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
MUSKOGEEE, Okla. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and 12-year prison sentence of a former Choctaw Nation construction director. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for a mistrial Tuesday sought by Jason Merida, who was convicted in November 2014 on two counts each of theft and tax fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery. Prosecutors alleged contractors used false billing practices between 2008 and 2011 during construction of the tribe's Durant and Pocola casinos. Money generated from the false billings was used to make campaign donations and purchase gifts. Merida testified he received gifts from vendors but claimed it didn't affect his decisions because he did not have the authority to select contractors.
BRUSHY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Breanna Potter and the Brushy Cherokee Action Association on July 14 hosted the second annual back-to-school giveaway at the Brushy Community Center, providing children and their families needed items such as backpacks, shoes, coats and hygiene kits. “We…have some families in our area that are homeless. They don’t have anywhere to live,” Potter said. “We have families in our area that live in tents, and those families oftentimes can’t get those types of items. So we’re just here to kind of fill in the gaps.” In 2015, Potter and the BCCA began applying for an in-kind donation grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation to get the needed items for the giveaway. “The reason we started writing this grant last year was because there’s a big need in our community for basic essential items, and a lot of time a lot of these families fall through the cracks,” Potter said. “They either make just enough that they don’t qualify for things, or some of the families aren’t actually Cherokee so they don’t qualify for services at the Cherokee Nation. So we have a lot of families that end up falling through the cracks and the system and aren’t able to get the items they need, and the kids are the ones who end up suffering.” Earlier this year Potter received another grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation called the Dreamstarter Grant. With it she created a youth group in the community to help youths gain leadership skills and learn about diabetes prevention. Now youth group members, known collectively as the Brushy Youth Dream Team, are in turn using those acquired skills to give back to their community with Potter leading them as program director. Parents of BYDT members said they noticed the development in their children thank to the new skills. “I think it’s great because my kids are shy. This will teach them, maybe, to communicate better with their peers and with adults and learn to make their way in the community and kind of what their role is, that they can do something even though they’re just kids,” Crystal Thomas, mother of a BYDT member, said. Potter said the impacts the BYDT and BCCA are making in the community are noticeable with events such as the giveaway. “The coolest things is when I’m driving around and everything, I see kids out and I see them wearing these shoes, or I see the kids at school and I happen to stop by for a few minutes and some of the kids have the backpacks or the coats,” Potter said. Potter said the biggest impact she’s seen in the community is that kids are able to receive items that their families struggle to provide. Potter said she and her teams are trying to get additional funding so they can host more events and help more families. For more information about the BCCA and the BYDT, visit <a href="http://www.brushycherokeeactionassociation.org" target="_blank">brushycherokeeactionassociation.org</a>.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Members of the Tri-Community (W.E.B.) Association horseshoe league in Briggs, Oklahoma, are set to compete in the 2016 National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Horseshoe Tournament on July 25 through Aug. 6 in Montgomery. The members include Cherokee Nation citizens Al Ross, David Mallory and Michael Cummings along with United Keetoowah Band citizens Gary Bearpaw and Billy Vann. As Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association members, all five men compete in sanctioned tournaments throughout the state to qualify for the annual world tournament. They will compete against pitchers from all over the United States, Canada and Switzerland. This year, the world tournament consists of 935 entries across eight divisions: open men, open women, senior men, senior women, elder men, junior boys, junior girls and junior cadet. The tournament will be held in the Multiplex at the Crampton Bowl. Mallory, Cummings, Bearpaw and Vann are pitching in the open men’s division while Ross pitches in the senior men’s division. There are varying classes within each division where a pitcher is seeded based on his/her ringer averages. Bearpaw is seeded in Class A1, the highest class in the men’s division, with Vann seeded in Class A2, Mallory is seeded in Class B1, and Cummings is in Class D1. Ross is seeded in senior Class A. There are 16 pitchers in each class who pitch over a three-day span known as the preliminary round. The preliminary round is played July 25 through Aug. 3 for all divisions and classes. Once the preliminary round is complete, monetary prizes worth up to $500 are given to the winners of each class. Winners also have a chance to compete in the championship round Aug.4-6. Winners of the championship round compete for a monetary prize worth up to $4,200 and to call themselves a world horseshoe champion. For updates, go to the NHPA Facebook page. For pitching schedules and live coverage, go to <a href="http://www.horseshoepitching.com" target="_blank">www.horseshoepitching.com</a>.
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A prosecutor said the state wants its own psychologist to examine a woman charged with crashing her car into a crowd at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade. The Tulsa World reports that a pretrial status conference in 26-year-old Adacia Chambers' case was held Tuesday. Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas said the state would like to have its own witness examine Chambers, a Cherokee Nation citizen, if defense attorney Tony Coleman intends to call a psychologist who met with Chambers soon after her arrest. Coleman said at the hearing that he intends to call on the psychologist to testify. Coleman has said Chambers is mentally ill, but she was found competent to stand trial in December. According to Coleman, the psychologist has not yet performed his evaluation of Chambers because he hasn't received a copy of the final order from the judge approving the use of state funds to pay for his services. Prosecutors said Chambers intentionally drove around a police barricade and into spectators on Oct. 24 in Stillwater. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery. Chambers' trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 10
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission approved a press release it intends to use to share voting registration and 2017 election information with CN citizens during its July 12 meeting. In the release, the commission states the first date to remember for the next CN election is Jan. 2, which is the first day to request an absentee ballot. <strong>Other important dates are:</strong> • April 21 – Last day to submit an absentee ballot request form for the general election, • May 27 and May 30 through June 1 – Early walk-in voting, • June 3 – General election, • June 26 – Last day to submit an absentee ballot request form for runoff election, and • July 29 – Runoff election. According to the release, March 31 is the last day for CN citizens to register to vote for the 2017 election. The release states that the Tribal Council seats up for election in 2017 are districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15 and one At-Large. According to the release, anyone wanting to vote must be a registered CN citizen and registered to vote with the EC. A tribal citizenship card (blue card) alone does not mean a citizen can vote. Also, a person must be 18 years old on or prior to the June 3 general election. Voter applications are available at the EC’s office or online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections</a>. “Voters residing within the jurisdictional boundaries may vote at their selected precinct, early walk-in voting, or by absentee ballot. At-Large voters may only vote by absentee ballot or early walk-in voting,” the release states. A precinct is an official voting place within a district, as designated by the Election Commission. Voters who reside in the jurisdictional boundaries may select a precinct in the district where their residence is located. Voters residing outside the jurisdictional boundaries, registering for the first time and under the age of 25 may select the districts and precincts of their choice. For more information, write the EC at P.O Box 1188, Tahlequah, OK 74465 or call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895. To view the July meeting in its entirety click here. <strong>Frequently Asked Questions</strong> <strong>How do I get an absentee ballot request form?</strong> You can get an absentee ballot request form from the Cherokee Nation Election Commission Office, our website, or contact the Election Commission Office and our staff can mail, email, or fax a form to you. <strong>Will I receive a Precinct Voter ID Card?</strong> Voters registered in the jurisdictional boundaries will receive a Precinct Voter ID Card to inform the voter where they will go to vote. At-Large voters will not receive a Precinct Voter ID Card because they do not have a precinct in which to vote. <strong>I do not live within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction, can I still vote?</strong> Yes. If you have a Cherokee Nation citizenship card (blue card) you are eligible to vote as long as you have registered to vote with the Cherokee Nation Election Commission. Voters who live outside the jurisdictional boundaries are known as At-Large voters. <strong>I have a felony on my record, can I still vote?</strong> Yes, there is no law prohibiting you from voting in the Cherokee Nation elections. <strong>What do I do if I only have a rural route or P.O. Box address?</strong> If your physical address is a rural route or you only have a P.O. Box, you will need to provide driving directions to your home in order to place you in the correct district.
MIAMI, Okla. (AP) — The Shawnee Tribe is planning to build a $1 million cultural center in northeast Oklahoma. The Journal Record reports that the 6,000-square-foot center will be near Miami and will be built in two phases. Construction on the first phase is to begin this fall. Shawnee Tribe Second Chief Ben Barnes says the center will feature artifacts and that it will be able to tell the story of the tribe. Barnes says if other tribes want to put up exhibits, the Shawnee Tribe would be willing to work with them. The center is being built northwest of the Oklahoma Welcome Center on land held in trust for the nine tribes in northeastern Oklahoma, including the Miami, Quapaw, Peoria, Ottawa, Eastern Shawnee, Shawnee, Wyandotte, Seneca-Cayuga and Modoc tribes. The Shawnee Tribe is funding the project.