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
05/05/2016 12:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – “Frontier Days Kid Camp” at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch near Oologah on June 20-22 will take youngsters back to the days before statehood and to Nov. 4, 1879, when Rogers was born. Children ages 5-14 can experience life in the 1880s when Will Rogers was growing up on the Indian Territory family ranch. Today, it is a 400-acre living history ranch and a part of the Will Rogers Memorial Museums. The home was moved from its original site in 1963 when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began filling Oologah Lake, the log-walled room where Will was born preserved as it was 137 years ago. Hands-on activities from hand-washing clothes on a scrub board to rope making, peaceful nature hikes, and cane pole fishing in the farm pond will be a part of the many events planned during the day camp at the ranch. There will be fun learning experiences about life on the frontier, making memories and learning about Oklahoma history. Other activities planned include blacksmith demonstrations, fence building and whitewashing, 1880s period games and hayrides. Camp hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Campers will check in each morning at 7:30 and hike to various assigned project stations throughout the ranch grounds. Appropriate walking shoes are a must. Camp cost is $35 each for families who are members of Friends of Will Rogers or $45 for nonmembers. Registration deadline is June 10. Registration forms are available at willrogers.com or at the admissions desk. Space is limited. Before his death on Aug 15, 1935, in an Alaska plane crash, Will Rogers was a widely traveled vaudeville and movie star, a renowned trick roper, newspaper columnist and radio personality. After his death, his wife deeded a portion of the ranch to Oklahoma for a state park. The ranch is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is by donation. In addition to availability for tours of the house and barn, it is a prominent site for weddings, family gatherings and for educational opportunities.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/04/2016 02:00 PM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – A woman accused of driving her car into Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade, killing four people and injuring dozens, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers entered her plea on May 4 in Payne County District Court after previously waiving her right to a preliminary hearing. The 25-year-old Chambers is charged with four counts of second-degree murder and more than 40 counts of assault and battery for the Oct. 24 crash. Prosecutors said Chambers intentionally drove her car around a barricade and into spectators at the parade. Her attorney, Tony Coleman, said his client is mentally ill. A pretrial conference is set for June 1, but Judge Stephen Kistler did not set a trial date after Coleman said he is still seeking information from prosecutors.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/04/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation awarded 130 volunteer and rural fire departments with $3,500 checks totaling $455,000 on May 3 during its 2016 Volunteer Firefighter Awards Ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The tribe treated about 500 firefighters to dinner and presented each station a check to help with equipment, fuel or other items that help maintain their fire stations in northeastern Oklahoma. “Recognizing these brave men and women is one of my favorite duties as principal chief. Every unit is highly trained and skilled. These firefighters are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, and the most impressive thing is that they do all this for the love of their community and to ensure our families remain safe,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I’m proud our tribal government sees the importance in making this annual financial commitment. Because of this money, 130 rural volunteer fire departments in northeast Oklahoma will be better equipped and better prepared when an emergency strikes.” During the ceremony, the CN named the Illinois River Fire and Rescue in Cherokee County and Afton Fire Department in Ottawa County as “2016 Volunteer Fire Departments of the Year.” In the past year, Illinois River Fire and Rescue increased its volunteer staff to 20 active members. The station formed a “brown water team” that partners with neighboring districts and counties to help with rescues after the 2015 spring flooding on the Illinois River. During the December 2015 flooding, the team worked 40 hours straight to rescue 26 people. There were no fatalities. The department was also commended by the tribe for helping victims with cleanup efforts. “The financial backing from the Cherokee Nation is tremendous, because like everyone else, money is difficult at times. It plays a major role in us being able to continue to provide the best services possible,” Gary Dill, assistant fire chief of the Illinois River Fire and Rescue, said. The Afton Fire Department responded to 325 calls in 2015. Most calls were from first responders. The department helped with grass and structure fires, and also water rescue calls. During the December flooding, the department rescued two families. The tribe honored the firefighters for their efforts, including pulling one family from an SUV that had been swept away and overturned. “It’s a real big honor to have the Cherokee Nation recognize our department as one of the volunteer fire departments of the year, but the biggest honor is having the good lord on scene with us helping in difficult situations,” Terry Miller, fire chief of the Afton Fire Department, said. The CN also named five “2016 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year” awards to the following: • Jeff Mueller, of Vinita, for eight years of service to the Centralia Fire Department in Craig County, • Jordan Shofler, of Vinita, for demonstrating courage, leadership and dedication on every call the Carselowey Fire Department receives, • Brian Gibson, of Afton, for working behind the scenes on the day-to-day operations of the Afton Fire Department, • Austin Moore, of Oologah, for his nine years of service and leading volunteer trainings every month for the Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District, and • Gary Dill, of Tahlequah, for sharing 34 years of firefighting experience and knowledge with members of the Illinois River Fire and Rescue.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/03/2016 12:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – Do you have a ranching or farming operation in your community and want to move it forward? Are you looking to build a sustainable tribal ranching or farming enterprise? Do you desire to increase your business knowledge and fundamentals of running and maintaining a successful agricultural business? Or perhaps you assist producers in your community with advice on how to grow their businesses and by helping them gain access to bigger and better opportunities. Or maybe you are interested in helping assess the status of your community’s food sovereignty and help make it better and stronger? If so, First Nations Development Institute has three, three-day training workshops for you. Two in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Denver are producer-focused, and one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is intended as a train-the-trainer workshop. The fee for each training is $100, which covers the cost of materials and any meals that are included. Participants will receive copies of First Nations’ The Business of Indian Agriculture curriculum and Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool. Day 1-2: The Business of Indian Agriculture producer-focused trainings in Green Bay and Denver are designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers topics such as how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, agribusiness economics and marketing and land use and management. It also covers important topics such as risk management, personal financial management and using credit wisely. The two-day training offers attendees the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of agriculture business and the opportunity to network with other producers. The train-the-trainer workshop in Tulsa will focus on giving the technical knowledge, tools and guidance to conduct training with farmers and ranchers in a community. Day 3: The optional third day of training covers Food Sovereignty Assessment. Food has always played a central role in Native communities. It reflects environmental, economic, social and political values. For some communities today, the relationship to food is much less visible than it used to be. The diet history, gathering and consumption practices, value of food products and source of foods tell the story of a community and its people and can help define their future. For example, there are complex cause-and-effect relationships between food choices or lack thereof that have consequences for health, economy and even social implications. The Food Sovereignty Assessment Training, utilizing the Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool, is meant to begin the process of telling the food story of a community through a community-driven and participative process of data collection. The information can be used to understand community food supply chains, agricultural and food profiles, as well as community economic and health considerations. It can also be used to improve and strengthen a community's food sovereignty. The Green Bay training is sponsored and hosted by the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. The Denver and Tulsa trainings are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Room rates vary by location, so visit the individual registration page for each event, which contain specific logistics and other information. Visit the links below for more information or to register. Green Bay: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1822850" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1822850</a> Denver: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1833972" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1833972</a> Tulsa: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1834133" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1834133</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/02/2016 10:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Jacob Tanner, Sequoyah High School assistant baseball and softball coach, died on April 28 at age 61. “We are deeply saddened to unexpectedly lose such a valued and respected member of our Sequoyah High School family,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said. “Coach Tanner was a great mentor, teacher and coach for our students. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” Tanner, known for always smiling, served as the assistant baseball and fast-pitch softball coach and science teacher at Sequoyah since 2006. He also sponsored the robotics program at Sequoyah. “Coach Tanner was very well liked and respected by students, staff and faculty. His passing is a great loss for our Sequoyah family, and we will miss him greatly. Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with his family, players, students, colleagues and all who will be grieving this loss,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Tanner served more than 35 years in education, including his time at Sequoyah. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on May 4 in The Place Where They Play gym.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.