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.


11/26/2015 12:00 PM
KETCHUM, Okla. – Pine Lodge Resort at Grand Lake is inviting people to its 12th annual “Winter Wonderland Christmas Light Tour” seven nights a week from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. from Nov. 26 through January 1. The “old fashion” Christmas light display features nearly half a million lights, lighted antique vehicles, a nativity scene and a host of characters. Admission is free and visitors may drive or walk through the light displays. Pine Lodge Resort is located one-hour northeast of Tulsa and 2.5 miles east of Ketchum off of Hwy 85. The resort, owned by Art and June Box, a Cherokee Nation citizen, sits near Grand Lake and has 17 cabins, seven mobile homes and RV sites for rent. The couple opened Pine Lodge Resort 15 years ago. Ten minutes away from the resort is golfing, a swim beach, spas, hiking, wave runner rentals and the South Grand Lake Regional Airport with free shuttles to and from the airport provided by the Pine Lodge Resort staff. The lodge is also close to casual and fine dining. Groups may reserve the resort’s clubhouse for dinners or special occasions. The resort has won the “Crystal Pelican Award” given by the Grand Lake Association for “The Most Outstanding Visitor’s Accommodations.” For more information, call 918-782-1400 or visit the Pine Lodge website at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. You can also find the resort on Facebook.
Senior Reporter
11/26/2015 08:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – It’s easier for tribal leaders today to keep in contact with constituents via phone calls, social media and emails, but for Dist. 11 Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez nothing is better than seeing them in person. Dist. 11 encompasses Craig County and parts of Mayes and Nowata counties, and Vazquez said she tries to hold meetings to allow constituents to meet with her, other tribal leaders and representatives from Cherokee Nation programs and departments that are based in Tahlequah about 70 miles south. “It puts a more personal spin of what my job really is because I talk to individuals at those meetings, and they hear me talk things they don’t see on Facebook,” she said. The meetings help her hear concerns from constituents. She then takes those concerns to the Tribal Council and other tribal representatives who may be able to address them. “So many times after a community meeting I will go home with five or six issues that a citizen has told me about at the meeting and then the next day I call or email people in those (CN) departments,” Vazquez said. During a Nov. 17 meeting at the tribe’s Vinita Health Center, staff from Cherokee Nation Businesses; Election Commission staff, who helped people register to vote; Education Services; Marshal Service; Tax Commission, who provided information about the new hunting and fishing license program; Health Services, who gave free flu shots; Human Services; Child Support Services; Dental Services; and Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation assisted CN citizens. She said citizens also appreciated seeing their leaders. Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr. all attended. The Hoskins are from Vinita and both served as Tribal Councilors and worked to bring more attention to the needs of people in the Vinita area. Hoskin Sr., who served three four-year terms on the council from 1995 to 2007, said he has “witnessed tremendous growth” in the area since his childhood. He said “to be quite honest” during all the years of him growing up in Vinita until he got on the council in 1995, if you asked anyone in the Vinita area if there were CN services available “the answer would be no.” “The only type of services we had was our housing addition out there, Buffington Heights, but as far as service, there wasn’t any,” he said. “Obviously, as you can tell this evening, there’s a lot of Cherokee up here, and I knew that, and the people that live up here, we knew that. So, that was the message, when I was first elected, that people told me to take to Tahlequah, and that’s exactly what I did.” Hoskin Sr. said he was glad to serve with a council that believed tribal services were for everyone no matter where they lived in the CN. “I’m proud to say we started the first Cherokee health care in Vinita in 1996 when we got the mobile clinic up here. It came to Vinita one day a week, and the people showed up. I used those (clinic) numbers to prove Cherokees were here. We just needed to provide services.” He said Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who served on the Tribal Council with him, also advocated for services for people in Vinita. “As more services began to come up here, more and more people began to come out and take advantage of them and use them,” he said. He said the town eventually received a walk-in clinic and finally a 92,000-square-foot health center in 2012, which was justified by the number of people in the Vinita area who needed and utilized CN services. Leon Dick, 81, of Vinita, who is Shawnee and Delaware and a CN citizen, said he comes to the community meetings to “find out what’s going on,” to fellowship and for “the eats.” He also gets to see family and friends in one place, he said. He said he grew up in nearby White Oak and takes part in the Shawnee stomp dances there, reading the Shawnee prayer before the dances. He said he appreciates the Vinita Health Center because he only has to drive 4 miles to receive medical care and no longer has to drive to the Claremore Indian Hospital nearly 40 miles away or the tribe’s Nowata clinic about 29 miles away. “At Claremore you’ve got to wait all day and sit around there all day. Here you get taken right in,” he said. Vazquez said Vinita has long been a center for Cherokees who built their homes and businesses there. Cherokee attorney Elias C. Boudinot established the Craig County seat in Vinita in 1871. “It was a center for Cherokees. They built the buildings and lived here, and we had chiefs come from here, streets are named after Cherokees,” she said. More attention is being brought to that history, she said, because the tribe now has more money to give to the Eastern Trails Museum in Vinita, which stores and displays the area’s history, and to buy artifacts and art to showcase the history of Vinita and Craig County in the Vinita Health Center. “We have a very caring and giving administration, and I’m just thankful to be a part of that and because of that I’m able to share much more locally than I have been in the past,” Vazquez said.
11/25/2015 04:00 PM
KESHENA, Wis. – The Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin is suing federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice after federal agents destroyed the tribe’s industrial hemp crop on Oct. 23. “The Menominee Tribe, in cooperation with the College of Menominee Nation, should have the right under the Farm Bill to cultivate industrial hemp in the same manner as Kentucky, Colorado and other states,” Gary Besaw, Menominee chairman, said. “These and other states cultivate industrial hemp without threats or interference from the United States government. In contrast, when our tribe attempted to cultivate industrial hemp we were subjected to armed federal agents who came to our reservation and destroyed our crop. The Department of Justice should recognize the equality of tribes under the Farm Bill, and provide us with the same respect they have demonstrated to states growing industrial hemp for research purposes.” Industrial hemp, which can be grown as a fiber and a seed crop, is used to produce a range of textiles, foods, papers, body care products, detergents, plastics and building materials that are available throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Unlike marijuana, it has no psychoactive effect. Farmers in more than 30 countries around the world cultivate industrial hemp. “This is a straightforward legal issue,” Brendan Johnson, Menominee attorney, said. “The lawsuit focuses on the specific legal question of whether the Farm Bill’s industrial hemp provisions apply to Menominee. We are confident that the provisions do apply to Menominee, that Menominee is authorized under federal law to cultivate industrial hemp consistent with those provisions and that a federal court will read the Farm Bill provisions as we do and require the federal government to recognize Menominee’s rights under federal law to cultivate industrial hemp.”
11/25/2015 01:30 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will meet at 9 a.m. CDT, Dec. 8, 2015, via conference call. It is an open meeting and the public is welcome to attend by using the conference call information to join the meeting. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the agenda. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
11/25/2015 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Singer-songwriter Smokey Robinson will bring his show to The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Jan. 21. Tickets start at $60 and went on sale Nov. 19. According to a Cherokee Nation Entertainment release, Robinson features songs such as “Just to See Her,” “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’” and “Being with You.” “The Detroit native has an accomplished 50-year career in music. Robinson founded the critically acclaimed group The Miracles, was instrumental in developing the Motown Records dynasty where he served as vice president for a time, and has more than 4,000 songs to his credit,” the release states. “The hits he has written include ‘The Way You Do the Things You Do,’ ‘My Girl’ and ‘The Tracks of My Tears.’” Robinson has received awards including the Grammy Living Legend and Kennedy Center Honors. “He has also been inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame,” the release states. For more information on his tour, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240. Ticket prices and information on upcoming shows are available online in The Joint section of <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or by calling (918) 384-ROCK. The Joint box office is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
11/25/2015 08:00 AM
WEBBERS FALLS, Okla. – Located in Muskogee County along the Arkansas River is a small town that has survived for more than 180 years. After facing Civil War, fires and floods, it continues with its rich Cherokee history. Named after an Arkansas River waterfall and Walter Webber, a Western Cherokee or Old Settlers leader, the town today has more than 600 residents. “People would say ‘the falls at Webbers’ and eventually it became Webbers Falls,” Troy Wayne Poteete, Webbers Falls Historical Society founder and Cherokee Nation Supreme Court Justice, said. Poteete said when the Cherokees were trying to find a settlement along the Arkansas River, they reached the falls and couldn’t go any further, so they stopped and created Webbers Falls. Moving to Indian Territory before the Trail of Tears, Webber established a trading post, portage service and salt works in 1828. “Webbers Falls, after reading a lot of older newspapers, was supposed to have been one of the nicest, largest towns in Oklahoma, they predicted it to be and it never did make it,” said George Miller, Webbers Falls Historical Society and Webbers Falls Museum president. “I think the maximum amount of people that lived here was probably 700, maybe 800 people.” After the Indian Removal Act, many Cherokees settled in Webbers Falls. “Webbers Falls was home to several prominent Cherokees who fought in the Civil War, served as justices on the Cherokee Supreme Court and were very involved in Cherokee government and politics,” Poteete said. One prominent Cherokee was Joseph “Rich Joe” Vann. A wealthy man, Vann established a cotton plantation in Webbers Falls and built a replica of the mansion he was forced from in Georgia. Vann also established a steamboat business. In 1842, in an attempt to escape Indian Territory to Mexico, nearly 25 slaves of Vann’s and other wealthy Cherokee slave owners revolted and fled with guns and horses. More slaves joined on the way. However, the slaves were pursued and 14 were killed or captured in a conflict that resulted in the pursuers turning back for reinforcements. The other fugitives continued to south. The slaves were recaptured and five were executed for killing two slave catchers in an effort to free a slave family being taken to Choctaw territory. Vann put his surviving slaves to work on his steamboat. Vann later died aboard his steamboat after the boiler exploded. In 1863 during the Civil War, while trying to capture Cherokee Confederate Gen. Stand Watie, who stationed his troops in Webbers Falls, the Union Army burned Vann’s plantation along with most of the town. The town was later rebuilt. “Most of the people here sided with the Confederacy eventually,” Poteete said. “After the Civil War this was designated as the place for Confederate sympathizers and Freedmen. Not many of the freed slaves came here but several Confederate Cherokees who thought they couldn’t live in peace in the other parts of the Cherokee Nation, they moved here and one of them was the last Confederate general to surrender, Stand Watie. After statehood in 1907, Webbers Falls was home to Brewer’s Academy, which was later named Webbers Falls Public School. Brewer’s Academy was named after the Brewer family that resided in town. Oliver Hazard Perry Brewer was born in 1829, attended the Cherokee Male Seminary and married Delia Vann, the daughter of Joseph Vann, in 1856. Brewer was elected to the Cherokee Senate in 1859 and was elected CN superintendent of education in 1871 and 1876. He was selected as Cherokee Board of Education president in 1881, and in 1890, was appointed to the CN Supreme Court. He died in office a year later. His son, Oliver Hazard Perry Brewer Jr., was born in Webbers Falls in 1871 and also attended the Cherokee Male Seminary. He also was elected to the tribe’s Senate and served as CN Board of Education chairman. In 1906, he was a Constitutional Convention delegate. In 1913, Brewer Jr. was appointed postmaster in Muskogee until 1921. He then was elected a Muskogee County judge for three terms, and in 1931 he was appointed by the U.S. government as a CN “chief for a day.” He died in 1951. Another prominent Cherokee in Webbers Falls was Robert T. Hanks, who held several positions in the CN government, including secretary. “Robert T. Hanks was considered to have been the best fiddler in the Cherokee Nation and was the first historian of Webbers Falls,” Poteete said. “He was also a writer. He was a correspondent to the newspapers in Muskogee, in Fort Smith (Arkansas). He published a paper here himself, and until he passed away, he was given to writing letters to the editor taking positions on political issues and they dubbed him Black Fox, sage of the Cherokee.” In 1911, Webbers Falls burned down again and was rebuilt with brick in 1912. Most buildings continue to stand. That same year, the Webbers Falls, Shawnee and Western Railroad began connecting Webbers Falls to Warner, allowing the town to grow and become less dependent on river trade. Throughout the 1920s, the town’s population grew to nearly 500 and a bridge was built across the Arkansas River as a part of Highway 64, which cut through Webbers Falls, allowing traffic and businesses to boom. “All the traffic from Highway 64 came through here and we had five or six Phillips stations and cafes, two grocery stores, two banks,” Miller said. “As the trucks grew, the bridge didn’t and the trucks could not get across so they put a light up and made it a one-way road across, and after the bridge came in the train slowly went away.” In 1943, the town experienced massive flooding in the downtown area causing people to be rescued from rooftops. Miller said what really affected Webbers Falls’ growth was when Interstate 40 was opened because it bypassed the town. “When they got I-40 in they tore the bridge down and built the Highway 100 bridge across, a little further up, but nothing came through Webbers Falls anymore and the town just slowly died until what it is today,” Miller said. In 1971, the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam and Reservoir was created on the Oklahoma portion of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which provides for barge traffic on the Arkansas River. In 2002, the I-40 bridge collapsed, killing 14 people and injuring 11, after a barge collided with a bridge pier. Although Webbers Falls has experienced growth, tragedy and decline, it still holds the same Cherokee values with which it was created. “People were moving west to continue a Cherokee way of life, and many families that were here before are still here,” Poteete said.