Former councilors charged with fraud

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
04/30/2004 02:40 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Three of four former Tribal Councilors who are charged with misusing tribal funds appeared before the tribe's district court April 16.

In March, tribal prosecutors filed criminal charges against Mary Flute Cooksey of Flute Springs, Stephanie Wickliffe-Shepherd of Mayes County and Don Crittenden of rural Hulbert accusing them of defrauding the Cherokee Nation and filing a fraudulent claim to pay Tulsa attorney Richard Toon $10,447 in tribal funds. Toon represented the former councilors when they challenged the results of last year's tribal election.

If convicted each of the three councilors face one-year of imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000, or both fine and imprisonment for each charge.

Former tribal councilor Harold DeMoss is charged with conspiracy to

defraud the tribe. He was chairman of the Tribal Council's executive and finance committee at the time Toon was paid and approved and presented a check request for the $10,477 transaction in July 2003.

Documents show in June 2003 Crittenden, Cooksey and Shepherd signed a legal representation contract with Toon and agreed to reimburse him for "expenses incurred." The following month the Toon Law Firm was paid using tribal funds. Title 26, Section 102(A) of the tribe's codes prohibits the use of public funds to pay an individual's attorney fees to contest a tribal election.

Crittenden did not attend the April 16 hearing. District Judge John Cripps issued a continuance for him, Cooksey and Wickliffe-Shepherd until 2 p.m., May 21. Cooksey and Wickliffe-Shepherd tried to enter a not guilty plea but were not allowed to do so by Cripps because their attorney was not present.

DeMoss pled not guilty and informed the court he would represent himself. Cripps reminded DeMoss of the charge against him and outlined the penalties he is subject to if convicted, which include one-year of imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000, or both fine and imprisonment.

The possible penalties did not deter DeMoss from representing himself at a court date also set for 2 p.m., May 21. He also chose to have his case heard before Judge Cripps at a bench trial rather than having it heard before a jury.

"I don't believe I did anything wrong, so I don't think I need counsel," he said.

The tribe's General Counsel, Julian Fite, also filed a civil suit in district court against Crittenden, Cooksey and Shepherd in an effort to recover the $10,447.

All four of the defendants ran for re-election in May 2003 but lost. After the election, Crittenden, Cooksey and Wickliffe-Shepherd filed suit against the tribe's Election Commission alleging irregularities in the election. The three asked the tribe's Judicial Appeals Tribunal to overturn the May election citing irregularities in the election process that the tribe's Election Commission failed to address. The court ruled 2-1 that sufficient evidence wasn't presented to warrant a new election.

Wickliffe-Shepherd said the tribe's accounting documents show that each of the three councilor's expended $3,482.37 of their own legal expense fund and that they filed the election appeal petition as "a current council representative."

She said the funds were not federal dollars, but general fund monies approved and passed in the 2003 fiscal year budget. She said the funds were established by resolution on May 1997 with legislation that states "an individual council member may engage legal counsel without approval of the council or deputy chief so long as the cost of such legal fees are limited to $5,000 per council member each Cherokee Nation budget year."

She said the tribe's comptroller approved the attorney contract with Toon, and Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Smith signed the check last July.

"Council members have used funds in this manner over the last eight years," Wickliffe-Shepherd said.

Regarding the signing of the Toon contract, Chief Smith said, "We respect the separation of powers and the role of the legislative branch, so we don't generally scrutinize their requests for payment. We didn't suspect these councilors would be expending tribal funds illegally on their own campaign and election challenges."

Cooksey said she agrees with Wickliffe-Shepherd and that the councilors had the right to use the funds because the funds were not federal money, but funds set aside for each councilor to use "as they saw fit with things and issues affecting them."

In August 2003, Fite gave Cooksey, Crittenden and Wickliffe-Shepherd 10 days to make restitution to the tribe or his office would "pursue further remedies" against them. No restitution was made and tribal prosecutors continued their investigation of the alleged misuse of public funds.
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
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BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
12/06/2016 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After several years of same-day lightings, the Cherokee Nation and Northeastern State University held their holidays “Lights On” ceremonies on separate days. On Dec. 2, CN officials turned on the tribe’s lights at approximatley 6:30 p.m. at the Cherokee Courthouse Square. “We’re preparing to actually begin our Christmas season here at the historic courthouse of the Cherokee Nation with a lighting ceremony that’s going to take place with all the Christmas lights and decorations.” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “We’re getting into the Christmas season. That time when we remember the birth of Christ and we celebrate his birthday.” The CN event included a live Nativity scene as well as corn shuck doll making, a mailbox for letters to Santa, the story of the first Christmas, refreshments and caroling from the Cherokee National Youth Choir. NSU held its lighting ceremony on Nov. 29 at Seminary Hall. NSU President Steve Turner said the tribe and university held the lighting ceremonies on different days to make it easier for people to see both events. He said in past years those attending the first lighting would have to rush off to see the second event. Turner said the separate events did not diminish the strong ties between NSU and CN. “Tonight we’re having the 24th annual ‘Lights On’ ceremony on campus here at Tahlequah in front of this iconic building, Seminary Hall. And you couldn’t ask for a more dynamic, panoramic place to host this event because of the contributions that were made some 127 and a half years ago by the Cherokee Nation,” he said. According to NSUOK.edu, work began on the original female and male seminaries after the passage of an 1849 act by the CN that created institutions for secondary education for young women and men. In 1887, a fire destroyed the Female Seminary, which was located where the Cherokee Heritage Center stands today in Park Hill. The seminary was rebuilt at the NSU’s current location in 1889 and is now one of several buildings on campus.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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WASHINGTON – The National Indian Gaming Commission on Nov. 30 announced its first Technology Leaders Fellowship opportunity to support tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal governments. According to a NIGC release, NIGC officials said they see the importance of leadership in Indian Country year-round and have created the fellowship to help cultivate future leaders in Indian gaming. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act mandates that the NIGC support tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal governments. “In keeping with the mission of IGRA, as well as promoting our initiative of staying ahead of the technology curve, the NIGC is proud to offer this fellowship as a one-year apprenticeship-type opportunity for recent graduates in the fields of technology and who are interested in Indian gaming,” the release states. According to the release, the Technology Leaders Fellow will assist and collaborate with NIGC technology staff on a variety of special projects. It also states that the fellowship was developed based on conversations with tribal leaders about the important role technology plays, and will continue to play in the tribal gaming industry. From those conversations, the release states, the NIGC designed a program with the purpose of helping to foster technological expertise specific to tribal gaming. “In this growing industry it is necessary to train the best and brightest in gaming technology serving Indian gaming. This fellowship supports our initiative of staying ahead of the technology curve by giving hands on training to recent graduates that can be taken back into Indian Country and Indian gaming. NIGC Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri said. To learn more about the Technology Leaders Fellowship requirements, go to <a href="http://www.nigc.gov/utility/nigc-employment-opportunity-technology-leaders-fellowship" target="_blank">http://www.nigc.gov/utility/nigc-employment-opportunity-technology-leaders-fellowship</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/05/2016 10:30 AM
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — Protesters celebrated a major victory in their push to reroute the Dakota Access oil pipeline away from a tribal water source but pledged to remain camped on federal land in North Dakota anyway, despite Monday's government deadline to leave. Hundreds of people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment cheered and chanted "mni wichoni" — "water is life" in Lakota Sioux — after the Army Corps of Engineers refused Sunday to grant the company permission to extend the pipeline beneath a Missouri River reservoir. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters argue that extending the project beneath Lake Oahe would threaten the tribe's water source and cultural sites. The segment is the last major sticking point for the four-state, $3.8 billion project. "The whole world is watching," said Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. "I'm telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over." Despite the deadline, authorities say they won't forcibly remove the protesters. The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, released a statement Sunday night slamming the Army Corps' decision as politically motivated and alleging that President Barack Obama's administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. "The White House's directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. That uncertainty, Allard said, is part of the reason the protesters won't leave. "We don't know what Trump is going to do," Allard said. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to consider alternative routes for the pipeline's crossing. Her full decision doesn't rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck. "Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." North Dakota's leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States. 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U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps' "thoughtful approach ... ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts." Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn't clear how many actually arrived. "We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action," Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: "If we come forward, they will attack us." Instead, he told the veterans, "If you see someone who needs help, help them out." Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they'll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans' presence "about right and wrong and peace and love." Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury. "That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they'll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will "will result in their arrest." Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who's a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters' main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. "This is not just a native issue," he said, "This is an issue for everyone.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/05/2016 09:30 AM
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won't grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota, handing a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters, who argued the project would threaten the tribe's water source and cultural sites. North Dakota's leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States. The four-state, $3.8 billion project is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to "explore alternate routes" for the pipeline's crossing. Her full decision doesn't rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck. "Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, released a statement Sunday night slamming the decision as politically motivated and alleging that President Obama's administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. "The White House's directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. The decision came a day before the government's deadline for the several hundred people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment to leave the federal land. But demonstrators say they're prepared to stay, and authorities say they won't forcibly remove them. As the news spread Sunday, cheers and cheers and chants of "mni wichoni" â?? "water is life" in Lakota Sioux â?? broke out among the protesters. Some in the crowd banged drums. Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said he was pleased but remained cautious, saying, "We don't know what Trump is going to do." "The whole world is watching," Allard added. "I'm telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over." Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the Department of Justice will "continue to monitor the situation" and stands "ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions." "The safety of everyone in the area - law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike - continues to be our foremost concern," she added. Carla Youngbear of the Meskwaki Potawatomi tribe made her third trip from central Kansas to be at the protest site. "I have grandchildren, and I'm going to have great grandchildren," she said. "They need water. Water is why I'm here." Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn't immediately respond to messages left seeking comment. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has done much of the policing for the protests, said that "local law enforcement does not have an opinion" on the easement and that his department will continue to "enforce the law." U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps' "thoughtful approach ... ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts." Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn't clear how many actually arrived. "We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action," Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: "If we come forward, they will attack us." Instead, he told the veterans, "If you see someone who needs help, help them out." Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury. "That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they'll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will "will result in their arrest." Veterans Stand for Standing Rock's GoFundMe.com page had raised more than $1 million of its $1.2 million goal by Sunday â?? money due to go toward food, transportation and supplies. Cars waiting to get into the camp Sunday afternoon were backed up for more than a half-mile. "People are fighting for something, and I thought they could use my help," said Navy veteran and Harvard graduate student Art Grayson. The 29-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, flew the first leg of the journey, then rode from Bismarck in the back of a pickup truck. He has finals this week, but told professors, "I'll see you when I get back." Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who's a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters' main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. "This is not just a native issue," he said, "This is an issue for everyone." Art Woodson and two other veterans drove 17 hours straight from Flint, Michigan, a city whose lead-tainted water crisis parallels with the tribe's fight over water, he said. "We know in Flint that water is in dire need," the 49-year-old disabled Gulf War Army veteran said. "In North Dakota, they're trying to force pipes on people. We're trying to get pipes in Flint for safe water." Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they'll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans' presence "about right and wrong and peace and love.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/04/2016 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix is seeking citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to submit design ideas for its 2017 Cherokee National Holiday T-shirt. For its initial 2016 T-shirt design, the Cherokee Phoenix used CN citizen Buffalo Gouge’s design that Gouge said was inspired by the original Cherokee Phoenix logo with modern modifications. On the 2016 shirt, a phoenix rises from the fire and the seven Cherokee clans are featured behind the bird. The Cherokee Phoenix banner is between the bird’s wingspan, and above the banner are seven stars also representing the clans. The Cherokee Phoenix printed 200 T-shirts and sold them at its office and Cherokee National Holiday booths during the Labor Day weekend event. Shirts went on sale to the public on Sept. 2 and sold out on Sept. 3. Assistant Editor Travis Snell said the Cherokee Phoenix would like to choose a different Cherokee artist each year to design the news organization’s holiday T-shirt. Snell said he initially thought of Gouge and approached him to be the first artist to bring the idea to life. “I’m thankful to be the first artist to do this. I mean this, this will be here forever,” Gouge said. Snell said after contracting with Gouge, Cherokee Phoenix staff members gave Gouge an idea of what they wanted the design to represent as well as the freedom to create. After several meetings with staff members regarding the shirt’s look, Gouge’s design came to fruition. “I think Buffalo did an excellent job creating the design for our 2016 holiday shirt. It sparked a lot of buzz before they even went on sale during the Cherokee National Holiday,” Snell said. “Now we are looking for that next great design from a Cherokee artist. Hopefully we can expand the number of shirts we print next year for the holiday because Buffalo’s design sold quickly.” Former Miss Cherokee Kristen Thomas said she loved the artwork instantly when she saw online photos of the T-shirts before they went on sale. “It’s a beautiful design, and I really enjoy the colors,” she said. “The phoenix represents continuation and renewal, and for me that’s what the Cherokee National Holiday celebrates. I think I just found my new favorite T-shirt.” Those interested in submitting a design idea can email the idea and an estimated commission fee to <a href="mailto: travis-snell@cherokee.org">travis-snell@cherokee.org</a> by Jan. 1. The Cherokee Phoenix retains all rights to the design. For more information, call 918-453-5358.