Settlement between Native Americans and USDA approved

05/04/2011 06:52 AM
WASHINGTON – U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan on April 28 granted final approval of the historic settlement between Native American farmers and ranchers and the United States Department of Agriculture in a case known as Keepseagle v. Vilsack.

Resolving a nationwide class action lawsuit, the Keepseagle settlement agreement requires the USDA to pay $680 million in damages to thousands of Native Americans, to forgive up to $80 million in outstanding farm loan debt and to improve the farm loan services USDA provides to Native Americans.

“Final approval of the Keepseagle settlement marks the end of an unfortunate chapter in our nation’s history where USDA’s credit discrimination against Native Americans was the norm. Under this settlement, Native American farmers and ranchers will finally receive the compensation and justice they deserve, and we will undertake a process to ensure that the USDA treats Native Americans equally and fairly,” said the lead plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph M. Sellers.
Named plaintiffs Claryca Mandan, of Mandaree, N.D.; and Porter Holder, of Soper, Okla., who attended the fairness hearing, were elated by the court’s official ruling.

“We’ve waited three decades for the USDA to be held accountable to the Native American people. So today is a great day, indeed,” said Mandan. “The changes to USDA’s Farm Loan Program will mean that our children and grandchildren will inherit a system that is far more responsive and fair to Native Americans than the system that hampered our generation of farmers and ranchers.”

The class-action lawsuit was filed more than 11 years ago, on the eve of Thanksgiving 1999. The plaintiffs alleged that since 1981, Native American farmers and ranchers nationwide were denied the same opportunities as white farmers to obtain low-interest rate loans and loan servicing from USDA, causing them hundreds of millions of dollars in economic losses.

The settlement agreement approved by the court represents an extraordinary result for the plaintiffs. The settlement’s $760 million in monetary relief represents about 98 percent of what the plaintiffs could possibly have won at trial, according to an expert report prepared by a former USDA economist for the plaintiffs. All funds for the settlement will be paid from the federal Judgment Fund, which is controlled by the U.S. Department of Justice, and will not have to be approved by Congress.

Now that the settlement agreement has received final approval, Native American farmers and ranchers will have until Dec. 24 to file claims for damages and debt relief. Keepseagle class members will have an option to file individual claims under either Track A or Track B.

Track A permits eligible class members to recover up to $50,000 by providing information under oath that they are Native Americans, that they farmed or ranched (or attempted to farm or ranch) between 1981 and 1999, that they sought a loan or loan servicing from USDA during that period, and that they complained when they were denied a loan or otherwise treated unfavorably.

Track B permits eligible class members to seek an award of damages up to $250,000, with the amount based upon evidence of their actual economic loss. Track B claims must submit evidence that would be admissible in court to satisfy each of the same elements as Track A, and in addition, must identify a similarly situated white farmer who received more favorable treatment.

Starting in July, class counsel will conduct a series of meetings to assist Native American farmers and ranchers with filing claims under Track A. These meetings will occur throughout Indian Country from July through December. Class members are encouraged to retain individual counsel for Track B claims, as far more is involved in preparing a successful Track B claim than a Track A claim. A list of attorneys willing to consider Track B claims will be provided to interested class members. Claims approved by a neutral adjudicator are expected to be paid in the summer of 2012.

Notification of meetings and information on how to file a claim can be found online at or by calling 1-888-233-5506.

Under the settlement, the USDA also will forgive up to $80 million in debt currently held by class members whose claims are approved under Track A or Track B. When the U.S. District Court granted preliminary approval of the settlement in November 2010, that order put into effect a moratorium on foreclosures, debt accelerations and debt offsets not already referred to the U.S. Treasury Department.

The moratorium currently applies to all Native American farmers and ranchers and for those who file Track A or Track B claims the moratorium will last until the claims process has concluded. After the debt relief is provided, if there are any class members with remaining debt, who are delinquent on any outstanding USDA farm loan debt, the USDA will engage in a round of loan servicing of that debt.

The third provision of the settlement agreement calls for the USDA to improve the delivery and responsiveness of its farm loan program to Native American farmers and ranchers. One of the most important provisions is the creation of the Native American Farmer and Rancher Council, a new federal advisory committee. The council will have 15 members, 11 of who will be Native Americans or represent Native American interests and four of who will be top USDA officials.

It will meet at least twice a year for the next five years to discuss how to make USDA’s programs more accessible for Native Americans farmers and ranchers. It will report its recommendations directly to senior UDSA officials.

In addition to establishing the council, the USDA will take the following additional steps to improve its services: create 10 to 15 USDA regional sub-offices that will provide education and technical assistance to Native American farmers and ranchers and their advocates, undertake a systematic review of its farm loan policies to determine how its regulations and policies can be reformed to better assist Native American farmers and ranchers, create a customer guide on applying for credit from the USDA, create the Office of the Ombudsperson to address concerns of all socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers and regularly collect and report data on how well Native Americans fare under USDA’s farm loan programs.


10/21/2016 04:00 PM
GROVE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials are hosting two job fairs in November to help fill available positions at the new Cherokee Casino Grove. The job fairs will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 2 and from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Grove Community Center at 104 W. 3rd St. Attendees should bring their Certificate Degree of Indian Blood and tribal citizenship cards as well as an updated resume. Positions are available in gaming, operations, hospitality, security, maintenance and food and beverage. According to a CNE press release, Cherokee Nation-owned companies offer a comprehensive benefits package, including health, life, vision and dental insurance; a matching 401k plan, paid vacation and sick leave; and many other benefits. Native American applicants will be given preference, and all applicants must be 18 years of age or older to apply. Cherokee Casino Grove is located at Highway 59 and E. 250 Road near Tom Cat Corner and close to the popular Shangri-La Golf Club, marina and resort at Monkey Island.
10/21/2016 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Applications for the 2017 “Remember the Removal” bike ride are available for Cherokee Nation citizens. The application deadline is midnight Oct. 28. The three-week, 1,000-mile ride in June teaches CN citizens ages 16-24 about their culture and history as they cycle the same route their ancestors were forced to walk in 1838-39 to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. The route travels through seven states testing the cyclists’ physical and mental endurance. If selected to participate, participants would be required to take part in a physical training schedule and attend history classes. The classes will be taught during the four months of training to prepare for the ride. Participants will learn about the struggles their ancestors. The selection committee, whose members will not be related to any applicant, will review the required essays and applications submitted. It will be looking for CN citizens willing to learn more about Cherokee history and their ancestry related to the Trail of Tears. Successful applicants will be expected to interact with the public and speak to the public about their experiences on the ride. “Remember the Removal” cyclists also will be photographed, videoed, interviewed during the trip. So the committee will be looking for riders who are personable, well-spoken and would make ambassadors for the CN. Applicants must not have participated in the program before, be 16 to 24 as of Jan. 1 prior to the event and be able to pass a sport physical provided by the CN during the post-selection orientation. It is recommended participants reside inside the tribe’s jurisdiction, including the contiguous counties. Participants may have a different temporary address while away at school. If a participant lives outside the jurisdiction he or she will still be required to make all mandatory trainings and history classes in Tahlequah. Applications are online at <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and must be submitted by Oct. 28. The application requires an essay about why the applicant wants to participate, three letters of recommendation mailed or emailed to <a href="mailto:"></a> directly from the recommending party by the application deadline. Letters of recommendation should not be from CN employees, administration officials or Tribal Councilors. Letters should be from someone the applicant has worked with academically or professionally or a person they have known for a minimum of three years. For more information, call Gloria Sly at 918-453-5154 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
10/20/2016 04:00 PM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Campaign finance reports show the Cherokee Nation gave $6 million to the group behind a casino legalization proposal that was disqualified from the November ballot, while a dog track and horse track gave more than $1.4 million to the campaign opposing it. Arkansas Wins in 2016 reported Monday the Oklahoma-based tribe made up the bulk of $6.1 million in total contributions raised for its proposal to legalize casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties. The Arkansas Supreme Court last week disqualified the measure. The campaign said earlier this year Cherokee Nation would run the Washington county casino if the measure passed. Delaware North, which Southland Park Gaming and Racing, donated more than $721,000 on the campaign against the measure. Oaklawn Racing and Gaming in Hot Springs donated more than $748,000.
10/20/2016 12:00 PM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — The attorney for a woman charged with driving her car into spectators at Oklahoma State University's homecoming parade and killing four people says he's given a judge and prosecutors a psychologist's report on a mental evaluation of the woman. Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery in the crash that occurred Oct. 24, 2015, in Stillwater. Attorney Tony Coleman has previously indicated plans to raise the question of mental illness or insanity at Chambers' trial set for January. Prosecutors say they'll have their own psychologist examine Chambers. A motion to move the trial out of Payne County because of pretrial publicity and several other defense motions were scheduled to be considered on Dec. 6.
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
10/20/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After the Cherokee Adult Choir sang the last notes of Amazing Grace, the descendants of Margaret “Peggy” Dick, a Trail of Tears survivor, gathered around her grave for photos and to say their goodbyes. Her descendants gathered Oct. 15 at the Tahlequah City Cemetery to honor their common ancestor who had traveled the Trail of Tears as an infant with her parents Ti-kah-eh-ski, known in English as Dick Easky, and her mother Patsy Tidwell. They had lived in the old Cherokee Nation at Suwanee Old Town on the Chattahoochee River in what is now Gwinnett County, Georgia. Peggy’s older siblings Nancy, Alsie, Susie, Pressha and Andrew also made the journey west to Indian Territory with the Moses Daniel detachment. David Stand of Tahlequah said he was happy to meet many new relatives among the people who came to honor their common ancestor. He added his “heart is heavy” for what his great-grandmother went through to make it to Indian Territory. Stand said he knew very little about his grandmother other than what his dad and aunts shared with him as a young man. He said what he now knows about his grandmother was learned recently through his daughter Robin’s research. “It’s honor and a blessing. I was humbled because I didn’t know I was going to meet all of these people who are family,” Stand said. “I feel a rebirth because I now know who my grandmother was and what she endured on the Trail of Tears.” Birth records from the old Cherokee Nation can be sparse or non-existent, but it’s believed Margaret “Peggy” Dick was born about 1838 at what is now Ball Ground, Georgia. The family had moved from Suwanee Old Town to the Ball Ground area near the confluence of the Etowah River and Long Swamp Creek because of problems with white encroachment. Her Cherokee name was Wakee, but she was frequently called “Peggy.” In the spring of 1838, U. S. soldiers began rounding up Cherokees to begin the forced removal west. After a delay during the summer, the Easky family left with the Daniel detachment on Sept. 30, 1838, from Bradley County near present-day Cleveland, Tennessee. They arrived in Indian Territory on March 2, 1839, and disbanded at Webber’s Depot in what is now Stilwell after traveling 164 days and suffering approximately 48 deaths. Robin Stand of Tahlequah is the great-great granddaughter of Dick. She said about a year ago she began researching her ancestors on, so that she could have information to share with her son and family members. Through her research she met relatives Sue and Harry Hood and Kori Carriger, another great-granddaughter. “We started digging and we started sharing back and forth. Sue and Harry did the extra steps to talk to the Trail of Tears (Association) to get the plaque put on her grave,” she said. “It’s humbling and it’s a honor, and I’m just glad I was able to participate and pull this all together for my family on the Stand side.” Stand said at least six generations of Dick’s family attended the Oct. 15 marking ceremony. She added on the Stand side of the family she was able to go back six generations and on the Dick side she went back seven to eight generations. “I’m pretty astonished by how much I’ve been able to find,” she said. In 1839, the Easkys settled in the Going Snake District of the Cherokee Nation. Dick Easky died in 1840. About 1855, Peggy married an Old Settler Cherokee, Alexander Campbell. They had one son, Alexander. Peggy’s husband died about 1857 and about 1859 she married Jack Daugherty Stand. They had one son, Robin Bruce Stand. Jack died early in the Civil War. About 1863 Peggy married Charles Dick who was of Creek and Cherokee descent. They had six children, Andrew Dick, John Henry Dick, Sarah Dick, Taylor Dick, George Washington Dick and Charles A. Dick. The Dick family farmed in what is now Adair County. Peggy Dick died on December 7, 1887 in Tahlequah and Charles Dick died on July 27, 1888. They are both buried in the Tahlequah City Cemetery. Sue Franklin Hood of Fort Worth, Texas, said her mother was of the Dick family and was born in Checotah, Oklahoma. She married her father who was in the Air Force and moved the family extensively, so she did not grow up in Oklahoma and did not get to learn about her Cherokee heritage. When she began researching her mother’s family she discovered Margaret Dick was her great-grandmother. “It was a very inspiring learning situation, and it brought me to these cousins I’ve never met before,” she said. “It’s such an amazing feeling for everyone to come together and honor this woman that went through so much.” She added she wanted the family attending the ceremony to understand that the forced removal of her ancestors is not just confined to history books, it happened to Cherokee families like theirs. Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association President was present at the Oct. 15 ceremony and unveiled a bronze plaque that the association had attached to Dick’s headstone. The plaque reads: “In honor of one who endured the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838-39. The Trail of Tears Association Oklahoma Chapter.” The plaque also includes the TOTA and Cherokee Nation seals. “It’s a privilege for us as the Oklahoma Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association to mark your ancestor’s grave who came on the Trail of Tears,” Rohr told the family. “This is one of our main projects in the Oklahoma chapter, so we are very privileged and honored to be able to do this.”
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham &
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
10/19/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission met on Oct. 11 and approved the candidate packets and disclosure reports to be used for the upcoming elections in 2017. Candidate packets will be available on Dec. 1 and candidates can begin accepting donations on Dec. 2, according to EC officials. Also approved during the meeting, was the election calendar for 2017. Included in the calendar were the filing dates for candidates, which unlike in years past, filing for candidacy is the first Monday in February. The calendar is available online at <a href=",Maps,VotingLocations.aspx" target="_blank">,Maps,VotingLocations.aspx</a>.