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

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.


05/28/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUHA, Okla. – Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Tribal Councilor Lee Keener discussed issues for tribal voters during the Cherokee Phoenix’s deputy chief debate on May 16 at the Northeastern State University. The candidates were given two minutes each for opening remarks before being asked five questions. They then finished with two-minute closing remarks. Among the five questions, one dealt with the candidate’s belief of the most important tribal service that could be offered to At-Large Cherokee Nation citizens. Crittenden said federal dollars given to the tribe are earmarked for citizens living in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction in northeastern Oklahoma. “So that leaves discretionary funding. Now the folks At-Large, we’re talking outside the 14 counties, the At-Large people in the state of Oklahoma have recently been able to buy car tags and four counties can actually buy car tags at the same price as we can here in the 14 counties,” Crittenden said. “They don’t get housing, of course. Health care they can go to an IHS (Indian Health Service) facility nearby where they live, and the federal dollars that provide for those services they can access. But they would have to come back home for, you know, health care here at our facilities.” He added that some scholarships are available too, but health care is probably the most important service offered to the Cherokee people. “If there was some way in the future I think that would be probably what I would try to target the most is health care,” he said. Keener said after visiting several at-large areas, the most troublesome issues he’s heard from At-Large citizens concerned health care and education. But he said he thought many At-Large citizens expressed feeling unwanted by the CN for living outside the tribe’s jurisdiction. “And I think as deputy chief, I can go to where they are at those community meetings and tell them that they are welcome, we do want you back home,” he said. To get those At-Large citizens back “home,” Keener suggested looking at what jobs are available in the tribe’s area and what jobs are needed and relay that information back to At-Large citizens. As far as education, he said the need is to have someone specifically available for At-Large citizens to contact with questions. “I guess we want to have some place where they can call the Nation and feel welcome and feel like they’re wanted and somebody there knowledgeable can talk to them and walk them through the process to get whatever it is that they’re requiring,” Keener said. Another question regarded the gaming industry and how dependent on it the CN should be as well as how to diversify and expand its economic interests. Crittenden said “we don’t need to put all our eggs in one basket that’s for sure,” and that the tribe has been working on diversification. “I think we’ve probably got somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 employees that don’t work directly in gaming. And we’ve got some 8(a) companies that are not directly related to gaming. So we are diversifying,” he said. “And we should be looking, we’ve got a board of folks that look at every opportunity.” The U.S. Small Business Administration developed the 8(a) Business Development Program to assist small disadvantaged businesses by offering assistance to firms that are owned and controlled at least 51 percent by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals or entities such as tribes. Crittenden also mentioned the tribe’s entertainment plaza slated to be built along Highway 62 in Tahlequah for a casino, shops and restaurants. He also mentioned the Macy’s distribution center in Tulsa County and the tribe’s housing program that is building houses again. “So efforts are being made to improve the jobs here,” Crittenden said. However, Keener said the tribe isn’t putting jobs in lower-income communities and that it leads to “quite a contrast in the Cherokee Nation.” “Yesterday, Friday, I attended the economic summit, and it was announced that the Cherokee Nation has a $1.5 billion dollar impact on the Oklahoma economy in northeastern Oklahoma,” he said. “Friday night I went to Rocky Mountain and visited the community there, and I didn’t see any evidence of that $1.5 billion dollar impact down there. There may be some. I just didn’t see it. I don’t see a strategic plan for the years ahead for us.” Keener mentioned that more than $13 million was spent on the Woodmark property and Cherokee Springs Golf Course in Tahlequah. “We’re missing some opportunities with some dollars I think to employ some people. It’s great Macy’s is coming in. It’s great that we can help with that, but we really need something in different areas,” he said. “And I haven’t seen the diversification that I would’ve like to have seen outside of the casinos.”
05/27/2015 02:30 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – On May 27, Acting Regional Director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Eddie Streater withdrew his letter dated May 11 declining to approve LA-04-14, an act that amends the tribe’s election code. “On May 21, 2015, during a phone call with the Cherokee Nation’s Office of the Attorney General and other Cherokee Nation representatives, the Department of the Interior requested clarification as to the Nation’s intent to comply with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia’s Order dated September 21, 2011,” his letter states. That order was set to ensure all Freedmen voters would have the opportunity to participate in the election of the Principal Chief as well as give access to and have rights and benefits the same as all Cherokee Nation citizens. Streater further states in his letter that the DOI is bound by that Order. “While there has been subsequent tribal legislation, including that establishing the election procedures for the upcoming election of the Principal Chief, as well as intervening tribal judicial decisions, your Attorney General has by letter dated May 22, 2015, affirmed the Nation’s commitment to follow the 2011 court order,” the letter states. In Attorney General Todd Hembree’s letter to the DOI, it states that Freemen voters participated in the 2011 election, the tribal council election in 2013 and three special elections. “Because of the Cherokee Nation’s commitment to comply with the 2011 Order and the continued effectiveness of the 2011 order, I hereby withdraw my May 11, 2015 letter and now approve the 2015 Election Procedures for the sole and limited purpose of the upcoming election for the Principal Chief,” Streater’s letter states. “ As you are aware, we are currently awaiting judicial resolution of the status of the Freedmen under the 1866 Treaty between the United States and the Nation. The United States position continues to be that the 1866 Treaty guarantees the Freemen and their descendants full citizenship rights in the Cherokee Nation.” Hembree said in an earlier Cherokee Phoenix story that although initially the BIA chose to decline LA-04-14, there would be an election on June 27 and this clarification solidifies that statement. “The Cherokee Nation is pleased that the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs has decided to withdraw its May 11, 2015 letter. We have been notified by the BIA today (May 27) that the election procedures to select the Principal Chief have been approved in accordance with federal law,” Hembree said. “It is a testament to the Cherokee Nation doing its utmost to resolve the Freedmen issue and any remaining questions concerning our Constitution. We look forward to a election on June 27 in accordance with the laws that have been passed by the Cherokee Nation.” The Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office released a letter on May 11 to Principal Chief Bill John Baker that stated it declined to approve LA-04-14. The Regional Office offered comments in regards to how it came to its decision. “Because LA-04-14 is so extensively intertwined with the appropriate provisions within the 1976 Constitution, it is impossible to propose revisions to LA-04-14 to reference appropriate provisions within the 1976 Constitution,” the letter states. “Because LA-04-14 purports to be based on the authority in a Constitution which the Regional Office does not recognize, we decline to approve LA-04-14.” The Regional office also referred to the term “citizen of the Cherokee Nation” stating that provisions in LA-04-14 indicate that only persons of Cherokee blood are tribal members. “Given the extensive litigations regarding the Freedmen, the Regional Office cannot approve LA-04-14 because to do so may imply recognition of removal of the Freedmen as citizens,” the letter states. And finally, in regards to absentee voter rules in LA-26-14, the letter states that it is an amendment to Title 26 of the Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. “Approving LA-26-14 may be interpreted as approving LA-04-14; therefore, we decline to approve LA-26-14,” it states. Hembree said tribal officials met with the BIA and Department of Justice to seek clarification of the letter and to also present additional information and as well as inform the bureau on action the CN has taken to resolve certain issues which is what led to the withdrawal of the May 11 BIA letter. He added that the many within the tribe fully expected a decision to have come down from the courts regarding the May 4, 2014 hearing on the Freedmen issue, but it has not. “But whatever that ruling is we will assess it and take the action that is most beneficial to the Cherokee Nation,” Hembree said. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the updated letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs.
05/27/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The four candidates running for Cherokee Nation principal chief addressed their concerns and ideas for the tribe during the Cherokee Phoenix’s principal chief debate on May 16 at Northeastern State University. The principal chief race is between incumbent Bill John Baker, state Rep. Will Fourkiller, former CN Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap and former Principal Chief Chad Smith. The candidates were asked eight questions between their opening and closing remarks. The Phoenix staff composed the questions and the Editorial Board vetted them. The questions’ topics were provided to all candidates 24 hours in advance to ensure fairness and allow them to prepare. One question focused on the tribe investing more than $100 million into building new or expanding current health facilities while dealing with patient wait times and quality of care. Soap said the tribe needed to hire and train more health care providers. “What I would do in order to improve the health care would be to do a comprehensive survey at the facility and ask staff what the problem is because they work in those situations every day and they know what the problem is and how to solve that problem,” he said. Fourkiller said as a former CN health care employee, he knows what the employees go through. “We need to hire more staff,” he said. “We have a great health facility but it can be better. Our wait times will not decrease until we get more staff in. We also need to work on quality over quantity, continuity of care.” Baker said at some facilities, before new ones were built, there was a lack of space and some doctors only had one exam room for patients. He also said the CN is working with Oklahoma State University for the tribe to start a medical school so doctors can work at the tribe’s clinics. “We’re taking care of people and elders come up and tell me stories about how we saved their life and how we’ve got better health care then we did the private sector,” he said. “Our employees are doing a great job.” Smith said tribal funds don’t have to be taken away to build facilities and that some physicians take pay cuts to work at the tribe before leaving because of repressive working conditions. “It’s poor management caused by nepotism and cronyism,” he said. “We have to correct those things for the Cherokee Nation to develop the health care system that we each want and deserve.” Candidates were asked which housing program has been most effective at providing sustainable housing. Baker said all the programs are good, but his administration’s new home-building program hasn’t taken Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act funds away from the Mortgage Assistance or Housing Rehabilitation programs. “We build homes by Cherokees for Cherokees in their rural communities,” he said. “I think there are 400 houses under construction in some part of the Cherokee Nation right now. I believe it’s going to be something that we’ve gone above and beyond and we’re still doing the other (housing programs.)” Smith said the current housing program is not working as it should and that many people signed up for the program will wait several years before getting a home. “It’s not serving its purpose by creating an expectation that cannot be delivered,” he said. “We’ve learned in the past that Cherokees don’t thrive well in tract houses crunched together. We have to get a housing program where there’s easy entry and places where there’s communities where people want to stay, raise their families and live.” Soap also said that the current program has failed because few houses have been built and that the CN should concentrate on people in substandard housing. “There’s really nothing complicated about it,” he said. “We just need to provide affordable housing to our citizens who are living in substandard homes. There has to be a fairness in the selection process of the people who are getting these homes also.” Fourkiller said Cherokees deserve to have safe, affordable and quality housing and the CN needs to make sure the funds are spent properly. “If we were to enlist and hire more in-house crews to go in for the rehabs or new builds that would allow many more TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) vendors to be available to come in and open up the playing field there and that would put more Cherokees to work in the Cherokee Nation,” he said. Candidates also answered a question regarding hiring more Cherokees for executive level positions at Cherokee Nation Businesses. Soap said the tribe should encourage those who have the ability be executives to take on those positions. “I really believe we have strong leaders, young Cherokees that can be executive level if given (their) fair share, and to me, we have people at that level. We have Cherokees (who) can hold those positions if given that opportunity, and we don’t need outside consultants to come in and tell us how to run our business because we’ve got 300,000 Cherokees. Somebody’s bound to be smart enough to hold those positions,” he said. Fourkiller said the tribe should employee Cherokees at all management levels, develop a program to motivate youth to become those leaders and expand internship programs. “It’s time that we empower our youth and grow our young Cherokees into leaders,” he said. Baker said some of those non-Cherokees working at CNB have been with the tribe for years, and if the tribe were to let them go they would receive a “golden parachute.” “As chief of the Cherokee Nation I don’t hire anybody at CNB,” he said. “There’s a board of directors that are all Cherokee. I can’t see where they’ve hired maybe one non-Cherokee in leadership and it was because of his expertise. But we do have internship programs and we do have mentorship programs and they’re working hard every day to bring young Cherokees up to take over behind them.” Smith said the former CNB CEO did an outstanding job bringing in money for the tribe and that Baker’s administration terminated his contract, paying him $2.8 million. Smith also said Baker was one of the Tribal Councilors who approved that CEO’s contract years before. Smith added that CNB’s chief finical officer and current CEO are not Cherokee and that Cherokees can be found for those positions. The candidates were also asked about their Cherokee fluency and what their plan was to ensure the Cherokee language thrives. Smith said he wasn’t fluent and that’s why it’s so important. “I would reinstate the cut that Mr. Baker made to Northeastern State University’s language program,” he said. “I would build more immersion schools in those areas where the community embraces it. We have a constitutional duty, we have a moral duty not only to our children but to our ancestors.” Soap, who is fluent, said it’s sad to see that so much of the tribe’s language and culture are going away and the tribe hasn’t been able to motivate Cherokee speakers to help save them. “It’s really time to get serious about saving our language,” he said. “We need to help our people to continue to have own language and our culture.” Fourkiller said while he is not fluent he can understand some phrases. He added that statistics show the tribe doesn’t have many fluent speakers left and he would reach out to local schools within the tribe’s jurisdiction to promote the language. “Our language and our culture is what defines us as Cherokee people,” he said. “I would definitely promote our schools that we have at the Cherokee Nation and continue to expand and grow. The technology is there. The tools are there. We have to maintain and grow programs that promote our language and our culture so we don’t lose it. Baker said he wasn’t fluent but wished he was. He said even for children being immersed in the language all day at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, “it doesn’t catch” unless there is a Cherokee speaking at home where the language is spoken between the child and parent. “We need to take Cherokee speakers and give them a directed studies degree and ask them to go study math or science or early childhood so that they can come and really help our kids,” he said. “We’ve got a master-apprentice program where those Cherokees that have taught themselves to speak Cherokee are now getting mentored so they can become conversational Cherokee speakers.”
Special Correspondent
05/27/2015 09:15 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Focusing on health care, job creation and government transparency, four principal chief candidates got in their opening salvos May 15 in a televised debate at Rogers State University. Hosted by RSUTV and moderated by KOTV anchor Scott Thompson, Principal Chief Bill John Baker, state Rep. Will Fourkiller, former Principal Chief Chad Smith and former Cherokee Nation Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap spelled out their positions on a host of issues facing the Nation. Questions on health care took up the first half of the hour-long debate, as candidates were grilled on the Affordable Care Act, Oklahoma’s refusal to expand Medicaid and how to improve health care in the CN. Citing poverty rates across northeastern Oklahoma and the high number of visits to CN health facilities from patients without third-party insurance, the four candidates called Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to not expand the Medicaid coverage base a mistake. “It’s done a lot of damage to not increase access to Medicaid,” Soap said. “So many of the rural people are in poverty and can’t obtain it. As someone that does use Medicaid and has insurance, it’s still difficult to get medical expenses paid. It’s even tougher for those people who couldn’t get Medicaid.” Fourkiller, a former registered nurse and the only candidate to work in health care, said a key issue to improving medical care within the 14 counties for Cherokees and non-Cherokees is simply bringing in more qualified health care workers to smaller communities. “We have new facilities going in, which is great. However, it’s about recruitment and retainment,” he said. “We’ve got great health care workers and staff, but they’re overworked. We must educate our bright young Cherokees to go to nursing school, medical school or PA (physician assistant) school and then get them to come back to rural Oklahoma.” All four candidates also agreed that while the tribe needs to continue its efforts to diversify its business portfolio beyond gaming, that push would not involve marijuana cultivation or sales. The Department of Justice announced in 2014 that it would not enforce federal marijuana statutes in Indian Country if certain regulations were met, such as not selling to drug cartels. Even with that proviso, none of the four showed much interest in taking the initiative to legalize and commercialize marijuana in northeastern Oklahoma. “I think I would leave that to the council,” Soap said, drawing chuckles from the audience. “However, this is Bible Belt country, and I don’t think it’ll pass though.” Although the candidates also agreed that government transparency and citizen access to information is important, both Smith and Soap took shots at the current administration by claiming it is blocking access to information and censoring the Cherokee Phoenix via budget cuts. “This administration did not cut the Phoenix’s budget,” Baker said. “This administration sent over a fully-funded budget to the council and the council cut the Phoenix’s budget. I’ve done everything I could to reinstate that funding. I put in my own budget $800,000 so every Cherokee could have a free Phoenix and the Phoenix is yet to agree to that.” The Phoenix’s budget was slashed by 25 percent in 2012. The newspaper’s archives confirm the council’s Executive and Finance Committee proposed the funding reduction, citing a desire to make the newspaper financially independent. According to the minutes from the Phoenix’s Editorial Board meeting on March 18, there have been meetings between CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Phoenix representatives about a memorandum of understanding regarding the use of money from a Citizens Access To Transparency Fund to provide free print subscriptions for one year. However, a final agreement has not been reached and would be subject to approval by the Editorial Board before the free subscription program could start. The minutes also note that the earliest that program could start would be in August after the election cycle. Smith and Baker also traded barbs over the Registration Office’s backlog, which as of April, was estimated at about two years for a first-time citizenship application. Baker pinned the blame on an inherited antiquated system and an overall increase in applications, while Smith accused the Registration Office management of adding to the problem. “The reason there’s a backlog is pretty simple: they’ve taken resources, doubled the budget and I don’t know if there’s a nice way to say this, but gone on a dog and pony show rather than stay at home and process the applications already there,” Smith said. The full debate is available online at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
05/26/2015 02:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Bureau of Indian Affairs Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office released a letter on May 11 to Principal Chief Bill John Baker that states it declined to approve LA-04-14 and LA-26-14, both amendments to the tribe’s election laws. Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree said the decision to decline to approve the amendments will not interfere with the tribe’s upcoming election. “We will have an election June 27,” Hembree said. “I want to be very clear on that.” The Regional Office offered comments regarding how it reached its decision. “Because LA-04-14 is so extensively intertwined with the appropriate provisions within the 1999 Constitution, it is impossible to propose revisions to LA-04-14 to reference appropriate provisions within the 1976 Constitution,” the letter states. “Because LA-04-14 purports to be based on the authority in a Constitution which the Regional Office does not recognize, we decline to approve LA-04-14.” The Regional office also referred to the term “citizen of the Cherokee Nation” stating that provisions in LA-04-14 indicate that only persons of Cherokee blood are tribal members. “Given the extensive litigations regarding the Freedmen, the Regional Office cannot approve LA-04-14 because to do so may imply recognition of removal of the Freedmen as citizens,” the letter states. And finally, in regards to absentee voter rules in LA-26-14, the letter states that it is an amendment to Title 26 of the Cherokee Nation Code Annotated. “Approving LA-26-14 may be interpreted as approving LA-04-14; therefore, we decline to approve LA-26-14,” it states. Hembree said tribal officials met with the BIA and Department of Justice to seek clarification of the letter and to also present additional information and as well as inform the bureau on action the CN has taken to resolve certain issues. “We had a very fruitful communication last week and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering additional information that we’ve given them and we look forward to a clarifying letter coming from the bureau really soon,” Hembree said. He said the information shared with the bureau included the efforts made by the CN to resolve the Freedman issue, including having the case tried on its merits, which occurred in May 2014. “We have expected to have a decision on this matter and it is at no fault to anyone. We don’t have it. That is information that the BIA did not consider in its initial letter nor did they consider the fact that they have previously approved the election procedures that are substantially the same back in 2011.” The possibility of the act remaining unapproved by the BIA and requiring the CN to revert back to the original law prior to the amendments made in 2011 are uncertain at this time. “That has yet to be determined, but there have been no substantial changes as to the election law since they were previously approved in September 2011,” Hembree added. “We expect to hold our elections on June 27 under the laws that have been passed by the Cherokee Nation to date.” <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs.
05/26/2015 12:00 PM
DALLAS (AP) – A long-lost silent film admired by historians as a rare visual account of Native American customs is being released after a private detective in North Carolina stumbled across a damaged copy. “The Daughter of Dawn” - first screened in Los Angeles in 1920 - features a large cast of Comanche and Kiowa people and shows scenes of buffalo hunting and ceremonial dances obscured by time. The copy, discovered more than a decade ago, has been restored and was screened in Texas this week, ahead of its commercial release later this year. “We were just so stunned that it existed,” said Jeff Moore, a project director for the Oklahoma Historical Society, which purchased reels of the film from the detective in 2007. The delicate restoration work took years, and an orchestral score was completed in 2012. A year later the Library of Congress added the movie to its National Film Registry, describing the work as “a fascinating example of the daringly unexpected topics and scope showcased by the best regional, independent filmmaking during the silent era. ...” The same year the movie was first screened, it survived a fire that destroyed the Dallas warehouse where the small Texas Film Co., which produced “The Daughter of Dawn, stored most of its work. Somehow, a copy ended up in the care of a North Carolina resident, who offered five nitrate celluloid reels to the private detective as payment in an unrelated matter, Milestone Film owner Dennis Doros said. The detective then sold the reels of the movie - shot in the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma - to the Oklahoma Historical Society for more than $5,000 before Milestone was recruited as the distributor. The historical society retains ownership of the original nitrate film, which is being stored at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Los Angeles. “It’s a really compelling story for film restoration,” Doros said. “There’s still hope for lost films. How many times do you get to premiere a film 95 years after its production?” An initial screening of the 87-minute, black-and-white film was held this week at an Amarillo library. “The village scenes, the hunting scenes all look very accurate,” Michael Grauer with the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum told the Amarillo Globe-News. “It’s a little bit Hollywood-ed up. ... But the fact that they used native actors was groundbreaking, really quite astonishing.” Two of the approximately 300 Comanche and Kiowa people in the film, which portrays a fictional love story that also serves as a record of Native-American traditions, are children of legendary Comanche chief Quanah Parker, whose exploits were widely recounted on the frontier. Author S.C. Gwynne, whose book “Empire of the Summer Moon” accounted the rise and fall of the Comanche, said during his research he came across only one film germane to the tribe, a two-reeler western from 1911 called “The Bank Robbery” in which Parker had a role. “I would think that a film featuring only Native Americans would possibly be unique,” he said. “Who at that time only made a film featuring Native Americans? That, to me, is something of great rarity.” Moore said the Oklahoma Historical Society had known about the film because years ago it had obtained the works of a photographer who was on the movie set, but it was thought the film was lost. “This is so visually interesting and it is very much an Oklahoma story because you have two of the premier tribes in the state, and then you have the horse culture,” he said. “It’s so indicative of the southern plains.” Bryan Vizzini, an associate professor of history at West Texas A&M University, said “The Daughter of Dawn” was a striking departure from the racial stereotypes found in films from that time, such as D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation.” “And here’s this small independent film company that gets it right,” Vizzini said. “It’s a very un-Hollywood kind of experience.” The film will be released on DVD and Blue-ray, and made available through online outlets.