TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — Across the United States, 22 cities now have Cherokee Nation-affiliated satellite organizations. The organizations help them stay connected to their Cherokee roots since nearly two-thirds of Cherokee Nation citizens live outside the traditional Cherokee Nation boundaries of northeast Oklahoma.
The 22 Cherokee Nation at-large community groups are located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Kansas, Oregon, Texas, Washington, Washington D.C. and Oklahoma City.
“There is a need for the at-large citizens to connect with the tribe and their Cherokee roots here in the jurisdiction, and we facilitate that connection through our office, at-large community meetings and annual conferences,” said Rob Daugherty, director of the tribe’s Community & Cultural Outreach department, which oversees the official Cherokee Nation satellite organizations.
Each year, various tribal departments attend community picnics hosted by the groups, and several leaders of the 22 at-large groups attended a June 3-4 conference in Tahlequah.
The two-day Community and Cultural Outreach’s 12th Annual Conference of Community Leaders shared tips on sustainability and culture and had experts lead workshops.
“This annual gathering is a great opportunity for Cherokee Nation community leaders to come together and reconnect and share ideas. They also get an in-depth update from our various tribal departments about available programs and services,” said Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We bring in our tribal experts to share cultural knowledge and history, as well as provide technical assistance on how to better operate their nonprofit organizations. This is specifically designed to help Cherokee Nation citizens so they can go back to their home communities and share the most relevant information.”
The tribe has 330,000 Cherokee Nation citizens, and 205,000 live outside the 14-county tribal jurisdiction.
The Kansas City Cherokee Community boasts about 250 members in its satellite organization, said board member Jessie Polk. She was visiting the Cherokee Nation Friday and Saturday as part of the CCO conference. She said yearly visits from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the various Cherokee Nation departments are vital to their group maintaining a connection to their Cherokee identity.
“Without the tribe’s support and programs, we would really struggle to maintain our connection to our tribe and its history and culture,” said Polk, of Lansing, Kansas. “The events and presentations help give us a baseline of what we might want to promote within our group and community, so it’s very important.”
Cherokees of Orange County, California, board member Janet Cook said even though she was born in Claremore, she continues to want to learn and be near her Cherokee culture. Their California group has about 120 Cherokee Nation citizens living throughout Orange County that meet regularly.
“Even though I was born here in Oklahoma, you learn so much about the Cherokee Nation through this conference and annual at-large meetings. There are a lot of people who have never been to Oklahoma and they don’t have the knowledge, so it helps out when the tribe sends out representatives to present on the tribe and its culture,” Cook said. “I think it’s really important we keep in contact with the Cherokee Nation for the people that haven’t experienced the Cherokee Nation firsthand.”
For more information on the at-large Cherokee Nation community organizations, visit www.cherokeesatlarge.org.
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