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Navy to name rescue ship 'Cherokee Nation'

An artist rendering of the future USNS Cherokee Nation.

PAUL L. ARCHER/U.S. NAVY

By TIMES RECORD Published: June 24, 2019

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (Tribune News Service) — The U.S. Navy will name its newest rescue ship the "Cherokee Nation" to honor the service and contributions the Cherokee people have made to the Navy and Marine Corps, according to a news release. The ship is expected to be built in July 2021 at the Gulf Island Shipyards in Houma, Louisiana.

Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer announced Thursday the newest $64.8 million contract award for the towing, salvage and rescue ship, named the Cherokee Nation. The ship will serve as an open ocean towing vessel and will additionally support salvage operations and submarine rescue missions.

"The Cherokee Nation is extremely honored that the U.S. Navy is recognizing our tribal nation and the generations of Cherokee men and women who have bravely and humbly sacrificed for our freedom today," Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker says in the release. "Our Cherokee people have contributed in every major battle and war ever fought in this country and continue to serve in the Armed Forces in some of the highest rates per ethnicity. Cherokees are a strong, resilient people, and we are privileged to have a U.S. ship at sea that reflects both our country and tribe's history and values."

According to the U.S. Navy, this is the fifth U.S. ship to be named in honor of the Cherokee people. Previous ships include:

  • USS Cherokee (1859), a blockade gunboat during the American Civil War.
  • USS Cherokee (SP-1104), a steam yacht built in 1903 and commissioned as a patrol ship in the Atlantic during World War I.
  • USS Cherokee (SP-458), built in 1891 but commissioned as a tug during World War I.
  • USS Cherokee (AT-66), a World War II-era tug.

Thousands of Cherokee Nation citizens served in the Navy, including the first Native American to graduate from the Naval Academy, Joseph James "Jocko" Clark. Clark went on to command the USS Suwannee and USS Yorktown during the Battle of Midway in World War II, the release adds.

"I'm pleased that we're recognizing the contributions Cherokee men and women have made to our Navy and Marine Corps today," Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., says in a news release. "The USNS Cherokee Nation is a fitting tribute to the generations of Cherokee citizens who have served and sacrificed for our nation."

Sen. James Lanfork, R-Okla., says he is "grateful that our nation will recognize the bravery and sacrifices the Cherokee women and men have made to the US armed forces." Oklahoma Rep. Markwayne Mullin added that "As a proud member of Cherokee Nation, I am honored that the United States Navy is naming a new ship after our tribe. Cherokee men and women have served our country for generations and our nation would not be what it is today if it weren't for the strength and resilience of so many Native American heroes. The USNS Cherokee Nation will serve as a reminder of their contributions and sacrifices for years to come."

©2019 Times Record (Fort Smith, Ark.)
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