Swimmer and Ketcher speak of serving with Mankiller

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
04/14/2010 07:38 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Two men who worked extremely close with the late Wilma Mankiller during her political career were former Principal Chief Ross Swimmer and former Deputy Chief John A. Ketcher. Both men spoke of their relationships with her during an April 10 memorial service at the Cherokee Nation Cultural Grounds.

Swimmer recalled on how Mankiller got her start at Cherokee Nation.

“When Wilma walked into my office and told me she had recently moved back to Oklahoma…she said, ‘I want to work for the Cherokee Nation. I want to do something for my tribe.’ Well it was pretty obvious to me that she was sincere and I thought that she’d make a good hand.”

He said he hired her for community work and planning, but ended up counting on her to do whatever needed to be done. He said Mankiller was instrumental in getting 16 miles of waterline laid in the Bell community as a self-help project.

“It was a learning experience for all of us and Wilma took it to heart,” Swimmer said. “She said this is the way the Cherokees should work and work together. And I said, ‘ well Wilma, let’s just make this a standard for the Cherokee Nation. Let’s create this Community Development Department and let’s do this from now on.’”

Swimmer said she took the position in the new department and everything they did from then on involved the people and her motivation to get the work done.

He also spoke of when he asked her to run for the deputy chief seat for the 1983 election. Mankiller won the seat and Swimmer was re-elected as principal chief. They served together from 1983-85. In 1985, Swimmer took a Bureau of Indian Affairs job and Mankiller assumed the principal chief position. However, before the 1983 election, Swimmer said she had no idea he was going to ask her to run as his deputy chief candidate.

“She was taken back and said, ‘let me think about it.’ I did not give a thought to the fact that she was a woman. I thought she was the best candidate that I had available to run and that she would do a wonderful job,” he said.

“Sometimes the Creator puts us in the right place at the right time, and I was in the right place 34 years ago when I met Wilma,” he added.

Ketcher, who served as deputy chief under Mankiller from 1985-95, said she was like a family member from the day they entered office together. However, Ketcher didn’t really know Mankiller two years before serving as her deputy chief.

“This lady stopped me in the hallway and asked what I thought the chances of Wilma becoming the deputy chief to Chief Swimmer. Since I didn’t even know that Wilma was an employee of the Cherokee Nation or anything about her work history, my answer was no opinion.”

He said as the campaign heated up, he learned of her work and what she had done for the CN.

“The voters liked what they heard also and the Swimmer/Mankiller ticket was successful. I, too, had entered the race for one of the seats for the 15-member Cherokee Nation Council at that time. I garnered enough votes to get the 15th seat, the last one that was available.”

Once Swimmer took the BIA job and Mankiller became principal chief, the council chose Ketcher to replace her as deputy chief for the rest of the 1983-87 term. Mankiller picked Ketcher as her deputy chief candidate for the 1987 election, and again in 1991.

“We went to the people for our term of four years on our own. We ran together as a team. Voters must have approved of what was happening and we were elected.”

Ketcher said she always reminded him to talk with the people, not to the people.

“See what they’re thinking because they have opinions, too,” he said. “This included everybody, especially the elders.”
About the Author
Reporter

Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007.

She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. 

Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. 

She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. 

“My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.
jami-murphy@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Reporter Jami Murphy graduated from Locust Grove High School in 2000. She received her bachelor’s degree in mass communications in 2006 from Northeastern State University and began working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2007. She said the Cherokee Phoenix has allowed her the opportunity to share valuable information with the Cherokee people on a daily basis. Jami married Michael Murphy in 2014. They have two sons, Caden and Austin. Together they have four children, including Johnny and Chase. They also have two grandchildren, Bentley and Baylea. She is a Cherokee Nation citizen and said working for the Cherokee Phoenix has meant a great deal to her. “My great-great-great-great grandfather, John Leaf Springston, worked for the paper long ago. It’s like coming full circle. I’ve learned so much about myself, the Cherokee people and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Jami is a member of the Native American Journalists Association, and Investigative Reporters and Editors. You can follow her on Twitter @jamilynnmurphy or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jamimurphy2014.

News

BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
05/25/2016 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After a 90-minute executive session, the United Keetoowah Band’s Tribal Council on May 24 voted 7-4 to remove Principal Chief George Wickliffe from office. “Turn in your keys, walkie-talkie, radio and anything else you have,” Assistant Chief Joe Bunch said, drawing cheers from the standing room only crowd at the Jim Proctor Elder Community Center. Along with removal from office, Wickliffe was also barred for life from holding any elected or appointed positions within the tribe. [BLOCKQUOTE]Citing financial improprieties, the tribe’s treasurer, Ella Mae Worley, filed three articles of impeachment against Wickliffe earlier in the month. Among the allegations against Wickliffe contained within the three counts were: • Prohibited Worley and her predecessor, Shelbi Wofford, from having full access to the tribe’s financial records, its now-closed casino and nongaming businesses, • Signed multiple contracts without Tribal Council authorization, • Authorized almost $400,000 in cash advances to himself and Delaware District Rep. Jerry Hansen, Saline District Rep. Charles Smoke and Goingsnake District Rep. Willie Christie (Christie has since repaid the tribe), • Used a tribal credit card to pay his personal accounts with DirectTV, Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) and Oklahoma Natural Gas, as well as at least two of his son’s bills, • Used a tribal credit card to reclaim at least three guns from a local pawn shop, • Used a tribal credit card to buy tires for three Tribal Councilors, plus a range top and air conditioning unit for a family member, • Provided himself with $5,000 in scholarship funds after the tribe curtailed its higher education program, • Allowed the UKB Corporate Authority Board to sell a $30,000 tribal vehicle to the late Assistant Chief Charles Locust for $5,000, • Authorized the disbursement of more than $40,000 from the tribe’s general fund and more than $4,000 from the motor fuel fund to Locust’s widow without council approval, and • Allowed his personal secretary to apply for services that she was not eligible for, as well as drive a government-issued vehicle without a current driver’s license. “I didn’t do this because I wanted to,” Worley said. “I did this because it is the right thing to do. This is the people’s money.” On all counts against Wickliffe, the Tribal Council reached a simple majority on each against him. However, as per the UKB Constitution, at least two-thirds of the Tribal Council had to vote for Wickliffe’s removal, as well as barring him from holding any elected or appointed position. Those voting for removal were Worley, Bunch, Secretary Joyce Hawk, Tahlequah District Rep. Anile Locust, Sequoyah District Rep. Barry Dotson, Illinois District Rep. Peggy Girty and Flint District Rep. Tom Duncan. The final officer to cast a vote for removal, Hawk silently deliberated for several minutes, eliciting calls of “Do the right thing” and other comments from the crowd. Hansen, Smoke, Christie and Canadian District Rep. Eddie Sacks voted against Wickliffe’s removal. Cooweescoowee District Rep. Clifford Wofford was absent. Wickliffe has seven days to file an appeal with the tribe’s judiciary. Elected to his third four-year term in November 2012, the now-former chief said little during the hearing and initially balked when given the opportunity to defend himself. When he did accept a microphone, he said he could not be wholly blamed for the tribe’s financial straits since its casino closed in 2013 and would have returned the money if he had been asked. “I don’t owe the tribe anything,” he said, eliciting jeers from the audience. “Neither does the council. I didn’t know the United Keetoowah Band could do this.” Escorted by Lighthorse officers, Wickliffe did not speak to reporters after the hearing.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2016 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials donated $15,000 to the Hulbert Police Department earlier this month to help maintain the city’s fleet of police vehicles. Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan presented a check to Hulbert Police Chief Casey Rowe. “It’s important to help our communities, especially when it involves protecting residents and keeping neighborhoods in Hulbert safe,” Jordan, of Hulbert, said. “Sometimes city budgets can only go so far, so it’s great that the Cherokee Nation could help the city police department meet some of its needs.” The funds are from Tribal Councilors Jordan, David Walkingstick and Joe Byrd from Tribal Council law enforcement funds. “In this small community, donations help out a lot,” Rowe said. “It lets us show how safe our community can be with the Cherokee Nation’s help and we really appreciate this donation.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2016 12:00 PM
HULBERT, Okla. – Cherokee Nation leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Hulbert Splash Pad with Hulbert city officials and law enforcement on May 16. The CN donated more than $50,000 over two years for park improvements, which includes building of the new splash pad and road paving to the park entrance. “In a community like Hulbert, the city park is the central location for youth activities, especially during the summer. Now, families will have a wonderful and safe environment for their kids to play, have fun and enjoy the new water features,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The equipment means Cherokee kids will have a new opportunity, but so will all our friends and neighbors. These kinds of infrastructure improvements make northeast Oklahoma a great place to live and raise a family.” The Hulbert Splash Pad is at the Hulbert City Park on Main Street. “A small community like this has a limited amount of money and limited number of places to go to apply for funds,” said Hulbert Mayor Shirley Teague. “This would not be possible without the help of the Cherokee Nation and we could not be more appreciative.” A penny sales tax was passed by residents to also fund part of the park upgrades. “It’s great that our community can enjoy some of the same amenities that other cities do and I’m glad the Cherokee Nation could step up and lend a hand in accomplishing this goal with our community partners,” Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan said. The Hulbert Splash Pad is now open until Labor Day and is free.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A send-off ceremony for the 2016 “Remember the Removal Memorial Ride” will take place beginning at 9 a.m. on May 31 in the Tribal Council Chambers at the W.W. Keeler Complex. The event will be live streamed on the Internet and can be viewed by visiting <a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a>. The cyclists have been meeting in Tahlequah since January to take Cherokee history classes and train together to prepare for the 1,000-mile journey from Georgia to Oklahoma. They will travel to Cherokee, North Carolina, where they will join seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. On June 5, they begin their journey from New Echota, Georgia, following the northern route of the Trail of Tears. This overland route was used by Cherokee detachments that left southeastern Tennessee in 1838 and traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas before reaching Indian Territory in the winter and spring of 1839. They are expected to arrive back in Tahlequah on June 24. During the ceremony the Cherokee National Youth Choir will perform the Star Spangled Banner, and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd will welcome families and visitors to the ceremony. The keynote speaker will be Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Fourth grade students from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School also will perform, and 2015 RTR cyclist Billy Flint will offer words of encouragement to the 10 cyclists. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. will make the closing remarks for the ceremony.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
05/25/2016 08:30 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – The 69th annual Stilwell Strawberry Festival was held May 13-15, and as usual it brought thousands of visitors to Adair County. From a business standpoint, Cherokee Nation citizen and owner of Okie Joe’s BBQ Joe Fletcher said the Strawberry Festival is a boom for area businesses. “These are huge days for Okie Joe’s as well as the downtown economy of Stilwell. There’s 30,000 people who come to town for this event. It’s one of the biggest events in the state of Oklahoma. We’re proud to have it. We want to be a part of it, and we put everything we have into it. I would say this week in general, as far as business goes, is one of the biggest weeks of the year. We’ll probably (get) three times the business that we normally do.” Fletcher also said adding giant turkey legs to his menu during festival weekend has been a big success. “We specialize in barbecue turkey legs on festival day and will probably sell between 500 and 600 of them in the next few hours. This is a wonderful push for us before the slower summer season hits.” Miss Cherokee 2015-16 Jalisi Byrd Pittman said the festival has been a part of her young life. “It’s such a historic part of the town of Stilwell. They are known for their strawberries and have been know for their strawberries for as long as my family can remember. It is one of Adair County’s greatest celebrations. I would not miss this.” Along with the parade and strawberries, the Stilwell Festival also included a strawberry competition, beauty pageant, midway, car show, rodeo, live music and street vendors. Organizers also said next year’s festival would be the biggest yet. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the tribe was well-represented at the festival and for good reason. “Adair County is one of the most highly Cherokee populated communities that we have. The Cherokee Nation has tents set up. We have booths with all kinds of informational pieces, and over a dozen Cherokee Nation departments represented on floats in the parade today. It wouldn’t be the Strawberry Festival without the Cherokee Nation and it wouldn’t be the Cherokee Nation without the Strawberry Festival.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/24/2016 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On May 27, Cherokee Nation officials will honor Cherokee warriors who lost their lives while serving in the armed services with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cherokee Warrior Memorial. The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. next to the tribe’s Veterans Center and will include the raising of the flags, a performance by the Cherokee National Youth Choir and remarks by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. After the ceremony, there will be a reception at the Veterans Center located at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-772-4166.