Council's program helps with emergency housing repairs

Assistant Editor
11/07/2003 04:10 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - In the latter part of fiscal year 2003, the Tribal Council appropriated money from the tribe's Motor Fuels Tax Fund to help tribal citizens in need of emergency home repair who may fall through the bureaucratic cracks of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation.

Doug Evans, council certified public accountant, said councilors appropriated $150,000 in April to establish the Disaster Housing Relief Program. The council program helps tribal citizens repair their homes damaged by emergencies once they have expended all efforts through the HACN.

"The way I understand how they (councilors) wrote those procedures is that it (a repair request) has to not fit within the emergency program within the Housing Authority," Evans said. "In other words, these requests will be falling through the crack. It comes over here, and council approves it in the (Emergency Housing) sub-committee per incident. It's a tribal subsidy to a federal grant."

"The HACN emergency policy is limited to $2,500, and occasionally there is a need for funding in excess of $2,500," said David Southerland, HACN executive director. "The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council emergency program allows for additional funding to assist tribal citizens."

For example, Evans said, if a tribal citizen's home suffers $5,000 worth of flood damage, then the tribal citizen would apply to the HACN for minor emergency repairs. If the HACN spends its per-home maximum of $2,500 in minor emergency repairs, then the HACN could send a repair request to the Emergency Housing Sub-Committee hoping it would pick up the tab for the other $2,500 worth of damage.

"They (HACN) will do it with the block grant monies first, and if there is something else that still needs to be done or it's a little more than that, they will use this fund to pick up the difference," Evans said. "The money is already appropriated, but they set the policy up where it's not a carte blanche, where every incident has to come before the council for approval, before that committee."

Evans said most of the Disaster Housing Relief funds have rolled into FY 2004 and that council won't appropriate any more money into the program until funds are expended and if it has high enough priority over other needs. Even though the funds rolled over into the new fiscal year, most of the funds are already obligated to tribal citizens but not yet expended, he said.

According to the HACN's Web site, emergency repair work is offered to privately owned homes to low-income Cherokee Nation citizens when property conditions create a hazard to the life, health or safety of the occupants, or if there is risk of property damage if the condition is not corrected and has occurred in the last 72 hours. This also includes winterization activities.

The HACN's eligibility guidelines state that the applicant must be the legal owner of the home or a direct descendent of the homeowner. The applicant, spouse or a household family member must have a tribal membership card (blue card) and must live within the tribe's jurisdictional boundaries. Assistance will also be provided to original Dawes Commission enrollees who live in Oklahoma. The family's combined gross income must also be below the 50 percent mark of the national median income guidelines.

For more information, contact the HACN at 1-800-837-2869.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties.

He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design.

Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper.

He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell. • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties. He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design. Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper. He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.


12/18/2014 12:21 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Technologies, a division of Cherokee Nation Businesses, has advanced and expanded its abilities to support unmanned systems integration and operations. Recently retired Department of Defense acquisition professional and naval aviator John Coffey is leading CNT’s efforts to offer unmanned support and services. “We have a long standing relationship with several key agencies focused on developing unmanned systems,” Steven Bilby, president of CNB diversified businesses, said. “John’s experience and knowledge has proven to be valuable and we look forward to his leadership in advancing our position in the market.” Coffey teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create and implement an unmanned systems strategy that delivers recommendations for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems and other unmanned technologies as well. “This is a wonderful opportunity for CNT to advance into a thriving business with the potential to have a lasting economic impact and create jobs,” Coffey said. “There is estimated to be $70 to $100 billion pumped into the economy through the development of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) over the next 10 years, and CNT is striving to be at the forefront of the industry.” The team works to conduct in-depth analyses of new and developing systems and evaluates the different observation requirements in hopes to establish how those needs can be attained by using unmanned aerial vehicles. According to a CN press release, the two major systems in development are the Puma, a ship-launched unmanned aerial vehicle specializing in low-altitude and short-endurance missions and the Global Hawk, which is the size of a 737 aircraft and made for high-altitude and long-endurance missions. “Our goal is to match systems to requirements that will increase organizational observing capacity and develop high-science-return missions such as high-impact weather monitoring, polar monitoring and marine monitoring,” Coffey said. “Unmanned systems have the potential to efficiently, effectively and economically fulfill observation requirements in an environmentally friendly manner, and it is a privilege to be a part of these industry advancements.” For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/18/2014 10:18 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. – Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a national group of Native American parents dedicated to ending the use of Native mascots, have shown support for the Oklahoma City Public School Board of Education’s recent decision to stop the re¬enactment of the 1889 Land Run and to change the name of the Redskins mascot at Capital Hill High School. According to its press release, the group stated it applauded “the efforts of Native American students and parents of OKCPS Native American Student Services to educate their community on the harm of Native mascotry.” For more information, call Jennie Stockle at 918-¬312-¬0467 or email or call Jacqueline Keeler at 503-¬915-¬5011 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
12/18/2014 08:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Dec. 9 meeting, the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission denied a request by former Principal Chief Chad Smith for an investigation of current Principal Chief Bill John Baker and his use of monies prior to the 2015 tribal election. Commissioners and their attorney in executive session discussed a letter sent by Smith that alleges Baker is illegally operating push polls, stating that Baker’s “illegal expenditures continue.” “On Nov. 11, 2014, Cherokee citizens Pat Stanek of Portland, Oregon, and Brenda Smith Jaye reported push polls,” the letter states. Smith also states he sent the same request to CN Marshal Shannon Buhl with his point of contact being Deputy Marshal Scott Craig, who informed Smith that the CN Attorney General’s Office told the Marshal Service to terminate the investigation until the EC determined there was wrongdoing. In a response letter from EC Chairman Bill Horton, he states the commission requested EC attorney Harvey Chaffin to determine if any illegal activity had taken place. “Mr. Smith’s letters allege acts of expenditures in violation of Election Law. No provision in Election Law prohibits expenditures more than six months prior to an election,” the letter states. “Further, no prohibition is found prohibiting a potential candidate from making expenditures from their own funds more than six months prior to an election. The prohibition is on accepting contributions more than six months prior to an election. Mr. Smith’s letters do not allege that campaign contributions have been accepted more than six months prior to the election.” The letter further states the commission would not act on Smith’s request because it found no investigation was warranted because no election laws look to have been violated. In other business, the EC voted to mail out voter identification and voter registration notification cards. EC officials said notification cards are sent out after a voter-initiated change is made. The card tells the type of voter one is and his or her precinct. “The red card goes out in May for the jurisdictional voters (voters who vote within the 15 districts), which gives the address of their precinct location,” EC officials state. “The reason there are red cards sent out in May to the jurisdictional voters is because we have to confirm addresses of all the precincts locations and let voters know at least 45 days before the election. Red cards are not sent out to the At-Large voters who are not registered in the districts because they vote by absentee ballot.” It costs approximately 34 cents to mail either card. That cost is subject to change depending on postage. As of Dec. 1, there were 63,498 registered voters, which is subject to change daily. The EC voted to use the post cards it previously operated with and revisit the new cards after the 2015 election. “They will go to all voters who either send in a new application or make any changes,” officials said. The EC approved the voter ID or “red card” that EC Director Connie Parnell presented at the meeting. Also, commissioners heard two public requests, one from At-Large tribal citizen Deborah Scott and one from the Cherokee Phoenix. Scott requested that EC official attend a meeting in Anadarko to present information to assist voters in the 2015 election. That request was denied because the information requested is online or will be near the first of the year, officials said. The Cherokee Phoenix requested that it and the EC enter into a memorandum of understanding reflecting an agreement that the Phoenix not be charged for any public documents requested from the EC, including voter lists. “Under the Cherokee Nation Freedom of Information Act, disclosure of these documents is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in any commercial interest,” the Phoenix request states. “We believe that this agreement would be beneficial to both departments because it would demonstrate the Election Commission’s commitment to transparency, and it would allow the Cherokee Phoenix to reliably report this valuable public information to the Cherokee people.” However, the EC denied the request stating the Phoenix is like anyone else and should pay for voter lists.
12/16/2014 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal officials appear to have violated ethics rules governing impartiality in awarding a contract to evaluate schools attended by tens of thousands of Native American students, a federal watchdog says. The report comes as President Barack Obama makes high-profile promises to fix the schools, which are among the nation’s lowest performing and have been plagued by crumbling buildings needing $1 billion in repairs. It is the latest to highlight problems in the management and oversight of the schools. The Interior Department’s inspector general investigation concerned an $800,000-plus contract awarded early in Obama’s term to assess the schools’ management and student achievement. The main focus was Brian Drapeaux, who served as chief of staff of the department’s Bureau of Indian Education, when the contract was issued and later became acting director. The initial contract had been awarded to Personal Group Inc., a South Dakota-based company, where Drapeaux had worked on separate occasions, including within 12 months of joining the Interior Department. A department contract specialist raised conflict of interest concerns and canceled the contract and said the company, known as PerGroup, could not participate in the contract at any level and that all key decision makers should certify that there was no conflict of interest. She alleged in 2011 that she had been removed from handling the contract because of her actions. Nevertheless, the IG concluded, PerGroup was allowed to stay on the project as a subcontractor under another company and was responsible for 41 percent of the contractual work. Keith Moore, who served as director of BIE until 2012, along with Drapeaux maintained a longstanding friendship with PerGroup, according to the inspector general. The report said the two officials “appear to have acted in violation of federal ethics regulations governing impartiality ... and the use of public office for private gain.” “Finally,” it said, “other BIE officials who knew of these conflicts of interest chose to ignore them during the procurement process.” The IG said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia had declined to prosecute the case but referred it back to the Interior Department for further action, which was taken on Sept. 30. “This issue is considered resolved and no further action will be taken,” Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said in an email. She said the department would not reveal the action because of privacy reasons. Kershaw said the department did not adopt the contractor’s recommendations. Drapeaux and Moore declined to comment. Officials from PerGoup did not respond to requests for comment. Obama addressed the challenges facing Native American youth in a historic visit to an Indian reservation last summer and again at the White House summit this week. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has announced a series of steps to restructure the federal bureaucracy that oversees the schools and turn more control over tribes. Just this week as part of the White House summit on Native Americans, Jewell reaffirmed the federal government's historic failures in connection with the schools, which goes back to the 19th century when many Native American children were forcibly assimilated in boarding schools away from their families. The government has a treaty and trust responsibility to run them, and about 40,000 students attend the more than 180 schools. The IG report follows one by the Government Accountability Office that found the schools had millions in unaccounted for dollars, including money for special education. The IG’s findings were posted initially online, but the IG’s office temporarily took the report down to make minor adjustments. It was reposted.
12/16/2014 11:03 AM
WASHINGTON – The Office of Special Trustee for American Indians is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on its advisory board. The board’s purpose, as defined in the 1994 American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, is to provide advice to the special trustee on all matters associated with the trust responsibilities overseen by the office. “This board is an opportunity for OST to receive meaningful advice and prudent perspectives on trust management reforms at the Department of the Interior,” Special Trustee Vincent G. Logan said. “The Reform Act directed the special trustee to appoint leaders from academia and finance so that OST can maintain a beneficiary focus and deliver well-informed trust management services to individual Indian and tribal beneficiaries.” Members will serve two-year terms without compensation. The board, as required by the Reform Act, is composed of five members representing trust fund account holders, including both tribal and Individual Indian Money accounts; two members with practical experience in trust fund and financial management; one member with practical experience in fiduciary investment management; and one member from academia with knowledge of general management of large organizations. Nominations must include a resume or other documents demonstrating qualifications for at least one of the board member categories. Self-nominations will receive equal consideration. Nominations must be submitted by Dec. 29 to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, Attn: Lee Frazier, Department of the Interior, located at 1849 C Street, NW, Mailstop 3256, Washington, D.C. 20240. Additional details about the request for nominations can be found in the Federal Registry notice located at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/15/2014 03:41 PM
WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered opening remarks at the sixth White House Tribal Nation’s Conference on Dec. 3, where she emphasized the Obama administration’s commitment to Indian Country, including self-determination and self-governance initiatives that are helping tribal nations to build a foundation for a successful and culturally vibrant future. “All of the work we are undertaking in partnership with tribes–whether on education, tackling climate change, or upholding trust reforms and treaty obligations–is with an eye toward the health and prosperity of the next generation,” said Jewell, who also participated in panel discussions with tribal leaders on education and Native youth and climate change during the conference. “The White House Tribal Nations Conference is one piece of President Obama’s commitment to make meaningful and lasting progress in support of American Indians’ and Alaska Natives’ vision for a strong and successful future.” The conference provides leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with President Obama, members of his cabinet and other federal policy-level officials, building on the president’s commitment to strengthen our government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the livelihood of Native Americans. President Obama held the first-ever conference and has ensured that it will be an enduring, annual conference by executive order. During this year’s conference, Jewell discussed some of the progress made by the White House Council on Native American Affairs in advancing initiatives on educational reform, energy and economic development and climate change. The council, which is chaired by Jewell and includes the heads of more than 20 federal departments and agencies, has convened four times since its inception in June 2013 and works to improve interagency coordination and expand efforts to leverage federal programs and resources available to tribal communities. Under a council initiative, Jewell and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, after consultation with tribal leaders, issued a Blueprint for Reform in June 2014 to redesign the Bureau of Indian Education. Building on the Blueprint’s recommendations, Jewell issued a secretarial order to begin restructuring BIE from solely a provider of education to a capacity-builder and education service-provider to tribes. The goal of this transformation is to give tribes the ability themselves to provide an academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to their students, according to their needs. “The heart of the matter is that no one cares more, or knows more about what’s right for young people, than their parents and their community,” said Jewell, who noted that the BIE recently awarded $1.2 million to tribes to promote tribal control of BIE-funded schools on their reservations. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn also participated in the Tribal Nation’s Conference where he joined panel sessions and reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s sacred duty to uphold federal trust responsibilities and help restore tribal homelands. “Each of the Administration’s successes is progress for tribes because tribal self-determination and self-governance animate each of our programs,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “Our programs cannot fully succeed unless Indian tribal governments also succeed.” He noted Jewell’s second secretarial order focused on Indian Country and the his department’s tribal trust responsibilities–underscoring the Department of Interior’s commitment to a new chapter in government-to-government relations. The order reaffirmed the DOI’s unique, historic responsibilities and provided guidance for each of Interior agencies to carry out trust obligations to tribes and individual Indian beneficiaries. The DOI has been carrying out the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations a program designed to buy highly fractionated land interests from willing American Indian sellers at fair market value and transfer consolidated titles to tribal governments for the beneficial use of their communities. In the last 12 months, the program has made $754 million in offers to more than 44,000 individual landowners and restored the equivalent of more than 475,000 acres to tribes. The DOI recently announced 21 additional locations where the program will begin implementation, bringing the total number of locations actively engaged in the Buy-Back Program to 42. That total represents 83 percent of all outstanding fractionated ownership interests. Since assuming her role at Interior, Jewell has visited more than 20 tribal communities and half a dozen Bureau of Indian Education schools. Jewell also joined President Obama and the first lady on their historic visit to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation earlier this year.