Community and Cherokee NationEntertainment volunteers recently renovated the Belfonte community center. Thenew renovations allow the community to use the building more efficiently foractivities. PHOTO BY TESINA JACKSON

Belfonte leaders want more involvement from residents

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/25/2010 06:54 AM
BELFONTE, Okla. – About 19 miles northeast of Sallisaw, along Highway 101, sits the quiet Sequoyah County community of Belfonte.

Once part of French Louisiana, Bellefonte, as it was originally spelled, is a French word meaning beautiful water. French traders who ascended the Arkansas River and its tributaries to trade with Native Americans gave the community its name.

The history of the village started for the Cherokees in the late 1820s as they drifted up Lee’s Creek from settlements around what is present-day Muldrow, along the Arkansas River. Their primary way of living was farming, fishing and hunting.

The earliest families to settle the area included the Stars, Glasses, Eagles and Seabolts, which the nearby Seabolt Cemetery is named for.

By the time of the Civil War, the community included a grade school founded by the Cherokee Nation. It was known as Lee’s Creek School and started around 1859. It was moved four times before settling on its present site, which was built in 1955. Today the school is known as Belfonte Public Schools and teaches grades pre-kindergarten through fifth.

Lee’s Creek Missionary Baptist, later renamed the Belfonte Missionary Baptist Church, began in 1869 and was one of the original eight churches to form the Cherokee Union Baptist Association. Services were held in the Cherokee language.

Today, while driving through Belfonte, one may not realize that within this community are residents trying to bring other residents together. One initiative was renovating the Belfonte Community Center. Recently, residents and Cherokee Nation Entertainment employees worked together to make the community building safer and more functional.

Volunteers installed two new doors to prevent break-ins, removed rotted trim and painted new trim, cleared old playground equipment and railroad ties and cleaned the landscaping around the property.

“We try to bring the community together to let them know that there are things going on down here now that weren’t going on in the past,” said Anita Gilbreth, secretary/treasurer of the Belfonte Community Center board. “We’re trying to get together a family movie night and a family game night. We just need to get the word out that there are things to do at the community center now. We’re just trying to get everyone involved and starting to come back to the community, and it’s just really hard.”

To get the community more active and involved, the community center board has created events for the people to participate in, including the CN Youth and Cherokee Nutrition programs, Indian taco sales, bake auctions, Cherokee language classes, GED classes, clay-work classes, basket-making classes and the recent Community Fun Day.

“We’re trying to get the community to let us know what they want to do. And we are going to try to do the traditional games and storytelling,” Gilbreth said. “If they want to do scrapbooking or exercise, they need to let us know so we can get it set up by calling us.”
About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

News

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
11/28/2014 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Two federal complaints have been filed concerning Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe’s Sept. 5 “dove hunt” fundraiser in Lone Wolf that included Rep. Markwayne Mullin and Principal Chief Bill John Baker. The event gathered attention when Illinois-based group Showing Animals Respect & Kindness, or SHARK, released a video showing event workers throwing pigeons into the air toward hay bales. People with shotguns, located behind the hay bales, then fired upon the pigeons as they attempted to fly away. It also shows pigeons falling to the ground dead, while others fell injured. Some made their way off the shooting field only to be recaptured by workers and thrown back into the air to be fired upon again. What concerned some people was not only the killing of the pigeons but the use of Kiowa County law officers, who were in full uniform and using their official vehicles, as event security. Rebecca West, of Pryor, submitted a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. Within it she states Inhofe had at least two Kiowa County law officers work as security. She alleges that one officer was paid for his services while the other was on duty while working the event. According to a Tulsa World article, records state that Kiowa County officer Clay Farrington was paid $300 for “event expense/security” around the same time the fundraiser took place. The article also states that Rusty Appleton, Inhofe’s campaign manager, said he “paid one guy an amount and he paid the others.” SHARK officials filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice claiming the misuse of the law officers, violation of multiple state and federal laws and committing of animal cruelty. In the complaint, SHARK President Steve Hindi states he’s concerned the fundraiser did not completely follow the law when hiring and reimbursing the county officers who worked the event. He also alleges the fundraiser took place on land owned by the federal government. “Our best research shows that the land that was used for the live pigeon shoot is owned by the United States Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation and is managed by the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District,” Hindi said. Hindi states the “serious questions about why this federally owned land was being used, not just for a pigeon shoot, but for a political fundraiser for Senator Inhofe, who, it must be noted, got, ‘$5,000,000 for water related infrastructure improvement projects at the Lugert-Altus Irrigation District, Altus, Oklahoma.’” Hindi also stated he read a Facebook post that claimed the pigeons were captured in Houston and transported to Oklahoma. “…transporting them to Oklahoma makes this an interstate commerce issue,” he stated. He also wrote that an article in The Oklahoman states Appleton said the Inhofe campaign paid a contractor to “trap the bird humanely” and fed, watered and housed the pigeon until the shoot. Hindi stated that this raised concerns regarding the obtaining of the pigeons and if “proper taxes have been paid by the Inhofe campaign and the person who trapped them.” Hindi ended his complaint stating that politicians need to be held accountable for their actions. “When local and state authorities fail, we turn to the federal government to keep the law from being rendered meaningless,” he stated.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
11/28/2014 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Following the Tribal Council’s June amendment of the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act, the Attorney General’s Office has hired Cherokee Nation citizen Gwen Terrapin as the first information officer. The amendment created the position within the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Todd Hembree selected his former paralegal to serve as the liaison for Cherokee Nation citizens seeking public records from the tribe. “I am pleased that the Tribal Council chose to create this position,” Hembree said. “Hiring an information officer whose primary job is to increase the free flow of information about the Cherokee Nation government to its people is a huge improvement. The hallmark of every free society is transparency. With this position, transparency is increased, information will be shard on a grander scale and the Cherokee Nation will be better off for it.” Hembree said the officer’s duties will be to process and be a clearinghouse for the Freedom of Information and Government Records acts requests. When requests are received, the officer will make sure it is a proper request, then forward the requests to the proper department/entities for their responses and documents. Once the information is received the officer will then send it to the requestor. A log will also be kept of each request received. According to the act, the officer is to be independent of political influence; can only be terminated for cause; and will be responsible for facilitating, gathering, tracking and responding to FOI and GRA requests, as well as providing monthly reports to the Tribal Council. “The act calls or the information officer to be independent, and in order to have that independence, and to be free of influence, it is best that the information officer has an office to itself,” Hembree said. Currently, all FOI or GRA requests go through the Attorney General’s Office. Hembree said that with the information officer, responses would not have to be approved by the attorney general before being released. Each request will continue to be updated on the attorney general’s website. “The information officer will serve as a direct point of contact for the Cherokee people to help them gather information about tribal government. It is a first position of its kind and will enhance transparency for all Cherokees,” he said. Hembree said the office went through the Human Resources process of posting the job and had more than 15 applicants. The officer’s start date was Nov. 17, is a full-time position and a pay range of $17.24 to $19 per hour. “She was the most qualified applicant with two and a half years experience of doing exactly this type of work,” Hembree said. “She has been a paralegal and clerk for over 10 years.” As of Nov. 20, Terrapin was located at the Attorney General’s Office, but a location for her office was under review. “I'm excited about working in this position, and I look forward to continuing to provide assistance to our council members and tribal citizens,” Terrapin said. CN citizens can call Terrapin at 918-772-4165 or email <a href="mailto: gwen-terrapin@cherokee.org">gwen-terrapin@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/26/2014 11:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report shows the state of Oklahoma collected $122 million in gaming fees from Native American tribes during the last fiscal year. The report issued Nov. 19 by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that for the first time ever, the fees paid to the state declined from the previous year. The report noted a drop of nearly $5.5 million – or about 4 percent – from previous year’s collections. The funds are used primarily for public education. Possible reasons cited for the decline include an increase in the number of Class II games such as electronic bingo for which tribes do not pay exclusivity fees and “possible market saturation.” The annual report was prepared by the state agency’s Gaming Compliance Unit.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law. “The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said. The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16. “I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said. Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her. “But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said. Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends. “It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said. Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference. “We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.” Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape. Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved. “Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered. Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.” Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said. “Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.” Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex. It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said. Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school. “That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said. Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18. “Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said. The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said. (If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage. “Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added. Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee. <strong>Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Cherokee Nation:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex. <strong>Oklahoma:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 04:04 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 29, Loretta Lynn will perform at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. After being encouraged to learn to play the guitar and write songs by her husband, Doo, who she married at 13, Lynn quickly became a natural and began playing at area nightclubs. She caught the attention of Zero Records and recorded her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Lynn made herself a fringed cowgirl outfit, and she and Doo drove across the country promoting her single. By fall 1961, Lynn was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage and in 1962 her Decca Record debut came out with the smash hit “Success.” It was the first of her 51 Top 10 hits. Among Lynn’s other songs are “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” “Love Is the Foundation” and “One’s on the Way.” In 1967, she began picking up various Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn dominated the charts with hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Somebody Somewhere,” “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed,” “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” and her 1982 smash hits “I Lie” and “Making Love from Memory,” which brought her into the new decade. In 1971, Lynn and fellow country musician Conway Twitty won several Duet of the Year awards. In 1972, Lynn made history as the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year trophy. The country star continued renewing her creativity after being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 with the hit “Heart Don’t Do This to Me.” In 1988, Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned a gold record in 1994 with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a trio CD with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. In 2000, she was back again with the CD titled “Still Country.” She also returned to the concert trail. In 2002, Lynn published a second memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2003. The following year she won two Grammy Awards for “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with rocker Jack White. Lynn added to her collection of awards in 2008, when she was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010, when she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets start at $40 and go on sale Nov. 28. Tickets are available online in The Joint section of <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will hold its annual “Light Up” event at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The event will feature the Cherokee National Youth Choir, holiday lights as well as cookies and hot cocoa for guests. Following the event will be the Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. in downtown Tahlequah.