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Tobacco compact signed by governor, approved by Tribal Council

Mar. 12—Gov. Kevin Stitt has signed a long-standing tobacco compact with the Cherokee Nation, and the act codifying the compact was approved Monday, March 11, by Tribal Council.

Attorney General Chad Harsha said, during an earlier meeting with the Rules Committee, that the agreement makes sense.

"[It] is, in my view, in the best interest of the Cherokee Nation," Harsha said.

Harsha said part of the issue that has come up with this compact, and others, is the way Indian County is characterized, and the way it's not.

"This compact expressly preserves all rights with respect to the state and with respect to the Cherokee Nation on the issue specifically of reservation and what that means. I don't believe it does anything to erode our sovereignty," Harsha said during the committee meeting.

During the Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. gave an update on what has transpired over the past month, including the tobacco and tag compacts.

"Since we last met, there have been some developments on a number of fronts, not the least of which is the ratification of the tobacco compact," Hoskin said. "This is something we should celebrate. This compact, of course, continues on a very stable industry that provides revenues to the Cherokee Nation and keeps the marketplace in a way that makes sense."

Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh, District 9, commented on the progress with the compact.

"Attorney General Harsha, that's great news on that compact, and it does give us some light that we can work with the state — we know we can — and hopefully they understand we are more than willing to be good neighbors," Shambaugh said.

The other agreement in the offing is the tag compact. The tag compact impacts many categories of spending, including law enforcement, infrastructure and education, Hoskin said.

The new intern program has launched, Hoskin said. College students are being sought to start a career with the Cherokee Nation.

"It's in their interest to become one of these interns, but really it's in our interest, because if we are going to keep this nation running, we want the leaders to come up as people retire," Hoskin said. "We need to do all we can to attract and retain Cherokee talent among the ranks of those going to college."

The summer Electronic Benefit Transfer program has been a part of the Cherokee Nation for seven years. The provides $120 over the course of the summer for Cherokee and non-Cherokee, Hoskin said.

"This is something we shared in common with the state until they decided to abandon the program. We didn't abandon it because we looked at it as abandoning kids who need us," Hoskin said.

The Artist Recovery Act has injected a lot of dollars into the artist community, Hoskin said. Also, a big push is being made for internet connectivity and 15 new cell towers over the course of the next few years at a cost of $80 million is a good investment for the Nation, Hoskin said.

Holly Jarvis, chief operations officer with Cherokee Nation Cultural and Economic Development, updated the council on the number of pieces of art that have been purchased from Cherokee artists.

"For the two previous bids we had, we have procured 375 pieces from 124 artists, totaling an investment of $665,000," Jarvis said.

Cherokee Warrior veteran awards were given to Kenneth Wayne McClendon and Charles Nelson "Sonny" Hudson.

Hudson is a veteran of the Navy who joined in 1978 and was discharged in 1982. After retiring, he worked with the Central Intelligence Agency, starting in December 1983 until August 2008. He served in Iraq and retired in 2008.

McClendon, a Vietnam veteran, went into the Army in 1963. He was trained in the infantry and attained the rank of master sergeant. While in Vietnam, he was in charge of a platoon of 28 men and was honorably discharged on April 1, 1988. His metals include a Purple Heart, National Defense Medal, Good Conduct Metal, Vietnam Service Medal with five Bronze Stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Bronze Star and several other medals with oak leaf clusters.

"I'm a descendant of Cherokee Nation citizens. They came to Oklahoma around 1843. I'm also a descendent of the Creek Nation. I'm so proud [my kinfolks] were able to come out to support me. But most of all, to meet the chief. I've met him twice. And I'm proud of him. I get the paper and I read what he has done for the Nation, and I'm very proud to be here to meet him and all of [the Council]."

The Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs has officially welcomed the 2024 Spring Thoroughbred Racing Season to that track.

"It will run through mid-May and include updated technology and new individual jockey silks this year," Jarvis said. "This is a 28-day race season, including a total of seven stakes worth more than $415,000."