Empowering Cherokees to stay connected in evolving virtual educational landscape

Technology critical to academic pursuits during pandemic

This academic year has been like no other in history, and the Cherokee Nation rapidly transitioned to virtual education, assisting families as they adapted to new school and education routines. The Respond, Recover and Rebuild education initiative was developed to ensure Cherokee families were prepared to cope with disruptions to traditional education. The tribe created technology and clothing grants for K-12 students, invested in post-high school technology scholarships and fiscally supported each of the over 100 public school districts within the Cherokee Nation reservation. Grants were given to students within the reservation and to Cherokee at-large citizens. Cherokee Nation collaborated with area universities, colleges and career tech centers to ensure Cherokees still received the education and training they deserved. Investments in education is a core value of the Cherokee people, something that has been repeated over and over in the tribe’s history. The infusion of the additional Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars helped ensure our citizens stay on track for their education and their future during this difficult time.

Road to recovery

Cherokee Nation invests nearly $40 million to bolster education under its Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan.

The Cherokee Nation has more than 380,000 citizens across the world, and while all of them have likely been affected directly or indirectly by COVID-19, Cherokee elders, Cherokee youth and Cherokees with disabilities were especially impacted by the virus and the changes it so quickly forced on society.

To help Cherokee citizens recover, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner unveiled a series of Respond, Recover and Rebuild COVID-19 initiatives to provide direct assistance to citizens both on the reservation and around the world who had suffered job loss, new difficulties with remote learning and insecurities focused on food, utilities, housing and more.

The first initiative provided clothing vouchers and technology stipends to Cherokee children ages 5 to 18 to help ease the impact of the pandemic and assist students with their transition to virtual learning. While many students used their funds for laptop computers, others secured internet connectivity and other technology.

For Paul George, the technology grants available for at-large citizens made all the difference. He and his family live in Seattle, Washington. He was laid off in 2020 because of the economic challenges brought about by COVID-19. With a daughter in high school and a son in engineering school, they were both in need of computer upgrades in order to be able to learn remotely.

“This pandemic is hurting everyone no matter where they live,” George said, “and I appreciate any help we can get. The tribe engaging with those of us who don’t live in the Oklahoma area was a huge help.”

Cherokee Nation also launched a program in November providing 9,000 mobile hotspot and up to a year of service, valued at over $900, to Cherokee households lacking internet access so our youth can safely learn at home and get the education they need to move forward.