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Telling our story through the voices of the Cherokee people

February 13, 2015

By Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker

The Cherokee Nation’s story is rich, complex and powerful. We’re a people who’ve survived seemingly insurmountable odds, only to survive, persevere and excel. It’s a story of strength, compassion for our fellow Cherokee, and the will to overcome anything. It’s a story that many of us know well, but others may not. The Cherokee story is unique, colorful and, above all, inspiring to us and others. And it’s a story that is finally being told in a remarkable way.

I’m proud to introduce all of you to a new monthly program we’ve been working on for some time, called “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People.” It’s designed as a 30-minute program that will air in northeast Oklahoma television markets and online at www.Osiyo.TV for those living outside the Cherokee Nation’s traditional boundaries. We’re also working with a national television network to air the program in more than a dozen markets nationwide. We hope to have more details on that in the coming weeks.

“Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” is an endeavor long overdue. Other tribes have introduced various advertising and programming to showcase their people, and it’s finally time we did as well. The Cherokee Nation is the largest Indian tribe in the United States, and we’ve always been leaders in Indian Country. This is one more way we are leading: by informing, educating and enlightening our people, other Natives, and those who have a strong interest in our story of resilience and fortitude.

The show will profile Cherokees who are excelling in their fields, carrying on tribal traditions, preserving our culture or protecting our sovereignty. We’ll feature young people becoming fluent in speaking Cherokee, so that our language survives. You’ll meet elders who are some of the last of their generation to create their signature art and textiles, but feel compelled to share their knowledge with others. We’ll introduce you to a professional bull rider, a nationally ranked bass fisherman and a professional mixed martial arts fighter, all of whom are Cherokee. We’ll take you to some of our most beautiful and historic sites, like Natural Falls and the Saline Courthouse, Dwight Mission and the Illinois River, Cherokee Nation Civil War sites, and the many beautiful lakes Cherokee Nation is home to.

Leading us on this journey is a Cherokee Nation citizen and well-known award-winning journalist Jennifer Loren. You may know Jennifer from her many years at KOTV, the News on 6 in Tulsa, and from her Emmy-winning reporting. Jennifer is a proud Cherokee whose family has lived in the Monkey Island area for more than a century. In our first episode, with the help of Cherokee Nation genealogists, Jennifer shares her family story and the struggles they, like many Cherokee families, suffered before the Trail of Tears and how they reestablished their home in Indian Territory. We hope to make this a regular segment that will feature other Cherokees in future episodes. Jennifer was the perfect candidate to kick off this effort, and we are so proud to have such a talented Cherokee telling our stories.

“Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” isn’t just a series that will inform us today. Its impact will be much greater than that. It is a preservation of our past and will be a historical record for future generations. This project has always been a dream of mine and so many others in the Cherokee Nation. Too many elders have passed without having their stories told, so the time to wait was no more.

The first monthly episode debuts Feb. 15 in local television markets and online. Check www.Osiyo.TV for showtimes and full episodes. We’ll also hold four screenings in northeast Oklahoma. Dates and locations are as follows.

We are proud to present “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” to you and your family.

Wado, and enjoy.