church in Sallisaw and a full-time employee of the Cherokee Nation. He currently serves as president of the Greasy School Board and president of the Greasy Community Fellowship Organization.
Vann, of Tahlequah, has practiced martial arts for 30 years. He has owned and operated martial arts studios since 1972 and recently took an all-Cherokee tae-kwon-do team to compete in the World Tae Kwon Do Championship tournament in South Korea.
Batt Whitekiller is a member of the Swimmer Baptist Church and has been active in mission work with the Women's Missionary Union for more than 50 years. She was one of the original Cherokee Nation community health representatives and the first patient advocate for Cherokee speaking patients at W.W. Hastings Hospital.
"These honorees would not go out and seek recognition for the good things they do," Smith said. "But they deserve recognition and honor from the Cherokee Nation for the good work they do. I am humbled by their example of service, and the Cherokee people owe each of these people a great debt."