Former Deputy Principal Chiefs John Ketcher, center, and Joe Grayson remove a Cherokee Braves flag to unveil a Trail of Tears interpretive marker located at Evansville, Ark. Assisting them was Arkansas Trail of Tears Association President John McLarty. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Trail of Tears marker is dedicated in Arkansas

Former Deputy Principal Chiefs John Ketcher, center, and Joe Grayson remove a Cherokee Braves flag to unveil a Trail of Tears interpretive marker located at Evansville, Ark. Assisting them was Arkansas Trail of Tears Association President John McLarty. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation and Evansville citizens read an interpretive panel unveiled at Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10. The marker includes art from Cherokee artist Max Stanley that depicts the removal Cherokee people in 1838 and 1839 to Indian Territory. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation and Evansville citizens read an interpretive panel unveiled at Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10. The marker includes art from Cherokee artist Max Stanley that depicts the removal Cherokee people in 1838 and 1839 to Indian Territory. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Tommy Wildcat played flute music for the people who traveled to Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10 to witness the unveiling of a Trail of Tears interpretive marker, which is left of Wildcat. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Tommy Wildcat played flute music for the people who traveled to Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10 to witness the unveiling of a Trail of Tears interpretive marker, which is left of Wildcat. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Art depicting the forced removal of Cherokee people in the winter of 1838-1839 by artist Max Stanley is part of a Trail of Tears interpretive panel unveiled in Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10. COURTESY PHOTO, ARKANSAS TRAIL OF TEARS ASSOCIATION Art depicting the forced removal of Cherokee people in the winter of 1838-1839 by artist Max Stanley is part of a Trail of Tears interpretive panel unveiled in Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10. COURTESY PHOTO, ARKANSAS TRAIL OF TEARS ASSOCIATION
Cherokee Nation and Evansville citizens read an interpretive panel unveiled at Evansville, Ark., Sept. 10. The marker includes art from Cherokee artist Max Stanley that depicts the removal Cherokee people in 1838 and 1839 to Indian Territory. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
09/13/2011 11:08 AM
EVANSVILLE, Ark. – Cherokee citizens and Evansville community members gathered at the town’s community building and fire department Sept. 10 to witness the unveiling of an interpretive marker that commemorates the removal of Cherokee people through the area during the Trail of Tears.

At least four Cherokee detachments passed near Evansville, about 10 miles east of Stilwell, Okla., on their way to Indian Territory. Many of them settled in Adair County, which sits adjacent to Crawford County, Ark., where Evansville is located.

“We’re still puzzling out the exact roadway, but it’s possible back in late 1838 and early 1839, if you had been right here, possibly they were right here,” said Arkansas Trail of Tears Association President John McLarty. “They had already come over 800 miles to get here. So this was the end of the journey, and they had lost many loved ones along the way.”

He added after studying the history of the removal, he admires the Cherokee people for their resiliency.

“What a testimony that decades later after this terrible forced removal, here they are representing their nation, their culture, their characteristics and their triumph,” McLarty said. “They are thriving in the land they were removed to. They picked themselves up and rebuilt their nation.”

President of the National Trail of Tears Association and CN At-Large Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, said Congress passed a bill in 1987 to acknowledge the forced removal of Southeastern tribes to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. In 1995, the NTOTA began working with the National Park Service, Baker said, to locate the routes used by the Cherokee and other tribes to reach Indian Territory and mark them with signage.

Baker said in recent years, the Trail of Tears Associations from nine states have been placing interpretive panels along the removal routes and have been working with state governments to commemorate the removal.

“Arkansas has always taken the lead in identifying trail segments and putting up interpretive panels. So we appreciate the Arkansas chapter as well as the state of Arkansas for all their work on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail,” Baker said. “I’d also like to thank the Evansville Fire Department for allowing the sign to be placed here.”

McLarty said the Arkansas chapter recently applied for and received a $25,000 grant from the Arkansas General Assembly to create and install 10 Trail of Tears interpretive panels. He said the chapter is choosing to place the panels in communities that likely cannot afford them. So far, six unique panels have been installed.

“A big city like Fayetteville, they can afford a $1,500 panel, so we chose smaller communities and those that have great significance,” he said.

He added, in northern Arkansas, many of the marked trails and interpretive panels for the removal tell the story of the Cherokee, but farther south near the Arkansas River the stories of other tribes who were removed are told as well.

Arkansas Trail of Tears Association Project Coordinator Carolyn Kent and Historian and Arkansas Trail of Tears Association member Dusty Helbling of Ozark, Ark., researched the detachments of Cherokees that passed through or nearby Evansville during forced the removal.

“The leaders of the two detachments that came past Evansville from the northern route (of the forced removal) was B.B. Cannon and the second was Rev. Stephen Foreman,” Helbling said.
A few names from the B.B. Canon group were Charles Timberlake, Jesse Half Breed, Rainfrog, Lucy Redstick and James Starr.

“The third detachment that came up the north side of the Arkansas River and joined the Van Buren to Cane Hill Road (Arkansas Hwy. 59) five miles north of Van Buren was led by John Bell and Lt. Edward Deas,” Helbling said

The Bell/Deas detachment of 650 people reached Evansville on Jan. 8, 1839, disbanded and the people went from there to settle in Indian Territory. This detachment consisted of Cherokees that supported the Treaty of New Echota and was the only one that disbanded in Arkansas.

Another Cherokee detachment came from the Arkansas River valley and passed just south of Evansville and settled in what is now the Bell, Okla., area. This detachment passed Evansville Aug. 3, 1838, and was led by Lt. Whiteley. It had started its journey with 875 Cherokees.

“Seventy died in Arkansas due to sickness and by the time they arrived at Bell one half were sick,” Helbling said.

A Cherokee detachment led by Lt. Gustavus S. Drane also passed by Evansville Sept. 2, 1838.
Helbling said most of the removal survivors settled from Evansville to Stilwell and on to Tahlequah.

will-chavez@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2016 12:00 PM
HULBERT, Okla. – Cherokee Nation leaders celebrated the grand opening of the Hulbert Splash Pad with Hulbert city officials and law enforcement on May 16. The CN donated more than $50,000 over two years for park improvements, which includes building of the new splash pad and road paving to the park entrance. “In a community like Hulbert, the city park is the central location for youth activities, especially during the summer. Now, families will have a wonderful and safe environment for their kids to play, have fun and enjoy the new water features,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The equipment means Cherokee kids will have a new opportunity, but so will all our friends and neighbors. These kinds of infrastructure improvements make northeast Oklahoma a great place to live and raise a family.” The Hulbert Splash Pad is at the Hulbert City Park on Main Street. “A small community like this has a limited amount of money and limited number of places to go to apply for funds,” said Hulbert Mayor Shirley Teague. “This would not be possible without the help of the Cherokee Nation and we could not be more appreciative.” A penny sales tax was passed by residents to also fund part of the park upgrades. “It’s great that our community can enjoy some of the same amenities that other cities do and I’m glad the Cherokee Nation could step up and lend a hand in accomplishing this goal with our community partners,” Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan said. The Hulbert Splash Pad is now open until Labor Day and is free.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A send-off ceremony for the 2016 “Remember the Removal Memorial Ride” will take place beginning at 9 a.m. on May 31 in the Tribal Council Chambers at the W.W. Keeler Complex. The event will be live streamed on the Internet and can be viewed by visiting <a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a>. The cyclists have been meeting in Tahlequah since January to take Cherokee history classes and train together to prepare for the 1,000-mile journey from Georgia to Oklahoma. They will travel to Cherokee, North Carolina, where they will join seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. On June 5, they begin their journey from New Echota, Georgia, following the northern route of the Trail of Tears. This overland route was used by Cherokee detachments that left southeastern Tennessee in 1838 and traveled through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas before reaching Indian Territory in the winter and spring of 1839. They are expected to arrive back in Tahlequah on June 24. During the ceremony the Cherokee National Youth Choir will perform the Star Spangled Banner, and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd will welcome families and visitors to the ceremony. The keynote speaker will be Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Fourth grade students from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School also will perform, and 2015 RTR cyclist Billy Flint will offer words of encouragement to the 10 cyclists. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. will make the closing remarks for the ceremony.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
05/25/2016 08:30 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – The 69th annual Stilwell Strawberry Festival was held May 13-15, and as usual it brought thousands of visitors to Adair County. From a business standpoint, Cherokee Nation citizen and owner of Okie Joe’s BBQ Joe Fletcher said the Strawberry Festival is a boom for area businesses. “These are huge days for Okie Joe’s as well as the downtown economy of Stilwell. There’s 30,000 people who come to town for this event. It’s one of the biggest events in the state of Oklahoma. We’re proud to have it. We want to be a part of it, and we put everything we have into it. I would say this week in general, as far as business goes, is one of the biggest weeks of the year. We’ll probably (get) three times the business that we normally do.” Fletcher also said adding giant turkey legs to his menu during festival weekend has been a big success. “We specialize in barbecue turkey legs on festival day and will probably sell between 500 and 600 of them in the next few hours. This is a wonderful push for us before the slower summer season hits.” Miss Cherokee 2015-16 Jalisi Byrd Pittman said the festival has been a part of her young life. “It’s such a historic part of the town of Stilwell. They are known for their strawberries and have been know for their strawberries for as long as my family can remember. It is one of Adair County’s greatest celebrations. I would not miss this.” Along with the parade and strawberries, the Stilwell Festival also included a strawberry competition, beauty pageant, midway, car show, rodeo, live music and street vendors. Organizers also said next year’s festival would be the biggest yet. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the tribe was well-represented at the festival and for good reason. “Adair County is one of the most highly Cherokee populated communities that we have. The Cherokee Nation has tents set up. We have booths with all kinds of informational pieces, and over a dozen Cherokee Nation departments represented on floats in the parade today. It wouldn’t be the Strawberry Festival without the Cherokee Nation and it wouldn’t be the Cherokee Nation without the Strawberry Festival.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/24/2016 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On May 27, Cherokee Nation officials will honor Cherokee warriors who lost their lives while serving in the armed services with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cherokee Warrior Memorial. The ceremony will take place at 3 p.m. next to the tribe’s Veterans Center and will include the raising of the flags, a performance by the Cherokee National Youth Choir and remarks by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. After the ceremony, there will be a reception at the Veterans Center located at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-772-4166.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
05/24/2016 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A 34,000-square-foot expansion that will provide 150 offices and space for two courtrooms at the Tribal Complex is on pace to be completed next spring. The expansion is being built on the complex’s west end as a second story. The W.W. Keeler Complex opened in 1979 and was last renovated in 1992. In 1994, an addition was made to the west side that was meant to have a second story, but funding was not available to add it. Along with the second story, plans include placing a cover on the roof of the rest of the complex for uniformity. The cover would also protect the complex’s roof and heating and cooling system. A more efficient boiler-chiller system will be installed to replace an inefficient air system. A boiler- chiller system uses water instead of air to heat and cool a structure. Compared with air, water is a more space- efficient method of transferring heat and cold around a building, and hot and cold air will be more evenly distributed throughout the building. “Mankiller (the 1994 addition) was designed for a second story. Keeler (the original building) was not, so we’ll go up several feet for more dead airspace, and then we’ll have a pitched roof over the rest of it, which will modernize it and it’s going to take care of all of our roofing problems (leaks),” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “This building is over 40 years old. It’s never had a new roof. It’s been patched ever since I can remember. One of the first things I wanted to do was get a new roof on this thing so we could protect our asset.” He said along with protecting assets, the pitched roof would lower utility bills and raise the building’s elevation so it looks more appealing. Baker said he’s been told the second story’s interior would be complete in December and the entire addition should be done in March. “They knew it was going to take a better part of a year to do this project, but when you’re working around programs, serving people each and every day and trying to keep access to all of the programs it just takes a little longer,” he said. A canopy will be built over the complex’s main entry to shelter people. Also, a courtyard will house two elevators to provide second-floor access. Three elevators will be installed to service the second story. Baker said including the tribe’s courts in the addition would save $30 million because a new building for the courts would not have to be constructed. Baker said the two courtrooms and supporting offices take up about half of the second-story expansion. “It gives them the square footage they (court officials) want. It gives them the design they want. It gives them the opportunity to be here on trust land at the complex. It will give better access to our courts by some of our programs. It will bring all three branches of government much closer together physically but still with separation,” he said. The design for the District and Supreme courts allows parties on opposing sides to enter the area from opposite elevators. “The architects and engineers that are experts in courthouses apparently have been able to do everything that they (court officials) were wanting done. So they’ve got two courtrooms. They’ve got waiting rooms for witnesses. They’ve got basically everything they dreamed they needed.” The larger courtroom will have 110 to 120 seats and seating for plaintiffs, defendants and a jury. The smaller courtroom will seat 24. Baker said there would be twice as much space as is available now in the Supreme Court. As for programs or departments that would occupy the rest of the space, Baker said it’s likely Child Support Enforcement and some or all components of Indian Child Welfare would occupy offices next to the courts because they interact with the courts on a regular basis. He said further discussions would be needed to make a final determination. Also, Baker said he anticipates the additional office space would save the CN “hundreds of thousands” of dollars annually because it would not need to rent as much office space in Tahlequah, and funding from office space rented in the complex by programs and departments would stay within the CN. Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said he began working for the tribe as a laborer varnishing the tribe’s motel in the late 1960s and has seen much growth over the years. “There’s been lots of improvement over the years, and right now we’re in the midst of unparalleled growth in the Cherokee Nation. I’m glad I’ve got to hang around and see the good things happening,” he said.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
05/23/2016 10:02 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Cherokee Nation employee’s constructive discharge lawsuit has raised the question of whether tribal tipsters could be subject to retribution. Citing the tribe’s Public Integrity and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2004, former Wildland Firefighter Coordinator David Comingdeer filed litigation with the tribe’s District Court against the CN, Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley and three unnamed supervisors in April claiming he was the victim of retaliation after telling employees the tribe was about to lose a grant from the U.S. Forest Service because of non-compliance with the award’s terms. Comingdeer’s job, along with those of several other firefighters, was funded via the federal grant, the lawsuit states. According to the complaint, Comingdeer was suspended without pay twice and barred from the Tribal Complex after notifying tribal officials associated with the grant about the situation, including the Attorney General’s Office, Human Resources and Career Services. He was also subject to disciplinary action after posting about the situation on social media, according to the lawsuit. After the grant was terminated, Comingdeer was transferred to special projects officer, with a job description that makes no mention of firefighting, and placed on administrative leave, the lawsuit states. According to CN Communications, Comingdeer is still employed at the CN but could not provide any other details because of personnel policy and CN law. Speaking in general terms, CN spokeswoman Amanda Clinton said that a CN employee is not allowed in his or her workspace while on administrative leave. However, as tribal citizens entitled to services, they are not barred from the complex or other CN properties unless they have exhibited criminal behavior. In the Nation’s response to the lawsuit, Senior Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo argued that the law cited by Comingdeer and his attorney, the Public Integrity and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2004, was effectively repealed almost four years ago when the Tribal Council approved a new ethics law in October 2012, thus eliminating the waiver of sovereign immunity that came with it. The CN Ethics Act of 2012, which replaced Title 28 in the CN Code Annotated, makes no mention of the Whistleblower Protection Act or its provisions. Instead, it largely focuses on conflicts of interest and contracting with relatives of elected officials. A wrongful termination lawsuit that also claimed a violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act was filed in District Court in March 2014 – 18 months after the Tribal Council adopted the Ethics Act of 2012. However, no mention is made in any of that case’s filings whether the Whistleblower Protection Act is still in effect. Citing the pending litigation, Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd declined to comment on whether the omission was deliberate. Byrd also declined to say whether the legislative body has any plans to consider reinstating any of the Whistleblower Protection Act’s terms to the CN Code Annotated. Rather than comment on the matter, a CN Communications official deferred to the tribe’s response filed on April 26 with the District Court. As of May 16, a hearing on the case had not been scheduled. A motion is pending to have Nimmo disqualified from trying the case, as she was one of the people Comingdeer initially emailed in October 2015 about the impending grant loss.