Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is now operating an east Tulsa welcome center formerly operated by the state. COURTESY PHOTO
Tribe operating Oklahoma Welcome Center in Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahoma Welcome Center in east Tulsa on Interstate 44 officially began operating under the guidance of Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism on Aug. 1.
CN and Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department officials marked the partnership with a ceremony Aug. 1 at the welcome center, which is now called the Cherokee Nation Welcome Center. The facility is located at I-44 and 161st East Ave.
The 4,200-square foot center was in danger of being closed due to state budget cuts, but an agreement between the state and CN was reached, transferring daily operations to the tribe. The center will promote both Cherokee and Oklahoma tourist destinations in the area.
“This arrangement allows us to continue to be a good partner to the state of Oklahoma and to promote tourism in northeastern Oklahoma to travelers along I-44,” Molly Jarvis, vice president of Cultural Tourism at Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said. “We will continue to operate the facility as a welcome center for Oklahoma while using our guest service and tourism experience to promote the communities within Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction.”
The welcome center will house an information desk, tourist destination information, maps, snacks and a gift shop featuring Oklahoma-related merchandise along with Cherokee art, jewelry and apparel. The tourism group will also use the center for office space for about 14 staff people.
“We are grateful to Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment for leading this effort to provide Oklahoma visitors with specialized materials, which showcase the tourism attractions in the Cherokee Nation as well as information about travel destinations statewide,” said OTRD Travel Promotion Director Sandy Pantlik. “Without this valued partnership, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department was considering closure of this facility due to budget cuts.”
Pantlik said more than 1.3 million visitors stop at Oklahoma’s tourism information centers annually.
The center’s lease will be renewed on a yearly basis, and CNE is not paying OTRD for the lease but will be responsible for paying for the center’s operating costs.
The center is the second partnership between the CN and OTRD. In 2010, the CN began operating a state welcome center at the Kansas, Okla., exit just off the Cherokee Turnpike.
The CN Welcome Center in Tulsa is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For additional information, call 918-384-5987.
OOLOGAH, Okla. – The annual Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In will be held Aug. 13 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. The event commemorates the Aug. 15, 1935, deaths of Rogers, a Cherokee humorist, and Post, a pilot, in Point Barrow, Alaska, 81 years ago.
Pilots from throughout the area will land small planes on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip at the ranch. Some of the visiting planes are vintage warplanes from World War II and other eras. The fly-in provides an opportunity for the public to get a close-up look at airplanes and meet the pilots. Pilots are also able to meet fellow aviators and people who appreciate their planes.
Called the “crash heard around the world,” newspapers all over the world reported the deaths of Rogers and Post. The two were in search of a mail and passenger air route from the West Coast of the United States to Russia.
Pilots start landing shortly after daybreak and spend the morning showcasing their antique and classic planes. The fly-in started with a simple program in the shade of the house where Rogers was born on Nov. 4, 1879. It grew from a dozen or so planes to 50 planes in 2004 to a record number in 2015 of more than 130 pilots and their planes. The event outgrew the parking and a part of the ranch pasture is now parking.
The “2016 National Day of Remembrance ” will be celebrated for the second year to honor any pilot and passengers who have died in a small plane crash.
A lapel pin, with a picture of Rogers in a flight jacket has been designed to pay tribute to flyers. A gold circle surrounds Rogers’ photo with his quote, “She’s a beautiful day and we are flying high.” It will be presented to a family member of a deceased pilot or passenger. Additional pins are $5 each. Names of deceased pilots or passengers will be honored on the website willrogers.com, if requested.
Rogers and Post are enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame and Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The major airport in Oklahoma City is the Will Rogers World Airport. Wiley Post airport, a feeder airport, is just a few miles away.
Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Gates will open at 7 a.m. and people are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. There will be classic cars and motorcycles on display, activities for children and food vendors.
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a>.
PHILADELPHIA – Four years ago, at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker called President Barack Obama “the best president for Indian Country in the history of the United States.”
Baker is here this week hoping Hillary Clinton succeeds Obama in office next year.
“I truly believe that Hillary gets the issues of sovereign nations,” Baker said on Monday.
Baker recalled her talking to tribal officials in the mid-1990s, when her husband, Bill Clinton, was president. That discussion was soon followed by an executive order that cut through red tape and allowed tribes to deal directly with government agencies, rather than working through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, he said.
“I'm proud to support Hillary Clinton,” Baker said. “I think she will make a wonderful president.”
The Cherokee Nation, based in Tahlequah, is hosting delegates and visitors this week in a tent on the grounds of the Wells Fargo Center, where the Democratic National Convention is being held.
The tribe has speakers scheduled throughout the week, including U.S. senators.
Monday's speaker was former U.S. Sen. Fred Harris, who represented Oklahoma from 1964 to 1973, served as national Democratic Party chairman and ran for president. His former wife, LaDonna, was a prominent American Indian activist.
The Chickasaw Nation is sponsoring meals in the Cherokee Nation tent.
Kalyn Free, an Oklahoma delegate at the convention and an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, said Baker and his staff have dozens of meetings scheduled here this week with business leaders and members of Congress.
“Our mission is to ensure tribal issues like education opportunities, improved health care access and job development that will spur economic growth in Indian County remain at the forefront of policymakers,” she said.
Baker's chief of staff, Chuck Hoskin, was on the committee that wrote the platform. Muscogee Creek National Council Speaker Steve Bruner served on the rules committee.
Baker's mother, Isabel Baker, a longtime Democratic activist in Oklahoma, is also a delegate here.
Free said Obama “prioritized our issues like never before. He populated his staff with talented Native people, hosted tribal summits, reached settlements in the Cobell and Keepseagle cases, passed the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and signed the Violence Against Woman Act. … He has set the bar very high for his successor, and I know (Clinton) will raise it even higher.”
Baker met with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., in Washington earlier this year and said he doesn't understand why Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump would refer to her as Pocahontas.
“It makes no sense to me whatsoever,” Baker said.
Warren, who was born in Oklahoma, was heavily criticized four years ago for claiming to be a Cherokee while on the faculty at Harvard University. The Cherokee Nation was not able to verify her ancestry, and Trump has chided her for it numerous times.
Baker said Monday that Trump “is probably a shrewd businessman and probably a good father.
“I just don't think his rhetoric is what America wants or needs.”
– Reprinted with permission
CATOOSA, Okla. – Don’t bank on seeing Cherokee Nation or the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association officials playing fantasy football any time soon.
Speaking to attendees on July 14 of the Reservation Economic Summit inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo, OIGA Executive Director Sheila Morago and OIGA Chairman Brian Foster said while they are not necessarily opposed to daily fantasy sports, that type of gaming constitutes a violation of the exclusivity provisions of Oklahoma’s current gaming compacts.
Daily fantasy sports involves participants picking professional athletes to be a part of their fantasy teams for anywhere from a day to a year. Depending on those athletes’ real-life performances, a participant can win cash or other prizes.
Sites such as DraftKings.com and FanDuel.com contend that fantasy sports is a game of skill rather than gambling because successful participants often research different athletes, playing conditions and other potential factors before forming their teams.
However, none of the RES panelists are buying that argument.
“We all know people who have no knowledge or skill of specific players who play fantasy football or whatever sport is in season,” Ross Nimmo said. “We’re (tribes) not necessarily against daily fantasy sports. We want to be involved with them. However, we have a legal right to administer and oversee certain types of gaming in this state, and it’s important that the tribes all be on the same page when it comes to this.”
The current gaming compact used by the CN and more than 25 other tribes across the state provides for exclusivity for certain forms of gambling in Oklahoma in return for an annual fee. Prior to the 2016 state legislative session, a measure was introduced that would have allowed for daily fantasy sports leagues in Oklahoma. However, with the proposal viewed as a potential violation of the compact, the state’s tribes banded together to stop the proposal.
“We killed that bill in seven hours,” Morago said, calling any legislative consideration of the state giving up exclusivity fees in exchange for $500,000 in commercial licensing fees “fuzzy math.”
According to the OIGA, tribal gaming had a $4.2 billion economic impact statewide in 2014, the most recent year with available data. Since the implementation of Oklahoma’s Class III gaming compacts more than a decade ago, tribal casinos have contributed $1.3 billion just to the state’s education fund.
“By far, gaming is the largest job creator in several counties,” Morago said. “The biggest misconception is that all Indians are rich because of gaming. It’s going to take more than 30 years (of gaming) to make that happen.”
State-tribal gaming compacts, including the CN’s, are set to expire on Jan. 1, 2020. With Kansas and other states turning to commercial gaming to fill budget holes, all three panelists urged Oklahoma’s tribes to work together and present a united front in the pending negotiations.
“If there are any changes, it is very important that the tribes are united on this,” Ross Nimmo said. “That way it’s a lot harder for the state to make extreme changes. If one tribe goes out on their own and strikes a deal, there’s not much leverage.”
CATOOSA, Okla. – National Museum of American Indian officials, Cherokee Nation leaders and Native veterans gathered July 21 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to discuss and share ideas about the creation of a National Native American Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
The memorial would be built on NMAI grounds, and a committee is traveling Indian Country to gather ideas and support for the $15 million project.
“Many fine, young Native men and women have served. To all of them, through the generations, we owe a debt of gratitude. They are true American heroes and deserved to be included. With all of the monuments that are in Washington, D.C., none of them (specifically) recognize Native veterans. This monument will do that, so it’s especially important that we get this done,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said at the meeting.
He added that the memorial should “be representative of all tribes” in the country.
In 2013, Congress authorized the establishment of a National Native American Veterans Memorial on the NMAI’s grounds to give “all Americans the opportunity to learn of the proud and courageous tradition of Native Americans in the United States armed forces.”
However, the legislation states no federal funds may be used for the memorial’s creation. Therefore, all funds must be raised. The memorial will be located prominently outside the NMAI in an area not yet chosen. The NMAI is located between the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on the National Mall and the U.S. Capital.
Northern Cheyenne veteran and former U.S. Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell and Chickasaw Nation Lt. Gov. Jefferson Keel, a Vietnam veteran, chair the advisory committee for the memorial. Also, 24 committee members represent the geographic diversity of Indian Country and several branches of the U.S. armed forces.
“I’ve listened to other people talk about things that they see, their vision for this memorial. We’re talking about a design that educates America about what the warrior spirit really is,” Keel said. “How do we capture that in a single memorial? How do you put in (the ideas) of every tribe in this country? You’re talking about 567 federally recognized tribes.”
Keel said such consultation meetings are important for gathering ideas from as many tribes as possible. The meetings began in January. Keel, NMAI Director Kevin Gover and other committee members will visit all 12 regions of the country through June 2017 seeking input and support for the memorial.
During the fall of 2017, the committee will call for design proposals, and in the summer of 2018, a jury will select a final design. Construction will begin in the fall of 2018 with a completion date set for fall 2020. The memorial will be unveiled and dedicated on Veterans Day 2020.
Some veterans who spoke at the July 21 meeting suggested that technology be used to tell more of the Native American military service story that the memorial won’t be able to fully tell. For instance, an app could be created for smart phones that would allow visitors to learn more about Native veterans and their long history of serving this country.
Cherokee Nation citizen Carol Savage, of Grove, spoke about family members who served in the military and said she hopes the memorial will make a “visual impact.” She used the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C., that utilizes bronze statues of soldiers walking through a rice paddy as an example that makes a visual impact.
Muscogee (Creek) Marine veteran Joe Taylor, of Tulsa, said he wants the memorial to reflect the spirituality of Native people and wants the committee to ensure the memorial gets an original design.
“I’d like to see something that’s going to be there to remind people that there is a spirit that moves us,” Taylor said.
Gover said there would not be room for all ideas and stories of Native veterans, so that’s why he is glad the Library of Congress has asked the NMAI for help in reaching Indian Country to gather veterans’ stories.
He said the NMAI is hoping to assemble “the best roster possible” of every Native person who has served in the U.S. armed forces and plans to place those names in a new area inside the museum.
“We want it to be where somebody can walk up and read some general information, but then they could look up a specific veteran and see their relatives or their friends or whomever they would like to see,” Gover said. “In order to do that we’re going to need a lot of help from the tribes because tribes have better lists of their veterans.”
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he at some point would discuss with the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors about donating to the memorial fund.
“I think you’ll be surprised how this will be received in Indian Country for fundraising,” Baker said.
To learn more about the memorial, visit <a href="http://www.AmericanIndian.si.edu" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>
or email <a href="mailto: NMAI-NativeVeteransMemorial@si.edu">NMAI-NativeVeteransMemorial@si.edu</a>.
PARK HILL, Okla. – Join Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism in honoring the legacy of former Cherokee Nation Principal Chief John Ross on Aug. 2 at the John Ross Museum.
The one-hour discussion begins at noon with Amanda Pritchett, historical interpreter of the George M. Murrell Home historic site, leading the session.
John Ross, principal chief from 1828–66, served longer in the position than any other person. As principal chief, Ross witnessed devastation by both the Indian removals and the U.S. Civil War.
The discussion is open to the public and free to attend. Guests are encouraged to bring a brown bag lunch. The museum will also offer free admission throughout the day.
The John Ross Museum highlights the life Ross and houses exhibits and interactive displays on the Trail of Tears, Civil War, Cherokee Golden Age and the Nation’s passion for education. The museum is housed in an old, rural school building known as School No. 51 and sits at the foot of Ross Cemetery where John Ross and other notable Cherokee citizens are buried. The John Ross Museum is located at 22366 S. 530 Road.
CN museums are open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
For information on CNCT, call 1-877-779-6977 or visit <a href="http://www.VisitCherokeeNation.com" target="_blank">www.VisitCherokeeNation.com</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials, citizens and guests on July 18 celebrated the life and achievements of former CN Secretary of State Charles L. Head at the Cherokee Courthouse as part of the third annual Charles L. Head Day.
Head co-founded the tribe’s ONE FIRE Against Violence Victim Services Office before dying in a car accident on Jan. 30, 2013 near Chouteau. The CN citizen and Pryor native was 63.
That same year Principal Chief Bill John Baker designated July 18, Head’s Birthday, as a “national day of celebration of the life of Charles L. Head throughout the Cherokee Nation.”
According to the tribe’s website, ONE FIRE provides services to increase the safety for victims of crime. ONE FIRE stands for Our Nation Ending Fear, Intimidation, Rape and Endangerment.
“We’re real excited because today is our annual butterfly release in remembrance of Charles L. Head” ONE FIRE Victim Services Director Nikki Baker said. “Before he passed away, he was really working hard on ONE FIRE, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Today, we release butterflies in his memory and also to the legacy he leaves behind, which are the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Domestic violence survivor and former ONE FIRE client Lena Nells also spoke at the event about how the program helped her be successful after being abused.
Nells, who is Cheyenne-Arapaho, Kickapoo and Navajo, said as commissioned intelligence officer for the U.S. Army she never expected her life to be affected by domestic violence but was thankful ONE FIRE was available when it did.
“They educated me, helped me understand what I was going through.” Nells said.
Other speakers described how the program has helped and what Head meant to them. ONE FIRE Victim Services Manager Amanda Drizzle told the audience that the department saw 216 clients in 2015 and has seen 107 in 2016.
“We were also able to help 120 kids get to safe homes,” Drizzle said. She also credited CN marshals for their help in domestic violence issues. “They’ve been referring a lot of people to us, and we’ve been able to help a lot of women get to households…Out of these people, we were able to get several women to safe homes, where they could spend Christmas, where they can spend birthdays, where they can come home safe after work.”
Former Little Miss Cherokee and sexual assault survivor Cierra Fields read a poem honoring both the domestic violence victims and their caregivers as butterflies were released.
“With this symbolic gesture, we honor those who have left us and encourage those left behind to continue on the fight, on the wings of hope,” she said.