Lawsuit says open meeting law violated
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The last-minute recognition of a half-dozen groups as tribes by the expiring Tennessee Commission on Indian Affairs is being challenged in a lawsuit.
Nashville attorney Bob Tuke filed suit on Wednesday — the day the commission was expiring because the Legislature didn't renew it under the state sunset provision. The suit claims the agency violated the open meetings law.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported the lawsuit asks a Davidson County Chancery Court to declare the action taken by the commission on June 19 as "void and without effect."
Commission members granted recognition to the Remnant Yuchi Nation; the United Eastern Lenape Nation of Winfield, Tenn.; the Chikamaka Band; the Central Band of Cherokee; the Cherokee Wolf Clan; and the Tanasi Council.
The plaintiff in the suit is Mark Greene, who lives in Tennessee and lobbies for the Cherokee Nation, which opposes state recognition of the groups approved by the commission. The Cherokee Nation is based in Oklahoma.
"The process was as bogus as the six tribes that were approved," Greene said.
In the lawsuit, Greene is quoted saying commission members "huddled together and spoke in hushed tones" at the June meeting, but would return to their seats when he and others approached them.
The filing claims the commission misled the public by not saying that tribal recognition was to be considered. Tuke also said an attorney for the commission told him recognition would not be considered at the meeting.
Members of the groups newly recognized say genealogical research and DNA tests prove their Native American lineage.
"They (Cherokee Nation) are people that think they are the only American Indians, and that nobody else is Cherokee," Joe Sitting Owl White, principal chief of the Central Band of Cherokee told The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville.
Opponents of recognizing the tribes say the groups will dilute federal grant and scholarship money now coming to established Native American tribes.
State attorneys have 30 days to file a response to the lawsuit.
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A court document indicates the woman accused of killing four people and injuring dozens of others after driving through Oklahoma State University's homecoming parade last month had a blood-alcohol content lower than the legal intoxication threshold.
The Tulsa World reported Saturday that 25-year-old Adacia Chambers, a Cherokee Nation citizen, was ordered to submit to a blood alcohol test at Stillwater Medical Center following the Oct. 24 crash.
A document filed Thursday in Payne County District Court by defense attorney Tony Coleman indicates her blood-alcohol content was 0.01. The legal threshold for intoxication is 0.08.
Chambers initially was suspected of driving while under the influence after authorities say she ran a red light and purposely drove around a barricade and over a police motorcycle before crashing into spectators at OSU's homecoming parade. Prosecutors say evidence suggests it was "an intentional act."
Prosecutors have not responded to the latest filing.
Chambers faces four counts of second-degree murder and 46 counts of assault and battery with means likely to produce death.
Killed in the crash were 65-year-old married couple Marvin and Bonnie Stone; 23-year-old University of Central Oklahoma graduate student Nikita Nakal; and 2-year-old Nash Lucas. Chambers is set to reappear in court for a hearing Dec. 10.
Information about Chambers' blood alcohol content is contained in a brief supporting Coleman's request for the court to allocate funds so Chambers can afford an expert witness in psychology and accident reconstruction.
Coleman said his client is considered indigent based on her income and has a "due process right" to confront the evidence and witnesses against her. He said an expert is required to explain the difference between Chambers' state of mind currently and her state of mind at the time of the crash.
An order for competency evaluation states a Payne County Sheriff's Office employee transported Chambers from the county jail to the Oklahoma Forensic Center in Vinita on Tuesday.
Coleman said the results of Chambers' evaluation in Vinita differ from those documented after an evaluation conducted by Edmond-based psychologist Dr. Shawn Roberson at the Payne County Jail on Oct. 26.
Roberson wrote in his evaluation, which was retroactively sealed by Judge Louis A. Duel on Nov. 9, that Chambers seemed to be "acutely psychotic" and appeared to suffer from "severe mental illness" that would affect her ability to stand trial.
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — An association of the state's newspapers wants a judge to lift a gag order in the murder case against a woman accused of killing four people and injuring dozens during Oklahoma State University's homecoming parade last month.
The Oklahoman reports the Oklahoma Press Association is asking the judge in the case against Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers for permission to intervene and request the gag be lifted.
The association, which serves almost every newspaper in Oklahoma, says the court ordered the gag without a proper hearing and evidentiary foundation.
Judge Louis A. Duel put the gag in place earlier this month barring lawyers, witnesses, victims and family members from making any statements about the case.
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – To celebrate Bacone College’s 135th year, historian Russell M. Lawson has written a complete narrative history of Bacone College. Published by Indian University Press, “Marking the Jesus Road: Bacone College through the Years,” highlights the contributions of students to the intellectual life of this small college in Muskogee.
The college, founded by Christian missionaries to the American Indians of eastern and western Oklahoma, still reaches out to American Indians, as well as Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, and Asian students, to provide a liberal arts education in a small college.
The 329-page illustrated paperback sells for $19.99, and can be purchased through the Bacone College Bookstore, located at 2299 Old Bacone Road, Muskogee.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.bacone.edu/student-life/bookstore/" target="_blank">http://www.bacone.edu/student-life/bookstore/</a> or contact Russell Lawson, <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board tabled a motion to remove Executive Editor Bryan Pollard during its Nov. 20 meeting at the Cherokee Nation’s Financial Resources Building.
Board Chairman Luke Barteaux said the board would give Pollard time to respond to allegations made against him during an executive session and set the next meeting for 9 a.m. on Dec. 8 via conference call.
When asked about what allegations were made against Pollard, Barteaux declined to comment.
“I can’t really discuss (the allegations) because they’re a personnel issue and they were discussed in executive session, and I can’t waive that confidentiality,” he said. “I will be getting a summary of the allegations to Bryan later this afternoon.”
After the board came out of executive session, Vice Chairwoman Kendra McGeady made the motion to “remove Bryan Pollard as editor for cause.” However, the board tabled the motion until the next meeting.
[BLOCKQUOTE]McGeady also declined to comment on the allegations against Pollard.
“This is a personnel matter that was discussed in executive session, and I am not at liberty to comment on it right now,” she said.
Board member Lauren Jones declined to comment, citing the confidential nature of the executive session and deferring any additional inquires to Barteaux.
Board member Rob Thompson also declined to comment. “At this juncture, since there was stuff that occurred in executive session, regrettably, I think I’m going to have to say no comment right now.”
Board member Maxie Thompson was unavailable for comment.
“In executive session, board member Kendra McGeady stated the allegations against me. The allegations were all based on good faith editorial decisions I have made in the course of my duties. I’ll reserve further comment until I see them in writing,” said Pollard.
The Editorial Board also tabled an item regarding the proposed publication of the Cherokee Advocate, a tabloid that would focus on a single topic such as education, arts, culture, health or travel each quarter.
To listen to the Dec. 8 conference call, dial 1-866-210-1669 and enter the code 4331082.
WINSLOW, Ariz. – As part of President Barack Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative to remove barriers to Native youth’s success and to provide them more access to the Internet, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell has announced a partnership with Verizon and Microsoft to provide wireless tablets and high-speed wireless services to more than 1,000 Native American students.
“This exciting partnership helps ensure students continue learning after they leave the classroom,” Jewell said “Access to today’s technology and wireless Internet are important parts of the equation as we work to assist tribal communities in providing students with a high-quality and culturally-relevant education. I applaud Microsoft and Verizon for their commitment to remove education barriers for Native American students.”
Verizon has already established wireless broadband connectivity at eight of 10 dormitory locations, and expects to complete its work on the project early next year. Verizon has installed enhanced network infrastructure for the dorms and will provide free wireless data service to the students for two years. In conjunction, Microsoft is providing the students with wireless tablets that will run on broadband service from Verizon at no cost for up to two years.
Verizon has also partnered with and funded the Boys & Girls Clubs of America in Indian Country to provide two years of free digital training, services and support for students, teachers and dormitory staff. The services include comprehensive solutions to digital connectivity problems, learning and classroom management applications and math and language arts enrichment.
“Mobile technology puts learning in kids’ hands, gives them the freedom to create, to problem solve and collaborate – critical skills for the digital future,” said Rose Kirk, Verizon chief corporate social responsibility officer. “We are pleased to provide Native students with the access and tools to thrive.”
The Native students participating in this initiative reside in the Aztec Dormitory in Aztec, New Mexico; the Blackfeet Dormitory in Browning, Montana; the Chickasaw Children’s Village in Kingston, Oklahoma; the Eufaula Dormitory in Eufaula, Oklahoma; the Jicarilla Dormitory in Dulce, New Mexico; the Kinlani Bordertown Dormitory in Flagstaff, Arizona; the Richfield Residential Hall in Richfield, Utah; the Sicangu Owayawa Oti (Rosebud Dorm) in Mission, South Dakota; the Tiisyaatin Residential Hall (Holbrook Dormitory) in Holbrook, Arizona and the Winslow Residential Hall in Winslow, Arizona.
VINITA, Okla. – Until recently, the Schrimsher Cemetery, about 6 miles northwest of Vinita, was forgotten and overgrown with trees and grass. Today it has a new fence surrounding and protecting it from cattle, and the trees and tall grass have been cut away.
On Nov. 14, the descendants of Arminda and Irene England, who are buried in the cemetery, gathered there with Oklahoma Trail of Tears Association members to honor the two Cherokee women. As children they traveled the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory with the Richard Taylor detachment.
The detachment left near Ross’s Landing on the Tennessee River on Sept. 20, 1838, with 1,029 people and arrived near what is now Westville on March 24, 1839. It had 55 deaths and 15 births during the journey.
Arminda England descendant Wesley Harris, of Heber Springs, Arkansas, said he saw a Cherokee Phoenix article several years ago about a grave marking by the Oklahoma TOTA and inquired about getting his great-great-grandmother’s grave marked.
He said he’s worked with Oklahoma TOTA President Curtis Rohr to get the grave marked. He sent Rohr his genealogy to show how he was related to Arminda, and the association’s genealogist, David Hampton, researched Harris’ genealogy to verify the connection.
“Arminda was 7 years old during the Trail of Tears, and they (her family) settled on Honey Creek near Grove,” Harris said. “It’s very humbling to realize what they had to go through – as a 7-year-old girl in the winter time having to go that far. It they hadn’t done it we wouldn’t be here today, and it’s part of my history, and I’m very proud of it. I’ve always been proud of it ever since I was a little fella and my parents would tell us stories about it.”
He said the event allowed the two sisters’ descendants to meet at a luncheon before the ceremony. Harris said he met his cousin Carol Wright, of Tulsa, for the first time that day.
Wright is the great-great-great-granddaughter of Irene England, who traveled the Trail of Tears at age 10.
Wright said she felt “honored” to be a part of the ceremony to honor her grandmother. Wright credits her husband Phil for providing her with her genealogy and letting her know of her relations.
“I find it very interesting to find that these people are important enough to be remembered for what they’ve done because when we went to Schrimsher Cemetery it was this (waist) high in grass. So, it’s nice to know this has made a difference and the cemetery’s being taken care of now,” she said.
Harris said the owner of the land where the cemetery sits, and his family, removed fallen trees and saplings and mowed the grass. A wrought iron fence was also placed around the cemetery to keep out cattle.
Troy Wayne Poteete, executive director of the National Trail of Tears Association and CN Supreme Court chief justice, said every time the TOTA marks the grave of a Trial of Tears survivor it’s an opportunity for it to tell the larger Cherokee story, which includes the story of the two sisters.
“It’s a story of survival, of resilience, of tenacity. That’s what we celebrate. We celebrate that they overcame, that they rebuilt the Cherokee Nation and they handed it off to the next generation – a distinct political entity, a distinct cultural entity, a Cherokee Nation that could hold its own and retain its identity,” Poteete said. “That’s why we do this. That why we are here today, to commemorate their tenacity, their resilience, their sheer will to carry on as a people.”
Irene was born in 1828 in the old CN, probably on the Tusquittee Creek in what is now Clay County, North Carolina, where her family ran a mill. Her father was a white man named David England and her mother was a half-blood Cherokee named Susannah Fields. Arminda was born three years later on Nov. 25, 1831.
During the forced removal, David England supplied a horse team for the detachment. Following the Trail of Tears, the family settled on Honey Creek. Later the family moved to the Big Cabin Creek area north of what is now Vinita.
In 1847, Arminda married William England, son of Susannah Ward and William England, and they had one daughter, Mary Jane. After their separation, Arminda married Isaac Schrimsher and they were the parents of four daughters: Alta Berilla Meek, Arabella Southerland, Saphronia Susan Mayne Rogers Nolen and Ruth Ann Tyler. After the start of the Civil War, Cherokees supporting the Union killed Isaac.
“A group of Cherokees who were sympathetic to the north came down and killed her husband and his slave, beat her with his scalp for marrying a white man, took all the cattle and horses, and left her there with the bodies of her dead husband and slave. She had to walk 20 miles to where her father lived, and he came back and buried the husband and the slave,” Harris said. “After that she married Elias Jenkins (in 1867), who is my line and where I’m from.”
The Jenkins farmed on Big Cabin Creek and had two children: Ida Josephine Harris and Henry Washington Jenkins. Arminda Jenkins died, probably at her home near Vinita, on Dec. 27, 1879, and was buried in the Schrimsher Cemetery.
About 1853, Irene married Edward Lee Schrimsher. After the Civil War the family farmed north of present-day Vinita in the Cooweescoowee District. Irene and Edward were the parents of four children who lived to adulthood: William Schrimsher, Eliza Ann Williamson, Laura Kelly and Margaret Ann Tanner. In addition they had five children who died in childhood. Irene died probably at her home north of Vinita, on Oct. 9, 1882, and was buried in the Schrimsher Cemetery.
Bronze TOTA plaques were placed on the women’s graves that read: “In honor of one who endured the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838-39. The Trail of Tears Association Oklahoma Chapter.” The plaques also include the TOTA and CN seals.
“It was such an honor to have the Cherokee Nation and the Trail Of Tears Association recognize two ordinary citizens who endured the forced march. My relatives and I feel this project is important because it keeps alive in people’s minds our history and how so many suffered,” Harris said.