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 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.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.