US: $3B to end royalty dispute with Indian tribes

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/09/2009 07:08 AM

By Matthew DalyAssociated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration on Tuesday proposed spending more than $3 billion to settle claims dating back more than a century that American Indian tribes were swindled out of royalties for oil, gas, grazing and other leases.

Under an agreement announced Tuesday, the Interior Department would distribute $1.4 billion to more than 300,000 Indian tribe members to compensate them for historical accounting claims, and to resolve future claims. The government also would spend $2 billion to buy back and consolidate tribal land broken up in previous generations. The program would allow individual tribe members to obtain cash payments for land interests divided among numerous family members and return the land to tribal control.

The settlement also would create a scholarship account of up to $60 million for tribal members to attend college or vocational school.

If cleared by Congress and a federal judge, the settlement would be the largest Indian claim ever approved against the U.S. government — exceeding the combined total of all previous settlements of Indian claims.

Last year, a federal judge ruled that the Indian plaintiffs are entitled to $455 million, a fraction of the $47 billion or more the tribes have said they are owed for leases that have been overseen by the Interior Department since 1887.

President Barack Obama said settlement of the case, known as Cobell v. Salazar, was an important step to reconcile decades of acrimony between Indian tribes and the federal government.

"As a candidate, I heard from many in Indian Country that the Cobell suit remained a stain on the nation-to-nation relationship I value so much," Obama said Tuesday in a written statement. "I pledged my commitment to resolving this issue, and I am proud that my administration has taken this step today."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called settlement of the 13-year-old case a top priority for him and Obama and said the administration worked for many months to reach a settlement that is both honorable and responsible.

"This historic step will allow Interior to move forward and address the educational, law enforcement, and economic development challenges we face in Indian Country," Salazar said.

Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe from Montana who was the lead plaintiff in the case, called the proposed settlement crucial for hundreds of thousand of Native Americans who have suffered for more than a century through mismanagement of the Indian trust.

"Today is a monumental day for all of the people in Indian Country that have waited so long for justice," said Cobell, who appeared at a news conference Tuesday with Salazar, Attorney General Eric Holder and other U.S. officials.

"Did we get all the money that was due us? Probably not," Cobell said, but added: "There's too many individual Indian beneficiaries that are dying every single day without their money."

The proposed settlement affects tribes across the country, including virtually every recognized tribe west of the Mississippi River. Tribes in North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma and Montana are especially affected by the breakup of Indian land into small parcels, said Keith Harper, a lawyer who represents the plaintiffs.

The settlement would give every Indian tribe member with an Interior Department account an immediate check for $1,000, with additional payments to be determined later under a complicated formula that takes into account a variety of factors. Many tribe members also would receive payments for parcels of land that are held in some cases by up to 100 family members, in an effort to consolidate tribal land and make it more useful and easier to manage.

The settlement does not include a formal apology for any wrongdoing by the U.S. government, but does contain language in which U.S. officials acknowledge a "breach of trust" on Indian land issues.

An apology "would have been nice," Cobell said, but was less important than settling the dispute. "Actions are more important to me than apologies," she said.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
01/30/2015 12:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – A disabled Cherokee Nation citizen with a love for hunting was able to partake in hunts thanks to the assistance of a local game warden and an eye surgeon from Sherman, Texas. Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer knew of CN citizen Rick Tabor’s love of hunting and his desire to hunt even though he was born disabled and confined to a wheelchair. With the help of Cramer and eye surgeon Bob Burlingame, Tabor was able to realize his dream of hunting elk this past fall. “Cramer had come to know Rick, and because of Rick’s desire to hunt, despite physical disabilities that would sideline most, he was determined to give this bright young man an opportunity to hunt,” Burlingame said. Burlingame purchased a ranch in Sequoyah and Adair counties and turned it into a wildlife haven while maintaining it as a timber and cattle ranch. Four years ago, Burlingame and Cramer met when Cramer visited Burlingame’s ranch. From that meeting, Burlingame said, Cramer and Tabor were to form an unusual alliance, the purpose of which was to enable Tabor to pursue his hunting dreams. Sam Munholland of the Oklahoma Youth Hunting and Shooting Sports Association assisted Burlingame and Cramer in locating a device that would allow Tabor to hunt. The wheelchair device was procured from beadaptive.com, a web-based company specializing in devices designed to aid disabled hunters. It was equipped with a brand new 30-06 rifle topped with a pistol scope and presented to Tabor for high school graduation this past spring. Cramer and Tabor wasted no time in sighting in the new rifle. After dispatching several hogs on Burlingame’s ranch later in the summer, Tabor’s first fall hunting trip in November proved successful after he harvested a buck and a doe. Cramer again visited with Burlingame regarding hunting possibilities for Tabor. Cramer and Tabor hoped to have a more challenging hunt. Three years previously, Burlingame had stocked Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch with elk, and a trophy bull was on the agenda as Tabor’s next hunting adventure. In December, the team of Cramer, Tabor, Burlingame and fellow hunter B.J. Latta waited patiently for an opportunity. Cramer, who had long wanted Burlingame to hunt with Tabor, gave up his spot in the hunting blind, taking a position farther south to watch the action. “Suddenly B.J. hoarsely whispered, ‘I see horns.’ Sure enough, a large bull loomed in the short brush adjacent to the trail they were hunting. After 30 tense minutes of wondering whether the massive bull would step out, B.J. once again exclaimed, ‘He’s stepping out,’” Burlingame said. “Rick readied himself for the shot, guiding his gun with a special aligning device that he operates with his mouth. After lining up his crosshairs just behind the bull’s shoulder, he coolly announced ‘I’m about to take the shot.’ The rifle roared, and the bull staggered as Rick’s bullet found its mark, a perfect hit. He followed up with a second shot to put the bull down for good.” Tabor’s hunting friends celebrated back at Burlingame’s barn. The bull was a true trophy for Tabor, Burlingame said. “Thus ended a fantastic hunt by a gutsy young man with physical challenges that most would consider insurmountable. It should be noted that none of this would have occurred without the hard work and dedication of Jared Cramer, who befriended Rick and tirelessly worked to make his hunting dreams a reality,” Burlingame said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/29/2015 12:17 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The eighth annual Reindeer Games Poker Tournament at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs helped raise $1,000 for the Oaks Indian Mission. The funds were raised to ensure that children would be able to celebrate important milestones in 2015. “We are very happy that Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Cherokee Nation Businesses continue to support the children we care for,” Oaks Indian Mission Executive Director Vance Blackfox said. “Gifts such as this and the ongoing support from casino employees and guests are crucial to providing the children with structure, a place to call home and educational opportunities that will bring hope for them and their futures.” Those participating in the tournament were given an opportunity to purchase additional poker chips. The money generated from the rebuy was designated as a contribution to OIM, raising approximately $1,000. “I’m proud to see our employees working hard to make sure the children of Oaks Indian Mission feel special throughout the year,” Tony Nagy, Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs general manager, said. “This is something they have continued to be passionate about. Making birthday memories is important for any child, but these children especially need loved during their special day.” Aside from the donation of money, CNE, CNB and OIM collaborate year round to help better the lives of each child at the mission. Employees from CNE and CNB volunteer at the mission and serve as storytellers, mentors and tutors. Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs employees also provide monthly birthday cakes to the youth at OIM. OIM cares for Native American youth ages 4 to 18. They house approximately 36 youth during the school year with a majority of them staying during the summer months. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.oaksindianmission.org" target="_blank">www.oaksindianmission.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/27/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have told tribal employees that they will now text or call employees regarding possible office closings or late start times. “This administration wants to ensure our employees are informed, and quickly, about decisions that affect their work day,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “In the past, when a foot of snow or ice patches covered the ground, our employees called our complex early that morning to listen to an operator recording to see if tribal offices would be open at 8 a.m., or they would text co-workers or bosses to ask.” To alert employees earlier the tribe will use Blackboard Connect, “a mass notification service.” “This is how it works: the system allowed our IT department to plug in all Cherokee Nation issued employee cell phones into a call list. When inclement weather strikes and our administration makes a decision to close the complex, or start work later than normal, employees will receive a phone call or text message, or both, as early as possible with such updates recorded by our Communications office,” according to a CN Communications release. “School systems, such as Fort Gibson, and city governments, such as Tahlequah, use similar messaging systems to keep their stakeholders informed.” CN employees who use a personal cell phone can send a name, title, department and phone number to communications@cherokee.org if they would like to receive the same notifications. “We realize it may take using this system a few times before it’s seamless, but I believe this will be another tool that increases the safety for employees and keeps you all better informed,” the release states. “Employees may also check Cherokee Nation Facebook and Cherokee Nation Twitter for the latest inclement weather related work updates as well.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/27/2015 11:01 AM
Tahlequah Sequoyah certainly has picked a proper time to peak during the season. The Indians and Lady Indians have taken advantage of a grueling January slate. The boys (11-5) are riding a seven-game win streak and the girls (13-3) have a six-game win streak of their own, too. Saturday, Jan. 24, Sequoyah claimed the boys and girls championship trophies at the Tri-State Classic in Jay. That type of domination couldn’t have come at a better time with No 1 boys and girls’ basketball teams in Class 4A coming to Sequoyah on Tuesday, Jan. 27. Fort Gibson is a combined 27-1, as it has dominated its opponents throughout the season consistently. The girls game will start at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will follow at 8 p.m. The same night, Sequoyah will honor a group who helped pave the way for basketball success at SHS--the Native American “Dream Team,” of 1998. “This was the team that broke the ice, being the first SHS team to reach the state basketball tournament,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Leroy Qualls, who is now a superintendent, was the head coach of the boys team. Also, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was a member of the team, too, among notables. In addition to the ceremony honoring the team, an autographed basketball from a notable Oklahoma City Thunder guard can be won, too. “Thanks to a generous donation from BancFirst of Tahlequah, we have a basketball autographed by Russell Westbrook that we will raffle off the same night,” Crittenden said.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
01/27/2015 08:15 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment purchased three properties each in 2014. The properties total approximately 152 acres with the largest being in Rogers County. CNE purchased 89.98 acres on Sept. 30 from John and Velma Mullen. According to Rogers County records, the cost was $3.7 million. The land is located west/northwest of CNE’s Cherokee Hills Golf Course. The golf course is located at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Cherokee Phoenix reported in September that the acquired property would be used for the golf course. According to artist renderings, “Cherokee Outlets” a premium outlet shop and entertainment and dining zone that was announced on Sept. 10 is expected to be built behind the Hard Rock and could possibly use land occupied by the golf course and its clubhouse. CNB officials said they were awaiting a master plan for “Cherokee Outlets” as well as a plan from a golf course architect. “We are in the process of negotiating with the golf course architect. I anticipate getting that agreement in place in the next couple of weeks and starting to do some preliminary work there,” CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett said in September. According to CNE Communications, CNB officials are still planning work to be done on the golf course. CNE also purchased approximately 6 acres for $256,500 in Sequoyah County, according to county records. Cherokee Nation Property Management purchased the land from Benjamin and Judy Cowan and later deeded it to Cherokee Nation Construction Resources for housing. CNCR will build 23 homes that the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation will purchase after construction is complete. On July 2, Jim and Connie Jolliff sold 57.75 acres in Delaware County to CNPM for $85,000, according to county records. “This property is directly south/east of and abutting the Saline District Courthouse property owned by the Cherokee Nation,” CNE Communications officials said. However, CNB officials did not release the land’s intended use citing “competitive information exemption.” The three properties the CN bought are located in Cherokee County. Two properties were purchased from HLD Investments, a corporation in Tahlequah owned by the Mason and Minor families. On Nov. 3, the CN purchased a property and its building known as the “Clinic in the Woods,” which is located near W.W. Hastings Hospital off Boone Street. According to CN Communications, the tribe paid $1,078,500 for the 1.536 acres, and the building’s anticipated use will be for the tribe’s Behavioral Health Program. Also purchased on Nov. 3 was the Cascade property totaling less than 1 acre. It’s located near Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and Hastings Hospital. The property cost $771,500 and will be used for Health Services. The tribe also bought property located at 120 E. Balentine Road in Tahlequah for its motor vehicle tag office. It was purchased on Jan. 30 from Don Smith for $300,000, according to county records.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/26/2015 03:45 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. – Vision Maker Media will be offering summer, or fall, 10-week, paid internships for Native American and Alaska Native college students at various public TV stations. “Providing experience for Native students in the media is vitally important to ensure that we can continue a strong tradition of digital storytelling,” Shirley K. Sneve, Vision Maker Media executive director, said. “We are grateful for the support of local PBS stations in helping us achieve this goal.” During the internship at least two short-form videos on local Native American or Alaska Native people, events or issues for on-air or online distribution should be completed. With major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the purpose of this paid summer internship is to increase the journalism and production skills for the selected college student. One of the major goals of the internship will be to increase the quantity and quality of multimedia reporting available to public television audiences and other news outlets. Students interested in applying for this internship opportunity must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by March 24. The application process requires submission of a cover letter, resume, work samples, an official school transcript and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or former supervisor. Top applicants will be notified in late April with the internships spanning between May 1 and Dec. 18. Up to 10 public television stations will be selected to host an intern and an award of $5,000 to the station will be used to provide payment to the intern, cover any travel expenses and administrative fees. Stations that would like to be considered for hosting a public media intern must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by Feb. 3.