TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation and W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital officials announced in January the tribe’s preliminary study to determine if it should manage some or all of the hospital’s services, currently operated by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Indian Health Service. Ed McLemore, the hospital’s CEO, and Melissa Gower, CN Health Services group leader, informed hospital officials about the study on Jan. 11. The study should be completed no later than June 1, and if tribal leaders decide to assume management, it would fall under the CN administration as part of a self-governance effort by Oct. 1. Following the announcement, Principal Chief Chad Smith sent a letter to CN employees stating that improved health care and funding were major reasons for the study. “The reasons for considering this plan are simple: better health services for our citizens and more federal funding for health services in northeastern Oklahoma,” his letter states. Smith said assuming operation of the hospital would mean more federal funding because current dollars available for patient care is limited to federal funding and third party resources. He said CN would provide additional tribal dollars with tribal shares from the Indian Health Service Oklahoma City Area Office and IHS headquarters and grant monies. “These resources could bring an additional several million dollars a year into the health services at W.W. Hastings,” his letter states. Mike Miller, CN Communications officer, said the hospital has a federal budget of $25 million. Smith said the plan is also being considered to eliminate bureaucracy. He said other tribes operate some or all of the services at Indian hospitals, and by doing so it eliminates patient confusion and allows more access to health care. He said part of the comprehensive health care system includes patients receiving better care when Hastings doctors and tribal clinic doctors have the ability to share information and work together. Smith also stressed that patient eligibility requirements would not change during the study or if the tribe decides to take over the facility. According to the IHS Web site, the common standard applied for IHS health services eligibility is that patients are enrolled citizens of a federally recognized tribe. McLemore said he acknowledges that some people won’t like the switch if it happens, but thinks it could lead to better health care for area Indians. “In discussing things with CN you get a range of opinions and some folks don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said. “But I have worked with CN Health leadership and CN elected leadership for almost five years now, and I have found them to be responsive to the health care needs of Cherokee citizens. I think this will help the care of our patients and the responsiveness we have to those patients.” McLemore said some employees are worried about their jobs. However, he said he wants them to focus on the advantages available if CN does assume management. “We have assurances that if CN does get to a decision point that they would like to assume management responsibility for the hospital, they would like to have all the employees transition over to the CN,” he said. “I don’t think CN would indicate to us in one respect and intend for everyone to transition and then change their mind. I hope that folks take a close look at the advantages to be gained from this transition.” Smith’s letter states he acknowledges the employees’ concerns and that the tribe would offer options to current employees. “If the Nation assumes services at Hastings, every employee at Hastings will be asked to stay and will be given the option to choose for themselves whether to become tribal employees or remain federal employees,” his letter states. Smith said through the self-governance compacting process, the CN is able to maintain memorandums of agreements for commissioned officers and inter-personnel agreements for civil service employees. These agreements would allow hospital employees to retain their current employment status and compensation packages with IHS and execute either an MOA or IPA with the tribe. A Hastings employee could also convert to a CN employee with the employee benefit package offered to all CN employees, as well as protections through the CN Constitution. As part of the study, the tribe sent a letter to the IHS regarding the study. Also, tribal officials said budget information would be sent to the Oklahoma City-area IHS office to clarify the transition, but that no program or budget-related changes would occur until a decision is made. Under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, the tribe is allowed to assume operation of the hospital. But before CN can do that, the issue must pass the Tribal Council’s Health Committee and full council.
Cherokee Nation studies Hastings management
LONGMONT, Colo. – The First Nations Development Institute is accepting applications for five $1,000 Native Agriculture and Food Systems Scholarships until Sept. 30. The program is to encourage more Native American college students to enter agricultural-related fields so they can one day assist their communities with food production, improving health and nutrition and eliminating food insecurity, according to the organization’s website. The scholarship can be used in degree fields such as agribusiness management, agriscience technologies, agronomy, animal husbandry, aquaponics, fisheries and wildlife, food production and safety, food-related policy and legislation, horticulture, irrigation science, plant-based nutrition and sustainable agriculture or food systems. Scholarship applicants must be a full-time undergraduate student majoring in agriculture or an agricultural-related field, be Native American with proof of tribal enrollment, have at least a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate a commitment to helping their community reclaim local food-system control. Applicants are also required to submit an enrollment verification form, unofficial transcript, letter of recommendation from a faculty member and a 250-500 word essay addressing how their degree program will help regain control over their local food and explaining how the money would be used. The FNDI’s mission is to strengthen American Indian communities by investing and creating institutions and models that support economic development. To apply, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship" target="_blank">www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship</a>. For more information, call 303-774-7836 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – A Wyoming company has entered a partnership to develop a Washington state coal port for shipments of the fuel to Asia, in a deal that gives Montana's Crow Tribe the future option of a 5 percent stake in the project. Cloud Peak Energy paid $2 million up front and will pay up to $30 million to cover permitting expenses for the Gateway Pacific Terminal, in exchange for a 49 percent stake in the project, spokesman Rick Curtsinger said Friday. The port in the Puget Sound, just south of the U.S.-Canada border, would accommodate almost 60 million tons a year of coal and other commodities. Cloud Peak, based in Gillette, plans to construct a major mine on the Crow Reservation. Coal companies hope exports to Asia will shore up their industry, which has been battered by competition from cheap natural gas and more stringent restrictions on pollution caused by burning the fuel. Port sponsor SSA Marine retained a 51 percent ownership in the project. The tribe's stake in the port would come out of Cloud Peak's share, and Curtsinger said there is no upfront financial obligation for the Crow. However, if the Crow exercises its ownership option, the tribe would be responsible for 5 percent of construction financing, Curtsinger said. Washington state's Lummi Nation has pressed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to deny the project's permit because it would disrupt the tribe's fishing practices. The proposal also has met strong opposition from environmental groups worried about the greenhouse gases and other pollutants produced by burning coal. Crow Chairman Darren Old Coyote said the deal still needs approval from the tribal Legislature. Construction of the port would make it easier for Cloud Peak to develop and mine coal on the reservation, he said. "It's basically a low-risk, 5 percent stake," he said. Construction costs for Gateway Pacific have been estimated at $700 million, although that could change depending on any conditions attached to pending permits from state and federal agencies, said SSA Marine Senior Vice President Bob Watters. Watters said environmental studies on the proposed port could be done by the end of 2016. The ownership agreement gives Cloud Peak the right to exit the deal during the permitting phase and return its interests to SSA Marine. A previous deal gave Cloud Peak the option to move almost 18 million tons of coal annually through the port.
BILLINGS, Mont. – The Professional Indian Horse Racing Association has launched a new website where Indian Relay fans will find everything they need to know about the current relay season, including PIHRA team members and current standings, as well as hotel, ticket and sponsor information for the All Nations Championships. This year, the All Nations Indian Relay Championships will be held Sept. 17-20 at the historic MetraPark Grandstands in Billings. The top teams representing 15 Indian nations will compete for more than $75,000 in money prizes, expenses and the coveted Champions’ Jackets and Belt Buckles. PIHRA was founded to promote Indian Relay, horsemanship and safety and has developed a season-long championship series, culminating with the All Nations Indian Relay Championships. There were 17 founding teams in 2013. Today, PIHRA membership is expected to exceed 60 teams. The teams come from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Montana, South Dakota and Canada. The tribes represented in relay include Oglala Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Blackfeet, Crow, Shoshone-Bannock, Eastern Shoshone, the Colville Confederated Tribes and the Umatilla Confederated Tribes. For more information, visit the new website at <a href="http://www.letsrelay.com" target="_blank">www.letsrelay.com</a>.
PRYOR, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission will be on hand to register voters at the Mayes County Courthouse from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 as part of an event honoring the 95th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote. To register, individuals will need to bring a CN citizenship card or photo identification card, current physical address and a current mailing address, if different. The event will also feature the Mayes County Election Board and Democratic Party Chairman Darrell Moore for a celebration of all female elected officials in Mayes County. Nena Roberts, Pryor Creek deputy clerk and event coordinator, was approached about the idea for a celebration by the Women on 20s non-profit organization. The organization was created to encourage the idea of a woman replacing former President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill and an online election in March allowed voters to chose from a variety of women, including the late former Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller. Jackson was the seventh president of the United States and forced Native Americans west out of their homelands in what would later become known as the Trail of Tears. Former slave and suffragette Harriet Tubman eventually emerged the victor and a petition was submitted to President Barack Obama on May 12 informing him of the results. The organization will also have a table at the event where attendees can sign a petition demanding that Tubman appear on the $20 bill as originally asked, rather than share space with Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, as the U.S. Treasury has offered to compromise. “We would love to see a woman not have to share her glory, and her opportunity to be recognized and honored,” Susan Ades Stone, the executive director of the campaign, said to USA Today. “And Alexander Hamilton is not someone that people have a problem with.” “It’s not enough,” said Roberts. “The whole purpose is to replace Andrew Jackson.” For more information, email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) - Claiming an invasion of privacy, a Tulsa couple has filed suit to challenge the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, specifically the Oklahoma provision which allows tribal intervention in adoption procedure, even if the birth parents want no tribal involvement. The couple argues that American Indians are not exempt from an expectation of privacy during voluntary adoptions. Chrissi Nimmo, an assistant attorney general for Cherokee Nation, said the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to “tighten up” the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The federal version of the law gives tribes the right to intervene in adoptions of Indian children, but it does not require notification of tribes in voluntary adoptions. The Oklahoma act requires tribes receive notification whenever an adoption of an Indian child occurs. Since the lawsuit is entirely anonymous, Nimmo said the tribe has been put in an odd position as they prepare to defend the act in court. “We don’t have any information about the case, only supposed facts,” said Nimmo. This particular piece of the Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare Act has been deemed constitutional by the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Nimmo also said the federal and state versions of the law require adoptions to remain confidential, though the lawsuit states that the biological parents did not want to notify the tribe of the adoption for fear of their personal story “spreading through the tribal community.” Nimmo said while the tribe has a legal right to intervene, it does not necessarily have the power to stop an adoption. “We may choose not to intervene in this case,” said Nimmo. Because the adoptive father is a Cherokee Nation citizen, according to the lawsuit, Nimmo said the adoption follows the guidelines of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Asked if the tribe would intervene if the adoption had been pursued with the original non-Indian adoptive parents, Nimmo did not specify whether the tribe would intervene under such circumstances. “It depends on the facts of the case,” said Nimmo. She said factors may include other Cherokee families interested in adopting, if a placement fits a child’s special needs in a manner available Cherokee families could not, and the preferences of the birth parents. “Under the law, preference of both parents is a reason to deviate,” said Nimmo. Within the law, there is an order of prefered placement. Family members are considered first, then Cherokee families, then other viable families wishing to adopt. But if there is “good cause” to deviate from the ICWA, it can legally be done. A recognized good cause for deviation is the parent’s wishes. The tribe can object to a child’s placement, and the child may still be placed against the tribe’s wishes, though Nimmo suggested going against the tribe would entail some legal procedures. Nimmo said even if biological and adoptive parents have no relationship with the tribe, the child has individual rights to apply for citizenship in the future, to receive benefits, and to have a relationship with the tribe. If the tribe is not notified when a child is being placed, records of their connection to the tribe may be lost during adoption, according to Nimmo. “Just because this child is being adopted doesn’t mean the relationship or the future relationship between the child and their tribe should be severed,” said Nimmo.
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Aug. 25, the Cherokee Nation will host a hiring fair at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa for positions at the new Macy’s Fulfillment Center in Owasso. The company will be looking to fill more than 1,000 seasonal jobs at the hiring fair, which is from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Attendees need to be prepared for an on-site interview. The new fulfillment center hosted its grand opening earlier this month. The CN, the state and other agencies partnered to attract Macy’s to northeastern Oklahoma. As part of the agreement, the tribe’s Career Services is handling the recruitment for more than 1,500 jobs at the company’s Owasso site. Interested applicants can pre-apply online at <a href="http://www.macysJOBS.com" target="_blank">www.macysJOBS.com</a>. For more information, visit the website or call 918-401-2828.