Cherokee Nation officials, citizens relieved for temporary opening of government

Cherokee Nation citizen Susan Young, of Fort Gibson, receives her groceries at the Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah on January 8 during the recent federal government shutdown.Photo courtesy: Cherokee Nation

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Cherokee Nation federal government employees continued to work despite not receiving part of their paycheck

News Release

Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and tribal citizens expressed gratitude and relief Friday after hearing the federal government is temporarily reopening.

In the Cherokee Nation’s eight health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital, 177 Indian Health Service employees continued to work despite not receiving part of their paycheck.

“The Cherokee Nation is thankful that President Trump and Congress have reached an agreement to temporarily open the federal government. The tribe hopes that the President and Congress will continue to work together to ensure the government remains open,” Chief Baker said. “I also want to express gratitude to the federally-paid health care workers in the Cherokee Nation health system for continuing to serve the patients of our facilities during this time, even when not being paid. We hope President Trump and Congress will do the right thing and issue back pay for their time served during the shutdown.”

Cherokee Nation citizen and Registered Nurse Bobbi Scott was one of the 177 working on partial pay during the shutdown. She is on an Indian Health Service contract in the Intensive Care Unit at W.W. Hastings Hospital.

“I’m very relieved they are trying to make an effort to resolve this,” Scott said. “I was fortunate to get partially paid to cover most of my last paycheck, but the uncertainty ahead was what was stressful for me.”

The tribe arranged some free meals for the government employees during work shifts at Hastings and had offered her assistance through consumer loans, she said.

Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infant and Children office serves 6,000 mothers or expected mothers who were concerned about whether essential nutrition supplies might run out.

The tribe also has 13,000 Natives, many elders and children, who rely on shipments of healthy foods from the USDA through the tribe’s Food Distribution Program.

The Cherokee Nation’s operating budget for fiscal year 2019 is funded about 68 percent from federal program funds. By treaty, the U.S. government has a federal trust responsibility to federally recognized tribes and that obligation isn’t met during government shutdowns.

About Cherokee Nation

The Cherokee Nation is the federally recognized government of the Cherokee people and has inherent sovereign status recognized by treaty and law. The seat of tribal government is the W.W. Keeler Complex near Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. With more than 360,000 citizens, 11,000 employees and a variety of tribal enterprises ranging from aerospace and defense contracts to entertainment venues, Cherokee Nation is one of the largest employers in northeastern Oklahoma and the largest tribal nation in the United States.

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