Swimmer and Ketcher speak of serving with Mankiller
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.”
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Steve Gragert, former Will Rogers Memorial executive director, will open the 2016 Milam Lecture Series telling about his Aug. 15 visit to the plane crash site that claimed the lives of Will Rogers and Wiley Post.
Rogers and Post died Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska.
The lecture will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 in the Will Rogers Memorial Museum Theatre in Claremore. Admission is free and open to the public.
Gragert, who started his involvement with Will Rogers in 1967 working on the Will Rogers Research project at Oklahoma State University, was named museum director in 2006, serving until 2014. He edited or co-edited 17 of the 22 volumes in the scholarly series “The Writings of Will Rogers,” published by OSU and two volumes of “The Papers of Will Rogers.”
Gragert is also expected to share his most recent research on Will Rogers the humanitarian.
For more information, call 918-341-0719 or toll free 1-800-324-9455.
GLENPOOL, Okla. – Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Cherokee artist Bill Glass Jr. were honored at the 2016 Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival on Feb. 5 at the Glenpool Expo Center.
As part of its 30th anniversary, the GTIAF honored veterans and Native Code Talkers.
Crittenden, who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War, said he was surprised and humbled at being selected as the honorary chairman of the GTIAF.
“The theme of this year’s festival was honoring our veterans and Code Talkers,” he said. “CNB (Cherokee Nation Businesses) represented the Cherokee Nation with a sponsorship at the Bear level, $5,000.00. It is my understanding that we have helped with this event in the past.”
According to the GTIAF program, Crittenden is a champion for the rights and privileges of American military veterans, and during his tenure as deputy principal chief he has supported programs to better serve the brave men and women who have served the United States.
Among the featured artists was Glass, who was honored as the elder artist. According to the GTIAF, the festival annually honors a Native American artist whose support of American Indian art has been extraordinary throughout his or her lifetime.
“It’s an honor and its fun to see the new artists that are coming up and doing so good. I always think of art as cultural retention for our tribes,” Glass said. “This is the first time in a long time that I’ve been here. Some friends nominated me and it’s an honor to be selected.”
This year’s featured artist was Choctaw Nation citizen Gwen Coleman Lester, who paints and draws Choctaw history, legends and culture.
According to the GTIAF, “Lester began her artistic career in the commercial sector and gradually moved to fine art working in colored pencil, charcoal, pastel, watercolor, acrylic, and occasionally oils.”
A primary mission of the festival has been to provide scholarships to Native students. Money raised via sponsorships and auctions helps aid that cause. The weekend event included an art market, cultural demonstrations, silent and live auctions, honor dances and Cherokee fiddling.
“Today the Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival is a national premier juried art show, which showcases Native art, cuisine and entertainment. Most importantly, many Native students have been recipients of the Festival’s scholarship program. Scholarships began in the early 1990s,” a GTIAF official said.
The art festival is a project of the National Indian Monument and Institute, a national non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission are urging CN citizens who want to vote in the 2017 Tribal Council elections to register to vote or ensure that their voter registration information is correct at the Election Commission Office.
“The 2017 election year is fast approaching and we would like to encourage the Cherokee citizens who would like to vote in the 2017 Council elections to register to vote,” an EC press release states. “Registered voters of the Cherokee Nation who have had an address or name change should also complete a voter registration form and submit to the Election Commission Office to update your registration information.”
According to the release, a registered voter living in the tribe’s jurisdiction who has moved to a new district and wishes to change precincts within his or her district shall re-register for a new district and/or precinct on or before the last business day in March of the election year. In 2017, that day will be Friday, March 31.
According to CN law, every resident registered voter shall be registered to vote in the district of his or her residence. Also, a resident registered voter shall have the right to vote only for a Tribal Council candidate of the district in which the voter resides and cannot vote for a candidate of any other district.
Tribal Council seats that are up for election next year are districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15, and one At-Large seat.
EC officials said At-Large registered voters should be registered to vote in the At-Large District, unless a voter has elected to remain a voter in a district pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the CN Constitution.
At-Large voters who move to new at-large address should provide the EC their new addresses for registration and mailing purposes. At-Large voters who move to addresses within a jurisdictional district should reregister within the district of their new addresses.
EC officials also stressed that tribal citizenship cards do not automatically register citizens to vote in CN elections and that citizens wanting to vote must register with the EC. According to CN law, one must be 18 years old as of the election day to register to vote. Also, a person must be registered to vote no later than the last business day in March of the election year.
Registration and change of address forms are available at the EC Office located at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road or online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/election" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/election</a>.
For more information, call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895. One can also email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/election" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/election</a>. The EC’s mailing address is P.O. Box 1188 Tahlequah, OK 74465.
VIAN, Okla. – Volunteers are needed to help plant river cane at the Sequoyah Wildlife Refuge near Vian from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Feb. 19, 22 and 23.
The refuge can be reached by taking exit 291 (Gore exit) off I-40. Go approximately one mile south until one sees Red Gate on the right. Volunteers may work one day, two days or all three days.
The tribe began a River Cane Initiative in 2010 to preserve, map and perpetuate the growth of river cane in the tribe’s jurisdiction in northeastern Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation administrative liaison Pat Gwin and researcher for the initiative, Roger Cain, have located and cataloged river cane on more than 60 acres of tribal land.
However, not much of the river cane found on the 60 acres of tribal land is fit for “traditional art” such as baskets, Cain said, because it has not been taken care of and is attempting to grow under the canopy of trees. River cane once grew 40 feet tall in the area, he said, but now cane growing only approximately 20 feet tall can be found.
River cane was the Cherokees’ plastic, Cain said. It was used for shelter, weapons (bows, arrows, knives, blowguns), mats, chairs, food, and supplied material for baskets.
Also, research has found river cane riparian zones significantly reduce nutrient loads into area streams, creeks and rivers. This research has implications for the controversial issue of local poultry farmers allegedly polluting the Illinois River with runoff containing poultry waste.
Large areas of river cane known as canebrakes were once abundant along river bottoms in the southeastern United States. Canebrakes are now considered critically endangered ecosystems due to agriculture, grazing, fire suppression and urbanization. A 98 percent decline in canebrakes has occurred since Europeans first made contact with Native people in North America about 500 years ago, Cain said.
Gwin said canebrakes also would likely lesson the affects of flooding in low-lying areas if they still existed next to streams and rivers in urban areas.
For more information, call Gwin at 918-453-5704 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>, Sequoyah Wildlife Refuge biologist Dustin Taylor at 918-773-5251 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or call Cain at 918-696-0521 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Housing Rehabilitation program may be on the move to the Housing Authority of Cherokee Nation.
At its Jan. 19 meeting, the HACN board of directors unanimously approved two resolutions that would facilitate moving the tribe’s Housing Rehabilitation program from the tribe’s Community Services to the HACN, pending approval by Cherokee Nation.
As of Feb. 5, no move had been made, nor had any timeline been given for the proposed change.
If the switch ultimately happens, approximately 80 tribal employees would be shifted to the HACN.
One of the two resolutions approved by the HACN board would allow those employees to keep their accrued leave balances, as well as their original dates of seniority.
As of publication, neither Community Services Director Ron Qualls nor HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper responded to multiple requests for comment regarding the possible move.
During the Jan. 19 meeting, Cooper noted that the HACN has a similar agreement in place with employees who transfer from Cherokee Nation Businesses and described the potential move as “apples to apples.”
“This would allow…whenever Cherokee Nation decides what they’re going to do on their end and we’re ready to hire folks over here, this will allow me to make sure that those accrued leave balances to remain,” he said at the meeting.
If the move occurs, it would not be the first time employees were transferred from one entity to the other.
In May 2008 the Cherokee Nation took the duties of providing housing to Cherokee citizens away from the HACN by transitioning seven programs from the HACN to the tribe.
According to a 2009 Cherokee Phoenix article, tribal officials at that time said moving the HACN programs to the tribal administration would better coordinate programs and reduce costs, allowing more money to go to housing services.
The transition of services from the HACN also meant moving employees to the CN. According to the 2009 story, 160 HACN employees transferred to the Nation, while about a dozen took severance packages instead of transferring.
Following the election of Principal Chief Bill John Baker in 2011, the tribe transitioned back to building homes for Cherokee citizens through the HACN.
The HACN was initially formed in 1966 to provide safe and sanitary housing to low income Native Americans by providing low rent apartments, homeownership through the construction of Mutual Help Homes and rental assistance.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the eighth annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors are accepting applications for the next round of tribal elders to be recognized this year.
Applications are being accepted until June 1 for the October event.
During the event, 50 elders from federally recognized Oklahoma tribes and nations will be honored for their contributions to their tribe or nation, family, community state or nation.
According to an AARP press release, AARP wants to honor at least one person from each of the 39 federally recognized tribes and nations in Oklahoma.
Those nominated must be enrolled in an Oklahoma tribe or nation, must be at least 50 years old and living.
The press release states, the AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors is the largest Native American recognition program in the state and since its inception in 2008 has honored 350 elders.
The AARP welcomes the general public and Tribal governments to submit nominations.
Nominations are being accepted at <a href="http://www.aarp.org/okindiannavigator" target="_blank">www.aarp.org/okindiannavigator</a> or by calling 405-715-4474.
Eight Cherokee Nation citizens and one United Keetoowah Band citizen were among 50 honorees at the seventh annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors held Oct. 6 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.
CN citizen Tom Anderson, director of the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center of the Oklahoma City Area Inter Tribal Health Board, was awarded the Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Norman W. Crowe Jr., a CN citizen and former Marine and retired Army sergeant, was honored for volunteering at Indian nonprofit organizations such as the Indian Health Care Resource Center and Red Earth and serving on the Mayor’s Indian Affairs Commission in Tulsa.
Carol “Jane” Davis, a full-blood CN citizen, was honored for assisting tribal citizens and families in the health care system as a licensed clinical social worker, often serving as an interpreter for patients who only spoke Cherokee.
Dr. John Farris, a CN citizen, was celebrated for working to improve the quality of health care for American Indians in Oklahoma. For more than 10 years he has served as chief medical officer for the Oklahoma City Area Office of Indian Health Services and previously served as clinical director at W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah.
Howard Hansen Sr., a full-blood UKB citizen was honored for his service as Veterans of Foreign Wars commander and chaplain of the Grove Post and as service officer at the American Legion in Kansas, Oklahoma. He is a decorated veteran for his service in Vietnam.
Doris “Coke” Lane Meyer, a CN citizen, was recognized for devoting much of her life to her community and Cherokee cultural activities involving the Cherokee Women’s Pocahontas Club, which was founded in 1899. She supports the club’s scholarship program, which sponsors young Cherokee women seeking higher educations.
Ollie Starr, a CN citizen, was honored for promoting care issues for older Cherokees, securing grant money that has enabled young women to pursue higher educations and helping improve living conditions in Cherokee senior facilities.
Bonnie Thaxton, a citizen of the CN and Delaware Tribe, was honored for more than 30 years of work with the War Mothers, Cultural Preservation and Elder committees.
Dr. Pamela Jumper Thurman, a CN citizen, was honored for her work as a clinical psychologist and researcher. She has published extensively on issues challenging American Indians and Alaska Natives, especially issues such as methamphetamine treatment and prevention, violence and victimization and rural women’s issues.