Bill Andoe, former deputy director of Cherokee Nation’s Education Services, bottom left, takes a photo with students from a CN Day Camp. Andoe left the CN in November for a nonprofit organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma. COURTESY
Bill Andoe, former deputy director of Cherokee Nation’s Education Services, bottom left, takes a photo with students from a CN Day Camp. Andoe left the CN in November for a nonprofit organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma. COURTESY

Andoe leaves CN for bART Center for Music

11/28/2014 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Bill Andoe, Cherokee Nation’s Education Services deputy director, tendered his resignation in late October and worked his last day on Nov. 7. He has accepted the executive director and CEO position with The bART Center for Music, a nonprofit organization in Tulsa.

Andoe began working for the tribe in 2008 as the fine arts director. Then in 2010, Andoe became director of arts and culture, running the Cultural Resource Center, which included the tribe’s language programs. He became Education Services’ deputy director in 2013, in which he handled its daily operations and all program within it.

“So that would include everything from Head Start, the immersion school, all of Sequoyah Schools, Johnson-O’Malley programs, scholarship, language programs…everything that Education Services does on behalf of the Cherokee people.”

He said he was requested to develop a summer youth camp for Cherokees in 2008.

“So one of my tasks as director of fine arts was to develop a summer camp, and so that’s when we started in the summer of 2008 with an arts camp,” he said. “That eventually merged in starting in 2009 as Camp Cherokee combining the arts camp and the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camp that had been previously going.”

He said that Camp Cherokee is probably his biggest achievement since working for the tribe.

“In 2008, in camp, I was running an arts camp with 60 students. Daniel Faddis was running a STEM camp with 20 students, some of those were actually the same kids. And, you know, we got together and decided to run a large residential camp instead of running two separate camps,” he said.

He said after combining, they turned what was 80 students in 2008 into about 300 students in 2009. A couple years later, with efforts from other departments, they began offering the day camp version of Camp Cherokee serving 800 to 1,000 students each summer.

“For our younger kids, that is their relationship with the tribe for many of them. Maybe they don’t interact with Cherokee Nation very much. This was their major interaction for the year with a Cherokee Nation program and we wanted to make sure it was a good thing,” he said.

Andoe said another big achievement while at CN was the output of Cherokee scholarships.

“We produced more scholarships more efficiently with less complaints and faster than ever,” he said. “We put out 3,500 scholarships last fall, which was relatively an uneventful operation in terms of how fast we did it and how few complaints from people we were serving. The scholarship program had been a major source of frustration among our citizens for quite a long time. And to be able to at least play my small part in helping make that program more efficient and to serve our people better was something I was particularly proud of.”

Andoe said he expects nothing to change within Education Services no matter who takes the helm.

“Before I came into Cherokee Nation they offered scholarships and camps and I’m sure now that I’m gone they’ll continue to offer, you know, a wonderful scholarship program and wonderful camps,” he said.

As of Nov. 19, the CN had not filled the deputy director position.

HIS: physician improperly accessed protected health information

11/27/2014 02:00 PM
ROCKVILLE, Md. – Officials with the Indian Health Service Bemidji Area recently determined that a physician employed by a staffing IHS contracted company had improperly accessed protected health information from three IHS facilities.

The IHS, an agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, provides a comprehensive health service delivery system for approximately 2.1 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

The three facilities include the Fort Yates Service Unit in the IHS Great Plains Area, the Cass Lake Service Unit in the IHS Bemidji Area and the Crow Service Unit in the IHS Billings Area.

The data breach included patient names, Social Security numbers and health information such as diagnoses, prescribed medications and laboratory results. However, there is no current indication that the information has been used by or disclosed to any unauthorized individuals.

“IHS is very disappointed that this breach occurred given that the staffing company contract included the requirement that contract providers must protect patient privacy and meet HIPAA regulations. We are committed to ensuring the security and integrity of all our patients’ personal information and are putting additional protections in place” said Dr. Yvette Roubideaux, acting IHS director. “Keeping patient information secure is of the utmost importance to us and we very much regret that this situation occurred.”

The IHS contract at issue contained the requirement that contractors must protect patient privacy and comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and its implementing regulations. Even though these protections were required as a part of the staffing company’s contract with IHS, the contract provider improperly accessed these records.

In accordance with regulations implementing HIPAA, on Oct. 17 the IHS has notified all persons whose information was improperly accessed.

The Area HIPAA Coordinators have completed an investigation and the matter has been referred for appropriate action in accordance with HIPAA and its implementing regulations.

Patients who received the letter and have any questions can contact the following Area HIPAA coordinators:

• Cass Lake Service Unit in the IHS Bemidji Area – Phillip Talamasy at 218-444-0538 or email

• Fort Yates Service Unit in the IHS Great Plains Area – Heather H. McClane at 605-226-7730 or email

• Crow Service Unit in the IHS Billings Area- Felicia Blackhoop at 406-247-7184 or email

CMS awards $3.9M for improved access to health care

11/27/2014 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently awarded $3.9 million for outreach and enrollment efforts targeted at American Indian and Alaska Native children who are eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid.

The awarded money from the grant will go towards funding activities that are designed to engage schools and tribes in Medicaid and CHIP outreach and enrollment efforts.

CMS awarded grant funds to health programs that are operated by tribes, tribal organizations, Indian Health Services and urban Indian organizations located in Oklahoma, California, Arizona, Alaska and New Mexico.

“We are very pleased to support efforts that help eligible American Indian and Alaska Native children gain access to affordable health coverage,” said Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and CHIP Services Director Cindy Mann. “More people with health coverage also benefits local health care facilities, allowing them to offer more services and improve health care for the whole community.”

Grantees will organize activities that are focused on helping eligible teens enroll for coverage and ultimately ensure that eligible children maintain coverage for as long as they qualify.

These awards ensure that Native American and Alaska Native children will be given the opportunities to receive quality health care services.

For more information, visit
Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs the final beam of the main structure at the tribe’s new Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, Oklahoma. The health center will be 42,00 square feet with various health services. COURTESY Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials celebrate the topping out of construction at the tribe’s new Sam Hider Health Center on Nov. 19 at Jay, Oklahoma. From left to right are Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell, CNCR Executive General Manager Cheryl Cohenour, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton. COURTESY
Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs the final beam of the main structure at the tribe’s new Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, Oklahoma. The health center will be 42,00 square feet with various health services. COURTESY

CN officials top out new health center

11/27/2014 08:00 AM
JAY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials on Nov. 19 celebrated the topping out of the tribe’s new health center in Delaware County, which is still under construction.

“Access to quality health care is the most important issue facing our people. We made a strategic investment to ensure Cherokee citizens would have every opportunity to receive the kind of world-class health care they deserve,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The expanded space, coupled with new state-of-the-art equipment, allows us to deliver better and faster care to more people.”

The health center will be 42,00 square feet and is expected to cost approximately $13.5 million. It will have services such as behavioral health, contract health, dental, diabetes care, laboratory, nutrition, optometry, pharmacy with mail order, physical therapy services, primary care, public health nursing, radiology and Women, Infants and Children.

According to a CNB press release, the original Sam Hider Health Center was opened in 1989, which makes it one of the oldest health centers in the tribe’s health care system. Approximately 100 people are employed in the existing 26,000-square-foot facility. In 2013, that facility served more than 80,000 patient visits.
“It was time for a new health center,” Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said. “Health care is important to the Cherokee people, and I am grateful we are able to make this investment for the citizens.”

The new Sam Hider Health Center is one of four health centers under construction with the help of CNB, which provided funds of more than $100 million.

“This new health center is something that Cherokees will take pride in for years,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. “This has been a dream for a long time, and I couldn’t be more pleased that local citizens will have access to improved health facilities.”
The Cherokee Nation honored Cherokee veteran Peggy Zuber of Tulsa in September for her 21 years of service in the Navy and Army Reserve. Principal Chief Bill John Baker presents her with the Cherokee Warrior Award. COURTESY The Cherokee Nation honored Cherokee veteran Peggy Zuber of Tulsa in September for her 21 years of service in the Navy and Army Reserve. She was presented the Cherokee Warrior Award and the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism. COURTESY
The Cherokee Nation honored Cherokee veteran Peggy Zuber of Tulsa in September for her 21 years of service in the Navy and Army Reserve. Principal Chief Bill John Baker presents her with the Cherokee Warrior Award. COURTESY

Cherokee veteran helps other female veterans

Senior Reporter
11/26/2014 02:13 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee veteran Peggy Zuber of Tulsa is proud of 21 years of service in the U.S. Navy and the Army Reserve.

Zuber served four years in the Navy beginning in 1976 and was involved in communications, held a top-secret clearance and worked with cryptographic equipment. She then served 17 years in the Army Reserve as a communications operator for military intelligence and performed civil affairs, training and inspections.

While in the Army Reserve, Zuber supported overseas operations in Belgium and Germany and received medals and ribbons for her service. She retired from the 95th Division in Des Moines, Iowa, as a sergeant first class in 2001. After retiring, she worked as a Department of Defense contractor.

Now a contract analyst for Cherokee Nation Businesses, Zuber was named “Oklahoma Veteran of the Year” by the Oklahoma Women Veterans Organization in October, the month after receiving the tribe’s Cherokee Warrior Award and the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism.

Zuber, 59, said her military service allowed to experience much more than she would have as a civilian.

“I’ve met many people. To me that’s fascinating, meeting people from all walks of life and working with a variety of people all the way from an admiral in the Navy all the way down to a seaman recruit,” she said. “I’ve had a taste of both branches. The Army Reserve provided more of an opportunity for me to go overseas, especially for training. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like once you’ve been in you’re always in. Anytime I can help someone, especially a veteran, it makes me feel really good.”

Being a part of the OWVO allows her to help other veterans. It was formed 30 years ago and is based in Norman. Zuber said its Tulsa branch, where she serves as secretary, was formed three years ago.

“We’ve all came together, regardless of branches. It’s like we have this bond,” she said.

The organization raises funds to help women veterans with financial assistance, care packages and scholarship funds. Zuber has led fundraisers for the organization and raised more than $1,000 at a garage sale in September. The OWVO also assists with homecomings and events such as “Stand Down” and “G.I. Wishes.”

She also volunteers as a Veterans Treatment Court mentor to help women veterans working to recover from addictions, have mental health problems or are charged with non-violent felonies. She is also working toward paralegal certification from the University of Tulsa to further assist the Veterans Treatment Court.

“I’ve been witness to one (women) that has really made a difference. She was homeless. She’s been going to this treatment court and she’s been going back to school. It’s amazing to see her getting her life back after being homeless for two years,” Zuber said. “It’s just amazing to see the community support. The Veterans Mayor’s Committee has been developed, and there’s so many things starting to come up to support veterans.”

She added that some women veterans having difficulties served in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Zuber spent a year total in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 and a year in Amman, Jordan, as a contractor with the Department of Defense in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She worked in bases in Balad, Baghdad, Kirkuk and Tikrit in Iraq.

“That was interesting. You’re working with the locals and you’re also working with the local countries to get goods and equipment in as well as getting someone who would really come into the base (to pick up supplies) because their lives were threatened,” she said.

While she was there a couple of local Iraqi contractors were killed for associating with Americans. Zuber survived constant mortar attacks while in Iraq, which she said she adjusted to after a while.

She said she was “shocked” to receive the Cherokee Warrior Award and the Cherokee Medal of Patriotism because there are so many Cherokee veterans who also deserve the award.

“I was really honored to have it as a Cherokee citizen. I was very honored,” she said. “I’m just happy to have been able to be in the military and support the different projects. I would do it again.”

Report: Oklahoma collected $122M in tribal gaming

11/26/2014 11:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report shows the state of Oklahoma collected $122 million in gaming fees from Native American tribes during the last fiscal year.

The report issued Nov. 19 by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that for the first time ever, the fees paid to the state declined from the previous year.

The report noted a drop of nearly $5.5 million – or about 4 percent – from previous year’s collections. The funds are used primarily for public education.

Possible reasons cited for the decline include an increase in the number of Class II games such as electronic bingo for which tribes do not pay exclusivity fees and “possible market saturation.”

The annual report was prepared by the state agency’s Gaming Compliance Unit.
Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields discusses what she considers to be an important change to CN law with Attorney General Todd Hembree. Fields wants to change the tribe’s legal age of consent for sexual intercourse from 14 to 16 years old. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields discusses what she considers to be an important change to CN law with Attorney General Todd Hembree. Fields wants to change the tribe’s legal age of consent for sexual intercourse from 14 to 16 years old. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Fields urges sexual consent law amendment

11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law.

“The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said.

The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16.

“I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said.

Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her.

“But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said.

Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends.

“It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said.

Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference.

“We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.”

Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape.

Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved.

“Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered.
Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.”

Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said.

“Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.”

Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex.

It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said.

Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school.

“That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said.

Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18.

“Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said.

The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said.

(If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage.

“Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added.

Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee.

Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma
Cherokee Nation:

A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult.

A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18.

A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18.

A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.


A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult.

A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18.

A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.


Rutherford to partake in Artist Leadership Program
11/20/2014 02:48 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee artist Lisa Rutherford will leave for Washington, D.C., on Dec. 1 to take part in the National Museum of the American Indian’s Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists.
The Tahlequah resident will be there until Dec. 12 to conduct research on 18th and 19th century textiles, fibers and cordage of the Mississippian culture in the collections of the NMAI, Smithsonian Institute and other local museums.

“I’m hoping to learn some new, more advanced techniques to share with the Diligwa Village staff,” Rutherford said.

Rutherford worked this past summer in the Diligwa Village at the Cherokee Heritage Center located in Park Hill. The Diligwa Village provides guests with an enhanced experience of authentic Cherokee life and history during the early 1700s.

Rutherford is a skilled and an award-winning potter. She is also skilled at making Cherokee baskets, Cherokee-style clothing, beadwork pieces and feather capes.

She and three other Native artists will receive assistance to make appointments for training and museum research visits. While in Washington, artists will also be provided professional training services that may include developing PowerPoint presentations, web portfolios, video oversight and direction, marketing and career strategies, and business and leadership skills.

All ALP participants are asked to take part in a public art panel discussion titled “Bringing It Home: Artists Reconnecting Cultural Heritage with Community,” and to provide a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation about their art, research and community project to the public at the museum.

This presentation will be developed in a training session and presented initially to NMAI staff during an informal brown-bag lunch. The public art panel discussion will be webcast live and archived on the NMAI YouTube channel.

Following the research visit to Washington each artist will return home to facilitate a community project to share knowledge learned from the experience and research.

“I will do a lecture at the Cherokee Arts Center at 6 p.m. on Friday Jan. 16 and a community workshop will be held at Cherokee Heritage Center on Saturday Jan. 17,” Rutherford said. “The workshop is limited to about 15 people, and I will teach twining techniques.”

For more information about the American Indian’s Artist Leadership Program for Individual Artists, visit


CN citizen awarded science teacher award
11/26/2014 12:10 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Geary Don Crofford received notification that he’d be selected as the Outstanding Middle Level Teacher the Oklahoma Science Teacher Association.

In a Tahlequah Daily Press story, Crofford said the news “definitely brightened my day.”

“The recognition of my peers is the best reward I have the respect of other science teachers across the state,” Crofford said in the article. “As a Cherokee Nation citizen, I have a particular interest in the education of Cherokee students.”

Crofford teaches science to sixth, seventh and eighth grade Woodall students. He also helps with the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, robotics, chess along with several other areas.

Crofford is from Tahlequah and he received his bachelor’s degree in science education from Northeastern State University in the late 1980s. He received his master’s degree in biology from the University of Texas and also has a doctorate of philosophy, according to the article.

Crofford received the award on Oct. 31 in Oklahoma City during the OSTA conference.


Hargis named to FCC-Native Nations Broadband Task Force
11/17/2014 12:04 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler recently named Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis to the FCC-Native Nations Broadband Task Force.

The 31-member task force is comprised of elected and appointed leaders from federally recognized Native tribes and officials from the FCC. A total of 20 tribes are represented on the task force.

Established in 2011, the task force serves as an advisory board to the FCC by consulting on issues affecting Native people and promoting the development of broadband on tribal lands, including better access to high-speed Internet.

“Much of the Cherokee Nation and Indian Country continue to have limited access to broadband,” Hargis, of Stilwell, said. “This task force has the critical mission of voicing the concerns of our Native people and helping close the gaps of broadband access, so that all Native people have equal opportunity to take full advantage of the benefits of broadband.”

Task force members meet in person twice per year to discuss issues and voice concerns of the Native people, with one at the FCC in Washington, D.C., and the other abroad. Four teleconference meetings are held each year to supplement the semiannual in-person meetings.

“We could not have a better representative than Councilor Hargis to voice the concerns of our underserved rural communities on this issue. Few understand the connection between broadband and rural economic development the way she does,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

Hargis will serve a three-year term on the task force.

For more information on the task force,


Mobile Mammogram Unit to visit CN in December
11/18/2014 10:13 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Breast Care Center’s Mobile Mammogram Unit will be making a stop on Dec. 11 at the Cherokee Nation’s Gadugi Health Center.

The mammogram screening is available to CN employees who carry insurance. The MMU is a service that is provided in an RV-type vehicle that has a mammogram machine where women can get their mammogram done without having to travel far distances.

When receiving a mammogram it is important to wear a two-piece outfit so it is easy to undress from the waist up. It is also recommended to not wear deodorant or powder because is can show up on the scan.

For more information or to schedule a mammogram, call 918-207-4911 or email


OPINION: Attorney General ignores authority of Independent Press Act
Executive Editor
11/05/2014 08:46 AM
Attorney General Todd Hembree recently released an opinion that wrongly affirmed the two-year term of an Editorial Board member. In doing so, he ignored the will and intent of the Independent Press Act.

The issue provoking the opinion began in January of 2012 when Clarice Doyle, a Cherokee Nation citizen and director at Rogers State University, was appointed to the Editorial Board to replace board member Dan Agent. Doyle was Principal Chief Bill John Baker’s nomination to the board and was unanimously confirmed by the Tribal Council.

Soon after her appointment it was discovered that the appointment resolution was drafted in error. The resolution stated that her board term expired in October of 2014, giving her a term less than the term required. The Act explicitly states: “terms of office of the Board members shall be six years.”

Upon discovery of this error, the board directed me to bring it to the attention of the appropriate authorities in order to correct the mistake. I initially discussed it with Hembree who described it to me as a “scrivener’s error,” which is an inadvertent mistake that changes the meaning of the document but does not occur from reasoning or determination. Hembree assured me he would address the mistake.

Later, I discussed the mistake with Council attorney Dianne Barker-Harrold during a phone call. She said that she was on a business trip in Alaska but that she would look into it when she returned.

I also discussed the mistake with Council Speaker Tina Glory-Jordan during a meeting with her in her law office. I shared with her a copy of Doyle’s appointment resolution and a copy of the Independent Press Act with the relevant language highlighted. She assured me that she would look into it.

The mistake was not corrected despite these assurances.

In September, Doyle was informed by a Cherokee Nation Businesses employee that her term was ending and that she would not be reappointed. Doyle then sent a message to me and the Editorial Board members informing us of her departure from the board.

I contacted Hembree and revisited our earlier discussion. Rather than acknowledging the error, he said that there should be a determination about whether the appointment resolution or the Independent Press Act was the legal authority in determining Doyle’s board term.

I argued that the language in the statute was clear in its intent: Editorial Board members were to serve six-year terms. The only two exceptions provided in the Act were for the initial appointments for Seats 4 and 5 when the board was expanded to five seats in the 2009 amendment to the Act.

However, I reasoned that those exceptions did not apply to Doyle’s appointment because those seats had already been appointed to members Jason Terrell and Robert Thompson, respectively. Doyle was replacing a board member and was entitled to a normal six-year term.

Hembree released his official opinion (2014-CNAG-03) several weeks later. It is an interesting read and I encourage all Cherokee citizens to read it themselves. I have several concerns about its factual accuracy and legal analysis.

The first section, titled “Factual Background,” contains numerous factual errors that are easily corrected with a little bit of legislative research.

In the third paragraph it is stated: “John Shurr was appointed by the three other board members to serve a six year term in April of 2010.”

This is incorrect. Shurr was already seated on the board and was reappointed. Shurr was reappointed by the four other board members: Gerald Wofford, Agent, Terrell and Thompson.

It goes on to state: “With the addition of John Shurr, the Board now had four members.”

This is incorrect. With the reappointment of Shurr, the board had five members.

The paragraph then concludes: "… It appears that no one has been appointed to Seat 5 …"

This is a conclusion derived from the previous incorrect statements. After the Act was amended to add two seats to the Editorial Board, it is reasonable to assume that the next appointment, Terrell, was appointed to fill Seat 4, and the following appointment, Thompson, was appointed to fill Seat 5. Both of these appointments were additions to the board. At the time of Thompson's nomination there was one open seat to fill and it’s reasonable to assume it was the Seat 5 described in the amended Act. Thompson did not replace a seated board member but was an addition to the board. He joined members Wofford, Agent, Shurr and Terrell.

This “factual” background lays the foundation for the next section, “Legal Authority and Analysis.” Curiously, this section does not address or even mention the authority of the Independent Press Act. It is the Act that created the board, and it is the Act that stipulates the requirements, limitations and duties for service on the board. Yet its authority is completely absent in the legal analysis.

Hembree opines that there is no ambiguity in the language of the resolution, therefore it is outside the purview of his office to change the term of the appointed office. He correctly asserts that can only be done by the legislative or judicial branches. The important legal point that he fails to address is whether the unambiguous language of the resolution complies with the will and intent of the Independent Press Act, which specifically governs the board terms.

The Tribal Council spoke when it created and then amended the Act in 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2009. In each version of the statute, the same phrase is present: “The terms of office of the Board members shall be six years.”

The appointment resolution is subservient to the statute, and it is a legal axiom that resolutions must be compliant to the relevant statute.

Hembree’s analysis did not examine the relevant and specific language in the Act necessary to place the resolution in a legal context. By disregarding the authority of the Act, a disservice has been done to the government that enacted it, to the Cherokee people who depend on it for a free press, and to all tribal nations that look toward the Cherokee Nation as a beacon of truthful reporting and good governance.

It is concerning to see the Attorney General issue an opinion based on a flawed and inaccurate background analysis because it is his duty to ensure his legal opinions are true and correct. But as an advocate for an independent Cherokee press, it is truly disturbing for me to then see the authority of the Independent Press Act disregarded in a matter as important as the proper determination of an Editorial Board term.

Our free press is only as strong as the law that protects it, and the law can only protect it if it is enforced. It is important that the people hold our public officials accountable to enforce the Independent Press Act so that our historic legacy of independent journalism and press freedoms are preserved.

Click here to read Attorney General Todd Hembree’s opinion.

Click here to go to the Office of the Attorney General website.


Kenwood Indians win ORES football championship
11/19/2014 03:21 PM
KENWOOD, Okla. – Kenwood School’s eight-man football team, the Kenwood Indians, on Nov. 1 won the Organization of Rural Elementary Schools Division 3 state championship against Mosely Schools.

During a recognition ceremony at a Locust Grove High School Football game on Nov. 7, Kenwood head coach and United Keetoowah Band citizen Miguel Ortiz said the state title is something he and the 11 Cherokees on the team have been working towards for four years.

“I’m just super proud of them, you know, I’m just glad. It was my first state championship, and it was their first one too, you know,” he said. “I’ve been here since they were like fourth graders so, you know, ever since we was younger I’ve always told them, I said ‘if you put the work in when you’re young and do things good like right now it will all pay off when you get older.’ They really stuck to that and that’s what we’ve been doing.”

Ortiz said working extra hours and on the weekends is what helped them reach the state championship.

“Actually, we did a lot. We practiced a lot and ran a lot harder than we normally do. You know, in the past few years we got beat in the semis and the finals and we just worked extra hard this year,” he said. “They come on the weekends, you know, over fall break. We practiced two or three different times on Sundays just to get some extra work and running in. And this is a good group of athletes too, you know, not only are they athletic, but they’re a hard working group. That’s why they did really well.”

The team is made up of six eighth graders, four seventh graders and one sixth grader. Of the 11, five are UKB citizens and six are Cherokee Nation citizens. The players are Lucas Vann, Rylee Smith, Kyle Panther, Justin Budds, Nathan Blackbear, Braedon Turner, Jacob Six, Keelan Davis, Leo Chumwalooky, Aaron Budder and Christian Glass.

CN citizen and quarterback Keelan Davis said after playing together so long, they’ve just improved over the years.

“We’ve been playing together since we were real little and just kept getting better over the years. We played as a team. It was what our goal was since were was real little, to win a state championship, to achieve that goal (means a lot). Kept working hard everyday,” Davis said.

Ortiz said during playoffs the team beat Leach, Wickliffe and Rocky Mountain and Mosely in the championship. This is the first football championship for the school, he added.

“This is just a really good group of kids. This is my first championship, too. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The team ended the season with a 9-1 record. Ortiz said to look out for the Kenwood Indians during basketball season, too, because he expects them to do well.
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