The Cherokee Nation installed the first solar canopy car charging station in Oklahoma at its W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. Photo: Anadisgoi
Environment | Opinion

Bill John Baker: Cherokee Nation takes the lead in embracing green energy solutions

Notes from the Chief

By Bill John Baker
Cherokee Nation

Cherokee Nation continues to lead northeast Oklahoma, as well as Indian Country, in embracing green energy solutions.

Recently, we dedicated a new solar power canopy at the Cherokee Nation’s W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. It will harness the power of the sun to charge electric vehicles and provide additional power to our complex. Cherokee Nation is the first tribal government in Oklahoma to build and utilize a solar canopy like this. We have always been good stewards of the land, and this is another example of exceptional natural resource conservation.

Embracing solar panels and adding electric vehicles to our fleet are consistent with Cherokee Nation’s leadership in clean-energy usage and carbon-footprint reduction. We have made an investment in clean and renewable energy a priority. We have embraced ideas that look to the future and how we can be better stewards for our children and for the earth.

These ideas are really just a continued extension of the long tradition that Cherokees have always held. Our commitment to clean energy is rooted in our history, as well as in our values. We look at what our ancestors thought, did and believe, and we try to follow in their footsteps.

There is no doubt that our ancestors were among the first conservationists, and we must commit ourselves as they did to protecting the earth. It gives us life, and anytime we can help harness that to make the lives of Cherokees better, we are doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

Cherokee Nation on YouTube: Cherokee Nation Opens Solar Canopy Car Charging Station

The solar panels cover an awning that can charge eight electric vehicles. The structure’s design also enhances the beautification efforts we have made at the tribal complex. The solar panels can generate 58,000 kilowatt hours per year, which is enough to power three homes for a year.

In addition to the charging station, which can charge up to eight cars at a time, Cherokee Nation has incorporated two electric vehicles to its fleet for employee usage. In recent years, we have transitioned many of our fleet buses to CNG vehicles, which are more efficient and cost effective in the long term. By using both electric and CNG vehicles, we are reducing our carbon footprint, stretching our dollars and leading by example.

Preservation of natural resources has been a major theme of our recent accomplishments in the past year. In addition to consciously reducing our carbon footprint within the Cherokee Nation, we continue to lead the fight against the burial of corporate toxic waste within our jurisdiction, have pledged to reduce usage of Styrofoam-like products in our daily operations, and undertaken a business initiative to develop a wind energy farm on Cherokee Nation trust land in Kay County.

Green energy – CNG, wind and solar – is creating jobs and a cleaner, better future for Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation has fully embraced these efforts, and we will remain on the cusp of positive change going forward. It is the right thing to do for the next seven generations.

Bill John Baker currently serves as the 17th elected chief of the Cherokee Nation, the largest Indian tribe in the United States. Born and raised in Cherokee County, he is married to Sherry (Robertson) Baker. Principal Chief Baker has devoted much of his life in service to the Cherokee people. He spent 12 years as a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and was elected Principal Chief in October 2011.