In this Dec. 17, 2009, photo, Elouise Cobell, right, looks on as Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes testifies during a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. Native Americans who sued the federal government over lost royalties have been waiting nearly 15 years for the $3.4 billion settlement Congress passed in November. EVAN VUCCI/AP PHOTO

Indian Trust Settlement deadline approaches

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/30/2011 07:45 AM
WASHINGTON – A court-ordered process of notifying individual Indians of their legal rights in the historic $3.4 billion class action settlement, Cobell v. Salazar, is coming to a close.

The settlement resolves claims related to Individual Indian Money accounts and interests in land held in trust or restricted fee by the federal government for the benefit of individual Indians.

Class members throughout the country have received detailed information about their legal rights and options via U.S. mail and through an extensive media campaign, which included Native American print media, television and radio ads and online advertising.

Class members who received a formal notice in the mail about the settlement and who are receiving IIM account statements do not have to do anything to receive payment. Individuals who believe they should be part of the settlement but did not receive a notice in the mail or are not receiving IIM account statements need to fill out a claim form as soon as possible, available at the Indian Trust website www.IndianTrust.com or by calling toll-free 1-800-961-6109.

Class members who wish to keep their rights to sue the federal government over mismanagement claims covered by the settlement must exclude themselves from the settlement by April 20. Class members can also submit written comments or objections about any settlement terms that concern them by April 20.

The settlement provides a $1.5 billion fund to compensate an estimated 500,000 affected individual Indian trust beneficiaries who have or had IIM accounts or hold an interest in trust or restricted land. It creates two classes of members eligible to receive money from the fund – the Historical Accounting and the Trust Administration classes.

The Historical Accounting Class comprises individual Indians who were alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an open IIM account anytime between Oct. 25, 1994 and Sept. 30, 2009, and whose account had at least one cash transaction.

The Trust Administration Class comprises individual Indians alive on Sept. 30, 2009, who had an IIM account at any time from 1985 through Sept. 30, 2009, recorded in currently available electronic data in federal government systems, as well as individual Indians who, as of Sept. 30, 2009, had a recorded or demonstrable interest in land held in trust or restricted status.

The estates of deceased class members will also receive a settlement distribution if the deceased beneficiary’s account was open as of Sept. 30, 2009, or their land interest was open in probate as of that date. Other eligibility conditions and requirements for each class are detailed in the settlement agreement.

Under the settlement agreement, $1.9 billion will fund a Department of the Interior program to buy fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing sellers to benefit tribal communities and aid in land consolidation. Depending on the level of participation in the land consolidation program, up to $60 million will be set aside to provide scholarships for higher education for American Indian and Alaska Native youth.

The website and toll-free number are available to provide more information about the settlement and the legal rights of class members. Individuals who are unsure whether they are included in the settlement should visit the website or call for more information.

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.