Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)
New credit card laws designed to help consumers
Creditcard users will be better off after new credit card laws go into effect inFebruary. (Photo by Jami Custer)
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – This year credit card companies and consumers were introduced to new laws designed to help protect consumers. Some laws went into effect in August, but others will not take effect until December and late February.
According to one Cherokee Nation employee, these laws have been needed for several decades because the credit card industry has gone unregulated, raising interest rates and changing terms of credit card contracts for millions of customers while they could.
“With the current economy and financial institutions being held to a stricter code of ethics and operations, reform was just a matter of time,” Deborah Vanderpool, a Self-Sufficiency supervisor with the tribe’s Commerce Group, said. “Consumers have been subject to unscrupulous credit card practices for decades, and we’ve still got a few months until we are fully protected.”
In response to the laws, many banks and credit card issuers have tightened standards for issuing cards, and most all have made it more difficult to qualify for a credit card.
“In a survey of the largest national banks, including 19 that issue credit cards, 68 percent indicated to bank examiners that they had tightened credit card lending standards during the 12-month period ending March 31, 2009,” Vanderpool said.
She said the new laws would affect people who use or will use a credit card and that benefits of these changes are huge for consumers.
In the past, credit card issuers could change account terms, including interest rates and fees, without giving much notice. Now, according to the new laws, lenders must give account holders at least 45 days advance notice of significant changes.
Other big changes include informing customers of the right to cancel an account and that cancelling does not require the users to immediately pay off the balance. Further changes include:
• Monthly credit card bills must disclose the dates by which payments must be received to avoid late penalties and the dates that late fees will be charged to the accounts.
• Card issuers must include warnings in monthly statements indicating consumers who only make minimum payments that the amount of time it will take to pay off the debt in full and the interest they will pay will increase.
• Card issuers must disclose whether interest rates will increase if one or more payments are not received on time and what the penalty interest rate will be. This notice must appear on the monthly statement near the payment due date.
• Consumers can opt out of significant changes in terms to their accounts, including interest rate hikes and increase in fees and other charges.
• Cardholders who are more than 60 days late making payments do not have the right to opt out of APR increases.
• Credit card issuers must inform card users of the right to cancel when they mail the 45-day advance notice of the change in terms.
• Opting out is not considered defaulting on the account and should not be penalized by the card issuers.
• Issuers cannot demand payment in full of the outstanding balance or charge monthly maintenance fees on closed accounts if the consumer rejects the changes in terms.
• Opting out does not include raising minimum monthly payments required as this would actually be better for the consumer and pay off the card balance earlier.
“Currently opting out of interest rate hikes is only granted at the card issuer’s discretion and is not a consumer right,” Vanderpool said. “Opting out will allow the consumer to pay the old, lower interest rate but will not allow further purchases on the card.”
She said there are three methods for repaying balances on accounts that have been closed by consumers choosing to reject changes. They are: paying the balance over at least five years, charging a minimum payment that is up to twice the percentage charged before the change in terms and using the same repayment plan used on the account at the time the consumer rejects the change in terms.
Vanderpool said retroactive interest rate hikes on existing balances are banned except when an introductory period ends, the interest rate is tied to an index and is variable, the card user completes the terms of a workout plan for debt repayment or fails to comply with a workout plan or the card user is more than 60 days late making monthly payments.
Vanderpool said consumers younger than 21 who are not authorized users on a parent’s account must show proof of income to repay credit card loan or have an adult co-signer if they want accounts in their own names.
NEW YORK CITY – Bolivian President Evo Morales provided the opening remarks at the first United Nations World Conference of Indigenous People on Sept. 22. The event is considered a special meeting as part of the ongoing U.N. General Assembly.
In his opening remarks, Morales warned that capitalism is the greatest threat to Indigenous movements around the world.
“The fundamental principles of the Indigenous movement are life, mother earth, and peace, and these principles of the worldwide Indigenous movement are permanently threatened by a system and model, the capitalist system, a model which extinguishes human life and the mother earth,” he said.
Morales, himself one of the first Indigenous persons to be elected president of a country in the Americas, proceeded to list a number of advances made in Bolivia under his leadership that he says have directly benefited Indigenous peoples.
Most notable, said Morales, has been Bolivia’s efforts in reducing extreme poverty. A recent U.N. Development Program report found that Bolivia experienced the greatest relative drop in extreme poverty in Latin America between 2000 and 2012.
In his speech, Morales also mentioned that Bolivia is the first and only country to have fully incorporated the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples into its constitution. Bolivia’s new constitution was approved by popular referendum in 2009.
Part of the aim of the conference is to search for strategies to ensure the implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Bolivian president said the conference must be the start of something bigger.
“This conference must be a starting point in determining the collective actions that must be taken in the defense of life in order to initiate a process of transformation and change through the sovereignty and science of our Indigenous peoples,” he said.
Up to 2,200 indigenous representatives from roughly 100 countries around the world attended the U.N. World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, including representatives from the Cherokee Nation.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – Native tribes from the U.S. and Canada signed a treaty on Sept. 23 establishing an inter-tribal alliance to restore bison to areas of the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains where millions of the animals once roamed.
Leaders of 11 tribes from Montana and Alberta signed the pact during a daylong ceremony on Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation, organizers said.
It marks the first treaty among the tribes and First Nations since a series of agreements governing hunting rights in the 1800s. That was when their ancestors still roamed the border region hunting bison, also called buffalo.
The long-term aim of the “Buffalo Treaty” is to allow the free flow of the animals across the international order and restore the bison’s central role in the food, spirituality and economies of many American Indian tribes and First Nations – a Canadian synonym for native tribes.
Such a sweeping vision could take many years to realize, particularly in the face of potential opposition from the livestock industry. But supporters said they hope to begin immediately restoring a cultural tie with bison largely severed when the species was driven to near-extinction in the late 19th century.
“The idea is, hey, if you see buffalo in your everyday life, a whole bunch of things will come back to you,” Leroy Little Bear, a citizen of southern Alberta Blood Tribe who helped lead the signing ceremony, said. “Hunting practices, ceremonies, songs – those things revolved around the buffalo. Sacred societies used the buffalo as a totem. All of these things are going to be revised, revitalized, renewed with the presence of buffalo.”
Bison numbered in the tens of millions across North America before non-Natives populated the West. By the 1880s, unchecked commercial hunting to feed the bison hide market reduced the population to about 325 animals in the U.S. and fewer than 1,000 in Canada, according to wildlife officials and bison trade groups in Canada. Around the same time, tribes were relocated to reservations and forced to end their nomadic traditions.
There are about 20,000 wild bison in North America today.
Ranchers and landowners near two Montana reservations over the past several years fought unsuccessfully against the relocation of dozens of Yellowstone National Park bison because of concerns about disease and bison competing with cattle for grass. The tribes involved – the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation and the Assiniboine and Gros Ventre Tribes of the Fort Belknap Reservations – were among those signing the treaty.
Keith Aune, a bison expert with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the agreement has parallels with the 1855 Lame Bull Treaty, a peace deal brokered by the U.S. government that established hunting rights tribes.
“They shared a common hunting ground, and that enabled them to live in the buffalo way,” Aune said. “We’re recreating history, but this time on (the tribes’) terms.”
The treaty signatories collectively control more than 6 million acres of prairie habitat in the United States and Canada, an area roughly the size of Vermont, according to Aune’s group.
Among the first sites eyed for bison reintroduction is along the Rocky Mountain Front, which includes Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation bordering Glacier National Park and several smaller First Nation reserves.
“I can’t say how many years. It’s going to be a while and of course there’s such big resistance in Montana against buffalo,” Ervin Carlson a Blackfeet citizen and president of the 56-tribe InterTribal buffalo council, said. “But within our territory, hopefully, someday.”
TULSA, Okla. – Seven Cherokee World War II veterans left Tulsa International Airport on Sept. 23 on a flight to Washington, D.C., to tour memorial sites at the nation’s capital, including the World War II Memorial.
The Cherokee Nation is sponsoring “Cherokee Warrior Flights,” which are similar to the national Honor Flight organization’s goal of helping all veterans, willing and able, to see the memorials dedicated to honor their service. With more than 4,000 military veterans who are CN citizens, the tribe is hoping to replicate that experience for its people.
Native Americans serve at a higher rate in the military than any other ethnic group.
“I have a friend or two that’s made the trip, but I never thought I’d be able to,” 89-year-old Steve Downing Jr. of Locust Grove, said. “I’m very grateful to the Cherokee Nation for this opportunity. It’s something that just touches me in a way that is kind of hard for me to describe.”
Downing spent nearly three years in the Navy aboard the USS Santa Fe as a radar technician helping with supply runs, escorting damaged ships to shore and aiding in Pacific Island invasions.
The “Cherokee Warrior Flight,” which is funded solely by the CN, allowed Downing to see war memorials in the capital for the first time.
“This is a way to tell our Cherokee veterans thank you and that we will never forget their service and sacrifices,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, a Navy veteran who traveled on the flight, said. “For most of these men who served in World War II, this will be a trip of a lifetime as they get to see the memorials and monuments honoring their role in defending our great country. They are truly the greatest generation, and we can’t say thank you enough.”
The six other World War II veterans participating on the flight were:
• Navy veteran Dewey Alberty, 88, of Tahlequah,
• Navy veteran Charles Carey, 88, of Hulbert,
• Army veteran Guy Wilson, 97, of Hulbert,
• Army Air Corp veteran William Wood, 94, of Vinita,
• Army veteran Eugene Fox, 91, of Bartlesville, and
• Navy veteran Joseph Leathers, 92, of Big Cabin.
A dinner and reception was held Sept. 22 in the Deer Room at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Principal Chief Bill John Baker and U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, a CN citizen, thanked the seven veterans for their service and wished them safe travels.
After an overnight stay at the Hard Rock, the veterans departed from the hotel for their flight. On Sept. 24, the group was expected to visit the National World War II Memorial and tour other monuments. On Sept. 25, the veterans were expected to tour the U.S. Capitol and arrive back in Tulsa that evening.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate Joe Dorman recently visited the Cherokee Nation during the tribe’s Cherokee National Holiday over Labor Day weekend. Since 2003, Dorman has served as a state representative and is currently a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives representing the 65th District. In 2013, he announced his candidacy for governor. During his trip to the CN, the Cherokee Phoenix had the opportunity to ask him some questions.
<strong>Cherokee Phoenix:</strong> Why did you decide to run for governor?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> I have been a state representative for 12 years and worked on policies and have had an amazing experience in public service. The end of last year, I began working on the storm shelter issue, trying to improve safety and security and the opposition we met along the way through our petition process, because we were forced to do a petition, and visiting with Oklahomans and seeing the growing dissatisfaction with the way the business as usual was handled at the capital, it became apparent that people were not happy and they wanted a different direction. A lot of people talked to me. A lot of people did a lot of convincing. It took a while to convince me it was the right decision, but we announced the exploratory committee on Dec. 17 and haven’t looked back. It’s been wonderful.
<strong>CP:</strong> What do you plan on doing to work with or help the Native population in Oklahoma?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> There’s so much more that we need to do, and we must do a better job at the state developing those partnerships. There are 39 sovereign nations in the State of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma would be the 40th partner in that. We all have to work together. As the governor, I fully intend to appoint a Cabinet-level secretary to work with Native American issues and help foster those relationships. We all have to work together. A rising tide lifts all boats, so we have to work to develop the positives and overcome the obstacles we face, and we must have that health dialogue to make sure we are meeting the needs of all our citizens.
<strong>CP:</strong> What do you think of the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission being disbanded and would you bring it back or create something new?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> I think it was a travesty to downsize the degree of importance, what Mary Fallin did with the action she took. I think we need to reinstate that, and I intend to have a full council that will work and then have a liaison who will be the chair and the director, the secretary for our Cabinet level position, to make sure that we work together and find all of the areas that we must address. I want to have somebody integrated in the system that will have direct access to me, and I intend to be fully involved as well. I view the 39 leaders as colleagues, and I will treat them at the same level of respect that I want them to treat me.
<strong>CP:</strong> What do you think of tribal sovereignty?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> I am very much in favor of sovereignty. It’s the law. There’s no other way around it. The tribes deserve to have their sovereignty. They deserve to be treated with that respect. We have to work together. We must honor the compacts. We must honor all of the agreements that have been done by the United States and the State of Oklahoma, and it will be my job as governor to make sure that the compacts in the future are done fairly.
<strong>CP:</strong> What do you think of the tax increase on smoke shops?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> As far as specifics, I don’t really want to go into the specifics of the compacts until I have the chance to study them more and look at them myself, but I want to make sure that the people are treated fairly, and I’m certainly not in favor of seeing any increase in any burden on citizens through their prices.
<strong>CP:</strong> How do you think the Baby Veronica situation was handled?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> I feel it was handled poorly. I think Mary Fallin should have worked harder to take care of Oklahoma citizens, and I feel that it was not done properly. Certainly you have to let the courts and the judicial system play out, but when it comes to a situation where it deals with a person from a sovereign nation, that should take the highest importance.
<strong>CP:</strong> What other issues are you focusing on during your campaign?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> One that will be very important to all our citizens, I’m firmly in support of Medicaid expansion. I will bring those dollars back immediately upon election because that is money that will go to not only benefit hospital across the states and the citizens, but when you look at specifically our clinics, there are so many people that go to the clinics that use emergency rooms as their primary care physician and it’s increased the burden on health care so all our citizens. It’s important they have that access. It’s roughly a $10 billion impact to the state over the period of the program, and we cannot afford to let those dollars that Oklahomans have sent to Washington, D.C., remain there. We must bring them back to benefit our citizens.
And I would say, by far, education is my most important issue that I’m championing. There are critical areas of education we must address. First and foremost – adequate funding for the classrooms and increased pay for the teachers and personnel. We must also reduce the amount of high stakes tests we’re doing and instead put that money into remediation and tutoring to get the kids the help they need rather than face that stress from a test, and I want to develop age-appropriate standards that will benefit our schools through all curriculum.
<strong>CP:</strong> Do you feel that all of the testing is a good thing for students?
<strong>Dorman:</strong> Absolutely not. Most of this testing is a sham that’s being pushed at the national level. We are spending roughly 30 of the last 45 days of the school year testing our kids. They’re not learning while they’re taking a test. It’s unacceptable. I intend to eliminate the third grade high-stakes test. I want to change using the EOI’s (End of Instruction) to convert over to using the ACT exam. It’s a test with a benefit if the students do well. Then they may go to college. They have the opportunity to apply for scholarships. We must do a better job preparing these students. The money we’re spending on these private testing companies, I instead want to turn it back into the programs for remediation and tutoring to help these kids achieve their highest potential, and also, I want to find the resources to help the kids with special needs. We have too many kids with autism, dyslexia and other disorders that are struggling and they’re not getting the help they need.
<strong>To be fair and balanced, the Cherokee Phoenix offered to interview Gov. Mary Fallin, Joe Dorman’s opponent in the Nov. 4 election. However, the Phoenix had not received a response from her campaign as of publication.</strong>
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation recently donated $3,000 to each county fair boards in Cherokee, Mayes, McIntosh and Sequoyah and Tulsa counties to help purchase ribbons and trophies for the winners at each county’s fair.
“Any help we receive from the Cherokee Nation is always very much appreciated,” Sequoyah County Fair Board member Bill Weedon said. “We have a large number of Cherokees in our county, and the tribe’s donation helps our fair board and kids in a number of ways.”
Aside from going toward ribbons and trophies a portion of the money will be used for the local 4-H Club and kid-friendly organizations and activities.
“We are committed to ensuring our partnership with Sequoyah County remains strong,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.” Supporting the county fair board means it can continue to maintain the Sequoyah County fairgrounds so that all citizens will be able to utilize and enjoy them.”
Donating money to fair boards in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction is something that the CN does annually.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation leaders joined thousands of indigenous leaders from around the world on Sept. 22 at the United Nations in New York City as the United Nations General Assembly convened a high-level plenary meeting known as the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples.
During the opening session of the WCIP, the General Assembly adopted an Outcome Document that provides for concrete and action-oriented measures to implement and achieve the objectives of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The UNDRIP was approved by the General Assembly in 2007.
A strong delegation of U.S. tribal leaders attended the WCIP and voiced support for their priorities addressed in the adopted outcome document. The National Congress of American Indians has joined with a large group of American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and inter-tribal associations to support four priorities that promote implementation of the declaration, establish status for indigenous governments at the UN, prevent violence against indigenous women and children and protect sacred places and objects.
CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. spoke during the conference, expressing appreciation to the UN and leaders of indigenous peoples for working together.
CN Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who also attended the conference, said she was pleased to see the outcome document adopted and that it includes language “to empower Indigenous women and strengthen their leadership.”
“I agree that indigenous women need to have full participation in policy-making, which is why I ran for office and am attending this conference this week. I also appreciate paragraphs 18 and 19 (in the document) take steps to address the epidemic of violence against indigenous women and children around the world,” Vazquez said. “Yet, these words only comprise the first step. I hope that all member states will take the actions necessary to empower and protect indigenous women and children.”
Vazquez added that states must strive to meet and exceed human rights standards and commit to ending violence against indigenous women and children.
“The rights of indigenous women and children are a cross-cutting issue that requires regular attention in a range of settings and contexts. This should be directly addressed whenever human rights are discussed, not just in specialized meetings and expert sessions,” she said. “Together we have come so far to address these issues, but our journey to protect Indigenous women and children is long. Wado to the UN and member states for the work performed so far, and I look forward to all of the positive changes to come.”
Current NCAI President Brian Cladoosby commended the strong delegation of American Indian and Alaska Native women who traveled to the UN to advocate for strong and decisive action to combat violence against Native women and girls.
“We stand with our sisters in the effort to ensure that all Indigenous women are able to live lives free from violence,” he said.
Cladoosby also applauded the adoption of the outcome document.
“The General Assembly has established pathways for implementation of the UNDRIP, a vital agreement to protect the rights of our peoples. Our tribal governments, together with our brothers and sisters around the world, will need to continue a sustained effort to work with the various UN bodies, including the Human Rights Council and the Secretary General, to ensure that the commitments made today by the UN member countries are fulfilled,” he said.
More than 1,000 delegates representing indigenous peoples from around the world attended the WCIP.