New constitution remains on hold

Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
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. • 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.


Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
09/30/2016 04:00 PM
CANNON BALL, N.D. – In September, two Cherokee Nation citizens, attorney Jim Cosby and CN employee Marcus Thompson, returned to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation to show their support and deliver collected supplies. The two men said they enjoyed their August experience there and were glad to lend a hand again. Thompson, a husband and father, said it’s not always easy to pick up and leave, but for something like this it was important to him and his family that he go and show support. “My wife told me, she said, ‘you need to go back and get more experience than you did the first time. The place got a lot bigger. The first time it was pretty packed, but now you got people all up and down the (Cannon Ball) river and all on the west side,” he said. “Made sure my family was cared for before I left and I made sure my leave (from work) was approved before I left.” Thompson said he wished he could share the experience with his family so they could see people gathering for a cause. “Not just tribes. You got people from all over…every different color up here. There all down here supporting, standing for Standing Rock too,” he said. Thompson added that during his first trip he and others wanted show that Cherokee people also support the Sioux’s efforts against the Dakota Access Pipeline. “We want to bring more supplies for them because you know it’s getting winter time and they need more camping gear this time and that’s what we brought, a lot of camping gear,” he said. In addition to taking donated supplies, Thompson brought his own supplies – stickball sticks. “I brought my stickball sticks this time. Hoping to get a chance for the kids to see how we play social stickball games back home and get that experience with them up here,” he said. Cosby said not only is it important for he and other Cherokees to support other Native Americans, it’s also incumbent to save the Earth. “We’ve seen a large degree of man’s destruction of Earth simply for corporate profit, so it’s important to me that this (the pipeline) be stopped and that we not only stand behind our Sioux brothers and sisters but that we protect Mother Earth from beings that want to ravage it for profit,” he said. After traveling and enduring costs associated with his August trip, Cosby said that was to be his only trip to North Dakota. However that changed, he said, after seeing the continuing need of supplies and support for the Sioux and their efforts. “Although the travel to this location is quite a long ways, they ask for our support, they ask for divine intervention and we felt that it was needed that we come back and not only bring supplies for them to continue their fight, but to show our support as Cherokees to these people and let them know that we are there for them,” he said. Cosby also said it isn’t easy to put your life on hold and go on such a trip and that there were others who helped with donations who wanted to go but couldn’t. “I’m just blessed with the ability to arrange my work schedule to do this. I felt that it was needed that it was important,” he said. “It’s a terrific thing to be able to come up here and allow my friends to journey along with us on such a great adventure to actually see firsthand what’s going on here and appreciate the magnitude of this event that more than likely we’ll never see again in our lives.”
09/30/2016 02:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The OSIYO Men’s Shelter in Tahlequah is hosting an appreciation reception by the shelter board from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 1 at the shelter. It is located at 118 W. Keetoowah in Tahlequah. For more information regarding the shelter, email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
09/29/2016 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – For the first time, one of the 18 treaties negotiated and signed during the Gold Rush between the United States and the American Indian nations in California, but secretly unratified by the U.S. Senate in 1852, went on display to the public on Sept. 22. The Treaty of Temecula, also known as Treaty K, was unveiled in the presence of the descendants of three of the Native nations affected by the Senate’s failure to ratify the agreement. Jeff Grubbe, Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians chairman; Mark Macarro, Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians chairman; Sabrina Nakhjavanpour, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians treasurer; and Melonie Calderon, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Business Committee member watched as the treaty went on display. Treaty K is just one of the 18 treaties that was submitted to the U.S. Senate on June 1, 1852, by President Millard Fillmore. Unbeknownst to the Native nations’ signatories, the Senate rejected the treaties and ordered them to be held in secrecy for more than 50 years. Meanwhile, left undefended by U.S. Armed Forces, Native nations across California were overrun by white settlers and American Indians were subjected to violence at the hands of state and local militias. Considered illegal aliens on their own lands without state or federal legal recourse, it led to their ethnic cleansing. The American Indian population in California plunged from perhaps 150,000 to 30,000 between 1846 and 1870. The 1880 census records 16,277 American Indians in California – a 90 percent decline in their population since the onset of the Gold Rush. Grubbe read to the group quoting a Nov. 22, 1852, letter by California Indian Affairs Superintendent Edward F. Beale to U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs Luke Lea: “The wretched remnant which escapes starvation on the one hand, and the relentless whites on the other, only do so to rot and die of a loathsome disease, the penalty of Indian association with frontier civilization…I have seen it, and seeing all this, I cannot help them. I know they starve; I know they perish by hundreds; I know that they are fading away with startling rapidity; but I cannot help them…They are not dangerous…It is a crying sin that our government, so wealthy and so powerful, should shut its eyes to the miserable fate of these rightful owners of the soil.” Macarro noted that Sept. 23 is American Indian Day in California. “It also happens to be the day on which the Pechanga Nation people were evicted in 1852. Seeing this treaty on display is both horrific as it shines daylight on the cheat and fraud that accompanied the sale of our land. But California Indian nations had treaties with the United States, and this is validation,” he said. Nakhjavanpour said there is much Native people have to do as a whole but they remain despite deplorable actions past and present. “What happened during the Gold Rush is different to what we see happening today at Standing Rock with oil,” she said. “But there are similarities in the quest for commodities near American Indian nation land. We have to keep fighting.” On loan from the National Archives and Records Administration through January 2017, including the anniversary date of the treaty on Jan. 5, Treaty K will be on display in the museum’s award-winning exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations,” which opened on Sept. 21, 2014, and will stay open through Spring 2020. The full text of the treaty is available on the Nation to Nation project website. “Consent is at the heart of the treaty relationship,” NMAI Director Kevin Gover said. “That is what this exhibition is all about. And it is not just about the past. It is about the present and future, too. Just imagine what the world would be were decisions are made bi-laterally. When both parties agree, good things result, both can thrive. When they are made unilaterally or when agreements are not kept, bad things happen.”
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
09/28/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission on Sept. 19 moved into its new building at 17763 S. Muskogee Ave., the former site of the Tribal Council House that was torn down in 2015. The new 3,500-square-foot location is west of the tribe’s Emergency Medical Services building, where Election Commissioner Martha Calico said the commission had been located since 2003. Calico said before 2003 the EC was located east of the Tribal Complex in what is now the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service building. CN Management Resources razed the former Tribal Council House on July 11, 2015, after it was determined to be structurally unsound. The tribe’s legislative branch was relocated to the Tribal Complex following the July 17, 2013, discovery of several mold species in the Tribal Council House. According to CN Communications, the estimated cost of the new facility was about $250,000, which included materials and sub-contractors used for the construction. CN Facilities Administrator Jimmy Hullinger, who oversaw the new building’s construction, said its design would help the EC better serve CN citizens. “The new building is a 3,500-square-foot building, and the layout is more accessible to the public,” Hullinger said. He added that the larger lobby would be more convenient to visitors, and because the EC is the building’s only occupant, security could be easier to maintain. He also said the new facility has a vault of “concrete construction with a metal ceiling” for storing ballots and other important items. EC Director Connie Parnell said she was happy the EC would no longer share space with other departments. “We will be completely separate from everyone. This is a better move and a better location because it best serves how elections are conducted,” she said. “We have security vaults. We have offices. We have a large conference room so we can handle all of our meetings, during elections time, processing of all the election absentees, tabulating. We have the room for all of our duties to make an election run very smoothly.” In a previous Cherokee Phoenix story, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said to accommodate the growing CN workforce it was necessary to build the new EC office. “The construction is a good choice and wise investment. By moving the Election Commission office into its own free-standing building, it also allows the Nation to look at ways to utilize the space vacated by the Election Commission for other purposes, including possibly for the Marshal Service,” he said. To contact the EC, call toll free at 1-800-353-2895 or 918-452-5899 or write to PO Box 1188, Tahlequah, OK 74465.
09/26/2016 01:00 PM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials said they are moving forward with the purchase and acquisition of the historic home of the Cherokee syllabary inventor, Sequoyah. However, as of publication, CN officials had not announced a final deal. The Oklahoma Historical Society, a state agency, owns and operates Sequoyah’s Cabin near Sallisaw. The site is a Sequoyah County tourist attraction. “Sequoyah is one of our most well-known statesmen and historical figures, and his contributions to the Cherokee Nation are immeasurable,” CN Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said in a Sept. 2 CN Communications release. “His invention of the Cherokee syllabary may be one of the single most important contributions to the advancement of the Cherokee people and Cherokee society. The Cherokee Nation is taking an important step by ensuring the preservation of Sequoyah’s homestead.” According to the release, the OHS has needed to divest itself of the property due to state budget cuts. According to a Sequoyah County Times report, it costs about $100,000 annually to maintain the cabin. “Over the past eight years, the state appropriation to the Oklahoma Historical Society has been cut by 40 percent,” OHS Executive Director Dr. Bob Blackburn said. “Fortunately for us and the legacy of Sequoyah, the Cherokee Nation is willing to assume ownership and keep the site open.” According to the CN release, Hoskin said it is “unfortunate that after 80 years, the state no longer has the resources to manage and maintain the property because the significance of Sequoyah’s homestead cannot be overstated.” Sequoyah was born in Tennessee around 1778. He began experimenting with an alphabet for the Cherokee language, and it was complete in the 1820s. The Cherokees were the first Indian tribe to develop a written alphabet, known as the Cherokee syllabary. Literacy rates among Cherokees soared within just a few years. Sequoyah was among the “Old Settlers” of the CN, who migrated to present-day Oklahoma and western Arkansas in approximately 1818, prior to the Trail of Tears. Built in1829, the one-room log cabin and more than 200 acres were acquired by the OHS in 1936. In 1965, it was designated as a National Historic Landmark. According to the Sequoyah County times report, CN Natural Resources Director Gunter Gulager said the CN had paid $100,000 for the 171.54-acre property and that the property was expected to transfer to Cherokee Nation Business for management. However, according to a Sept. 6 email from CN Communications, the tribe was still in the process of buying the cabin and no deal had been finalized. According to the Sequoyah County Times, the state and tribe plan to work together to advertise and draw in tourists and that OHS officials said the money it makes from selling the cabin would be invested in other state-owned historic properties. “Our planned acquisition of the cabin is another example of the Cherokee Nation relieving the state of public use facilities that might otherwise be closed,” Hoskin said in the CN release. According to the release, in recent years the CN has assumed ownership of two Oklahoma welcome centers that still operate as welcome centers and now feature Cherokee merchandise, clothing and information on Cherokee attractions. The Cherokee Phoenix requested comment from CN officials regarding the cabin but did not receive a response as of publication.
09/23/2016 02:00 PM
WASHINGTON – On Sept. 26, President Obama will host the 2016 White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. This will be the President’s eighth and final Tribal Nations Conference, providing tribal leaders from the 567 federally recognized tribes with the opportunity to interact directly with high-level federal government officials and members of the White House Council on Native American Affairs. Each tribe is invited to send one representative to the conference. This year’s conference will continue to build upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives. The conference will be streamed live at