In July 2015, U.S. Forest Service cultural resource managers notified higher-ranked Forest Service officials that they had discovered damage made in 2014 to a site on a Trail of Tears section. The damage consisted of holes dug by a bulldozer and other heavy equipment.
“At that site, 35 large holes were dug into the historic Trail of Tears to create large, earthen berms,” Sheila Bird, Cherokee Nation special projects officer, told the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. “They used bulldozer and other heavy equipment, and this earthmoving resulted clear and extensive damage to the historic national trail.”
She added that Forest Service employees did the work and claimed that it was done for erosion control and to prevent areas of the Trail of Tears from washing out.
“This is a well-known and mapped Trail of Tears path, but it was not marked because it was privately owned. This land was purchased by Conservation Fund and held for the U.S. Forest Service,” she said. “The District Ranger failed to follow federal laws requiring consultation with Indian tribes. The Forest Service has acknowledged fault and committed to restoring the site.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Feb. 21 unanimously voted to accept an apology from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region for damages to a Trail of Tears site in the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek, Tennessee.
With Tribal Councilors Curtis Snell and Wanda Hatfield absent, legislators added $76,837 to the capital budget for a total budget authority of $277.8 million. Officials said the increase came from a carryover environmental review for roads projects.
Legislators also increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $132,762 for a total budget authority of $664.5 million. Officials said the increase stems from grants received and authorized carryover reconciliation, new funding awards and an ending grant.
In other business, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Warrior Awards for their military service.
Dale Leon Johnson was drafted in 1967 and sworn into the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1968 he was transferred to Fulda, Germany, serving with Company C 19th Maintenance Battalion USAUR as a tank mechanic. He was honorably discharged as Specialist 4 in 1973. He and his wife Patricia have been married for 51 years and he recently retired from AEP/PSO after 37 years working as a lineman.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 16 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2017 capital and operating budgets, increasing both funds.
Hembree was reappointed for a period of five years from January 2017 to January 2021 after being re-nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker.
Hembree was first appointed to serve as attorney general in January 2012. Previous to that he served as the attorney for the Tribal Council for 12 years.
“I am very honored to be afforded the opportunity to serve the Cherokee Nation for another term as attorney general. However, the many successes that this office has had over the last several years has only been made possible due to the dedication and hard work of the staff,” Hembree said. “The Cherokee people are very fortunate to have such a group working for them.”
Legislators also unanimously approved Sheryl Rountree, of Tahlequah, to serve a five-year term on the Sequoyah High School board of education. Tribal Council approval is needed because the tribe operates the school. Rountree will serve from December 2016 to December 2021.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Nov. 14 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously reconfirmed Todd Hembree as the Cherokee Nation’s attorney general.
According to the resolution, the tribe “since time immemorial has exercised the sovereign right of self-government on behalf of the Cherokee people…” and “the Cherokee Nation encourages economic development and acknowledges renewable energy resources are necessary to prevent land and air pollution as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels and is part of our long-term solution toward energy sustainability.”
“Be it resolved by the Cherokee Nation that the Council recognizes that Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC will obtain debt financing and equity investments to fund the wind resource infrastructure project and that it is necessary to grant a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for the sole purpose of allowing Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC to initiate causes of action against the Cherokee Nation in the event of default under the terms of the Wind Resource Lease Agreement,” the legislation states.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors Dick Lay and Buel Anglen both discussed openly why they would vote against the legislation.
“I think it’s going to essentially destroy our Chilocco property. It’s our trust property the only trust and only property we have left of the old Cherokee Outlet,” said Lay. “It’s impossible for me to vote for a waiver of sovereign immunity so that some foreign controlled windmill company can get a bank loan. I just can’t bring myself to do that.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved a resolution on Oct. 17 authorizing the Cherokee Nation to execute a lease agreement with Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC, a company owned by PNE Wind USA, Inc.
With Tribal Councilors Harley Buzzard and Rex Jordan absent, Tribal Councilors David Walkingstick, Dick Lay, Jack Baker, Shawn Crittenden, Don Garvin and Buel Anglen voted against adding the wind farm legislation to the agenda.
According to the resolution, the Tribal Council had previously authorized Cherokee Nation Businesses to obtain “grant funding to support feasibility studies as to the development of wind energy within the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation.” It also states that it would be “economically advantageous” for CN to create wind energy resources in Kay County on its Chilocco trust property.
“We’re looking for alternative energy,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “It’s on the heels of the Dakota pipeline issue where we protect our land, we protect our resources.”
Byrd said some Tribal Councilors were not in favor of building a wind farm in the Chilocco area and wanted to keep the land untouched.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Six Tribal Councilors voted against adding to the agenda a resolution authorizing a wind resource lease agreement between the Cherokee Nation and Chilocco Wind Farm LLC. Despite passing the legislation an hour earlier in a reconvened Rules Committee meeting, the measure failed to get a two-thirds vote during the Sept. 12 Tribal Council meeting.
The act is to protect employees from “retaliatory action” when participating in “protected activities” such as reporting alleged wrongdoing of a co-worker, supervisor or elected official.
The vote passed unanimously with Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield absent.
During the July 12 Rules Committee meeting, Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said the act would replace the one that legislators repealed in 2012.
“When the Ethics Act was amended in, I believe, 2012 it was included in the language… this repeals Title 28. When you repeal a title you repeal all of the title,” she said. “No one caught that at the time that the Ethics Act was passed…It should have said it repeals this section of Title 28, but what it said was it repeals Title 28. When the new Ethics Act was passed…it took out the whistleblower language.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At their Aug. 15 meeting, Tribal Councilors passed a new Whistleblower Protection Act after learning earlier this year it was repealed in 2012.
Attorney General Todd Hembree said major changes involve creating causes of actions and procedures designed to modernize the court system.
“There was an increase to statute of limitations, which is the time frame in which a Cherokee citizen can bring a cause of action,” Hembree said. “Previously, most cases could be brought within two years. Now most cases can be brought within five years, with some having a three-year limitation.”
According to legislation, civil actions, other than for the recovery of real property, can only be brought within the following periods after the cause of action shall have accrued and not afterwards:
• Within five years: an action upon any contract, agreement, or promise in writing,
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council during its July meeting amended the Cherokee Nation’s civil code that, according to the attorney general’s office, was long overdue.
According to the legislation, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 requires a tribe to adopt a one-year plan for each fiscal year it requests federal funding. The resolution states the CN must submit an IHP in a form prescribed by HUD to receive its FY 2017 housing funding. According to the IHP, the plan needed to be submitted by on or by July 18.
“The Indian Housing Plan is basically a road map. It is a plan, but it’s basically a road map that says ‘federal government, here is how we propose to spend these federal funds that we get under NAHASDA,’” Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Director Gary Cooper said.
Tribal Council officials said the tribe is requesting $52.8 million. According to the IHP the money will be used to help meet the following needs: overcrowded households, renters wanting to become homeowners, substandard units needing rehabilitation, homeless households, households needing affordable rental units, college student housing, disabled households needing accessibility, units needing energy efficiency upgrades and infrastructure to support housing.
The resolution passed unanimously with all councilors present.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council on July 12 approved the submission of the Cherokee Nation’s fiscal year 2017 Indian Housing Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
At the May 26 Rules Committee meeting, Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill told Tribal Councilors the resolution would eliminate the LLC and brings it back under the tribe’s fold.
“We’re wanting to eliminate the Cherokee Nation Waste Management entity and move the landfill back under the Cherokee Nation, which is where it started back before the LLC was created,” she said. “So we’re going to put the Cherokee Nation Waste Management group out and put the landfill back under the control of the Cherokee Nation itself.”
She also said for that to occur the tribe would need to incur the $1.5 million debt the LLC has.
“It’s about $1.5 million debt for equipment that they took out in 2014. They want to move that debt from the LLC over to the Cherokee Nation itself,” Hill said. “The Cherokee Nation will be responsible for that debt instead of the LLC. This includes consent to be sued… If we didn’t pay our loan to the bank (Welch State Bank) the bank could sue us to get the money that we owe them back.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its June 13 meeting, the Tribal Council voted to transfer Cherokee Nation Waste Management LLC, which operates a landfill in Stilwell, back under the tribe.
LONGMONT, Colo. – First Nations Development Institute, a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, on Feb. 2 announced it has received a $2.7 million grant for a three-year Native arts project.
This award will position First Nations to expand its Native Arts Initiative, formerly known as the “Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative,” into 2019.
Launched in early 2014, the purpose of the Native Arts Initiative is to support the perpetuation and proliferation of Native American arts, cultures and traditions as integral to Native community life. It does this by providing organizational and programmatic resources to Native-led organizations and tribal government programs that have existing programs in place that support Native artists and traditional arts in their communities.
Since 2014, First Nations has awarded more than $600,000 in grant funds to various eligible Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to bolster the sustainability of their organizational and programmatic infrastructure as well as the professional development of their staff and leadership.
Under the expansion, First Nations will continue to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. First Nations will begin to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in two new regions – the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest, including Washington and Oregon.
First Nations expects to release a request for proposals in the coming days and will award approximately 45 Supporting Native Arts Grants of up to $32,000 each over the next three years to eligible Native-led nonprofits and tribal government programs in these regions.
NAI recipient organizations and programs will utilize their grants to strengthen their organizational and programmatic infrastructure and sustainability, which will reinforce their support of the field of Native American artists as culture bearers and traditional arts in their communities. In addition to financial support, the NAI will offer individualized training and technical assistance opportunities for grantees as well as competitive professional development opportunities for staff members of eligible Native-led organizations and tribal programs.
For a list of current and former NAI grantees, visit http://www.firstnations.org
WARNER, Okla. – In August, Connors State College opened the doors to its Native American Success and Cultural Center that features Native American art, a computer lab, language repository and study group rooms for students, faculty, staff and the public.
The center is part of a Title III grant program that Connors received in 2014.
“This was a $5 million dollar grant spread over five years. This particular one has two focus areas. It has the Native American Success Center area, and it also has another focus for online hybrid course development,” Gwen Rodgers, Connors Title III project director, said.
Rodgers said Connors developed a “pride model” to help Native students with retention, help them learn about their respective cultures and be “inclusive” of all cultures.
“The center is open to anybody. It is not exclusive to Native Americans. There’s a rumor going around that only Native American students can utilize the center, and we’re trying to dispel that,” Colleen Noble, NASCC director, said. “We want students, the public, faculty, staff to feel comfortable to come and learn about the history, culture, literature, artwork of the Five Civilized Tribes. That’s our focus. We are reaching out to school districts for them to come and be a part of field trips.”
The Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw and Seminole nations were labeled as the Five Civilized Tribes.
Noble said in the center’s cultural section artwork is featured with a majority of it being Cherokee, but it also has Muscogee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Pawnee and Osage artwork. For the grant’s remainder, NASCC officials plan to acquire more art pieces from the Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes in Oklahoma.
The center also offers cultural activities throughout the year by inviting presenters from different tribes to teach classes such as basket making and moccasin making.
Noble said Connors has a high population of Native American students, and the center is a “stop gap” for them to learn more about their respective cultures and heritages without having to travel to places such as Tulsa, Tahlequah and Muskogee to visit museums.
“We are currently 38 percent Native American students, which is a really good percentage for this area. We are one of the highest Native American populations for the state of Oklahoma for a higher learning institute. The biggest percentage of our students are Cherokee. We have over 900 students who are Native American and out of that over 600 are Cherokee,” Noble said. “We’re able to partner with Cherokee Nation and bring in some really wonderful cultural experts to share their knowledge and skills with our students.”
In the NASCC’s success center section, students learn styles in audio, visual and kinesthetic areas. Kinesthetic learning or tactile learning is where students learn by carrying out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.
Noble said the computers labs have headphones, study rooms have marker and art boards and students can utilize a “spinning chair” to de-stress and re-focus on college studies.
“It is a five-year grant, but it is developed and designed for continuation so that at the end of the five years this doesn’t all stop. It’s institutionalized throughout so that everything we’re doing now will keep going. So Connors will just be stronger because of it. We’re excited to be a part of it,” Rodgers said.
For more information, visit connorsstate.edu
or call 918-463-6364.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council unanimously amended the Cherokee Nation’s election law during its May 16 meeting after removing the definition of “term” as a full four years when pertaining to an elected office.
Previously, the Rules Committee added the definition to Legislative Act 04-14 to further define “term” within the CN Constitution. However, during the May 16 meeting, Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who sponsored the act, introduced it with an amendment.
“I have one small change. We will be striking the definition of ‘term’ in its entirety,” she said.
Tribal Councilor Jack Baker seconded the motion before the body voted by acclamation.
After the meeting, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor told the Cherokee Phoenix that the legislation’s intent was to make tribal elections run more smoothly.
“Changes needed to be made to avoid issues that have come up in past elections such as a candidate raising funds and campaigning then not filing for office. There were some very good changes made with this act, and it was important for this council to work through the details until we reached a solution we could all live with. In the end, the only issue we could not agree on was the definition of ‘term.’ It speaks to the integrity of this council that we were able to work together to find a solution that we all could agree on and I am pleased that it passed unanimously,” she said.
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, who opposed defining term as “a full four years,” said he was happy the definition was removed from the legislation. “Council can now move forward to important issues on behalf of Cherokee citizens.”
Vazquez deferred comments to Attorney General Todd Hembree, who said he believes several necessary changes were made to the election law with the amendment.
“I’m proud of the collaboration between the council, the Election Commission and the AG’s office making these amendments happen,” he said.
Regarding the “term” definition being pulled from the amendment, Hembree said the Tribal Council did not define what constitutes a complete term, but left that interpretation up to the plain reading of the Constitution.
In March, the Rules Committee discussed the word “term” in the Constitution, and Hembree said that “term” was not defined within the election law. “Nowhere during the election law have we ever defined what a term of office is.”
The committee then voted to define “term” as “consecutive full four (4) years in which the elective or appointed officer may perform the functions of office and enjoy its privileges, a term shall not include the remainder of any unexpired term or partial year.”
However, after debate during the April 12 Tribal Council meeting, legislators sent back the act to the Rules Committee for review. The committee again approved the “term” definition with a 9-6-1 vote until May 16 when it was pulled from the amendment.
Also with the election law change, Tribal Councilors moved the general election from the fourth Saturday in June of the election year to the first Saturday to allow the Election Commission more time to for election matters. They also defined the term “candidate” as a person who has raised funds and/or accepted in-kind contributions in excess of $1,000 or has filed for office.
With this change, one can be considered a candidate before actually filing for an elected position.
Other changes included a new section for record retention and assessing a civil penalty for a person who has become a candidate and fails to file as one.
Also at the May 16 meeting, the Tribal Council approved Pamela Sellers as the EC’s fifth member. Sellers took her oath during the meeting with Supreme Court Justice John Garrett presiding.
The body also approved Valerie Rogers to the Home Health Services board and the Comprehensive Care Agency or PACE board.
Councilors also approved nine donations of surplus equipment to various organizations within the CN.
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will host an Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment Fair from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 1 in Conference Room 1.
“We will be hosting another ACA Outreach and Enrollment Fair here at Claremore,” Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator, said. “Even though members of federally recognized tribes have a special monthly enrollment status, it is important for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families to learn about their insurance options. Whether it’s purchasing insurance through the Marketplace or qualifying for SoonerCare, knowing that you have quality coverage provides peace of mind.”
Dishno said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer.
Also Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will attend to assist patients with signing up for free-to-low-cost health insurance.
The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6559 or 918-342-6507.
The Cherokee language is one of the most vital elements of our tribal culture. We have invested in preservation efforts and youth education endeavors, including the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, which is a renowned global example for developing youth speakers.
Today, there are an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 fluent Cherokee speakers, and many others who are conversational second-language learners of Cherokee. While we have elders who are fluent and the emerging youth who will be, there was a void in the development of young adults.
That is why, two years ago, we launched the Cherokee Language Master-Apprentice Program. The goal of this program is to create new adult Cherokee language teachers. We selected four young adults to be the first class, and I am proud to say two of the students recently graduated and one of them will soon be teaching at the Immersion School.
When the selected students came into the program, they had little to no knowledge of the Cherokee language. However, upon graduating two years later, they have achieved high conversational levels. That is truly amazing.
The Master-Apprentice Program is an everyday effort. The students perform general, everyday activities but speak nothing but Cherokee. No English is spoken all day. They cook, look for wild onions and mushrooms and have general daily conversations in Cherokee. The approach is to do the everyday things, simple activities that are second nature to speak about in English, but do so only in Cherokee. The Cherokee language immersion environment is eight hours each day, five days per week.
The students are paid an hourly wage to attend the program and are selected through an essay and interview process. The students are referred to as apprentices, and these activities and classes are led by fluent, first-language speakers called masters. The program tries to identify young adults and older learners.
This method has been adopted by many tribes in California and has proven to be effective in producing fluent second-language learners. The evidence-based strategy integrates the Cherokee language and our staff has secured multiple grants to help fund the Master-Apprentice Program. Our success in the past year reinforces this effective learning method. Language immersion may be difficult and disorienting initially, but through perseverance and patience, students begin to grasp and learn Cherokee communication structures. Our mission is to develop Cherokee speakers who will have the knowledge to continue learning and teaching throughout the student’s life and ensure language preservation.
A third class of eight participants was selected in late 2016, bringing our total to 16 students. Increasing our number of speakers means preserving our unique culture. Our goal is to provide a seamless path for Cherokee language achievements that result in cultural preservation and eventually finding employment utilizing the Cherokee language.
With this effort, coupled with our Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the work of our Cherokee translation department, which has helped develop the Cherokee language for new technology that our citizens can use to text and email in Cherokee, we have set the bar for what it means to invest in language development. Cherokee Nation is a leader in Indian Country, and we are committed to preserving and growing our language. The tribe is proving we can cultivate more Cherokee speakers and enhance our language programs.
For more information on the Master-Apprentice Program, contact the program’s manager, Howard Paden, at Howard-Paden@Cherokee.org
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – During the past several years, Cherokee Nation citizen Jules Brison has tried to preserve Cherokee culture through her art. That preservation has evolved into a business that shares culturally significant art to people from all over.
Brison owns and operates Water Spider Creations. She makes textiles art such as finger-woven belts, moccasins, ribbon shirts and tear dresses.
“I originally started doing art at a very young age. In some areas I’m self-taught, and some others I’ve had great influence from various other artists. My uncle Robert Lewis was probably my biggest influence along with my grandmother,” she said.
Lewis started her focus in textiles, she said. With regards to her sewing, both of Brison’s grandmothers were seamstresses, and they both shared their knowledge with her, which allowed her to create and wear items she had a hand in making.
“When I was Miss Cherokee and Junior Miss Cherokee, I actually helped create my tear dresses. When I ran for Miss Indian Summer my cousin Terri Fields and I and Cierra Fields actually helped make my entire regalia set to compete,” she said.
With influence from others she decided to sell her artwork. She began working as a paid artist two years ago, and each piece commissioned or created for show is unique.
“Each new piece of art I create is not exactly the same as another piece. So each individual piece is original. You’ll see artists that can duplicate things a million times, and that’s not exactly one of my fortes. I feel like that each piece of art has its own character or its influences drawn from other things,” Brison said.
She said it’s not uncommon for her to have multiple projects going at once. For this story, she was working on beaded moccasins, a finger-woven belt and a feather cape for her wedding.
“It kind of gives me a way to express myself in various different forms all in one setting,” she said.
Brison, who has sold pieces to people as far as England and Japan, uses different media to sell her art. Etsy.com – an online marketplace of individual sellers/creators of handmade or vintage items, art and supplies – is one of which she said is a great tool for artists.
“I encourage more artists to use that because that gets your art on a global scale. Anybody from, you know, Ukraine, China, Japan, England – anybody can get on there, see your work and order it,” she said. “I’ve actually sold things all across the globe.”
Brison is also available on Facebook at Water Spider Creations, where she said she enjoys working with customers most because it can be more personal that way.
On April 3, the Cherokee Phoenix will draw a winner for her finger-woven belt that she donated as part of the newspaper’s quarterly giveaway.
“Finger weaving is one of our oldest traditional arts, and it’s also one of the arts that is finally seeing a revitalization,” she said. “The finger-woven belt that I actually did for the Phoenix is purple, cream and maroon. It took me about six hours to complete and is an average waste length, but the colors essentially pop.”
Readers can get one entry in the drawing for every $10 spent with the Cherokee Phoenix. For more information, call 918-207-3825 or 918-207-4975.
To contact Brison for more information about her art, find her on Facebook or email her at email@example.com