Education Services

918-453-5000 ext. 5286
17675 S. Muskogee Ave Tahlequah, OK 74464

Early Childhood Unit

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Early Childhood Unit is to bring about a greater degree of social competence in children who may be disadvantaged.

The ECU’s approach is based on the philosophy that a child can benefit most from a comprehensive, interdisciplinary program to foster development and remedy problems through the involvement of the child’s entire family as well as the community.


Cherokee Nation Early Childhood Unit offers two options: Head Start, a classroom environment promoting early childhood development stages; and Early Head Start, serving children ages 6 weeks to three years old. In addition, we collaborate with select public schools within the Cherokee Nation reservation to provide Head Start services.

Head Start serves children age three to five at centers in these areas: Kenwood, Salina, Shady Grove, and Tahlequah.

Early Head Start serves children age six weeks to three years at centers in these areas: Tahlequah, Cherry Tree, Jay, Pryor, Stilwell, Salina, and Nowata.

Public School Collaborations serve Pre-Kindergarten children in these districts: Brushy, Hulbert, Inola, Rocky Mountain, Salina, Tahlequah, Webbers Falls, and Zion.

Tribal and Federal Funds for FY 2024:


  • $840,697 from the Tribal Council Head Start Act (includes Motor Vehicle Tax).


  • $10,946,925 DHHS Head Start Grant.
  • $43,626 DOI Self-Governance funds.

Total Tribal Funds FY 2021: $625,435
Total Federal Funds FY 2020: $9,764,516

Program Information Report 2019-2020

Funded Enrollment: Head Start 680, Early Head Start 200.
Average Monthly enrollment: 95%-100%.
Families Served by: Head Start, 722; Early Head Start, 238.

Head Start: 43% of children served are income or categorically eligible.
Early Head Start: 72% of children served are income or categorically eligible.

Head Start: 83% of children received medical screenings.
Early Head Start: 93% of children received medical screenings.
Head Start dental screenings: 80% of children received exam.

Head Start
Early Head Start
Income Eligibility 2024/2025

Family Size


















For each additional family member add $4,540 to the amount shown above.

Eligibility Requirements

  • A Cherokee Nation Tribal Citizenship Card or citizenship card from any other federally recognized tribe (If applicable)
  • Reside within the Cherokee Nation reservation
  • Income Guidelines

Additional Requirements

  • Age Verification Record: such as Birth Card, Birth Certificate, Hospital Letter
  • Immunization Record
  • Income Verification in the form of documents including: W-2; 1040 tax form; recent pay stub; employer's letter; TANF letter or SSI documents. Income Statement must show the gross amount. Check stubs must be dated for the month previous of the date of the application.

Applications are screened and prioritized for enrollment opportunities based on the eligibility criteria. All children accepted for enrollment must submit a completed physical and dental upon entry into the program. If an application is on file, please contact the office to ensure the most current address and phone number are listed. Applications remain on file for one year from the signature date.