MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 9, 2013

Tribe targets sexual assault, child abuse

Chief, others place ‘pinwheels for prevention’

By Wendy Burton
Phoenix Staff Writer

— TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker planted “pinwheels for prevention” Tuesday at a ceremony marking Child Abuse Awareness Month and Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

The Cherokee Nation is committed to raising its children in healthy and loving homes, and prevention efforts are the best hope for reducing violence, he said.

“The best way to do that is to support our families,” Baker said. “This month, you will see purple and orange pinwheels around the complex, around Cherokee Nation properties and around the community.”

Purple represents victims of child abuse or sexual assault. Orange represents the One Fire Task Force and Victim Services Office.

“They are pinwheels for prevention, a way to show our support for victims and let them know we are here to help,” Baker said.

Baker’s wife, Sherry Baker, stood by holding their granddaughter, Anna.

Officials and employees of the Cherokee Nation gathered, wearing orange and purple ribbons for the event at the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex.

Since taking office, Baker’s administration has made combating domestic violence a top priority, according to a media release given before Tuesday’s event.

“We created the Charles L. Head One Fire Against Violence Victims Services Office Center to give our people the tools they need to leave chaotic, violent and abusive situations,” Baker said Tuesday. “For First Lady Sherry Baker and me this issue is deeply personal,  just as it was for former secretary of state, the late Charles Head.”

Baker read the first proclamation, making April Child Abuse Awareness Month, then signed it.

Baker asked his wife, Sherry, to read the second proclamation aloud.

Native Americans have the highest rate of sexual assault victims compared to any other racial group, Sherry Baker said.

“Sexual assault is a complex and ongoing problem within our nation and society, affecting our own Cherokee families,” she read. “And every Cherokee citizen is entitled to be loved, respected, to feel secure, and to be free from verbal, sexual, emotional and physical abuse.”

After signing the second proclamation, Baker, his family and several council members planted orange and purple pinwheels in the raised flower bed outside the lobby.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.