The Cherokee Nation was recently honored with two financial leadership awards for its innovative efforts in tribal finance and economic development. The Native American Finance Officers Association named Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith Tribal Leader of the Year, and awarded Sequoyah Schools Financial Literacy Program of the Year.
NAFOA’s financial leadership awards acknowledge tribal leaders and finance teams who have displayed progressive thinking and effective decision making towards the financial advancement of their tribes. During Smith’s 11 years as principal chief, he has helped create more than 5,000 jobs at the Cherokee Nation and its businesses, and has instituted a policy of transparency in government finance. Under Smith’s leadership, the Cherokee Nation’s Financial Resource Group has received a Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for eight consecutive years.
“Ten years ago, there were numerous inefficiencies and procedural problems within the Cherokee Nation,” said Smith. “Now, the Cherokee Nation has won a prestigious award for excellence in financial accounting for eight straight years. This leadership award from the Native American Finance Officers Association reinforces that the Cherokee Nation has sound financial systems, we manage our funds well and that we are a leader in tribal accounting practices.”
Sequoyah Schools was awarded Financial Literacy Program of the Year for a student business program, initiated with the help of Cherokee Nation Businesses and Junior Achievement. These institutions partnered to develop a pilot program in economics and entrepreneurship in which senior class students gained experience in managing their own company and covered various financial topics including those unique to tribal governments.
“We are actively pursuing ways to inspire and promote leadership among our Cherokee Nation youth and this pilot project was a start in the right direction,” Smith said. “These students learned some of the complexities of running a business; it was a real world experience for them that will help them for many years to come.”
The project was so successful, Sequoyah Schools implemented a second course of the program, expanding it to two student-run enterprises. The group intends to share this program model with other schools in the Cherokee Nation and assist with implementation of the program this fall. Sequoyah’s senior class currently includes four Gates Millennium Scholars and has earned more than $2.8 million in scholarships.
NAFOA is a national, nonprofit organization that provides financial management and education to tribal governments and their enterprises. This is the third year NAFOA has presented Financial Leadership Awards.
About the Cherokee Nation
The Cherokee Nation is a sovereign tribal government headquartered in Tahlequah, Okla., covering all or part of 14 counties in northeast Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation is the second largest Indian tribe in the United States with more than 290,000 citizens.
About Sequoyah Schools
Sequoyah Schools, a boarding school for Native American students, originated in 1871 as an orphan asylum to care for children who were orphaned by the Civil War. Now known as Sequoyah Schools and under the operation of the Cherokee Nation, it is named for Sequoyah, the scholar who developed the Cherokee syllabary. The school is regionally and state accredited for grades seven through 12 and has become the school of choice for more than 400 Native American students every year. Sequoyah Schools is located five miles southwest of Tahlequah, Okla.