Every month, Councilman Lee Keener and I attend three monthly community meetings in Tulsa, Collinsville and Tiawah in addition to manning booths at events, accepting invitations to other community events and meetings and answering emails and phone calls.
Based on those daily interactions with constituents, I wanted to answer several frequently asked questions to help everyone move forward.
First, citizenship in the Cherokee Nation requires proof and a written application submitted to Tahlequah. To download an application, go to www.cherokee.org under ‘Services’ and then ‘Tribal Citizenship.’
Citizenship requires direct descendancy from the Dawes Rolls which were set by the United States Congress and are not amendable except by Congress.
Citizenship requirements are set by the Tribal Constitution which was voted upon by Cherokee Nation citizens who made time to register to vote and go to the polls when the Tribe has elections.
Only the Cherokee People through a public vote may change citizenship requirements for the Nation by amending the Tribal Constitution. Note, no such amendment is being considered to my knowledge. I am simply stating the process.
The Nation does not do your genealogy for you, so you will need to document your family tree on your own. Local resources are often available at your town library or even genealogy groups such as the Claremore Library Genealogy Volunteers to assist you for free.
The Tulsa Library Genealogy Center was moved to Hardesty Library and may be found online at tulsalibrary.org/genealogy-center.
If I were going to hire someone, I would hire the Cherokee Heritage Center genealogy staff. Their rate is reasonable and they are experts! To learn more, go to cherokeeheritage.org.
For next generation citizens such as our children and grandchildren, the wait for Registration has gone from about one year to more than three years under the current Chief.
If you need an expedite for education, medical or work reasons, you need to send an email to your District Council representative with the applicant’s full legal name meaning first, middle and last name plus date of birth and a statement requesting the expedite and the reason for the expedite.
At the bottom of the email, include your association to the applicant(s), name, mailing address and phone number. Expedites may still take up to one month.
Health care is another issue Councilman Keener are constantly hearing about in the community.
For those needing assistance navigating Contract Health Services (CHS), please email your full legal name, date of birth, contact information and a brief statement about the issue to your District Council representative.
If you have cancer or another life threatening or debilitating health issue, do not wait to ask for assistance. An email should effectively and efficiently get you to the right staff and avoid you getting lost in the bureaucracy of Indian Health Service (IHS) at Claremore Indian Hospital.
Remember, Claremore is not ran by the Cherokee Nation but a Federal IHS facility.
If all else fails, email your Councilmember. A well-written email with complete contact information at the bottom will get you what you need.
Note, Facebook messages or cell texts are not emails. And, phone tag is frustrating for all involved.
If you have questions, issues or concerns about the Cherokee Nation government, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 2922, Claremore, OK 74018.
For daily news and event notices, ask to be added to my Cherokee Nation News and Events email listserv. You may, also, find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. Lee Keener is at email@example.com.
To contact the Tribe, call (918) 453-5000 or visit www.cherokee.org.
Cara Cowan Watts is an elected Tribal legislator within the Cherokee Nation for portions of Rogers and Tulsa Counties.