TAHLEQUAH, Okla.— Among Native American people, there has always existed a warrior tradition, and in the 21st century that tradition continues in the Cherokee Nation.  Thanks to a very special volunteer-driven project, Cherokee veterans will have a place to call their very own, designed to meet their unique needs.

Cherokees and other Indian tribes have traditionally held the place of honor of being the most highly represented ethnic group per capita in the U.S. armed forces.

As a result, the number of American Indian veterans has grown steadily with each war and conflict, creating the need for more services and gathering places for returning military personnel.

A joint vision between Principal Chief Chad Smith and Deputy Principal Chief Joe Grayson, Jr., the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center will break ground soon and you can help make the new center a reality by volunteering on its construction and development.

“What will be unique about the building is it will be a place bound together by patriotism, appreciation, acknowledgement and the sacrifice of our veterans.

The Cherokee Nation will provide the materials and together we will physically build it.

 It will be a great opportunity to give back to veterans some extremely small measure of what they have given to us,” said Smith.

It is estimated that approximately 24,000 hours of volunteer labor will go into the creation of the Veterans Center. 

The Cherokee Nation is encouraging anyone, regardless of skill level, who wishes to contribute their time to the project to sign up as a volunteer.  Volunteers are needed at every level, from basic site clean-up and volunteer coordination to those who can assist with skilled work in plumbing and electrical needs.

Todd Enlow, Cherokee Nation Group Leader of Leadership said that the planned 7,700 square feet facility will be located east of the existing Cherokee Warriors Memorial on the grounds of the W.W. Keeler Cherokee Nation complex.  According to Enlow, the building construction will use local resources and contain many energy efficient features, such as passive solar energy, for a “greener” overall footprint.

“The passive solar design will allow for great open spaces,” said Enlow, adding that the center is intended to provide a spot where veterans and the general public can feel comfortable mingling together.

Construction of the new center is expected to take about nine to twelve months.  Included in the plan are a kitchen area, offices for counseling and a community room, sized to hold up to 250 people.

A special “Hall of Honor” museum will present the stories of individual veterans who are or were Cherokee Nation citizens.

 In accordance with Cherokee tradition, the building will face east.

“Most will agree that the church is not the building but the congregation.

I encourage each of us to contribute our time, energy and gratitude in helping friends of veterans and veterans to build this center.” said Smith.

To find out how to volunteer your time to help build the new Cherokee Nation Veterans Center, contact Avo Fivekiller at (918) 453-5647.