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Cherokee Southwest Township celebrates culture

BY CHRISTINA GOODVOICE
08/12/2009 07:10 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Cherokee citizen Nick Nail hasn’t lived in the Cherokee Nation for more than 60 years, but he and about 100 other Cherokees celebrate their heritage thanks to the Cherokee Southwest Township.

The township is one of 12 CN-recognized organizations designated as an “official” Cherokee community outside the tribe’s jurisdiction in Oklahoma. In 2008, the CSWT became the first recognized community under the Cherokee Nation Community Association, which designates satellite groups as official Cherokee communities.

“We were very enthused to become the first satellite community,” said Nail, who is the CSWT’s meeting facilitator. “We’ve always felt we were an embassy anyway for the Cherokee Nation, so we were able to put this all together … it was a real honor for us.”

The CSWT was established in 1999 as a way for Cherokee citizens and their families to explore their heritage, nurture their Cherokee roots and learn more about Cherokee history and traditions, Nail said.

CSWT members consist of enrolled and non-enrolled Cherokees and their families. The group’s activities include monthly meetings and potluck meals with guest speakers and programs. The group also publishes a monthly newsletter, The Cherokee Compass, which includes Cherokee news and articles on history, culture, traditions and general interest.

Nail said his family moved from Oklahoma in 1943, but that hasn’t stopped him from returning to the CN once a year for the Cherokee National Holiday.

“(I) still have family in Oklahoma,” he said. “(I) used to compete in the blowgun competition.

“I’ve always enjoyed my Cherokee heritage and sharing with other Cherokees. We’ve always found it nice to find other families that are Cherokee. We just have a really good time together.”

CSWT member Sue Sleeper, who was born and raised in Santa Fe, said she has always held her Cherokee roots close.

“It’s very dear to my heart to be able to visit with other Cherokees for so many years,” she said. “You end up thinking you’re the only one. When we found this group it just brought our whole heritage to life, and it has just become a special integrated part of our lives.”

Patti Rawls, who was born in Tahlequah, Okla., said her heritage remains important to her and that she is happy to be a CSWT member. “(The group) keeps us all connected,” she said. “Kind of keeps us in touch with relatives back home.”

Charter CSWT member Gwen Forrester said both of her parents are on the Dawes Roll and had land in Oklahoma and that she’s proud of her Cherokee heritage.

“This group, Cherokee Southwest Township, has really enhanced my memories. I’ve taken the language classes…it’s just a wonderful part of my husbands life and my life, and our grandchildren’s lives,” she said.

At-Large Tribal Council Julia Coates said the reason people start satellite groups is because nearly 70 percent of Cherokee citizens don’t live in the tribe’s boundaries and they want to connect with the CN. She said satellite communities are a way to do that.

Along with celebrating the Cherokee culture with themselves, CWST members also receive periodic visits from CN officials and dignitaries, including the Principal Chief Chad Smith.

“We really appreciate the visits from the Cherokee Nation, Chad Smith and (his wife)Bobbie, At-Large (Tribal) Councilors, Julia (Coates) and (Jack) Baker,” Forrester said.

Communities wanting to apply for official CN recognition must meet requirements, including having had six months worth of meetings, established bylaws and permanent officers seated. Also, a majority of officers must be CN citizens.

Once those requirements are met, the group can submit an application to the CNCA board for chapter consideration. Once a community is chaptered under the CN’s non-profit umbrella, they are regarded as one of the CN’s official communities.

News

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
07/07/2015 01:03 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court has set a hearing of 2 p.m. on July 8 for former Principal Chief Chad Smith’s appeal regarding the validity of the June 27 general election in which he was a principal chief candidate. Smith filed the appeal on July 6. In it, he is requesting the Supreme Court rule the principal chief’s election invalid, declare Principal Chief Bill John Baker disqualified for violation of campaign finance laws, declare no mathematical certainty exists to establish the majority of votes for Baker because the Election Commission improperly accepted early walk-in and in-person ballots that should have been rejected, find the commission’s denial of 261 absentee ballots a violation of election law and order a new principal chief election or runoff of the remaining top two candidates. According to the appeal Smith alleges that the EC failed to establish the identity of those attempting to vote. “The Commission is required by statute to establish the identity of those attempting to vote. The Commission failed to comply with 26 CNCA subsections 12 (C)(1) for early walk-in voting and in-person voting in the Tahlequah and other precincts. This violation of the early walk-in and in-person voting procedure results in an improper acceptance ballots that should have been rejected,” the appeal states. It also alleges the EC refused to disclose where 261 absentee ballots were mailed to and states that the commission is bound by law that allows a tribal citizen a list of voters. “The Commission must provide the list by any method available for a nominal fee, as well as making it available at their office for inspection by a Cherokee citizen free of charge,” the appeal states. Smith also alleges Baker violated campaign finance laws by use of personal funds including “failure to report campaign expenditures made with personal funds,” “illegal expenditures to Consumer Logic” and a “violation if Baker paid Consumer Logic through a third party.” Smith also filed a motion in District Court on July 6 for the production of documents against the EC and Baker. Smith requests a list of precinct workers by title, address and precinct worked, the voter sign in books for early walk-in voting and Tahlequah precincts as well as all invoices, scope of work, cancelled payment check or instrument showing date to or from Consumer Logic Inc. from the EC. He also requested the same cancelled payment information from Baker, as well as other financial documents including invoices showing payments from personal funds from Baker referred to from the District Court in CV 2014-569, Smith v. Election Commission. “’While Principal Chief Baker has taken steps to support his re-election campaign for Principal Chief, all activities have been paid for from his own personal funds,’” the motion states. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9414_SC-15-10_1-Appeal_7-6-15.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Appeal Challenging the Validity of Election Outcome. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9414_SC-15-10_2-Motion_7-6-15.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Motion for Production of Documents.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/07/2015 12:20 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation is offering free Cherokee storytelling for the whole family every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in July at the Cherokee National Capitol gazebo. The event is open to the public as part of the Stories on the Square series and will feature Janelle Adair, former Miss Cherokee 1999-2000, as she engages in the age-old Cherokee art of storytelling. The first story, “Opossum’s Tail,” will be told on July 8. Adair will also be sharing the “Medicine Plant Story” on July 15, “How the Redbird Got His Color” on July 22 and “The Milky Way Story” on July 29. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.visitcherokeenation.com /Docs/2015/7/9414_SC-15-10_2-Motion_7-6-15.pdf" target="_blank">www.visitcherokeenation.com</a>.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
07/07/2015 09:14 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court has ordered a hearing for 10 a.m. on July 8 on an appeal filed by Dist. 14 Tribal Council candidate Keith Austin who is challenging the validity of that race’s outcome. Austin filed the appeal around 4:30 p.m. on July 6. That appeal alleges ballots were cast that should not have been accepted, ballots were cast that should have been accepted and two absentee ballot envelopes could not be found. The appeal states “there is one challenged ballot that was rejected that should have been accepted; there are eight voters who live outside of Dist. 14 who are incorrectly registered to vote in Dist. 14 who voted; there are two voters who voted by absentee who ballots were rejected that should have been accepted; there is one voter whose absentee ballot was accepted, but the commission cannot locate his affidavit envelope and there are two absentee voters who the commission has not given voter credit to.” Austin further states in the appeal that 14 votes were cast and shouldn’t have been, three were rejected that should have been accepted and two ballots were lost. “For the forgoing reasons, it is apparent that the results of this election cannot be determined with mathematical certainty and Petitioner Austin requests that the Court order a new election,” the appeal states. Austin lost his Tribal Council bid by six votes in a certified recount on July 2. Check back with the Cherokee Phoenix for an update on this story.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
07/03/2015 12:48 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified recount results, Wanda Hatfield and Betsy Swimmer are still the top two vote-getters who will face each other in the July 25 runoff for the At-Large Tribal Council seat. Following the June 27 general election, Election Commission officials posted results showing Hatfield leading with 25.94 percent of the ballots cast at 1,057 votes. Swimmer was second with 18.9 percent or 770 votes. Following the July 2 recount, Hatfield continued to lead with 1,057 votes, but Swimmer lost seven votes to finish with 763. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to learn what happened to the seven votes, but as of press time EC officials were unavailable for comment. Swimmer said she was confident the EC had valid numbers. “So I’m pleased that it came out like it did,” she said. “I’m pressing forward and I plan to win the election.” Hatfield said the top three finishers remained the same with the recount and congratulated Swimmer on being in the runoff. “It has been a great experience and the next three weeks will be extremely busy reaching out to the At-Large Cherokee citizens,” she added. Candidate Shane Jett, who requested the recount, received 717 votes in the general election, but saw his vote count lowered to 713 in the recount. Jett said with the 2015 election being his first venture into Cherokee politics it was a learning experience, especially the importance of voters ensuring they cast their ballots correctly. “They (EC) had to throw away over 350 absentee ballots because they either did not sign them, notarize them or fill them out properly. So those votes were never counted,” he said. “It’s important that people slow down and make sure their vote counts. I hope everyone gets out and votes for their candidate of choice because their (Cherokee) Nation is worth it.” The EC performed the recount with CN Supreme Court justices present before certifying the results. Runoff absentee ballots will be mailed on July 13-14 and the runoff election will take place on July 25. All successful candidates are to be sworn into office on Aug. 14, according to the CN election timeline.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
07/02/2015 11:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to the certified results from a July 2 recount, William “Bill” Pearson has beaten Keith Austin by six votes to win the Dist. 14 Tribal Council seat. Original certified results from the June 27 general election showed Pearson receiving 534 votes for 50.5 percent of the ballots cast, while Austin garnered 533 votes for 49.95 percent. Austin filed for a recount, which the tribe’s Election Commission performed. After that recount, Pearson had 525 votes for 50.2 percent compared to Austin’s 519 votes at 49.7 percent. The votes tabulated during the recount consisted of precinct, absentee, early absentee and precinct challenged. The recount had 23 votes less compared to the original count. EC officials said that occurred because of human error when inputting votes. “The challenged ballots from the districts were processed on Sunday (June 28) beginning at ”1 p.m. through 12:11 a.m. on Monday and resulted in 349 out of approximately 700 challenged ballots being accepted,” an EC statement reads. “The 349 ballots were then fed through a voting machine that was pre-defined for absentees, to get the vote count for the various races and candidates. The card from the machine was then placed in the computer to print out the challenged vote results. And unbeknownst to the operator it recorded the ballots as absentee votes then the operator took the printout of challenged ballots and manually entered them for the appropriate race and candidate, resulting in the 349 votes being entered twice.” The EC statement also reads that once this was discovered, those votes entered into the machine under absentee were removed. The challenged votes that were correctly placed in districts remained in those districts. “Resulting in the 349 being correctly counted,” the release stated. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Pearson but he was unavailable for comment at the time of publication. In an email statement, Austin did not state whether he would appeal the recount results to the Supreme Court but that he appreciated the EC’s hard work. “They have the impossible job of determining a certifiable winner in a race that could not be closer,” Austin wrote. “Obviously, we want to work with the Election Commission and the Supreme Court to help determine that the election results are accurate. Cherokees took the time to vote because they have faith in our Nation. We owe it to them to ensure their intentions are honored and their votes count.” The EC certified the recount on July 2 in the presence of Supreme Court justices. Candidates have until July 6 to appeal election results with the Supreme Court. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court would hear those cases July 7-9. Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are expected to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline. The runoff election is set for July 25. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/7/9410_ExplanationofRecalculationofVoteCount.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Explanation of Recalculation of Vote Count document.
BY CN COMMUNICATIONS
Cherokee Nation
07/01/2015 06:22 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — At-Large Tribal Council candidate Shane Jett submitted a formal recount request Wednesday to the Cherokee Nation Election Commission after certified General Election results showed Jett finished third to candidates Wanda Hatfield and Betsy Swimmer. After Election Commission officials tabulated challenge ballots Sunday, results had Jett with 717 votes to Hatfield’s 1,057 votes and Swimmer’s 770 votes. Hatfield and Swimmer are scheduled for a run-off election Saturday, July 25, since no candidate garnered more than 50 percent of the vote, pending the outcome of the requested recount. Election Commission officials are now waiting on a formal order from the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court to begin preparation for the recount. Officials must have the recount completed by Friday, July 3. A recount for the District 14 race was ordered by the Supreme Court on Tuesday after candidate Keith Austin submitted a formal request late Monday. District 14 candidates Keith Austin and William Pearson were separated by one vote in the certified election results.