Chief Chat: Cherokee Nation Expands Role in Aerospace Industry | New
Oklahoma has a rich heritage of innovation and success in the aerospace industry. Cherokee Nation citizen Will Rogers was one of its first promoters almost 100 years ago. Today, aerospace and aviation continue to help propel Oklahoma’s economy, and the Cherokee Nation plays a key role in this industry.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce reports that our home state continued to attract more aerospace and defense companies to create new, quality jobs with pay average annual over $ 86,000. Statewide, it is one of the fastest growing industries.
The Cherokee Nation is helping to educate and train workers for these quality jobs. We prepare Cherokees and Oklahomans to be the engineers, fabricators and service technicians sought by this industry. Leading this effort is our Deputy Chief Bryan Warner, a former math and science professor.
Recently, Cherokee Nation and the Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology launched a formal partnership. Spartan will work directly with Sequoyah High School, introducing young Cherokees to the wide range of possible careers in aviation and preparing them for success.
Education and career opportunities for tribal citizens remain a strategic priority for the Cherokee Nation. Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is essential to increase our place in the global economy. STEM education fosters the adaptability and complex analytical skills that are essential to the success of Cherokees in today’s changing technological world.
The Cherokee Nation is also working with Oklahoma State University and NASA to create a program that includes Native American culture. While the primary goal is to create educational programs that incorporate tribal stories and values, we can also introduce students to concepts that will excite and inspire the next generation of Cherokees in STEM-related fields. These ideas can help Cherokee and other Indigenous children realize that many of their hobbies are already linked to careers in STEM. Popular video games, for example, are the result of engineering, which is also the basis of what it takes to put a rocket into orbit or an airplane wired up and ready for flight.
An Oklahoma City-based company, Delaware Resource Group, is working with the Cherokee Nation to launch an annual summer retreat for Indigenous students interested in aviation careers. Owner Phil Busey, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, knows that success in the aerospace industry will bring a brighter future to Oklahoma, but it can be difficult to find qualified employees. Without contemporary role models, many young Cherokees don’t see themselves in a STEM career. This is where individuals like Phil help change the landscape. We partner with him and others to develop relevant study programs and educate students through our reservation. The development of the real state-wide workforce begins in elementary school and continues through high school and beyond.
The Cherokee Nation not only prepares workers for the aerospace industry; our tribal businesses have long been recognized as one of its most prestigious suppliers. For more than 50 years, we have provided aerospace, technology and defense services, including systems maintenance and integration, manufacturing, engineering, program management and aviation support and installations to private industry and government agencies. At our Stilwell and Pryor facilities, our staff manufacture a diverse line of products, including aerospace wiring harnesses, electromechanical assemblies, aviation sheet metal and machined parts, and ground support equipment.
We don’t just look at the past and the present. As a tribe, we develop programs and make strategic investments that will benefit Cherokee citizens, families, communities and neighbors for generations to come. Just as Will Rogers took off almost 100 years ago, we are looking to emerging technologies to keep us moving forward.
Our activities include teams of scientists, technicians, weather and climate experts, flight crews and others at the forefront of the use of unmanned systems, better known as drones, in the land, air and sea operations. These exciting projects range from high seas exploration to disaster relief, military support, emergency response, hazardous weather forecasting and environmental monitoring.
Cherokee Nation includes some of America’s best and brightest minds. From our young people learning all that is possible through STEM education, to our bright and professional workers in the industry, we are fueling the growth of the aerospace industry in Northeast Oklahoma and developing technologies that could change the world.
Chuck Hoskin Jr. is the chief leader of the Cherokee Nation.