Cherokee Nation to continue push to make opioid manufacturers pay

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Oct. 14—Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said during a Tribal Council meeting Tuesday that the Cherokee Nation will continue its efforts to seek damages against companies in the opioid industry.

The tribe announced it had reached a $75 settlement with McKesson Corp., Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corp. in September. It was the largest settlement in the tribe's history. The Cherokee Nation sued the companies in 2017, saying they and other companies were negligent in handling the suppoly of large quantities of prescription opioids. The tribe had also made claims against Walmart, Walgreens and CVS at the time, but those remain pending.

"We're not done with the opioid industry," he said. "Their conduct has brought a great deal of injury to the Cherokee people and the Cherokee Nation. We're going to continue to pursue justice with respect to that industry's conduct, but $75 million will go a long way toward meeting some of the objectives members of this council have expressed."

Hoskin said some of the funds will go to behavioral health and addiction treatment services.

The Tribal Council also passed the Verna D. Thompson Early Childhood Education Act of 2021, authorizing up to $40 million for fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024, in total, to help repair or replace existing Head Start facilities.

"At Head Start facilities, we know we have a first-class curriculum, wonderful men and women working in the programs that make a difference in the lives of our people, and we need to give them facilities that will match the great work that goes on in there," Hoskin said. "The Verna Thompson Head Start Act will certainly do that."

The council confirmed the reappointments of Gabe Mosteller and Thomas Merrell as board members of the Economic Development Trust Authority.

Amber Lynn George was reappointed as a board member of the Cherokee Nation Foundation.

Steven Hair was confirmed as a board member of the Cherokee Nation Sequoyah High School Board of Education.

The council confirmed the appointment of Marilyn Vann and Blake Fetcher as commissioners of the Cherokee Nation Environmental Protection Commission.

The council confirmed the reappointment of Dianna Mayfield as a member of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Board of Commissioners, and Candle Metlon was also appointed to the board.

The tribe recently announced it has reached 400,000 citizens on its rolls. Hoskin called it a major milestone and proof that the tribe continues to grow.

"We have a friendly competition with out friends, the Navajo Nation. They recently had announced that they were the largest tribe by population in the country. Now it's not a race, but if it were, we'd be winning," Hoskin said.

What's next

The next Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. and can be viewed on the tribe's YouTube page. Due to COVID-19, meetings are not yet open to the public.

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