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TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation was among six tribes honored nationwide this week with the Harvard 2021 Honoring Nations Award. Cherokee Nation received high honors for its innovative ONE FIRE Victim Services office that helps support and protect victims of domestic violence.

Each year the award by the Harvard Kennedy School of Government is administered by the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and celebrates outstanding examples of tribes that help expand the capacities of Native nations.

The Cherokee Nation’s ONE FIRE office has supported approximately 2,000 citizens since its inception in 2013. Calls to the ONE FIRE office increased 25 percent in the past year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Harvard Honoring Nations award is a tremendous acknowledgment of the mission and vision of Cherokee Nation’s ONE FIRE Victim Services Program,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “When ONE FIRE was established, there were few resources for survivors of domestic violence in their time of crisis. Today, ONE FIRE has proven to be an innovative template that other Indian nations can replicate to better meet the needs of their citizens in culturally-based ways. Cherokee Nation’s commitment to better protect women, children and families within our reservation is stronger than ever. We know that when the Cherokee people determine the best ways to assist our fellow citizens, it strengthens our sovereignty and leads to positive outcomes.”

ONE FIRE, which stands for “Our Nation Ending Fear, Intimidation, Rape and Endangerment,” serves as a streamlined “one-stop” program that provides wraparound services to survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault and dating violence across tribe’s 14-county reservation.

ONE FIRE's mission is to empower survivors who are seeking aid and provide them the tools needed to safely rebuild their lives. To do this, ONE FIRE provides comprehensive services and access to resources, including law enforcement protection, legal analysis, housing aid, job placement, educational needs, health care and counseling.

“ONE FIRE Victims Services is one of our most important programs that is working day in and day out to help families affected by domestic violence in our communities,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “The staff at our ONE FIRE Victim Services are transforming the way we understand and respond to domestic violence. These women and men come to work every day, and often after hours, to assist survivors through some of their most harrowing life experiences. I am truly proud of the staff and this program, and I am happy to see it getting the recognition it deserves for the important services it provides.”

Over just the past year, ONE FIRE has supported 334 new clients and continues serving another 200 clients from 2020.

To expand its reach and to meet the immediate needs of those in crisis, Cherokee Nation relocated ONE FIRE’s headquarters to a more secure location in Tahlequah and invested millions of dollars in a new transitional living center in Stilwell. ONE FIRE also recently secured a multimillion-dollar federal grant that will be used to do even more for victims of domestic violence.

“ONE FIRE victim services has been providing support and services to victims of domestic violence – both Indian and non-Indian – throughout the Cherokee Nation Reservation for years,” said Cherokee Nation Attorney General Sara Hill. “I’m proud that this program, which is a critical piece of Cherokee Nation’s work to end domestic violence in our communities, has been recognized for high honors by the Harvard Honoring Nations program. Our incredibly hard-working and creative staff are tackling one of the greatest challenges facing our state, and are improving the lives of all Oklahomans in the process.”

Each of the six finalists navigated the multiple and extraordinary challenges of the past year-and-a-half with steadfastness and heart, embodying the Honoring Nations spirit to its fullest. Serving their nations through three competitive rounds of evaluation, the exemplary programs were selected from 70 applicants representing 45 tribes and five tribal consortia. By exercising their self-determination, the programs implemented effective solutions to universal governmental challenges in the areas of education, justice, energy independence, land management, natural resource management, and taxation.

“New stories of success emerge from Indian Country daily. These are stories that need to be told, heard, and told again to assist tribal nations to learn from each other’s successes and to teach our non-Native neighbors about the extraordinary and applicable lessons Indian Country has to offer local governments everywhere,” said Megan Minoka Hill, director of the awards program.

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