(L-R): Leaders of the Cherokee Nation gathered to celebrate the signing the Gadugi Corps Volunteer and National Service Act of 2023, which authorizes a new volunteer and national service program empowering citizens to improve their communities.
Monday, December 18, 2023 - Leaders of the Cherokee Nation gathered last week to celebrate signing the Gadugi Corps Volunteer and National Service Act of 2023, which authorizes a new volunteer and national service program empowering citizens to improve their communities.
The legislation will authorize up to $3 million annually over four years for the program. Gadugi Corps participants will focus on the following priority areas:
Supplemental education programs for Cherokee communities and public school districts with academic deficiencies
Community-based volunteer and service projects, partnering with non-profit organizations
Community disaster and emergency response
Volunteer and service opportunities for Cherokee citizens living outside the Cherokee Nation Reservation
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Chief Bryan Warner proposed the Gadugi Corps legislation in early December. The legislation was passed by the Cherokee Nation Council during Monday’s monthly Council meeting.
“The point of this legislation is to put resources out into the grassroots and make sure we have national service opportunities at the local level,” Chief Hoskin said. “Gadugi Corps will allow our Nation to solve local problems, respond to local challenges, help people who need it the most, and also afford opportunities for at-large citizens involved in their own community organizations to come home to their sister organizations and pitch in for local efforts.”
By executive order in August, Chief Hoskin established a task force to identify opportunities to increase volunteer and national service opportunities for Cherokee Nation citizens. In his September State of the Nation Address, Chief Hoskin identified Gadugi Corps as a major initiative of his and Deputy Chief Warner’s second term.
“Chief Hoskin, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and I are reaffirming today that this Nation is built from the grassroots up, that we measure our strength at the community level, and that we will stay tethered to our fundamental organizing principle of working together,” Deputy Chief Warner said. “That is the spirit of gadugi. I’m just excited to put to test all of the work that our Gadugi Corps Task Force, community organizations and other individuals have been putting into this initiative. I think they will pass this with flying colors, and I cannot wait to see everybody put these steps into action and see the fruits of their labor.”
Led by former Councilman Shawn Crittenden and Deputy Secretary of State Canaan Duncan, the Gadugi Corps Task Force issued a report in October, laying out an ambitious plan to empower Cherokee citizens and community organizations at the grassroots to focus on local problem-solving and community support, plans embraced in the proposed legislation.
Members of the Gadugi Corps Task Force also included cultural advisor Dawni Squirrel, Freedmen Community Liaison Melissa Payne, Chief of Staff Corey Bunch, Language Department employee Kristen Thomas and Education Department employee Shelly Dreadfulwater.
Crittenden, now a Deputy Executive Director in the tribe’s education department, will oversee Gadugi Corps.
“I want to give my utmost respect to Chief Hoskin and Deputy Chief Warner for their vision, heart, work, effort and time spent on this program,” Crittenden said. “I am ready to go to work on this alongside a talented group of individuals on the task force, and I look forward to working with the community leaders. This will better the Cherokee people.”
The law will provide funding for paid national service as well as support for volunteers.
“It’s an exciting day that marks the official start of a program that has great potential,” District 12 Councilor Dora Patzkowski said. “Gadugi Corps can help our communities through service and volunteerism, which are two things that are in the heart and spirit of every Cherokee.”
The Gadugi Corps program will sunset at the end of the 2027 fiscal year, with an opportunity for the Council to reauthorize the program.
KXMX Staff Writer
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