CN to distribute school clothing vouchers in July

Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
05/27/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Family Assistance will again give out school clothing vouchers to eligible children through its Clothing Assistance Program this summer.

Family Assistance Director Jerry Snell said 6,932 children received $100 clothing vouchers in 2015, and the program has approximately 7,000 vouchers to distribute this year.

“We want to make sure our low-income children have suitable clothing to start the school year with,” Snell said. “We know $100 isn’t going to clothe them for the entire school year, but at least they can start the school year bright and shiny.”

Snell said the vouchers can only be spent at Stage stores. According to its website, there are approximately 10 Stage locations within the CN.

“In the beginning, they (CN officials) tried to develop a voucher system for different (companies) locations and it created a major problem,” Snell said. “One thing Stage does for us is they give all the kids coupons. A coupon goes with each $100 gift card and those coupons will vary in percentage or what kind of a (store) discount they are going to get. It kind of depends on which week they shop.”
In this 2014 photo, Scarlett Shell looks for a pair of shoes at Stage in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, after receiving a Cherokee Nation $100 clothing voucher. COURTESY
In this 2014 photo, Scarlett Shell looks for a pair of shoes at Stage in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, after receiving a Cherokee Nation $100 clothing voucher. COURTESY

Indians basketball camp teaches fundamentals

Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
05/27/2016 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – From May 24-26, Sequoyah basketball coach Jay Herrin hosted a boys basketball camp to introduce and maintain basketball fundamentals for children in grades first through ninth.

“We work on the fundamental skills – dribbling and basket shooting. Got a lot of different-aged groups and got a lot of different-ability groups. But we try to tailor it to the kids’ needs whether a beginning player or a more advanced player,” he said.

Herrin, a Cherokee Nation citizen, said the three-day camp saw approximately 90 children attend.

“What’s good is to get these guys out doing something. School is out now, and trying to keep them active is one thing,” he said.

Herrin said he reaches out to former and current players to help coach and assist campers.
Cherokee Nation citizen Maci Dale, of Kansas, Oklahoma, helps as a volunteer with the Indians Basketball Camp on May 26 as a part of a community service project. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Maci Dale, of Kansas, Oklahoma, helps as a volunteer with the Indians Basketball Camp on May 26 as a part of a community service project. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribe enacts newly created judgment fund

Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
05/27/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In April, the Tribal Council passed a law creating a judgment fund that would be used to pay for any judgment against the Cherokee Nation.

“The judgment fund is modeled after the U.S. government judgment fund. What the premise of the idea is that Congress, which would be the council in our scenario, would appropriate money to a judgment fund. And they would do that based on what the risk may be out there any given year,” Attorney General Todd Hembree said.

Hembree said it falls to the legislators because they appropriate monies for the tribe’s annual budget.

“When there is a judgment against the Cherokee Nation…well that money would have to come from somewhere. So that means it would have to come from a budget that otherwise wasn’t intended for,” he said. “What a judgment fund does is an exercise in good government. The council knows and departments know that if there is a judgment, it comes out of this fund. It doesn’t affect any other budgets. They can plan…knowing that nothing is going to disrupt that.”

Hembree said many governments have judgments funds and that it was time for the tribe to follow suit.

CN health officials train for Zika virus

Special Correspondent
05/27/2016 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With international health officials sounding the alarm, Cherokee Nation Public Health officials are preparing for the Zika virus.

Earlier this year, the CN was one of three tribes to participate in the Centers for Disease Control’s Zika summit in Atlanta.

Lisa Pivec, Public Health senior director, said while the CN’s jurisdiction is considered to be a low risk for an outbreak, plans and partnerships with the Oklahoma Department of Health and the CDC are in place as a proactive measure.

“The most important thing for us right now is getting a process in place,” she said. “The CDC has been great about helping us with that. We’ve seen what they’ve done with other infectious diseases, and they’re great about helping us get that done at the local level.”

For now that process involves keeping current information available to the public through and maintaining regular contact among epidemiologists, communications professionals and environmental health specialists with all three entities.
A Centers for Disease Control map shows the areas where Zika virus transmission had been reported as of May 12. Earlier this year, the Cherokee Nation was one of three tribes to participate in the CDC’s Zika summit in Atlanta. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has released this graphic showing the different ways the Zika virus spreads. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL
A Centers for Disease Control map shows the areas where Zika virus transmission had been reported as of May 12. Earlier this year, the Cherokee Nation was one of three tribes to participate in the CDC’s Zika summit in Atlanta. CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL

CN donates $195K to Boys & Girls Clubs

05/26/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation donated $195,000 on May 26 to eight area Boys & Girls Clubs in northeastern Oklahoma. The organizations serve Cherokee and Native American students in their summer and afterschool programs.

The CN gave checks to clubs in Adair, Sequoyah, Cherokee, Mayes, Nowata, Rogers, Delaware and Washington counties. Currently, the programs serve more than 10,000 students.

“We remain a proud and consistent financial supporter of the mentoring work done by the Boys & Girls Clubs,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Participating in the activities of a local club means access to community-based mentors and educational opportunities that will help our youth grow into their full potential. Supporting the mission of Boys and Girls Club is another opportunity where Cherokee Nation can have a positive influence in the lives of Cherokee children."

The tribe has contributed more than $2 million total since 2008 to help the afterschool programs continue character and leadership development among both Cherokee youth and non-Native students.

“The Boys & Girls Clubs provide an invaluable service to thousands of students within the Cherokee Nation,” Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd said. “These clubs provide a safe place for children to learn and grow, while also offering new experiences and a variety of hands-on activities. The Cherokee Nation is proud to partner with these eight clubs in order to enhance their programs for Cherokee and non-Cherokee students alike.”

Traditional Cherokee stories on the Square in June

05/26/2016 01:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism will offer a family-friendly storytelling event every Wednesday in June. The program will last one hour and be hosted at 10 a.m. at the gazebo located on the grounds of the Cherokee National Courthouse.

Before Sequoyah introduced his “talking leaves” writing system, generations of Cherokees passed down family heritage and culture through the art of storytelling. The general public is now getting a chance to hear these stories, a CN Communications release states.

The stories to be featured will be “Opossum’s Tail,” “First Man and First Woman,” “The Medicine Plant” and “How the Turtle Cracked His Shell.”

Attendees also receive free admission to the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum and the Cherokee National Prison Museum, the release states.

The Cherokee National Courthouse is located at 129 S. Muskogee Ave.

UKB Assistant Chief Bunch sworn in as principal chief

05/26/2016 10:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a United Keetoowah Band press release, UKB Assistant Chief Joe H. Bunch was sworn in as principal chief during a May 25 ceremony held in the UKB Community Service Court Chambers.

UKB District Judge Dewayne Littlejohn administered the oath of office to Bunch a day after the Tribal Council voted to remove former Principal Chief George Wickliffe from office during an impeachment process.

“This is an unfortunate event, but we are going to move forward. Many of our members depend on our services and in what we do as elected officials. This is a good time to start the healing process. I expect nothing but the best as we move forward,” Bunch said after taking his oath.

Bunch was elected in a 2014 special election to serve the final two years of the late Assistant Chief Charles Locust’s four-year term. With the removal of Wickliffe, Bunch now fills the principal chief’s role for the remainder of that four-year term. Wickliffe was elected to his third four-year term in November 2012.

On May 24, UKB citizens listened to articles of impeachment against Wickliffe by Tahlequah District Rep. Anile Locust and Tribal Secretary Ella Mae Worley. Among the allegations against Wickliffe were:
United Keetoowah Band District Judge Dewayne Littlejohn, left, gives the principal chief’s oath of office to former Assistant Chief Joe H. Bunch while his oldest son, Joseph, stands beside him holding the Bible. UNITED KEETOOWAH BAND COMMUNICATIONS
United Keetoowah Band District Judge Dewayne Littlejohn, left, gives the principal chief’s oath of office to former Assistant Chief Joe H. Bunch while his oldest son, Joseph, stands beside him holding the Bible. UNITED KEETOOWAH BAND COMMUNICATIONS


Professor discusses ‘Cherokee Children in Post-Removal Indian Territory’
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
05/24/2016 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – What was the experience of Cherokee children following the removal of Cherokee people in 1838-39? Dr. Rose Stremlau, an associate professor of history, American Indian studies and gender studies at the University of North Carolina-Pembroke, focused on this topic in her April 23 presentation “The Last Generation and the First Generation: Cherokee Children in Post-Removal Indian Territory.”

She presented during the “From Removal to Rebirth: The Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory” symposium held at the Gilcrease Museum. She focused on children and emphasized stories of children who lived rather than focusing on the period’s high rates of child mortality. Stremlau wanted to know how the survivors lived.

“An individual’s account of a traumatic experience, the contextual details, those easily dismissed as inconsequential, is precisely the information that points to how survivors of trauma reconstruct their lives,” she said. “The little things are actually the big things.”

Stremlau used various sources to “understand the experiences of Cherokee children” during the removal era. She used their words as recorded in the Cherokee Phoenix and Cherokee Advocate, political correspondence and oral histories collected from the period. She also used records compiled by church missionaries “who worked closely with Cherokee children and families.”

She said to discuss how Cherokee children survived post-removal one must also look at how they were raised in the old CN before removal.

“Cherokees believed children to be precious, valuable and sentient beings from birth. In a Cherokee society children were full persons with rights and responsibilities as kin. Of course as a matrilineal people, children are particularly precious to their clan kin,” she said.

She said Cherokee parents strived to raise “powerful” children who could live in harmony with one another in a complicated, ever-evolving world around them.

“The Cherokee kinship system empowered women who prioritized the needs of children,” she said.

Following the removal there was a destabilization of households and disruption of familial relationships.

“Traditionally, Cherokee households would have been secure, safe places for children...young people’s needs were typically met without disruption,” she said.

So for children who showed up in Indian Territory without any maternal kin, “it was an unspeakable tragedy.” The removal’s scope was not comparable to the American Colonial period when outbreaks of disease or warfare usually occurred locally and regionally and other Cherokee towns could assist affected kin with food stores and taking in refugees.

“In contrast, removal affected Cherokees nationally,” she said. “The trail was especially hard on babies, children and the aged. The death of children is always tragic no matter what the context, but in Cherokee society the survival of children without their grandparents was also tragic.”

Children lost teachers. Elders were not there to show cultural knowledge, Stremlau said, or teach appropriate social boundaries, the teasing and joking, which was the primary way Cherokees corrected misbehaving children rather than using corporal punishment.

“For this reason Cherokee children would experience those tremendous losses and their consequences quite differently than adults,” she said.

Moravian Congregationalists and missionaries who documented the period after removal spoke about the need to care for orphaned children as a result of some families coming “so close to dying out” and in some instances only children were left.

“The prevalence of children without caregivers was a real problem and immediately addressed by the Cherokee government. The Cherokee government, even before resolving other deeply divisive issues resulting from the removal, began to provide for the care and education of orphan children beginning in December of 1841,” Stremlau said.

It also funded a foster care system that subsidized the care of orphans by “a good, steady family convenient to a school in their area.” She said Cherokees wished to maintain the integrity of post-removal communities by keeping children in them rather than entrusting their care and education with missionaries.

Stremlau said because of the confusion caused by the removal and families not knowing where their relatives resettled in Indian Territory, the restablization of households was a long process and continued through the mid-1840s.

“Sickness and death continued to undermine Cherokee recovery as children continued to die and experience the loss of loved ones at elevated rates in post-removal Indian Territory,” she said.

Many deaths were the result of sicknesses and a shortage of common medicines. The old and young died in the greatest numbers.

When re-establishing homes, some Cherokees settled far away from others and some chose to farm larger plots of land while others chose to settle in towns and farmed smaller plots. Stremlau said children living in the towns were able to “enjoy social relationships more consistent with original customs.”

Cherokee farmers were not familiar with the region’s weather patterns and suffered droughts, wildfires, flooding and predators attacking livestock in the early 1840s as they tried to re-establish farms, which in turn caused their children to suffer. Rebuilding homes while trying to plant crops without enough laborers due to sickness resulted in “outright poverty” for some Cherokee families.

“In short, children who survived removal were only beginning a period of seemingly biblical tribulations that slowed the restoration of the predicable and reliable subsistence cycle that had characterized the domestic economy in the old nation,” she said. “The harsh economic realities of post-removal Indian Territory cut childhood short.”

Children, especially boys, were needed to clear fields for corn or plant corn, so some did not attend school regularly. Also, because growing crops was an uncertain practice, Cherokees fell back to relying on nature to survive by hunting, gathering nuts and berries, found honey and tapped maple trees.

Children who experienced the devastation of removal and the rebuilding of homes, who had their families, even when things weren’t perfect, had a chance to become adults and live happy, productive, balanced lives in the ways Cherokee people defined that in the 1800s, Stremlau said.

“In 1840s Indian Territory, then, children witnessed the re-establishment of households all around them. What’s how hard Cherokee adults worked to return to a state of normalcy,” she said.

Scholars and historians frequently use one word to describe Cherokee survival and the restoration of their homes and government, Stremlau said. That word is resilience.


Sequoyah announces valedictorian, salutatorian
05/19/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens Jackson Wells and Ashlyn King are, respectively, the valedictorian and salutatorian for Sequoyah High School’s class of 2016.

The school’s graduation is at 6:30 p.m. on May 20 at the Place Where They Play gym.

“This year’s graduating class has outstanding leaders who will go on to do many great things,” Sequoyah Superintendent Leroy Qualls said. “We are proud of their accomplishments and wish them a bright future as they move into their next journey.”

Wells, 18, of Tahlequah, has a 4.57 GPA and is attending Brown University this fall.

“My grandpa has always been my biggest motivation because he always believed in me,” Wells said. “He is the wisest person I have ever met and everything he has said has always driven me.”

Wells completed 36 hours of concurrent college courses at Northeastern State University while in high school. He is also in National Honor Society, student council, academic team, chess club, yearbook, drama club and band.

King, 18, of Tahlequah, has a 4.26 GPA and is attending the University of Oklahoma this fall. King is a member of NHS and drama club. She is also the percussion section leader in the school’s marching band and president of Students Working Against Tobacco.

King has completed 17 hours of concurrent college courses at NSU and is taking six hours of summer classes at OU.

“I will really miss marching band,” King said. “One of the most memorable moments I will always have is during my sophomore year we won a trophy for best drum line of the year in a competition and the trophy was about 4 feet tall. It was awesome.”

King plans to study biochemistry and Wells is undecided, but hopes to one day be a professor.

The class of 2016 has earned $1.36 million in college scholarships, had two Gates Millennium Scholars and 33 seniors complete at least 12 hours of concurrent college courses.


Tribal Council amends election code
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
05/19/2016 02:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council unanimously amended the Cherokee Nation’s election law during its May 16 meeting after removing the definition of “term” as a full four years when pertaining to an elected office.

Previously, the Rules Committee added the definition to Legislative Act 04-14 to further define “term” within the CN Constitution. However, during the May 16 meeting, Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who sponsored the act, introduced it with an amendment.

“I have one small change. We will be striking the definition of ‘term’ in its entirety,” she said.

Tribal Councilor Jack Baker seconded the motion before the body voted by acclamation.

After the meeting, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor told the Cherokee Phoenix that the legislation’s intent was to make tribal elections run more smoothly.

“Changes needed to be made to avoid issues that have come up in past elections such as a candidate raising funds and campaigning then not filing for office. There were some very good changes made with this act, and it was important for this council to work through the details until we reached a solution we could all live with. In the end, the only issue we could not agree on was the definition of ‘term.’ It speaks to the integrity of this council that we were able to work together to find a solution that we all could agree on and I am pleased that it passed unanimously,” she said.

Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, who opposed defining term as “a full four years,” said he was happy the definition was removed from the legislation. “Council can now move forward to important issues on behalf of Cherokee citizens.”

Vazquez deferred comments to Attorney General Todd Hembree, who said he believes several necessary changes were made to the election law with the amendment.

“I’m proud of the collaboration between the council, the Election Commission and the AG’s office making these amendments happen,” he said.

Regarding the “term” definition being pulled from the amendment, Hembree said the Tribal Council did not define what constitutes a complete term, but left that interpretation up to the plain reading of the Constitution.

In March, the Rules Committee discussed the word “term” in the Constitution, and Hembree said that “term” was not defined within the election law. “Nowhere during the election law have we ever defined what a term of office is.”

The committee then voted to define “term” as “consecutive full four (4) years in which the elective or appointed officer may perform the functions of office and enjoy its privileges, a term shall not include the remainder of any unexpired term or partial year.”

However, after debate during the April 12 Tribal Council meeting, legislators sent back the act to the Rules Committee for review. The committee again approved the “term” definition with a 9-6-1 vote until May 16 when it was pulled from the amendment.

Also with the election law change, Tribal Councilors moved the general election from the fourth Saturday in June of the election year to the first Saturday to allow the Election Commission more time to for election matters. They also defined the term “candidate” as a person who has raised funds and/or accepted in-kind contributions in excess of $1,000 or has filed for office.

With this change, one can be considered a candidate before actually filing for an elected position.

Other changes included a new section for record retention and assessing a civil penalty for a person who has become a candidate and fails to file as one.

Also at the May 16 meeting, the Tribal Council approved Pamela Sellers as the EC’s fifth member. Sellers took her oath during the meeting with Supreme Court Justice John Garrett presiding.

The body also approved Valerie Rogers to the Home Health Services board and the Comprehensive Care Agency or PACE board.

Councilors also approved nine donations of surplus equipment to various organizations within the CN.


Officials take steps to manage contract health budget
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
05/23/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At the May 16 Health Committee meeting, Tribal Councilors questioned Health Services Director Connie Davis and Brett Hayes, who oversees the tribe’s contract health department, about contract health referral reductions for the rest of the fiscal year and the department’s shortfalls.

According to an emailed letter from Health Services Executive Medical Director Dr. Roger Montgomery to Davis, who then forwarded it to Tribal Councilors, each year the tribe overspends its contract health budget and he recommends “people cut back on the referrals they write.”

“People don’t really cut back all that much and administration makes up the difference with collections from the clinics, etc., so we don’t end up having to push the issue,” Montgomery states. “This year, with the implementation of a new electronic health record leading to reduced clinic schedules, and the addition of approximately 10,000 patient visits this year, there are no additional collections to pad Contract Health’s overruns.”

Montgomery states that in the first seven months of FY 2016 the tribe spent $25 million of its $35 million contract health budget.

“That leaves $10 million available for the last five months of the fiscal year and no expected increased collections to cover the remainder. If payments for transfers out continue at the same pace of about $200,000 per month, it actually leaves $9 million for everything else,” he writes.

At the meeting, Davis said She said the lack of in-house procedures because of referrals has caused contract health spending to get out of control.

“So we’ve asked our docs to do a better job managing patients within our own health centers and not sending them out for things like knee injections, shoulder injections or casting,” she said.

She added that the health system had grown by about 10 percent annually since she’s led Health Services and that has impacted spending.

“We’ve budgeted a flat budget with contract health all these years, and so it’s obvious that there’s at some point that we’re going to have to slow some of the (referrals),” she said.

Many referrals are approved now that historically hadn’t always been approved, including pain management and orthopedic procedures, Hayes said.
Montgomery states that to solve overspending for the rest of FY 2016 requires referral reductions.

“Because of our three chance appeals process, the only real way to ensure not spending money on a referral is to not write the referral at all. In our case, this means reducing the number of referrals written by as much as 50 percent. Contract Health money is and was traditionally earmarked only for urgent and emergent care. It was never intended for elective care,” he states. “It was never intended for routine follow-ups in patients not having further issues. It was never intended for things we could do ourselves, even if it meant waiting a bit for the care. We added money in the past in programs such as Back to Work to help pay for some of the elective procedures. However, when that money was no longer available, we never dropped those new service lines.”

Referrals that could be reduced included in Montgomery’s statement were:

• Dizziness workups that were instigated by a vendor apart from the original reason for the referral,

• Prophylactic mastectomy that could be performed at Hastings,

• Circumcision revisions for cosmetic purposes,

• Dermatology: simple excisions, punch biopsies, actinic and seborrheic keratosis treatments and skin tag removals,

• Simple wound care,

• Elective gallbladders, hernias, hysterectomies, etc., that could be performed at Hastings,

• Cardiac clearance by cardiologists that can be done in-house,

• Varicose veins,

• Long-term follow-ups for benign or distant conditions,

• Elective orthopedics-joint replacements,

• Elective repairs,

• Injections at outside vendors,

• Non-elective orthopedics-simple casting,

• PET scans that don’t change treatment,

• Cataracts before Medicare kicks in, and

• Allergy testing and reduction mammoplasty.

Not all non-urgent, non-emergency procedures are included in the list. The list was in reference to one day’s referrals, according to Montgomery’s statement.
Montgomery also states that providers would have to “police themselves” when writing referrals.

“If your case manager is writing all your referrals for you without any real discussion, you will need to halt this practice…Another option is to advocate to your patients the importance of signing up for available resources, such as insurance from the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare Part B,” Montgomery states. “We can pay for 5 insured referrals for every one uninsured referral. This also brings money into your individual clinics, which allows you to pay for raises, new providers, and creates the cushion that Contract Health used to use when there are overruns. Explain to your patients that signing up for these things are a huge help to Cherokee Nation Health. Ask them if they can afford to and are willing to help.”

Montgomery states that if these options were unsuccessful each clinic would be given a budget to work from and be required to review their referrals daily and work within that budget.

“If we still aren’t getting under budget, more drastic action would need to be taken,” he states.


OPINION: Strengthening American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act is important
Principal Chief
05/02/2016 04:00 PM
Cherokee artisans are some of the most talented in Oklahoma and across all of Indian Country. They preserve our culture and heritage through their work across various mediums. It’s critical for us as Indian people to ensure Indian art is truly created by enrolled citizens of federally recognized tribes.

That’s why Cherokee Nation, along with the leadership of the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole Nations, is supporting Oklahoma House Bill 2261, which is being considered now in the Oklahoma State Senate after passing the Oklahoma House of Representatives by a 90-0 vote. The bill is authored by Rep. Chuck Hoskin (D-Vinita) and Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman), Cherokee Nation citizens, and proposes a change in the definition of who can sell Indian art.

The proposal defines “American Indian tribe” as any Indian tribe federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and, further, defines “American Indian” as a citizen or enrolled member of an American Indian tribe.

This issue is important for us because it ensures people who falsely claim tribal citizenship will not be able to market themselves and their crafts as Native. Oklahoma should take a strong position in preserving the integrity and authenticity of American Indian arts. As the home of 39 federally recognized tribes and more than 500,000 tribal citizens, Oklahoma should be the pacesetter for protecting tribal culture. Each of the 39 tribes in Oklahoma is a sovereign government with a unique history and culture and has been acknowledged and confirmed by the U.S. Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, executive orders and judicial decisions.

Today, the sale of American Indian art and craftwork in Oklahoma is regulated by both federal and state laws, and strengthening our state laws guarantees the integrity of Native American art and the artists themselves.

Oklahoma Indian artisans are renowned worldwide for beadwork, jewelry, basket weaving and fine arts like painting, pottery and sculpture. As the popularity of Indian art expands, so does the sale of items misrepresented as authentic American Indian products. Purchasing authentic American Indian art and crafts in Oklahoma from an enrolled citizen of a federally recognized Indian helps preserve our rich and diverse cultures, and it significantly increases entrepreneurship and economic development in Indian Country.

H.B. 2261 will provide a direct economic benefit to Cherokee artists by helping to decrease the availability of fraudulent Cherokee art in the market. Additionally, if the availability of fraudulent items decreases, the demand for authentic art will increase.

Closing the loophole about who can sell Indian art will protect not only the artists but individual consumers, galleries, art collectors and museums, especially smaller museums with fewer financial resources. Nothing in H.B. 2261 prevents individuals who claim to be tribal descendants from selling arts and crafts in Oklahoma. However, the claim “Indian made” or “Indian art” simply would not apply.

I strongly encourage you to contact your state senators and ask them to support H.B. 2261.


Nofire wins big at congressional art competition
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
05/26/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Robert Nofire, 18, continues to shine in the artistic community with his graphite pencil drawings. His latest achievement was for his drawing of Sioux Chief High Bear, for which he won the drawing category and overall at the 2016 Congressional Art Competition.

The drawing recently circulated Facebook, reaching thousands after his teacher, Charlotte Wood, shared a photo of Nofire and the portrait on Tahlequah Central Academy’s Facebook page.

Nofire, a TCA senior, said at first he was nervous during the award ceremony but was “happy” his family and friends attended.

“I was just really happy because there was a bunch of people around. People that I love,” he said. “I love the support that everybody gives me.”

During the ceremony, Nofire also received a $1,000 scholarship to Northeastern State University.

“I didn’t know that I was going to get anything over there. I just thought we were just going to go over there and they were going to say my place, but I didn’t expect them to pull up a scholarship or anything,” he said.

Nofire’s win also provides him the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C., for free for a week as well as have his drawing displayed for one year at the U.S. Capitol.

CN citizen and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R –Okla., said he and others are able to put on congressional art competitions in their districts, which give students chances to showcase their skills.

“Every congressional district…we get to run an art competition. Through that art competition you get to have your congressional district displayed by the art winner in the tunnel that connects the House office buildings and the Capitol. So it’s where members walk every day back and forth, several times a day, and this piece will be something of pride every time I walk by,” he said. “I think this one’s going to stand out among all the 435…up there.”

Since that competition, Nofire drew a portrait of retired teacher Beth Harrington and presented it to her during the school’s May 6 Arts in the Park event.

“What inspired me to draw this was she like toured Tahlequah with us and she was just really nice,” he said. “Then Mrs. Wood said she was like really known around Tahlequah, so I asked her if I could draw her and she said, ‘yeah.’”

He said the drawing is based off of a portrait of her smiling with a piano in the background. He said he used graphite pencils to create the piece.
Nofire said he credits his art teacher, Anthony Amason, for his progress.

“When I first went into Amason’s class I didn’t really think I was good or anything. I was just doing the projects. Then the first project we did, I turned it in and he thought it was really awesome and he was like, ‘I can help you more with that to help you get more values between there’. That’s what I’m strong with is values. That’s what makes the picture pop. He just saw that I had potential, I guess,” Nofire said.

Amason, who has taught Nofire for nearly two years, said he appreciates that Nofire gives him credit but Nofire’s skill is all him.

“I like taking the credit sometimes. I’m not going to lie. I enjoy that, but ultimately it’s him. It’s his talent. He just listened to what I had to say. I told him to do this and he did it,” he said. “I really want to give my students all the credit, and I’m just so proud of all the work that he does.”

To view Nofire’s artwork, visit
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