By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
The Museum of the Cherokee Indian won the top award as the 2021-22 SOAR (Success in Operations, Accountability, and Reporting) Awards were presented during a Reports to Tribal Council session on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 16. The Museum won the prestigious Chief Noah Powell Fiscal Excellence Award trophy.
The awards, presented by the EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Office of Internal Audit and Ethics, are by nomination with a total of nine programs of the EBCI being nominated for this time period.
Sharon Blankenship, EBCI chief audit and ethics executive, said at the beginning of Wednesday’s awards ceremony, “We appreciate all tribal programs that are dedicated to serving our people. Recognizing success across the Tribe is important to help create an organizational culture that promotes responsibility, transparency, and accountability.”
Of the top award, she noted, “The highest honor is named for Chief Noah Powell, the 21st Principal Chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Chief Powell, remembered for his honesty, integrity, and kindness, believed in his people and what they could accomplish.”
Shana Bushyhead Condill, Museum of the Cherokee Indian executive director, said upon the organization receiving the award, “It’s an honor to be recognized for the work we are doing and the work we are striving to do at the Museum. I also want to recognize the folks on the ground actually doing the work. Michael Slee’s team in operations has the unenviable task of finding all of the holes in all of our processes and correcting them. Lily Wright, our bookkeeper, has had a trial by fire. She’s arrived to us in the middle of an overhaul of all of our policies and processes. She has been patient, dedicated, and willing to learn at each turn.”
She added, “I’m also grateful for our Board who has never shied away from a challenge. It was their recommendation that allowed the Museum to participate in this audit outside of our normal annual audit. Their leadership, always with the goal of building up our internal skills and knowledge, has allowed us to grow. There’s always more to know and opportunity to be better than we were yesterday.”
Information from EBCI Office of Internal Audit & Ethics states, “Within the past year, the Museum has redirected their strategy putting community at the forefront, telling the story of the Cherokee people through a community perspective. With this new strategy, a new mission statement was developed along with policies and procedures, an employee handbook, and an overall workforce culture.”
In addition to the Chief Noah Powell trophy, three programs received the Fiscal Commitment Award trophy including: EBCI Supplemental Health Insurance Program (SHIP), Tribal Foods Distribution, and EBCI Solid Waste Management. Five programs were honored with a Fiscal Recognition Award certificate including: Snowbird/Cherokee County Family Support, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority Pharmacy, Tribal Law Enforcement Division, EBCI Public Health and Human Services Regulatory & Compliance, and the Cherokee Boys Club Electric School Bus Initiative.
The EBCI Office of Internal Audit & Ethics provided the following statements regarding the reason each program was honored:
- Tribal Foods Distribution: In 2020, the program applied for and was awarded grant funding over $5 million to renovate and expand its facilities to better meet the needs of the community. This funding will allow the program to grow, expand its service offerings, and increase the number of participants while keeping employees and participants comfortable and safe. The new facility will also house the Tribal Cannery.
- EBCI Supplemental Health Insurance Program (SHIP): Over the past year, Supplemental Health Insurance Program has continued to provide an essential service to the elders and disabled members across the Boundary. During COVID and the shutdown, the program worked with the social security office and hearing aid offices to continue to provide services and reimbursement checks to their participants.
- EBCI Solid Waste Management: Solid waste management has put forth multiple efforts to create a better and more efficient waste reduction plan. The program received a grant from the Cherokee Preservation Foundation and partnered with the Ray Kinsland Leadership Institute for more educational promotion on recycling. They also restarted their effort to create a new method of waste composting.
- Snowbird/Cherokee County Family Support: The past two fiscal years, the program issued over 700 cards to assist community members. Within the past year, the Snowbird/Cherokee Co. Family Support Services program has established and implemented a new database to track program participants to better budget and provide services to the communities.
- Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority Pharmacy: The CIHA Pharmacy completed a project of an all-inclusive billing strategy for Medicare Part D recipients to provide more services that are not available through a retail pharmacy. As a result of this work, they have doubled their net patient services revenue. This increased revenue has allowed for expansion of the pharmacy formulary and increased the offering of behavioral health services. The Pharmacy also services EMS, Cherokee Schools, Cherokee Indian Police Department, and vaccination clinics with necessary medications.
- EBCI Public Health and Human Services Regulatory & Compliance: With a staff of eight people, this program is responsible for compliance reports and investigations, privacy and security monitoring, training, policy writing and more. This past year, the program was tasked with several initiatives due to COVID such as administering the Vax for Cash drawing and assisting with the vaccination clinics.
- Tribal Law Enforcement Division: Within the past year, the division has actively worked towards changing the culture within the department, setting a new mission and expectation across the force. Several new measures have been put in place including updated policies and procedures; tribal in-service training to educate officers on tribal operations, and the Crowe initiative to focus on the mental health of officers.
- Cherokee Boys Club Electric Bus Initiative: The EBCI Air Quality Program partnered with the Cherokee Boys Club and received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency and Duke Energy for the purchase of the first electric school bus in North Carolina. The purchase was phase 1 of an overall three phase plan to replace the entire fleet of diesel school buses with a total of 13 electric school buses.
Past winners of the Chief Noah Powell trophy include: EBCI Financial Accountability Team (2012-13), Tribal Construction Inventory Program (2013-14), Cherokee Home Health (2014-15), Cherokee Indian Hospital IPD Team (2015-16), Cherokee Family Safety (2016-17), Cherokee Water & Sewer Program (2017-18), EBCI Office of Budget & Finance Accounting Dept. (2018-19), and the EBCI Joint Information Center (2020-21).