Congressman makes ill reference regarding American Indians

12/21/2014 04:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s reference to American Indians as “wards of the federal government” has struck a harsh chord with tribal members and legal experts in the days following a discussion about a controversial Arizona land deal that would make way for the country’s largest copper mine.

The Arizona Republican was responding to concerns from Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe when he made the comment that stunned people at the round-table talk.

Stago said the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs and seeking equal representation when it comes to projects proposed on land they consider sacred.

“He kind of revealed the truth - the true deep feeling of the federal government: `Tribes, you can call yourselves sovereign nations, but when it comes down to the final test, you’re not really sovereign because we still have plenary authority over you,’” Stago told The Associated Press.

Gosar spokesman Steven Smith said that wasn’t the intent of the congressman, whose constituents in the 4th Congressional District include Apache tribes. He didn’t respond to requests to elaborate further.

“If that’s what he got out of that, I think it’s misconstrued,” Smith said. “If you look at the work the congressman has done, that’s far from the truth.”

Smith said Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening the relationship between tribes and the federal government. He pointed to legislation he sponsored this year that would do so.

Gosar held the discussion Friday in Flagstaff with Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who grew up with Stago on Arizona’s Fort Apache Reservation.

Dozens of people attended the meeting to discuss land, mining and forest issues with the representatives.

One topic they addressed was a proposal to swap 2,400 acres of southeastern Arizona’s Tonto National Forest for about 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout the state controlled by a subsidiary of global mining giant Rio Tinto. Stago said the proposal was disrespectful to tribal sovereignty.

Gosar said: “You’re still wards of the federal government,” according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

While former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall described tribes’ relationship with the federal government as that of a ward to its guardian in the 1830s, that characterization has long been irrelevant, experts in federal Indian law said.

Tribal members once seen as incompetent in the Supreme Court’s eyes became U.S. citizens in 1924, and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 pushed the concept of tribal sovereignty and self-determination, said Troy Eid, a Republican and former U.S. attorney in Colorado.

Congress maintains control over Indian affairs.

However, the Interior Department is moving away from archaic paternalism when it comes to relationships with tribes, a spokeswoman said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ website notes the federal government is a trustee of Indian property - not the guardian of all American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Eid said the language that defines core concepts of Indian law is old and often ethnically offensive. “Wards of the federal government” is no different, he said.

“That’s just not appropriate,” Eid said. “In the heated context of what this represents, it’s especially inappropriate to be resorting to what amounts to race baiting.”

The trend has been for tribes to take more control over their affairs while holding the federal government to promises generally born out of treaties. In exchange for tribal land, the government promised things like health care, education and social services in perpetuity for members of federally recognized tribes.

Some tribes are taking advantage of federal laws that allow them to prosecute felony crimes and assert jurisdiction over non-Natives in limited cases of domestic violence. They also have the authority to approve trust land leases directly, rather than wait for BIA approval.

Sam Deloria, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who served for 35 years as director of the American Indian Law Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said tribes welcome discussion about policy matters.

But when someone makes a comment like Gosar’s, “it doesn’t contribute much to the debate,” he said.

Northern Arapaho sue over IRS health care rule

12/21/2014 12:00 PM
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) – The Northern Arapaho tribe has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that proposed Internal Revenue Service rules could cause Native Americans to pay higher insurance premiums or lose health care benefits.

Tribal leaders said the recently proposed IRS interpretation of the large-employer mandate would unlawfully exempt Native Americans working for the tribe from receiving tax credits and cost-sharing benefits specifically outlined by new federal health laws.

Northern Arapaho Business Council members said the IRS rule would eliminate tribal tax credits for health care benefits and make those earning more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level exempt from cost-sharing provisions that currently cover Native American insurance premiums.

“The Northern Arapaho Business Council fully supports what Congress and the president have accomplished with the Affordable Care Act,” said Northern Arapaho Councilman Darrell O’Neal, “but the folks in the agencies have taken a wrong turn in implementing it.”

The Northern Arapaho Tribe has about 10,000 enrolled citizens and shares a large reservation in Wyoming, southeast of Grand Teton National Park. It employs more than 600 people.

The tribe insures its workers with plans from the federal health insurance marketplace and provides more than 80 percent of premium costs, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.

Under the rule, tribal governments and agencies are considered large employers. Those Native Americans employed by the tribes would be subject to provisions of the large-employer mandate. More than 62 percent of Northern Arapaho members live below the poverty line.

If approved, the rule would take effect Jan. 1. The rule-making is on hold, awaiting results of the case, filed in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.

The tribe said Congress did not intend the health care legislation to block Native Americans’ benefits and that the IRS rulemaking exposes a rift between legislation and the executive branch.

The IRS referred calls to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Tribal Councilor and Cherokee National Treasure Victoria Vazquez on Dec. 8 announces a $50,000 grant from the Tribal Council that will directly benefit Cherokee National Treasures, saying the Cherokee National Treasure Advisory Committee is hoping to begin spending the money soon on Cherokee National Treasures. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor and Cherokee National Treasure Victoria Vazquez on Dec. 8 announces a $50,000 grant from the Tribal Council that will directly benefit Cherokee National Treasures, saying the Cherokee National Treasure Advisory Committee is hoping to begin spending the money soon on Cherokee National Treasures. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Grant, other opportunities to benefit National Treasures

Senior Reporter
12/21/2014 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a Dec. 8 luncheon for Cherokee National Treasures – the keepers of Cherokee arts, culture and language – learned of a $50,000 grant that will directly benefit them, as well as opportunities to sell their works or have them displayed.

Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who became a Cherokee National Treasure for pottery in 2012, announced that the grant she helped procure took effect on Oct. 1 and the Cherokee National Treasure Advisory Committee is hoping to begin spending the money soon on treasures.

Cherokee National Treasure and potter Jane Osti, who is part of the advisory committee, called the grant a “generous one.”

“We want it to benefit National Treasures, and one way we hope it will is through their teaching. It will preserve the culture at the same time they will be able to make extra money by teaching,” she said.

Osti said it is hoped that most of the $50,000 will be spent paying the treasures to teach their skills and to buy their artwork to display in Cherokee Nation buildings.

Osti said nearly all of the 40-plus living treasures attend the annual luncheon. She said artists who are awarded the title excel in their respective crafts or arts and are recognized by the tribe as a master. There is also a category for those who help perpetuate the Cherokee language.

Those selected are also involved with the preservation and revival of traditional cultural practices that are in danger of being lost. Since its inception in 1988, 84 CN citizens have been recognized for their art and preservation efforts.

“Most of these arts are traditional. Some of them are kind of new, but most of them are ancient art forms,” Osti said.

Osti, who is from Rocky Ford/Teresita, was named a treasure in 2005 for her pottery. Before that only one other potter had been named a treasure and that was Anna Mitchell, Osti’s mentor.

Cherokee National Treasure Sue Thompson, of Woodall, was named a treasure for her work with the Cherokee language and teaching it to others.

“What I enjoy most is speaking the language and seeing the kids relating to it. Hopefully it will cause them to learn the language,” Thompson said.

She said Cherokee was her first language before she attended Woodall Schools. Her knowledge of the language allowed her to teach it in communities while working for the tribe’s Adult Education Program. She now mainly works with the public schools in the tribe’s jurisdiction to share the language.

Gina Olaya, Cherokee Nation Businesses director of cultural art procurement, told the treasures that she is looking to buy Cherokee artwork for tribal clinics being built in Jay, Ochelata, Stilwell and Sallisaw, as well as for the new W.W. Hastings Hospital to be built in Tahlequah.

She said Cherokee art is also needed for the tribe’s casinos and office buildings. Casinos are being constructed in South Coffeyville and Roland. Olaya brought one of her team members to show the treasures how to sell their art to CNB if they have not before.

Olaya said she has also been tasked with creating a Cherokee National Treasures exhibit to be displayed in the lobby between the Cherokee Restaurant and the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop in Tahlequah.

“It will have a piece or pieces of every National treasure that has been designated since the first one was designated (1988). We’ve been working for the past year and a half to try to find pieces (for the exhibit),” she said.

Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Dr. Candessa Tehee said the treasures are an important part of the tribe’s future and present-day efforts to preserve Cherokee culture and announced that the CHC would host the inaugural “Cherokee National Treasures Art Show and Sale,” Oct. 3 through Nov. 8.
“We want to do this in recognition of your artistic skill, and all of you have wonderful pieces that can be included in the show. Some of you may not wish these items to be for sale, that’s why it’s a combination exhibit and sale,” she said.

She encouraged the treasures to inform the families of deceased treasures about the show so that their works can also be exhibited. The CHC will also try to contact the families of deceased treasures.

Tehee said she understands the art show and sale would conflict with the annual Cherokee Art Market usually held in October in Catoosa, but she is willing to work with treasures to allow them to participate in both.

Cherokee National Treasures are also invited to earn money by teaching classes at the CHC through its Education Department, Tehee said, and are invited to bring their works to sell at its gift shop.

Tribe becomes 1st to launch online gambling in NJ

12/20/2014 04:00 PM
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – California’s Pala Indians have launched their Internet gambling site in New Jersey following a test period in November, becoming the first tribe to do so in the state.

The Pala Band of Mission Indians received permission from New Jersey gambling regulators for a full launch of the website in a partnership with Atlantic City’s Borgata. started taking bets on Nov. 29, Jim Ryan, CEO of Pala Interactive, the tribe’s Internet gambling arm, said.

“We had a solid weekend and we have yet to start marketing,” he told The Associated Press. “We believe we are breaking into the New Jersey market at the perfect time.”

The tribe’s entry into New Jersey’s online market comes at the anniversary of Internet gambling, which has not produced nearly the amount of revenue state officials had hoped. When it began on Nov. 25, 2013, New Jersey officials were projecting a $1 billion a year industry in its first year. To date, only about one-tenth of that, or $111 million, has been won online by the casinos.

The tribe, which runs the Pala Casino and Spa in San Diego County, California, is using one of the Borgata’s online gambling licenses. Like other New Jersey Internet gambling providers, it can only take bets from customers within New Jersey’s borders.

It plans to launch an online poker site in the first quarter of 2015.

The site’s full debut came days after New Jersey gambling regulators said they had found no evidence Ryan was involved in a 2006 cheating scandal at his previous employer.

The report determined the UltimateBet scandal occurred while Ryan was head of Excapsa Software. That firm’s software was used to cheat players by revealing their hidden cards to other users, resulting in losses of nearly $20 million to players. But the software was developed by a different company that predated Ryan’s employment at Excapsa, according to the report. The money was ultimately refunded.

The Pala site uses a different platform, Ryan said.

Candidate packets available on Jan. 5 at the Election Commission office

12/20/2014 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Candidates running for office in the 2015 Cherokee Nation General Election can pick up their election packets beginning on Jan. 5 at the Election Services Office.

According to an Election Commission press release, the filing period for candidates will begin on March 2, and will continue until 5 p.m. on March 5. If any candidate wishes to withdraw their candidacy he or she may do so 10 days following the close of the filing period, the release states.

Seats open are for principal chief, deputy chief as well as Tribal Council districts 1, 3, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14 and one At-Large.

Registered voters residing outside the CN jurisdiction who wish to vote by absentee ballot may fill out an absentee ballot request to be processed from Feb. 2 to May 8, the release states. Absentee ballot requests will be available at the Election Services Office and online at Absentee ballots will be mailed out on May 26-27 by the Election Commission.

Voter registration will close March 31. To print a voter registration form online visit or pick up one in person at the Election Services Office. Citizens can request to have one sent by email or fax.

Also, voters with address changes, name changes or any changed information will need to submit a new voter registration application, according to the release.

The Election Services Office is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s located at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road. For more information call 918-458-5899.
Recreational vehicles sit at the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs’ Kampgrounds of America area in Claremore, Oklahoma. In December, WRD officials traveled to the national KOA convention in Charleston, South Carolina, to receive two awards. COURTESY
Recreational vehicles sit at the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs’ Kampgrounds of America area in Claremore, Oklahoma. In December, WRD officials traveled to the national KOA convention in Charleston, South Carolina, to receive two awards. COURTESY

Will Rogers Downs campground earns KOA awards

12/20/2014 08:00 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – In December, Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs officials traveled to the Kampgrounds of America national convention in Charleston, South Carolina, to receive two prominent awards.

KOA presented Melissa Brooner, WRD casino shift and campground manager, with the President’s Award and Most Improved.

“It’s something we’ve worked hard for,” Brooner said. “The customer service and our staff at the campground are what have increased our scores over the past year. We always try to go out of our way to accommodate anything the guest wants or needs. Anything they request, we really try to go the extra mile. They are family during their stay with us.”

The President’s Award is given to every KOA across the country that scores 90 percent or better on quality reviews, a checklist-type system of measurement of quality within the organization. Of the 485 KOA locations, only two campgrounds received awards in 2014 for Most Improved, measured by the highest increase in guest service scores.

“We looked at KOAs that have improved their operations significantly based on the feedback from the guests and what our quality reviews teams observe when performing our annual evaluations,” said Jef Sutherland, KOA senior vice president of franchise operations. “This year, it was clear that the Tulsa NE/Will Rogers Down KOA was an operation that improved substantially...There was a dramatic increase in customer satisfaction scores, and the owners invested in a new registration area, including a new bathhouse as well as site improvements.”

Originally opened in 2010, the campground is situated on casino grounds, within walking distance of the horse track, casino, food and live entertainment. There are 400 RV pads with full hookups inside the park.

“Our employees have made this possible. There were a lot of improvements from a grounds standpoint. Ron Henderson, Ryan Sawney and Jesse Sawney oversee the outside grounds and have worked hard to keep it looking great,” Mike Wheeler, casino operations manager, said. “Linell Knight and Dee Dawe have done a great job of ensuring the gift shop is clean, maintained and offers everything a guest might need during their stay.”

The casino offers free Wi-Fi to guests visiting the park, along with showers and laundry facilities, a dog park, horseshoe pit, playground, chapel, clubhouse and more than 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Rates begin at $32 a day.
Eucha, Oklahoma, residents Tad and Linda Dunham, right, open bowls and pots of food for the annual Eucha Fire Department Christmas dinner on Dec. 13. The dinner coincided with the new Eucha Community Center’s opening. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cullus Buck, Eucha Indian Organization chairman and Eucha Fire Department assistant chief, welcomes people to the opening of the new Eucha Community Center on Dec. 13. Standing with Buck is Eucha resident Tad Dunham who led the effort to finish the center after five years of setbacks. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Eucha, Oklahoma, residents Tad and Linda Dunham, right, open bowls and pots of food for the annual Eucha Fire Department Christmas dinner on Dec. 13. The dinner coincided with the new Eucha Community Center’s opening. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Eucha celebrates opening of community center

Senior Reporter
12/19/2014 02:42 PM
EUCHA, Okla. – Eucha residents gathered on the evening of Dec. 13 to celebrate the opening of the new Eucha Community Center.

The center’s opening was five years in the making after setbacks prevented residents from completing the 50-foot-by-75-foot building, which will be used by the Eucha Indian Organization and community.

“We had a lot of problems. The roof blew off twice while we were trying to build it. Some of the guys got dissatisfied and they quit, but some of them stayed on. And then about three months ago I started coming up here and working on the inside of it,” community organizer Tad Dunham said. “We finally got it finished. Actually we got it finished yesterday (Dec. 12).”

The center’s opening coincided with the annual Eucha Fire Department Christmas dinner. The fire department and its firefighters are a centerpiece for the community located about four miles west of Jay in Delaware County and about two miles north of Lake Eucha. Dunham said when the lake was built in 1952 the town was moved to its present location.

In years past, the fire department, which is next door to the community building, backed its trucks out of the fire station to make room for events.

“We always worried about them freezing this time of year because some of the water lines are only an eighth of an inch that go to the gauges and they freeze really quickly,” Dunham said. “Now we don’t have to pull them out. We can use this building (community center), and it just makes everything greater. Plus we have more room in here.”

Cullus Buck, EIO chairman and EFD assistant chief, said the center would “mean a lot” because it gives residents a place to meet without using the fire station.

“We opened up the fire department many times for family reunions and different things, and now this will take care of that, and we won’t have to worry about our trucks freezing,” Buck said.

He said he wants to use the center to keep the area’s Cherokee heritage alive by having craftspeople and others visit to share their knowledge.

“I’m going to try to get some beading classes in. My wife, she knows how to (do) that and some basket weaving. We had a guy come up and said he would teach knife (making), and I’ve got a couple of people who are interested in teaching the Cherokee language,” Buck said.

He said he appreciates any help the Cherokee Nation could provide in preserving Cherokee heritage in Eucha but believes there are residents qualified to teach the Cherokee language and arts and crafts.

The CN’s Community Work Program provided $116,000 to build the center, and the nearby Seneca-Cayuga Tribe in Grove and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe in Wyandotte also provided assistance. The Eastern Shawnee donated the building’s appliances, and the Seneca-Cayuga helped fund the Christmas dinner.

“It wasn’t just the Cherokee Nation. Different tribes helped pitch in to get it (community center) done,” Buck said. “There was one point I wanted to give up. We got it all ready to go, had all the trusses up, and they all fell in because we had a tornado right down the road.”

Dunham said he believes the building will begin an era in the community because people now have a gathering place for reunions, parties, weddings and funerals.

“It’s going to open up the whole area for the community, not just the Eucha community but the surrounding area. It will be a general purpose building for the whole community,” he said. “I want to thank the Cherokee Nation not only for this building, but everything else they do for the community and all the Cherokee people – all the health care they provide, the roads they build – if you look around you can see their mark on about everything in the area, so we really appreciate the Cherokee Nation.”


TCCL inducts CN into its hall of fame
Senior Reporter
12/16/2014 02:17 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation was inducted into the Tulsa City-County Library Hall of Fame on Dec. 6 during a ceremony held at the Hardesty Regional Library.

The honor is given annually to an individual or organization demonstrating leadership and exemplary contributions of time, talent and energy toward improving the library and its resources. The tribe was selected as the 2014 inductee for its partnership with the library to record the Cherokee language on computer software. The software allows TCCL patrons to learn to speak, read and write Cherokee on computers.

“Since the library opened its American Indian Resource Center 15 years ago the Cherokee Nation has supported the center by providing presenters for educational program, as well as monetary donations for the library’s collections,” TCCL CEO Gary Shaffer. “Thanks to the hard work of the Cherokee Nation and the American Indian Resource Center, Mango Languages, which is one of our vendors that works with the library, will begin offering for the first time an indigenous language, the Cherokee language course, beginning in early 2015.”

Shaffer added that the CN helped develop interactive lessons and provided speakers of the language to record the lessons. The lessons will be offered through a user-friendly language instruction tool on the library’s website, as well as 2,000 other libraries across the country.

Accepting the award for the tribe were CN translators Anna Sixkiller and John Ross, Cherokee Language Program Manager Roy Boney, Cherokee Heritage Center Executive Director Candessa Tehee, Cherokee Nation Businesses Director of Strategic Investments Jay Calhoun and Tribal Councilors Cara Cowan Watts and Lee Keener.

Sixkiller and Ross completed two chapters for the Mango Languages software. The chapters include audio recorded by Sixkiller and Ross and written lessons.

Ross said he and Sixkiller worked with Mango personnel via Skype, which allows people to have conversations using a webcam and the Internet.

“Anna and I worked with a linguist from Mango. We worked on a script in the Cherokee language, and we started translating greetings, gratitude and goodbyes. The second part was conversation on ‘how is the weather today,’ names, places, etcetera. When we completed the writing part we started recording,” he said.

The project began in August and was completed Dec. 1.

“Personally, I see this as an opportunity to teach the Cherokee language to non-Native communities and other parts of the world to learn our Cherokee language,” Ross said. “If the people like the Cherokee language, Mango would like to continue the translation and continue adding more. It all depends on how the Cherokee language is received by the public.”

Boney said it is fitting the CN is working with the TCCL because the tribe has a long history of literacy.

“Education has been one of our major goals as a people as long we’ve been a people. We had the first institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi (the Cherokee Female Seminary),” Boney said. “We’re proud of our literacy, and this project is in keeping with that. The Cherokee language, like most Native languages, is endangered. We don’t want to lose our language, so we use every tool possible that’s available to us to keep it. A project like this using this language learning software is pretty big thing for us. It provides people access to hear fluent speakers of Cherokee speaking the language.”

Shaffer also thanked Ross and Sixkiller for their efforts.

“It’s really a remarkable develop this. One of Tulsa City-County Library’s goals is that the library be a center for community, reading, life-long learning and access to information for all,” Shaffer said. “For the Cherokee Nation’s outstanding commitment and longstanding support of the Tulsa City-County Library and for its diligence to preserve its Native language, we are proud to induct the Cherokee Nation into the Library Hall of Fame.”

Mango Languages can be accessed online for free with the use of a library card or by paid subscription. An app is also available for download on smartphones so users can hear Cherokee pronunciation at home. The website is


CN, CHC help students experience cultural diversity
12/19/2014 09:11 AM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation employees are helping preserve and further the tribe’s heritage by bringing it to the next generation. Employee volunteers returned to Tulsa Global Alliance’s multicultural event, Kids’ World, to help local children experience Cherokee culture and language.

“Our employees take great pride in sharing their Cherokee heritage,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We hope the thousands of grade school children who came through the Cherokee section at Kids’ World were entertained, and more importantly walked away with more knowledge about our rich history and culture.”

More than 8,000 students, ranging in grades from early elementary to junior high, visited the large area dedicated specifically to the Cherokee culture.

The area featured eight interactive booths, each focused on different aspects of Cherokee culture such as general history, language, basket weaving, pottery, clothing, games, blowguns, as well as a gift shop provided by The George M. Murrell Home.

Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, Cherokee Heritage Center and CN Johnson-O’Malley staff, who all took part in volunteer efforts, coordinated the partnership. Other employees from the CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses also volunteered at the bi-annual event.

“Kids World is always a great experience. I'm glad we were able to share our Cherokee culture with so many children,” Deborah Fritts, a CNCT employee volunteer, said. “I enjoyed teaching children, from three year olds to teens, but also their parents, grandparents and teachers who were with them.”

Additionally, Cherokee presenters and storytellers performed on the main stage throughout the four-day event, which took place at The Exchange Center in The Expo Square of the Tulsa County Fair Grounds.

Students who visited the CN received an Osiyo pencil and stamp in their Kids’ World passport. Educators received a tote bag filled with educational materials to help further students’ understanding of Cherokee culture.

Kids’ World is a multicultural event hosted by Tulsa Global Alliance. Its mission is to promote understanding and peace by creating an inspiring, entertaining and educational international children’s event that increases tolerance and appreciation of all cultures.


Council modifies operating, capital budgets
12/17/2014 12:48 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2015 comprehensive operating and capital budgets.

The operating budget increased to $622.9 million from $615.4 million. The extra funds came from FY 2014 carryover funds. The $7.5 million is to provide $2.1 million to operate the Ochelata Health Center and add new jobs, while $2.4 million will add employees at other CN health facilities. The CN health center in Bartlesville will move from its 5,000-square-foot space to a new 28,000-square-foot stand-alone facility in Ochelata. Approximately $2.7 million will be allocated to additional child care resources for CN citizens who meet income guidelines, and another $300,000 will go toward miscellaneous grants.

“Providing Cherokee citizens with quality health care is the top priority of this body, and in order to achieve that goal we must ensure our health facilities employ staff that will meet the health needs of the citizens,” Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said. “We not only want to build first-class health care facilities, but we want to staff the facilities with first-class personnel. This increase in funds helps the Cherokee Nation work toward that goal.”

The capital budget increased by $4.8 million to $124.5 million. The money is earmarked for medical equipment for the four new health centers, which are under construction.

“Big, aesthetically pleasing health care facilities are only as good as the equipment and staff inside,” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright said. “By increasing funding for staff and earmarking money for medical equipment, the Cherokee Nation is making it known the tribe is committed to the health of its citizens.”

Officials also honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism.

Arthur “Watie” Bell, 80, of Claremore; Robert G. Ketcher, 72, of Stilwell; and Samuel W. O’Fields, 80, of Claremore, were all presented plaques and medals by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden.

Bell enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Miramar-San Diego from 1951-53. While there his assignment was base security, which included roving patrols and brig force gate duty. He also trained guard dogs.

Bell completed eight weeks of Airman Class P School in Norman in 1953 and reported to the USS Tarawa CV-40 where he was assigned to the aviation gasoline division. Bell maintained the inert gas room and refueling aircrafts on the flight and hanger decks.

Bell made one cruise, which encircled the world and ended in October 1954. He was later released from active duty and returned to reserve status and was eventually discharged from the Navy in 1955. He then joined the Army Reserve and completed his eight years of military service. Bell was discharged from the Army in 1959.

“This gentleman serves on our color guard, honor guard and does a great job and we’re so thankful for that,” Crittenden said.

Ketcher enlisted in the Army in March 1966. In December 1966 he deployed to Vietnam where he became the 1st Calvary’s squad leader and fired 81mm mortar guns. While there Ketcher’s mission was to “search and destroy.” He was discharged in 1968.

O’Fields enlisted in the Army in 1956. He completed seven weeks of basic training and specialty unit training in California. He was sent to Bamberg, Germany, and served in the Tactical Operations and Equipment unit, which was part of the Mortar Battery, 2nd Battalion Group, 29th Infantry.

O’Fields’ rank was private first class when he was discharged in June 1962.

Terry Crow, 47, of Tahlequah, was to be honored but was not able to attend.

Crow enlisted in the Army in 1989. He served in Desert Storm in Iraq. Crow received a Bronze Star during his service and was discharged in 1992.

During Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton’s monthly report, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener questioned Slaton about what would happen to the former American Woodmark building in Tahlequah that CNB purchased in 2012. The building was home to Cherokee Nation Industry employees who evaluated and repackaged televisions that had been returned to United States-based Wal-Mart stores.

CNI had a two-year contract with Miami, Florida-based company TRG to repair and refurbish TVs for Wal-Mart. The contract ended Dec. 1.

Slaton said employees were cleaning the site and he hoped to have something in the building as soon as possible. “We’re currently in the process of giving that a good scrub down and cleaning. (CNB Executive Vice President) Chuck Garrett’s group is actively searching for the next tenant. We’ve got two or three possibilities, one from Muskogee. We’re just trying to work those possibilities to see what we can land there.”


OBI offers Donor Appreciation Day in December
12/15/2014 11:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Oklahoma Blood Institute will visit the Cherokee Nation on Dec. 16 for Donor Appreciation Day. The day will include door prizes, lunch and blood donation.

The blood drive will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the CN’s Ballroom behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees.

There will also be a “treasure chest” from which for donors to choose an appreciation item. Donors will also be able to receive free health screenings and donor reward points, which can be redeemed at the OBI’s online store.

“We’re blessed to be surrounded by giving people who respond when they know of a need,” President and CEO of Oklahoma Blood Institute John Armitage said. “The gift of blood is a priceless one. It’s difficult to think of anything more important that we personally can do.”

According to the OBI, the OBI is the ninth largest blood center in American and is the exclusive blood provider to patients at the W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital and Northeastern Health System. Approximately 140 medical facilities also receive blood from the OBI.


The season of hope
Principal Chief
12/05/2014 08:00 AM
We celebrate Christmas to honor the birth of Jesus Christ and his life of service. The enduring and basic message of his life is one of peace and goodwill towards all. So while the Christmas season is a wonderful time filled with family and friends, it is also the perfect time to reflect on the year and see how we’ve helped our fellow man by emulating the virtues of Jesus Christ.

No matter your circumstances, this is the time of year for each of us to embrace the virtues of charity, righteousness and goodness in each other and in the world. I hope that whatever your burdens and challenges are, the Christmas season will keep your spirits bright and your soul full. The magic of the season is that the world seems brighter with unlimited possibilities. I hope that holds true for you and yours.

As 2014 comes to a close, it’s the ideal moment to count our blessings. Many of our Cherokee citizens have been blessed this past year with additional or improved services. We’ve added more access to better health care, built many safe, affordable houses that our citizens are turning into homes, and are providing greater opportunities for our people to succeed. While the year may not have been perfect, our Cherokee spirit helps all of us rise above any challenge we face. Cherokees are strong and have always been able to look past our trials and come together with friends and family, give of ourselves and share with others, and support those who are truly in need. That’s what makes Christmas extraordinary. That’s the Cherokee way.

I know that we are blessed as a people, and with God on our side, brighter tomorrows are inevitable. More than ever, it is important to share this message of hope and inspiration today. In that spirit of grace, let us reaffirm the values that define us as Cherokee – our community, our unity, our responsibility, our traditions and our love and respect for our fellow Cherokee citizens.

I’ve been taught by our Cherokee elders that we are each other’s keepers, and have been throughout our history. So let us, as Cherokee people, look to the future with renewed courage, conviction and, most importantly, hope. The positive things we do today will have a ripple effect for Cherokees for the next seven generations.

Together, we can foster real growth in our families and communities, we can take shared responsibility for vulnerable children and our tribal elders, and we can keep the true spirit of Christmas – selflessness and compassion – alive in our hearts for Cherokee people in the upcoming year.

I wish you and yours the very best for the season and for prosperity in the New Year. I hope you are surrounded by family and friends and feel merriment and joy this holiday season. And for our troops who are unable to be home for the holidays, I wish them Godspeed and that the New Year brings them safely home to their families.

May God bless each of you this Christmas, and as always, may God continue to bless the Cherokee Nation.


Brown plays big part in Bixby’s state title
Senior Reporter
12/19/2014 10:40 AM
BIXBY, Okla. – The Bixby Spartans football team finished its season hoisting the Class 6A Division II state championship on Dec. 5 after defeating the Lawton Wolverines 35-21 in Moore.

Cherokee Nation citizen Zack Brown, 18, played a big part of the team. The 5-foot, 11-inch, 240-pound lineman started every game his senior season after working in the offseason to compete for an open slot at left guard.

“The season was pretty crazy. We lost our first game to Jenks, which was kind of upsetting, but we just stuck to it and kept winning games and eventually made it to the state championship and pulled that one off,” he said.

Brown also stuck to his dream of starting for the Spartans. He was a second-teamer his eighth grade, freshman, sophomore and junior years, but was determined to start his senior year.

“I realized there was an opening for me and a chance for me to start, so I just worked really hard in the offseason and busted my butt to get where I am now,” he said. “I just realized this was my last shot to have a chance to play high school football, so I just gave it my all and became a starter.”

Becoming a starter was not easy, Brown said. He competed for the position with two other linemen.

“I just kind of kept an eye on them through the offseason and always tried to do one more rep than the other guy and just become better at everything I did,” he said.

Brown said his best game of the year was against Sand Springs in the state playoff semifinal. He won “Lineman of the Week” after out-grading the other offensive linemen on the team. Coaches grade linemen for their effort and how well they keep their assignments during a game. In 13 games this year, he won “Lineman of the Week” five times.

“It was the most out of all the other lineman,” he said.

He said for the state championship, Bixby knew Lawton had some “pretty big defensive linemen.” However, the No. 1 Spartans had a good offense that averaged 44 points and nearly 500 yards per game.

“We knew it was going to be a good game and a hard-fought game. We just kept fighting because at halftime it was tied up 14-14,” he said. “At halftime we were talking in the locker room that we’ve just got to keep pushing and keep working and the best team will come out on top, and that’s what happened.”

Brown said he was “nervous” in the third quarter until Bixby’s offense took control of the game and scored a touchdown early. The defense quickly scored another touchdown on an interception. Another Bixby touchdown in the third quarter sealed the game as Lawton scored only one touchdown for the 35-21 final.

“I could kind of see with five minutes left in the third quarter that they were starting to break and they were getting up slower. When (linebacker) Adrian Mica had an interception for six on defense that motivated us to score again, and then we scored again and we just kept running with it. We realized we could win this game,” he said.

Bixby finished the season 13-1 and on a 12-game winning streak that began after being beaten by eventual Class 6A Division I champion Jenks. The Spartans brought home their first gold ball after finishing runner-up seven times since 1964.

At the beginning of the season, Brown said the team knew its strengths and weaknesses and knew the offensive line may be a weakness. As the season went on, the line improved.

“The coaches said we improved the most out of anyone else on the team,” he said. “Basically, they said we made everyone else better and caused everyone to work harder to become state champions.”

After graduation, Brown plans to attend the University of Arkansas to study nursing.
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