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 ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/27/2016 02:00 PM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he set a fire five years ago that burned 142 acres of land belonging to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Raymond Neal Swayney was indicted last month after being accused of setting the May 21, 2011 fire. Swayney pleaded not guilty to the two arson-related charges Monday in U.S. District Court in Asheville. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison, in addition to a fine. Swayney has been released from custody on a $25,000 bond.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
06/27/2016 12:28 PM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Cherokee Casinos’ footprint may be going beyond Oklahoma’s borders in the near future. On June 23, Arkansas Wins in 2016, an advocacy group trying to expand commercial gaming into the Natural State, announced that it had reached an agreement with Cherokee Nation Entertainment to own a casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County, Arkansas. “It’s been an interest of ours for many years to leverage our nearly 30 years’ experience in gaming, hospitality and entertainment into markets outside of Oklahoma,” Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said. “This commercial gaming venture is a natural evolution of our business model that will be good for the state, northwest Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation. We employ thousands of people, and are good community partners, and we look forward to extending that into Arkansas.” The agreement is contingent upon the passage of a potential ballot measure. On June 1, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the form for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow gaming in three specific counties: Washington, Boone and Miller. Boone County is in north-central Arkansas near Branson, Missouri. With its county seat at Texarkana, Miller County is in the southwestern corner of the state. The state’s third-most populous county, Washington County is home to the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus in Fayetteville. Robert Coon, a spokesman for Arkansas Wins in 2016, said the group’s decision to target specific counties rather than seek approval for gaming statewide was a conscious one to not over-saturate Arkansas’ gaming market. In addition to a statewide lottery, there is a horse race facility with video poker in Hot Springs and a dog racing track in West Memphis. State law currently only allows casinos at facilities with pari-mutuel betting. “We don’t want to overwhelm the market,” Coon said. “We wanted to look at where would be opportunities where there’s already specific tourism draws where people are going and taking their money outside the state’s boundaries.” According to the ballot measure’s text, an Arkansas-based limited liability company would operate each of the three sites, which would be subject to state law. The commercial casinos would also be governed by regulations enacted by the Arkansas Gaming Commission, established by the same ballot measure. “The Cherokee Nation, just like any other operator, would be subject to the requirements of the amendments, including laws enacted by the General Assembly,” Coon said. “They would be an operator just like any other business venture operator would be treated here.” Repeating language from the proposed ballot measure, Amanda Clinton, Vice President of communications for CNB, said the casino would be subject to the laws enacted by the Arkansas General Assembly, regulations promulgated by the Arkansas Gaming Commission. Several of the specifics about the project, including the site, size, number of new jobs and available amenities, have not yet been determined. Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs is about 30 minutes away from Washington County’s two largest communities: Fayetteville and Springdale. For the measure to get on the November ballot, organizers must collect signatures from 84,859 registered Arkansas voters by July 8. Coon was unable to provide the number of signatures collected as of June 24, but said the group was “on track” to meet the minimum requirement by the Arkansas secretary of state’s deadline. Two similar referenda were slated to go before Arkansas voters in 2012, but both were stricken from the ballot at the last minute due to litigation. In an interview with the Tulsa World, Slaton confirmed that ties between CNB and the Arkansas pro-casino group were established during that failed 2012 campaign. “We’ve watched closely as Arkansas has moved to legalize casino gaming in recent years,” Clinton said. “Now that this initiative seems poised to be on the ballot this fall, it was the perfect time for this strategic business decision.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/25/2016 10:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A man who pleaded guilty in the killing of a prostitute featured on the HBO series “Cathouse” and three other people has testified in the Oklahoma City trial of two other men charged in the case. The Oklahoman reports that Cherokee Nation citizen Jonathan A. Cochran, 37, testified June 7 at the trial of Denny Phillips and Russell Hogshooter. Both men charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy in the deaths of Brooke Phillips, Milagros Barrera, Jennifer Lynn Ermey and Casey Mark Barrientos. The other two murder charges are because Brooke Phillips and Barrerra were pregnant. Hogshooter is accused of shooting Brooke Phillips, who was among the prostitutes featured on the cable network’s show about the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada. Prosecutors say Denny Phillips ordered the killing of Barrientos and that the women were killed to eliminate witnesses. Phillips and Hogshooter have pleaded not guilty. David Tyner, who is also accused of being involved in the slayings, pleaded guilty in the case and has testified that he killed Barrientos, Barrera and Ermey because Denny Phillips threatened his family. Cochran testified that before he entered a home and saw several bodies, he heard muffled gunshots from inside. Cochran, who was given a 25-year prison sentence, also testified that he knew that the killings were going to take place, but that he “didn’t verbally agree to kill anybody.” “I went there under the assumption that somebody else was going to murder someone. I didn’t agree to the murders but I agreed to go down there,” Cochran testified. Cochran said that he saw three bodies in the home once he entered, and that Hogshooter told him to shoot a woman who prosecutors identified as Brooke Phillips. Cochran said he fired a couple of shots, purposely missing. Defense attorneys argue that there are inconsistencies in Cochran’s version of events. But prosecutors argue that significant details of what happened have stayed consistent with other testimony.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/24/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored Korean War veterans Jack Merle Gardner, George Edward Dewayne Johnston, Ralph George Grass and Eva D. Rider Tallon with the Medal of Patriotism at the June 13 Tribal Council meeting. Cpl. Gardner, 74, was born April 16, 1942, in Claremore and joined the Marine Corps in 1959. Gardner attended basic training in San Diego and was sent to Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan, a Marines supply depot. He received weapons maintenance training while in Okinawa and maintained the base’s weapons. He also played football on its team. A colonel saw him playing and had Gardner transferred to Quantico, Virginia. He was part of the traveling football team that played football at Air Force, Army and Navy bases across the country. When the Cuban Missile Crisis began, football was suspended and all Marines were on standby. Gardner received an honorable discharge in 1963. He received medals and ribbons for his service, including the Good Conduct Medal. “Serving the country helped me buy my home and get through college with the GI Bill,” Gardner said. “I appreciate the Cherokee Nation for this recognition award. I also thank the tribe for their quick response when a tumor was found on the lower part of my spine. I thank God they were on the ball.” Staff Sgt. Johnston, 85, was born May 4, 1931, in Kenwood and entered the U.S. Air Force in 1952. Johnston attended basic training in San Antonio and radio school in Biloxi, Mississippi. While waiting for his top-secret clearance, Johnston travelled to Burma, London, Germany and Amsterdam before being stationed in Scotland as a radio operator. He was responsible for copying all Russian aircraft Morse Code transmissions. Johnston spent 20 months overseas copying Russian transmissions. He returned to the United States and received an honorable discharge in 1956. Johnston received ribbons and medals for his service, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. Petty Officer 3rd Class Grass, 79, was born March 7, 1937, in Locust Grove and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1955. Grass attended basic training in San Diego and was stationed on the USS McCoy Reynolds, where he trained servicemen from New Zealand. After the USS McCoy, Reynolds was turned over to the New Zealand Navy, deployed on the USS Picking to the South China Sea, where he served as a boiler operator helper. During his service, Grass made one trip around the world. He received an honorable discharge in 1959 and earned ribbons and medals for his service. Cpl. Rider Tallon, 86, was born June 13, 1930, in Bunch and joined the U.S. Army in 1951. She attended basic training at Fort Lee in Virginia and surgical technician school at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio. Rider Tallon was then stationed at Fort Lawton in Washington, where she served as a company clerk. While at Fort Lawton, she received “Soldier of the Week” honors and attended the University of Seattle. She was then deployed to the 8168th Army Hospital Unit in Yokohama, Japan, where she served as the editor of the battalion newspaper and attended Red Cross activities for wounded soldiers from the Korean War. Rider Tallon received an honorable discharge in 1954 and earned ribbons and medals for her service. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/24/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation donated $75,000 to organizations that ensure school children get snacks and school supplies when they return to school this fall. In northeastern Oklahoma at least 20 organizations participate in backpack programs that send backpacks home with students who are in need of everything from school supplies to nutritious weekend snacks. The tribe donated the funds from its donations and charitable contributions budget. Tribal Councilors individually delivered the checks totaling $75,200 to the churches, schools and organizations in their areas. “We have a responsibility to our children, especially those in need, to ensure they have access to basic and essential items when they are away from structured activities like school and church,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Networking with these partners, organizations that have similar values and a mission to help kids, enables us all to do more, and that is critical if we hope to raise healthy and happy children in northeast Oklahoma. If we can address any insecurity a child has at home, whether it’s food or clothing or supplies, then we are helping build a better tomorrow.” The programs serve 3,643 students, with half of those students being CN citizens. Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd said the tribe is able to help more families when developing healthy partnerships with organizations inside the 14-county jurisdiction. “By partnering with churches, schools and organizations inside the communities, we are able to make the greatest impact with our tribal dollars,” Byrd said. “These organizations know the needs of our young people in their respective communities, and I am proud that the Cherokee Nation can contribute to meeting those needs.” Organizations receiving funds are in Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Muskogee, Nowata, Rogers, Sequoyah and Washington counties. New Life Church in Stilwell received $15,000 to help. At the beginning of every school year, the church hosts a cookout and backpack giveaway night for parents and students in Adair County. The church also partners with four rural Adair County schools and uses the donation to provide nutritious weekend snacks to students every week during the school year. “We are so thankful to be able to partner with the Cherokee Nation and help students and parents in our area with necessary school supplies and nutritious snacks on the weekend,” said New Life Church Pastor Max Ford. “The tribe’s generosity is a godsend for our community, and we are more than happy to help pass that blessing on to those in need.” <strong>Receiving Donations</strong> Organization, County, Award New Life Church, Adair, $15,040 Hulbert Public Schools, Cherokee, $9,388.32 Tahlequah Public Schools, Cherokee, $3,689.94 Craig County Salvation Army, Craig, $1,121.49 Okay Public Schools, Delaware, $1,961.74 Choteau-Mazie Public Schools, Mayes, $781.04 First United Methodist Church Locust Grove, Mayes, $710.95 Boulevard Christian Church, Muskogee, $2,350 Chandler Road Church of Christ, Muskogee, $555.45 Eastern Heights Baptist Church, Muskogee, $1,516.82 First United Methodist Church Muskogee, Muskogee, $1,602.27 Grace Ministries Inc., Muskogee, $341.82 Warner Public Schools, Muskogee, $3,845.45 Boys & Girls Club of Nowata, Nowata, $6,118.14 Oologah United Methodist Church, Rogers, $791.58 Rogers County Salvation Army, Rogers, $14,248.42 Hillside Pentecostal Church, Sequoyah, $1,388.64 Lee’s Chapel Assembly of God, Sequoyah, $2,307.27 The BOD Church, Sequoyah, $1,132.27 Agape Mission of Bartlesville Inc., Washington, $6,308.39
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
06/23/2016 06:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – As the 2016 “Remember the Removal” cyclists prepared to finish the last few miles of their nearly 1,000-mile journey from Georgia to Oklahoma, some reflected on what it meant and what they learned. The youngest rider, Jack Cooper, 15, of the Birdtown Community in Cherokee, North Carolina, followed in his father’s and sister’s footsteps to ride the three-week trek through six states to Tahlequah. “I was always told it’s a challenge both mentally and physically, that there’s no words to describe it after you’ve done it. You have to go on the journey,” he said. He said he agrees with the assessment that people have to make the journey themselves to truly appreciate what Cherokee people endured during the forced removals in 1838-39. “It is amazing. Growing so much as a family with people you’ve never met, experiencing the heat and experiencing suffering and joy all at the same time, it’s amazing,” he said. Cooper said that during the ride he learned lifelong leadership skills and to cooperate with others. “I’ve grown so much as a person,” he said. Before the ride, Kelsey Girty, 22, of Warner, said she knew the journey would be physically challenging and that she would be tested as she rode through the territory her ancestors walked along the Trail of Tears’ Northern Route. But as she prepared to ride into Tahlequah to see family and friends, she said she found it tough to find words to describe her experiences. “Everyone says you have to see it, you have do it, to actually feel it,” she said. She said she has a deeper connection to the people who took the ride with her and to herself. She learned things she never knew about her culture and heritage by taking part in the trip, she said. Girty added that if someone wanting to make the journey were to ask her what is special about it she would tell them the unity and bonding among the cyclists is the most special. “Everyone just comes together. We’re all so different. None of our personalities are the same,” she said. “Everyone comes together as a family.” Marisa Cabe, of the Wolfetown Community in Cherokee, North Carolina, said she knew the ride was not only going to be physically difficult but “emotionally and spiritually” difficult, too. She said the ride’s physical and emotional demands didn’t match what she imagined. “The heat, the constant pedaling, it’s all been much more physically challenging than I ever could have imagined, “Cabe said. The 50-year-old had to “trailer up” or put her bicycle in the trailer and ride in the van on June 22, the day before the cyclists made it to Tahlequah because she overheated. “I didn’t want to. I cried a little bit when they told me I had to. I wanted to do what they (Cherokee ancestors) were able to do, and then I stopped to think not everybody walked. People had to be helped. I had to be helped… and that’s hard for me to accept, but I’m thankful that I had the people here to help me,” she said. An unexpected but pleasant surprise for Cabe was how close the cyclists became. She said the group likes to say they are not Cherokee Nation or Eastern Band but are “one tribe.” “We’re Cherokee. That’s all there is to it,” she said. “Whether the federal government recognizes it or not, we as people realize that we’re one tribe, one nation.” Cabe thanked the support staff that helped the cyclists along the way and her fellow cyclists who helped her finish the ride. “It’s just been an amazing journey, and I’m thankful that I did it,” she said