Swimmer and Ketcher speak of serving with Mankiller

BY JAMI MURPHY
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.
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 STAFF REPORTS
09/16/2014 10:51 AM
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – The Oklahoma Indian Summer Festival is Sept. 18-21 at the Bartlesville Community Center. The state’s largest intertribal event and cultural exchange features a powwow with both competitive and non-competitive dancing on Friday and Saturday and a juried Native American and Western Art Show and Market, showcasing the talents of more than 30 artists, the <a href="http://www.okindiansummer.org" target="_blank">okindiansummer.org</a> website states. The event will consist of free outdoor concerts, an art market, a carnival, cultural demonstrations, story telling and a Friday and Saturday powwow. According to the website, artist Bunky Echo-Hawk will be a special guest. “A graduate of the Institute of American Indian Arts, he is a ?ne artist, graphic designer, photographer, writer and a non-pro?t professional,” the site states. “Bunky is a traditional singer and dancer of the Pawnee Nation and an enrolled member of the Yakama Nation.” Christian Parrish or SupaMan, an Apsaalooke American Indian, will also be present during the event. He is from the Crow Nation reservation near Billings, Mont., and is also a champion powwow fancy dancer. There will also be several food vendors, including Monie Horsechief, a two-time National Indian Taco Champion. Admission is free and the event is open to the public. For a line up of events visit <a href="http://www.okindiansummer.org" target="_blank">okindiansummer.org</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/15/2014 10:25 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The next meeting of the Tahlequah Writers group is 2 p.m., Sept. 20 at the Cherokee Arts Center at 212 S. Water St. During the meeting, Cherokee author Faith Phillips will discuss her first published novel, “Ezekiel’s Wheels.” The novel is set in this area and explores two story lines: one on the Trail of Tears and the other a contemporary journey that leads into a supernatural happening connecting the two tales. Phillips will share with attendees how she became a writer, giving up a law career and how her first book came to publication, as well as how she is promoting the work. She has published short stories and music reviews and has a passion for this area of Oklahoma. Additionally, facilitator Karen Cooper said she hopes to hear what Tahlequah Writers participants are writing, what promotional events have been attended, as well as about any learning sessions attended. Upcoming activities also will be discussed. Cooper is encouraging aspiring writers and writers to check the Tahlequah Writers Facebook page to see postings about contests, workshops and other writing opportunities. The purpose of the Tahlequah Writers group is to inspire and cultivate writers in northeastern Oklahoma, to serve as a support group for aspiring authors and explore opportunities of attaining professional writing careers. The public is invited to participate. For more information, call Cooper at 918-207-0093 or email <a href="mailto: karcoocoo@att.net">karcoocoo@att.net</a>.
BY TESINA JACKSON
09/12/2014 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission employees informed the CNGC’s board of commissioners on Aug. 22 that Cherokee Nation Entertainment, the tribe’s gaming arm, is not properly reporting some complimentary items given away at CNE facilities. Internal auditor Traci Asher told commissioners that CNGC employees have found issues regarding manual complimentary items, which are given free usually as part of a promotion. “We did touch on all the manual comps, but we did find that they’re (CNE employees) using those manual comp books. And it’s just a book that has copies in it, so they write out a comp instead of running it through the system,” Asher said. “They’re actually using a lot of these comps in internal administrative expenses, so they weren’t redeeming them correctly. So we brought that to their attention. We had some employees that had been granted incorrect system permissions for comping privileges.” Internal administrative expense comps are complimentary items that include the cost of an administrative function where certain items such as food or beverage items are provided. Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said forms for the manual comps and internal administrative expenses are similar in appearance and “on rare occasion the wrong form may have been used.” He said the forms are being redesigned to make them more distinguishable and less likely to be confused. The CNGC regulates and oversees conduct of all gaming operations, including auditing, to ensure compliance with the tribe’s Gaming Commission Act and any regulations adopted by the CNGC. The commission also enforces any gaming-related compacts with the state, as well as federal gaming laws. Under the Gaming Commission Act, the CNGC reviews financial records to ensure proper accountability. When working with CNE, Asher said normally the commission issues CNE an audit draft so responses can be given. “With that, we work with them for about seven to 10 days, and if they can provide us any evidence that would negate those findings then we will take them out,” she said. Under the Gaming Commission Act, the CNGC can “inspect, examine and monitor all gaming facility activities on a continuing basis and to have immediate, unfettered access to all areas of a gaming facility to review, inspect, examine, photocopy and/or audit all records of the facility.” Asher said the CNGC only focused on manual comps and not internal administrative expenses. CNGC Director Jamie Hummingbird said the commission would need to have another discussion with CNE regarding its terminology, particularly where CNE employees are using manual comps in the place of internal expenses. “We advised them at that time that the terminology that they were using could be problematic, and I think that is evident with some of the ones that we’ve seen here,” he said. “Plus, we are seeing indications that their staff is not being fully trained or really knows how to discern whether it’s an administrative expense or is an administrative comp. And is it a service recovery comp or is it something different? So we need to sit down with them again and see if we can refine the terminology and treatment of these things so that we are reflecting true comps versus true expenses.” Slaton said complimentary items are issued from and redeemed through CNE’s player tracking system and include, but are not limited to, food and beverage items, lodging, merchandise and entertainment expenses. Audits of complimentary activities take place daily by CNE’s revenue audit department,” he said. “CNE complimentary activity is also audited annually by both a CNGC audit and CNB internal audit services.” He added that CNE’s daily complimentary audit examines redeemed complimentaries to ensure they were properly authorized and redeemed based on CNGC regulations and CNE policy and procedures. Slaton said CNE makes every effort to meet and comply with CNGC regulations and reporting timelines. “According to CNE’s records, during the 13-month audit period, 10 reports were filed on a timely basis. November and December reports were delayed due to technical issues in compiling the report. Once completed, the reports were submitted. The April report was submitted 5 days outside the agreed-upon filing period,” he said. “Different reports have different filing deadlines, and CNE makes every effort to meet those timelines. CNGC regulations and CNE policy and procedures are silent as to a deliverable timeline for the monthly complimentary audit reports noted. There are differences over whether a verbal agreement exists for a 30- or 45-day deadline for these report.” Another issue addressed was the CNGC finding a $10,000 comp for Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill that was not redeemed. “So I don’t know if that was an error on somebody’s part that never got voided or how that happened, but it was a system anomaly that no one could explain to us,” Asher said. Asher said because it was never redeemed, it was decided that it wasn’t going to be an issue. CNGC Commissioner Ruth Ann Weaver asked if employees found where the $10,000 came from or went. “How that happened and how the system allowed it to happen or if it was just a system anomaly, we can’t make that determination on the evidence that we were given,” Asher said. Hummingbird said CNE initially said the comp was never issued. Once the commission showed CNE its own report with the comp, CNE still couldn’t find it. Weaver asked if that is the $10,000 that was spent at Toby Keith’s I Love this Bar and Grill, Hummingbird said yes. “They’re not going to tell me that wasn’t spent,” Weaver said. Hummingbird said this is one of the unresolved issues the commission has with Cherokee Nation Businesses, the tribe’s business arm, which CNE falls under. “At this point, since the comp has not been redeemed, that we can tell, we can’t say one way or another whether is appropriated or not appropriated,” he said. Slaton said there was never a $10,000 comp issued or redeemed at Toby Keith’s. Asher also told commissioners that CNGC staff has had issues getting inaccurate reports from CNE. “We also had some issues where we were getting the reports, but I guess during the export process, when they’re (CNE) exporting those reports from the casino management system into an excel spreadsheet that they send to us, that some of those columns are getting mixed up and some of the data is getting transferred,” Asher said. “So when we’re trying to do our analysis of those, we’re running into some big problems of inaccurate data. So that kind of hindered some of our review.” Slaton said to his knowledge all reports were submitted accurately. Hummingbird said he would bring to the commission on Sept. 12 a proposed revision to clarify what types of variances the commission will look in the future to prevent such issues. That meeting was slated for 9 a.m. at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/12/2014 01:31 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Encore! Performing Society in Tahlequah will hold auditions on Sept. 13 for its performance of The Nutcracker. The auditions will be separated into five age groups ranging from children age 5 to adults. The 5- to 7-year-olds must arrive at 9:30 a.m. with auditions being from 10 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. The 8- to 11-year-olds must arrive at 10 a.m. with auditions being from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. The 12 to 15-year-olds must arrive at 10:30 a.m. with auditions being from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. The 15-year-olds and older with dancing parts must arrive at 11:30 a.m. with auditions being from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. The adults without dancing parts but with some acting will have auditions at 1 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. The audition fee is $10. Auditions will take place at the Academy of Preforming Arts located at 17328 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-803-1408 or email <a href="mailto: encoreperformingsociety@gmail.com">encoreperformingsociety@gmail.com</a>.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
09/12/2014 09:05 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tax Commission heard about an issue regarding the tribe’s veterans sales tax exemption cards during its Sept. 10 meeting. CNTC Administrator Sharon Swepston said her department has received calls from businesses that are not licensed by the tribe asking questions about the sales tax exemption card because Cherokee veterans who have received the tribally issued cards are trying to use them at those businesses. The sales tax exemption cards are for CN veterans and are to be used at CN-licensed retailers. With the card, veterans are exempt from paying a 6-percent sales tax at CN-licensed businesses on most items. The card cannot be used to receive exemptions on gasoline, tobacco or alcohol. Swepston said when the CNTC mails the cards, a list of CN-approved locations such as the Cherokee Arts Center, Cherokee Trails Golf Course and CN smoke shops is included. She said the list does not include locations such as Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or Chili’s Restaurant. The card also allows for tax exemptions at CN casinos for rooms, retail items, concert tickets and food. For a qualifying CN veteran to a receive sales tax exemption card, he or she must complete and mail in an application form, along with copies of his or her tribal citizenship card, Oklahoma driver’s license and DD-214 form, a Defense Department form that identifies a veteran’s condition of discharge. Once a veteran is approved, he or she will receive a card along with the list of approved retailers. If the retailers list is changed, a new one will be sent out to those who have the cards. The sales tax exemption cards have been available since July 2013. The card lists a veteran’s name, address, expiration date and exemption number. The card is available to all CN veterans, regardless if they are 100 percent disabled. “This is for any veteran that is a Cherokee citizen,” Swepston said. “It’s just that you can only use it at our licensed facilities.” According to a 2013 Cherokee Phoenix story, on receipts the tax is listed as a tribal transaction fee and applies to all items of value or services or goods rented, leased, bought, sold or exchanged from businesses operating on tribal lands. Applications for the veteran sales tax exemption cards can be found at www.cherokee.org under the “Our Government” tab then by clicking on the “Commissions” tab and by selecting “Tax Commission.” Also at the meeting, the CNTC unanimously amended language in the tribe’s Motor Vehicle Rules and Regulations regarding vehicle inspections. The language previously stated that vehicle inspections were for all “previously registered vehicles entering the reservation boundaries of the Cherokee Nation…” It was changed to “All previously registered vehicles entering the Cherokee Nation compact jurisdiction…” The amendment is effective immediately. The commission also added language to the tribe’s Application for Certificate of Title, VIN and HIN/Serial documents. The new language states, “I, the undersigned, under the penalties of perjury do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I am the owner or legal agent of the owner of the above described vehicle and that the statements contained herein are true,” as well as, “Also I, the undersigned do hereby submit to the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation and its courts for purposes of enforcement as amended of LA 01-01, including without limitations the assessment and collection of any penalties, fines, and interests provided by Cherokee Nation Vehicle and Licensing Code.” Swepston said the same language would be applied to the form for boats. The change is effective immediately.
BY JAMI MURPHY
09/11/2014 12:16 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission removed an item regarding absentee ballot notarizations during its Sept. 9 meeting saying Tribal Councilors had made the issue moot by amending the tribe’s election law. EC attorney Harvey Chaffin said the notarization issue was addressed at the Tribal Council’s Rules Committee meeting on Aug 28. “And I think it was approved at the council meeting, also,” he said. “So that issue is moot now. It has been amended by the council to provide for notarization of the absentee ballots in a form that is acceptable in all jurisdictions, including California.” The EC voted to remove the item from its agenda. However, the issue was slated to go before the full Tribal Council during its Sept. 15 meeting. The issue is No. 9 under New Business on the meeting’s agenda. It’s described as an act amending Legislative Act-04-14, the Cherokee Nation Election Code, to address notary public issues and the return of absentee ballots. The council item addresses notary public requirements in at-large states to assure legal notarization of at-large absentee ballots. The new language states, “A voter shall mark his ballot in permanent black or blue ball point ink; seal the ballot in the secrecy envelope; fill out completely and sign the affidavit on the front of the affidavit envelope in the presence of a notary public; the affidavit envelope must be notarized and the notary seal affixed for the ballot to be counted; and return the documents inside the postage paid return envelope via the United States mail to the Election Commission.” In other business, the commission tabled an item regarding whether it would mail At-Large voter identification cards before the next election. “I’m working with the attorney from the council to address that issue with the council at the next Rules Committee meeting. They’re going to change the law is what they’re going to do,” Chaffin said. The next Rules Committee meeting is set for Sept. 25. EC Chairman Bill Horton said that it would be a “terrific cost” to mail cards to every At-Large voter. The election law states that the EC office “shall” issue voter identification cards to all registered voters. However, at this time At-Large voters only receive notification cards, such as postcards, in the mail informing them that they are registered voters. An EC official said mailing cards could be considered unnecessary because most At-Large voters vote by absentee, and the need for a card is only when presenting it at a precinct to vote. At-Large voters would only do that if voting early and in person at the EC building. The estimated cost to mail out voter cards to more than 24,000 registered At-Large voters would be approximately $15,000, officials said. Chaffin said the EC has not budgeted for this, so the council would need to take that into consideration. The EC voted to table the issue until the Tribal Council votes on it. Commissioners also voted to no longer attend community meetings after Dec. 31, citing that the meetings would be too political with the upcoming 2015 election. “We decided as of Dec. 31 is when we would pull out of going to community meetings because then it would become political events,” Commissioner Shawna Calico said. “The committee is making that suggestion. It’ll be up to everybody (on the commission).” This will also include the tribe’s photo ID events as well, said Commissioner Teresa Hart.