Building a new house has been a work in progress for Mary Simon, but Cherokee Nation’s help allowed her to move in ahead of schedule.

A Cherokee Nation citizen, Simon was a phlebotomist at an Indian Health Services hospital for 40 years and lived in Chouteau, Oklahoma. When she retired last year, she was ready to go home – a tract of land east of Salina, Oklahoma, that was once part of her ancestors’ Cherokee allotment.

Last year, Simon moved into a travel trailer onsite and she began building where her family’s home once stood. There are still visible reminders of the past – the old house’s foundation, a well pump installed long ago by Cherokee Nation and a towering black walnut tree her father planted.

She got a boost in early spring when Cherokee Nation installed a new septic system and patched the residence into the rural water district’s line. The work was completed quickly, allowing her to move in even as they finished the house.

“This is the first time I’ve relied on the tribe for any kind of help. I never really thought to ask, but I’m glad I did,” Simon said. “We’re really thankful for the help we got from Cherokee Nation.”

She was also surprised when the workers who installed the line and system spoke Cherokee with her.

“That meant a lot to me.”

Cherokee Nation Entertainment reinvests 35 percent of its gaming profits annually into services and programs for Cherokee Nation citizens. In 2018, that investment was $56.1 million.