During global health crisis, Cherokee Nation protects and creates jobs for Cherokees

There can be no better use of Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars than providing jobs and ensuring Cherokees can work in safety without risk of being infected

During this chapter of history, a time of great uncertainty and hardship, the Cherokee Nation government and businesses never shied away from standing on the front lines with our employees. We allocated vital resources to help in any way possible. We created offsite work programs, suspended our entertainment operations and invested in equipment so our team can continue serving the Cherokee people and northeast Oklahoma. This funding helped ensure over 8,200 employees never missed a paycheck or benefits, and we led the way on safely reopening our businesses. Keeping critical payroll dollars flowing into Cherokee homes shows the responsible financial stewardship that is a hallmark of operations at Cherokee Nation. The tribe was able to create jobs with new projects, including PPE manufacturing sites in Stilwell and Hulbert and a meat processing facility in Tahlequah that are slated to open this Spring. Construction jobs were also created across the Cherokee reservation as homes were repaired and community buildings expanded. Protecting livelihoods, finding new business opportunities and even creating new jobs during the pandemic reflect Cherokee Nation’s enduring commitment to serving our workforce, and our citizens.

Getting back to work

Career Services department providing extensive training opportunities for Cherokees hit hard by COVID-19

Cherokee Nation citizen Brent Pigeon went to work on Aug. 27, 2020, just like every day before, leaving his home in Welling, Oklahoma, and driving to his welding job in Tulsa, where he had been employed for over 15 years.

But when Pigeon arrived in Tulsa, he soon found himself without a job, having been laid off due to a decline in welding jobs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They came to me and nine other guys, and I thought, ‘Oh no, here it is. I don’t have a job,’” Pigeon said. “You know, you have been here for so long and make so much money and then it’s gone, just like that. It’s devastating. Like anyone that has a steady job for that long, you accumulate things, and now you have to start thinking about how am I going to pay for my truck, how am I going to get the kids to school, how are we going to buy groceries?”

At age 42 and with children in school, Pigeon didn’t want to leave home to find a welding job, which seemed like his only choice.

“The company I was with was one of the last ones that kept going around here, so I thought if it came down to it, I would have to pack up and provide for my family in another state,” he said. “But luckily, Cherokee Nation was there to help.”

In July, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced the Cherokee Nation was dedicating $7.5 million in funding to increase career training and employment opportunities for Cherokees like Pigeon who were seeking relief from the effects of the pandemic.

Pigeon’s mother shared a Facebook post advertising the Cherokee Nation’s new fiber technician training program. Pigeon saw an opportunity to pick up a new trade and get back to work, so he contacted Cherokee Nation Career Services. By October, Pigeon was in the classroom learning a new skill.

“It’s a blessing to know the Cherokee Nation is behind their citizens, because I really do think that they want to see Cherokee people succeeding in life,” he said.

Pigeon hopes other Cherokees who are in need of a job or who are wanting to consider a career change, no matter their age, will use the training programs offered through the Cherokee Nation.

New programs offered through Career Services are often publicized through Cherokee Nation’s Facebook page, and more information is always available at www.cherokee.org under the Career Services tab.

“In the midst of the worst public health crisis in generations, one of the best ways to provide relief to Cherokee citizens is to make sure they have an opportunity to learn new skills and find the employment they need to provide for their families,” said Deputy Chief Bryan Warner. “This relief through the Respond, Recover and Rebuild initiative is a long-term investment that goes hand-in-hand with the historic Career Readiness Act Chief Hoskin and I signed in 2019 with the support of the Council of the Cherokee Nation. Together, these programs are making a significant difference for Cherokees.”

Pigeon expects to graduate from the fiber technician training program in early 2021.

“I never thought I’d lose my job or have to find another job or career path. But thank God Cherokee Nation was there to provide this 42-year-old man with kids and a fiancé with a new career path,” he said.