Cherokee Nation Begins $25 Million Building Project To Combat COVID-19

Tuesday, September 8th 2020, 6:17 pm
By: Emory Bryan

VINITA, Okla. -

The Cherokee Nation started construction on Tuesday on $25 million worth of new buildings, with money from the federal CARES Act.

The Cherokee Nation will add a 4,000-square-foot expansion to the health clinic in Vinita to help employees work with safe separation. It's just one of 9 building projects started today, all pandemic related, all intended to improve the health and safety of Cherokee citizens.

In a one-day blitz of groundbreakings, Chief Chuck Hoskin turned dirt on projects planned for immediate needs, but with long term potential benefits. In Kansas, on the grounds of the American Legion post, the Nation is starting a new community center with room for 250 people.

"If, God forbid, another pandemic or something like that happened, we'd have a place to store food, or have meetings, no matter what happens, we're meeting that need for the future,” Mike Shambaugh, Cherokee Councilor said.

In Tahlequah, by the tribal headquarters, the Nation plans to build a health clinic for tribal employees.

In Stilwell, at the old Walmart, they'll employee 25 people in a new factory for surgical and N-95 face masks. They'll supply their own needs and sell the rest.

"We've made the decision to invest in the PPE equipment so we can manufacture the masks," Todd Enlow, Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff said.

The Cherokee Nation is building the new projects from existing plans, on flat ground, to meet the requirement that the money be spent by the end of the year.

In Jay, a prayer was offered that the project would benefit the health of Cherokees, and Hoskin said each project will.

“We've got to be prepared, I think the pandemic has shown us we have some gaps in food security and some areas where we need to beef up our capacity,” Hoskin said.

The money comes from the CARES Act and is the just latest installment of what the Nation received to help deal with COVID-19 related issues.