Frozen HUD funds released to Cherokee Nation

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/28/2011 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development informed the Cherokee Nation yesterday in a letter that it is lifting a temporary suspension of the tribe’s housing funds.

HUD froze the funds in August following a ruling by the CN Supreme Court that stripped tribal citizenship from Cherokee Freedmen descendants.

“We are pleased that in the second week of our term we’ve managed to work with the federal government to have this money released. It’s important we have that money so we can better take care of our people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.

The $39 million in housing funds allocated to the CN is $6 million more than the CN expected to receive in August. In a letter to Baker, HUD informed the CN that based on its compliance with the Sept. 21 federal district court ruling that restored citizenship to Freedmen it is releasing the funds.

“In light of these considerations and after considerable analysis of Section 801, HUD has determined that section 801 of the Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act does not prohibit HUD from making IHBG funding available to the tribe,” the letter from Assistant HUD Secretary Sandra B. Henriquez stated. “Consistent with previous statements made by the tribe and tribe’s actions to date, HUD expects that the tribe will continue to comply with the terms of the Nash order.”

The Sept. 21 ruling for Cherokee Nation v. Nash, in the United States District Court in Washington, D.C., ordered the tribe to ensure all Cherokee Freedmen descendants who were stripped of CN citizenship on Aug. 22 by the tribe’s Supreme Court be recognized as citizens again, be provided the rights and benefits of other CN citizens and be allowed to vote in the Sept. 24 special election.

The Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 22 that a March 2007 constitutional amendment approved by Cherokee voters was valid. The amendment prevented Freedmen descendants without Indian blood from being CN citizens.

HUD said in September that because of the court’s ruling it was suspending NAHASDA funding, and while HUD sought guidance on the ruling, housing funds would remain suspended.

Previously, Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Executive Director David Southerland said a majority of the expected $33 million in NAHASDA funding, nearly $11 million, was used by Housing Services. The tribe’s commerce department received nearly $5.7 million for mortgage assistance and other housing programs; Human Services received nearly $5.2 million; and Community Services nearly $2.3 million. The remaining funds are allocated to CN Career Services, Environmental Services, the Marshal Service, Delaware Tribal Housing and indirect costs.

In her letter to Baker, Henriquez added that HUD reserves the right to reassess its decision to release the tribe’s funds in the future if the tribe is deemed to be in violation of the terms of the federal court order.

“Failure to adhere to a federal court could lead to sanctions, up to and including termination of the tribe’s IHBG funds,” the letter stated.

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
05/04/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation awarded 130 volunteer and rural fire departments with $3,500 checks totaling $455,000 on May 3 during its 2016 Volunteer Firefighter Awards Ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The tribe treated about 500 firefighters to dinner and presented each station a check to help with equipment, fuel or other items that help maintain their fire stations in northeastern Oklahoma. “Recognizing these brave men and women is one of my favorite duties as principal chief. Every unit is highly trained and skilled. These firefighters are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, and the most impressive thing is that they do all this for the love of their community and to ensure our families remain safe,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I’m proud our tribal government sees the importance in making this annual financial commitment. Because of this money, 130 rural volunteer fire departments in northeast Oklahoma will be better equipped and better prepared when an emergency strikes.” During the ceremony, the CN named the Illinois River Fire and Rescue in Cherokee County and Afton Fire Department in Ottawa County as “2016 Volunteer Fire Departments of the Year.” In the past year, Illinois River Fire and Rescue increased its volunteer staff to 20 active members. The station formed a “brown water team” that partners with neighboring districts and counties to help with rescues after the 2015 spring flooding on the Illinois River. During the December 2015 flooding, the team worked 40 hours straight to rescue 26 people. There were no fatalities. The department was also commended by the tribe for helping victims with cleanup efforts. “The financial backing from the Cherokee Nation is tremendous, because like everyone else, money is difficult at times. It plays a major role in us being able to continue to provide the best services possible,” Gary Dill, assistant fire chief of the Illinois River Fire and Rescue, said. The Afton Fire Department responded to 325 calls in 2015. Most calls were from first responders. The department helped with grass and structure fires, and also water rescue calls. During the December flooding, the department rescued two families. The tribe honored the firefighters for their efforts, including pulling one family from an SUV that had been swept away and overturned. “It’s a real big honor to have the Cherokee Nation recognize our department as one of the volunteer fire departments of the year, but the biggest honor is having the good lord on scene with us helping in difficult situations,” Terry Miller, fire chief of the Afton Fire Department, said. The CN also named five “2016 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year” awards to the following: • Jeff Mueller, of Vinita, for eight years of service to the Centralia Fire Department in Craig County, • Jordan Shofler, of Vinita, for demonstrating courage, leadership and dedication on every call the Carselowey Fire Department receives, • Brian Gibson, of Afton, for working behind the scenes on the day-to-day operations of the Afton Fire Department, • Austin Moore, of Oologah, for his nine years of service and leading volunteer trainings every month for the Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District, and • Gary Dill, of Tahlequah, for sharing 34 years of firefighting experience and knowledge with members of the Illinois River Fire and Rescue.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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LONGMONT, Colo. – Do you have a ranching or farming operation in your community and want to move it forward? Are you looking to build a sustainable tribal ranching or farming enterprise? Do you desire to increase your business knowledge and fundamentals of running and maintaining a successful agricultural business? Or perhaps you assist producers in your community with advice on how to grow their businesses and by helping them gain access to bigger and better opportunities. Or maybe you are interested in helping assess the status of your community’s food sovereignty and help make it better and stronger? If so, First Nations Development Institute has three, three-day training workshops for you. Two in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Denver are producer-focused, and one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is intended as a train-the-trainer workshop. The fee for each training is $100, which covers the cost of materials and any meals that are included. Participants will receive copies of First Nations’ The Business of Indian Agriculture curriculum and Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool. Day 1-2: The Business of Indian Agriculture producer-focused trainings in Green Bay and Denver are designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers topics such as how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, agribusiness economics and marketing and land use and management. It also covers important topics such as risk management, personal financial management and using credit wisely. The two-day training offers attendees the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of agriculture business and the opportunity to network with other producers. The train-the-trainer workshop in Tulsa will focus on giving the technical knowledge, tools and guidance to conduct training with farmers and ranchers in a community. Day 3: The optional third day of training covers Food Sovereignty Assessment. Food has always played a central role in Native communities. It reflects environmental, economic, social and political values. For some communities today, the relationship to food is much less visible than it used to be. The diet history, gathering and consumption practices, value of food products and source of foods tell the story of a community and its people and can help define their future. For example, there are complex cause-and-effect relationships between food choices or lack thereof that have consequences for health, economy and even social implications. The Food Sovereignty Assessment Training, utilizing the Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool, is meant to begin the process of telling the food story of a community through a community-driven and participative process of data collection. The information can be used to understand community food supply chains, agricultural and food profiles, as well as community economic and health considerations. It can also be used to improve and strengthen a community's food sovereignty. The Green Bay training is sponsored and hosted by the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. The Denver and Tulsa trainings are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Room rates vary by location, so visit the individual registration page for each event, which contain specific logistics and other information. Visit the links below for more information or to register. Green Bay: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1822850" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1822850</a> Denver: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1833972" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1833972</a> Tulsa: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1834133" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1834133</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/02/2016 10:15 AM
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BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/27/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Employees from Cherokee Nation Businesses and Cherokee Nation Entertainment are once again celebrating the spring season by volunteering in a statewide initiative to make Oklahoma cleaner, greener and more beautiful. Joining the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful for the 28th annual Trash-OFF, employees from the tribe’s corporate and entertainment properties cleared trash and debris from alongside local roadways. Trash-OFF is Oklahoma’s signature event in the Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program. Each spring, Trash-OFF brings together thousands of volunteers working to improve the state’s appearance and the safety of its roads. The official Trash-OFF cleanup day was April 23, but the annual effort is held from March 1 through May 31. CNB and CNE employees are volunteering throughout April and May. “The Trash-OFF is a great way to unite communities and show pride in Oklahoma,” said Melody Johnson, ODOT Beautification coordinator. “We are fortunate to have so many caring people pitch in to keep our land grand.” The effort to make Oklahoma roads cleaner and safer for motorists is part of a longstanding partnership between CNB and ODOT. CNB’S involvement with cleanup projects, such as Trash-OFF and the Adopt-A-Highway program, are coordinated through the company’s Community Impact Team, which helps promote volunteerism and community engagement for all employees. “We live in such a beautiful part of this country. It is an honor to be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the two-mile stretch of Highway 59 South, near our casino,” said Amber Nelson, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw marketing manager, “Many of our team members drive that route every day and feel proud each time they see the Adopt-A-Highway sign with our name on it.” To beautify local communities, CNB and CNE have additional cleanup days scheduled throughout the year. All eight of CNE’s Cherokee Casinos and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa have separate CIT teams that also participate in ODOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program.