Oklahoma is arguably the most distinctive state in the Union. It is the home of 4 million people, a place of great beauty and abundant natural resources. However, what most sets Oklahoma apart are the 38 sovereign Indian nations that share this land.
The Cherokee Nation came to this area more than 180 years ago, decades before Oklahoma became a state. Because this is our forever home, we invest in long-term growth. We do not outsource jobs. We do not move our headquarters out of state or move production overseas to find a better deal. We are long-term partners with Oklahoma, with our futures linked together.
Cherokee Nation’s economic impact on the state of Oklahoma continues to grow. Now measured at $2.16 billion per year, our impact has more than doubled during the past eight years.
We directly employ more than 11,000 people, altogether supporting more than 19,000 jobs. Our businesses generate more than $800 million in annual personal income. In fiscal year 2018, our employees provided more than $12 million to the state in the form of income tax.
We’ve built the largest Native health care system in the U.S. and just opened the largest outpatient facility in Indian country. The investment of $200 million of our own money brings $100 million per year in new federal health funding to the region and enables us to hire an additional 800 health care workers. Besides providing good jobs and life-saving care, our health system takes the pressure off overburdened private and state facilities.
Our world-class gaming and entertainment endeavors, coupled with the tribe’s rich history and culture, bring hundreds of thousands of tourists to Oklahoma from across the world. These visitors pump even more new dollars into our state’s economy. During the last fiscal year, our gaming operations sent $18 million in revenue directly to the state, bringing the total of the last eight years to $116 million. And that’s just one tribe. Oklahoma has richly benefited from the gaming revenues of all our tribes.
Cherokee Nation is successful because we have the good sense to find and work with great partners. For the past 15 years, we have had a stable and positive partnership with Oklahoma, most notably through a gaming compact that is fair to all.
We can all see what happens when the state and the tribes work together. Why would we ever want to terminate this great partnership?
We have put millions of dollars into economic development in small towns and in the Tulsa metro area. We have provided millions in funding for public preK-12 and higher education, during an era in which the state of Oklahoma has retreated from those investments. We continue to leverage federal dollars for a wide range of projects in the region such as renewable energy development, infrastructure and health care.
We are building public roads and bridges. We are bringing clean and reliable water to Oklahoma’s rural areas. We are working with communities across the region to solve problems, big and small. We are building homes so that young families can achieve the dream of homeownership. We are fixing homes for low-income elders so they can enjoy a life of dignity and spend time with their grandkids.
No matter how our impact is measured, it is clear that Cherokee Nation and the other 37 federally recognized Oklahoma tribes remain a consistent force for economic growth. As Chief of the Cherokee Nation, my message to the state of Oklahoma is this: Cherokee Nation is the best friend Oklahoma has ever had.
Good friends must show each other respect. Instead of trying to throw out our successful gaming compacts so the state can increase its revenue on the backs of tribes, our state government and the citizens of Oklahoma would be better served by embracing tribes and their successes.
Let’s move forward as partners and continue on our path to greater prosperity. Together, our future is bright.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation.