New constitution remains on hold

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor
12/04/2003 10:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Sometimes no news is good news. But regarding the Bureau of Indian Affairs' decision whether to certify Cherokee Nation's amendment question in the May 24 general election, it's not.

Todd Hembree, vice chairman of the CN Constitution Convention Commission, said there is no new news regarding the BIA and its decision on whether to certify the citizens' vote that removes Article XV, Section 10 in the 1976 CN Constitution.

The article requires federal approval for any amendments or changes to the tribe's current constitution. Cherokee citizens voted to eliminate the federal approval clause May 24.

Julian Fite, general counsel for the tribe, said the BIA has still not certified that election and that its lack of action may be based on the recent Cherokee Freedmen lawsuit filed against the Department of Interior. The Freedmen are asking the BIA to overturn recent tribal elections and appoint a trustee to oversee Freedmen rights. The Freedmen claim they were denied the right to vote.

CN officials said earlier this year that none of the Freedmen plaintiffs ever tried to register for the May 24 tribal election.

"They (BIA) are still jacking around," Fite said. "We're talking to them, but there has been no movement on that (election certification). It all seems to be tied to their concern about the Freedmen issues that have been bouncing around. They've given us no timetable. They just haven't done anything."

Hembree said he also didn't know why the BIA is taking so long to certify the election.

"We are still waiting from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that has not certified the first election process, and I really don't know what needs to be certified," he said. "I think it's clear that Cherokee people voted on it and it passed."

He said the tribe should "pressure" the BIA because the CN "can't just sit around… and just wait."

A call was made to the BIA's Muskogee Area Office by the Phoenix, but was not returned.

Because citizens voted to abolish the amendment, they were allowed to vote in the July 26 run-off election to decide whether to retain the current 1976 Constitution or ratify the new 1999 Constitution. Cherokees voted 54 percent to 46 percent to ratify the new constitution, according to Election Commission results.

If the BIA decides to certify the amendment vote, the 1999 Constitution would automatically go into effect, Hembree said.

Some of the changes that would occur under the new constitution would include creating the office of speaker that would chair Tribal Council meetings and be third in line of succession to the head of government behind the principal chief and deputy chief, add two at-large councilors to the Tribal Council, provide term limits and set staggered council terms, establish a voting process for Cherokee voters residing outside CN jurisdiction, provide a delegate to the U.S. Congress and create the office of attorney general. The new constitution would also create District Courts in the tribe's judicial system as well as renaming the Judicial Appeals Tribunal as the Supreme Court and increasing its members from three to five.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties.

He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design.

Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper.

He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties. He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design. Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper. He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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. PalaCasino.com 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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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 <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections</a>. 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 <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections</a> 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.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
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.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/19/2014 12:47 PM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) – The Cherokee Nation has opened a tag office in Tulsa as it makes its license plates available to its citizens across Oklahoma. Principal Chief Bill John Baker says demand is up for Cherokee Nation license plates, so it was necessary to open a Tulsa office so it can deliver tags in a timely manner. The tag office opened Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It joins five others - at Adair, Collinsville, Jay, Sallisaw and Tahlequah. The new office is in the Cherokee Nation Welcome Center off U.S. 412. In the last fiscal year, the Cherokee Nation generated $11 million in motor vehicle tag revenue, up $2 million from the earlier year. Funds are used for public schools, road and bridge improvement projects, and law enforcement.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
12/18/2014 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – During its Dec. 5 meeting, Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Chairwoman Stacy Leeds announced that starting in January the commission would require a series of amendments to its regulations to implement the recently amended Gaming Commission Act. “As you all know as soon as we hit the ground running in January we will require a series of amendments to our own regulations to implement the new ordinance, and our first order of business will be taking up changes to licensing,” Leeds said. CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said that whatever changes are made would come from the CNGC. “If policies are changed they will go through the Administrative Procedures Act, and there is a publication period and a public comment period,” he said. “These will not happen overnight. There are processes.” In April, Tribal Councilors limited the CNGC’s regulatory powers over Cherokee Nation Entertainment operations with Legislative Act 07-14. In June, the council made technical changes to that act with LA 17-14. Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed both acts but the amendments didn’t become law until they received National Indian Gaming Commission approval on Oct. 27. Before the NIGC approved the amended act, the CNGC regulated all gaming operations, including auditing, to ensure compliance with the act and any regulations adopted by the CNGC. The CNGC also enforces any gaming-related compacts with the state. The amendment calls for the CNGC to regulate and issue regulations only related to CNE’s gaming operations and follow only the NIGC’s minimum internal control standards or MICS. Before, the CNGC was required to establish tribal internal control standards or TICS to meet the tribe’s specific gaming needs. Nongaming operations would include areas such as food, beverage, hotel and entertainment. Because the CNGC would no longer be regulating them, they would fall under the regulation of Cherokee Nation Businesses and CNE, according to the amended act. “So it’s my understanding that the attorney general will visit with the council, see what their desires are and he’ll propose back to us regulations that would be put into effect and those would be put into effect in this body and through our regulatory process just like everything else,” Leeds said. “But I think as a courtesy to the council we get their point of view about how that is carried through and then it becomes part of our general regulatory structure like anything else would.” Hembree said if there were changes in policy there would be changes in the way CNB does business and it would have to follow the law and the policies. He added that he has met with Leeds, Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird, CNB officials to address changes and questions. “With any change there are questions. One thing I believe the intent of the amendments were was to ensure that CNB played on a level playing field with other gaming facilities and that the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission was able to maintain their very well oversight of the gaming operations and that they adhere to the strict federal standards that are there,” Hembree said. “It comes into the interpretation of what is an operational facility, what is a gaming activity. Those are the questions that we are working out. I do not believe that there will be much that changes from the implementation of these amendments.” Hembree said he, Leeds and Hummingbird also met with NIGC legal staff in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues that may or may not arise. “I wouldn’t say concerns, but there’s unknown because we’re exploring new ground on this,” he said. “There are going to be questions that if X happens how does that effect Y, and that’s why we are meeting and working out the details and implementation. We’re not just blindly going into this. Before these things happen we talk it out and make sure we are all on the same page.” The revised act also called for the creation of a three member, non-voting advisory board to be made up of Tribal Councilors. According to the act, Tribal Councilors shall appoint the advisory board with members serving three-year terms. Leeds said the CNGC knows there will be an advisory board but commission officials have no guidance on how or when it’s going to be implemented. According to the previous and revised act, the CNGC is part of the tribe’s executive branch that carries out the Nation’s responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the NIGC’s regulations. The act states the CNGC shall be consistent with all laws and resolutions of the Tribal Council. When asked if the advisory board violates the Constitution’s separation of powers clause, Hembree said it does not because the board would serve as a non-voting board. He added that advisory board members would get access to information that a sitting commissioner would get. Hembree also said, as of Dec. 11, he had not met with the Tribal Council but would be giving suggestions to its legal counsel “as to the policies of how the advisory members are chosen, their length of term, how they resolve any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/18/2014 02:23 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Hunger Buster Beef Cuts, a made-in-Oklahoma company, donated 720 pounds of beef cuts to the Cherokee Nation Foundation to supplement programs helping the tribe’s citizens facing food insecurities. Wal-Mart, Hunger Buster and Jason Christie, professional angler and CN citizen, presented the donation to tribal officials on Dec. 11. “Our mission is to provide education assistance to Cherokee students,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said. “We know hunger is often an obstacle to learning. This is a way for us to support the Nation’s efforts in addressing food insecurities and provide more food for backpacks going home with kids this winter.” As part of Christie’s partnership with Hunger Buster Beef Cuts and Wal-Mart, the company is donating 25 percent of all products sold at participating Wal-Mart locations to the CNF in the form of beef sticks. Hunger Buster as well as Cherokee Nation Businesses sponsors Christie. “Wal-Mart is proud to partner with Hunger Buster Beef Cuts and Jason Christie to provide a great product to our customers,” Jim Enneking, fishing buyer for Wal-Mart, said. “We are excited to be part of the donation to the Cherokee Nation Foundation to combat hunger.” Christie and Wal-Mart chose the CNF to receive the beef cuts in hopes a portion would be used to support backpack programs throughout the rural areas of the CN as well as other CN programs addressing food insecurities. Backpack programs provide a bag of shelf-stable food to elementary, junior high and high school students at risk of going hungry over weekends and school holidays. “I am a big advocate of giving back to the community, and Cherokee Nation is a major part of our community,” Christie said. “I take pride in representing Hunger Buster Beef Cuts not only because they are a healthy snack, but because of their 25 percent donation of food to charities. I value being a part of that.” Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was instrumental in forming the partnership and praised the donation. “Jason is a former educator and coach at a rural school district and is aware of some of the hardships our kids face,” he said. “His generosity to give back to our tribe and help these kids from missing one less meal is overwhelming. It takes a tribe to raise these children.” “We couldn’t be more proud of Jason and his example of leadership and giving back,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We will work diligently alongside the foundation to ensure this donation supplements our existing programs. I know it will be utilized by Cherokee families and Cherokee children in need.” Hunger Buster beef sticks are 100 percent beef, gluten-free, low-calorie, low-carb, low-sugar and contain no MSG or trans fat. “Jason Christie is a valuable partner of ours, having been a major supporter of our products and our mission to help feed the hungry,” Richard Cranford, owner of QuarterShare LLC, said. “We are pleased that the Cherokee Nation Foundation is his choice to receive our donation. To provide children with nutritious snacks is a principal priority for our company.”