Cherokee Nation leaders gathered with community members in Bell on Wednesday to celebrate the official signing of the Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act, new legislation proposed by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and unanimously approved by the Council of the Cherokee Nation earlier this week.
The act will inject at least $2 million in additional funding each year into the Cherokee Nation’s efforts at eliminating barriers to clean water access in the reservation. The act will also develop expert recommendations and help find solutions to remedy any deficiencies that negatively impact the health, safety and overall quality of life of Cherokee citizens.
“The Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act is a move in the right direction to ensure that everyone on the Cherokee Nation Reservation will be free of any barriers to accessing clean, safe water,” Chief Hoskin said. “Addressing individual and community infrastructure needs is critical. Although the Cherokee Nation invests substantial funding every year into improving water systems in Cherokee communities, we must expand our efforts and continue studying, identifying, and addressing the issues of our water systems. The Wilma P. Mankiller and Charlie Soap Water Act allows us to do that not only by identifying Cherokee citizens who continue to struggle with access to clean water, but by also providing the additional funding we need to ensure access to quality water systems for our Cherokee communities.”
The act is named in honor of former Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller and former Executive Director of Community Service Charlie Soap, who worked to create and improve water access in communities now serviced by the Cherry Tree Rural Water District, including the historic Bell water line in Adair County. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the historic Bell water line project, which Mankiller and Soap began planning as community organizers under the administration of former Principal Chief Ross Swimmer in 1981.