Native American Heritage activities in November
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will host two days of activities Nov. 9 and 10 to honor Native American Heritage Month. All events are free and open to the public.
At 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9, Professor Tim Garrison of Portland State University will present the keynote history address for the two-day event in the Tribal Council Chambers. His lecture, “The Cherokees in the Pac-12? Elisha Chester’s Bizarre Removal Plan,” illuminates an interesting aspect of Cherokee history.
In the early 1830s, the United States government was trying to decide where to relocate the Southeastern Indian nations. In 1832, one of the Cherokee Nation’s attorneys, Elisha Chester, offered a bizarre plan for the Cherokees’ relocation. Garrison’s lecture will discuss Chester’s role in the removal crisis, describe his failed removal proposal and explain why the lawyer became a pariah among the Cherokee. There will be time for questions and answers at the end of the presentation.
Professor Garrison is a well-known scholar of Cherokee history. His most recent book, “The Legal Ideology of Removal: The Southern Judiciary and the Sovereignty of Native American Nations,” has just been released in paperback.
Garrison currently directs Native American Studies at Portland State, has won various teaching awards, and has written numerous articles, book chapters, encyclopedia essays and book reviews.
Garrison received his Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky and his J.D. from the University of Georgia.
From 1:30-3 p.m. on Nov. 9, in the council chambers, producers from Twin Path Productions will present for the first time in the Tahlequah area their film of the June 2011 “Remember the Removal Bike Ride.”
This year’s ride was the first time members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians joined CN riders for 1,000-mile bicycle ride from Georgia to Tahlequah.
From 3:30-4 p.m. Helena McCoy, fifth-grade teacher at the Cherokee Immersion School, will present “My Awakening,” a PowerPoint presentation of images she took as a member of the “West to East Tour” sponsored by the CN Leadership Group this summer to the Cherokee homeland. McCoy will discuss her personal awakening to the achievements of Cherokee people and places and history encountered on the trip.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nov. 10, in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Room (directly behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees), artists will be on hand to teach people how to make a variety of Cherokee arts and crafts.
Among the crafts to be demonstrated and taught are how to make baskets, cornhusk dolls, pinch pots, bead key rings and lanyards, braiding and finger weaving. All supplies for all arts and crafts will be provided at no charge to attendees.
Freeman Owle of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will also be on hand to teach stone carving. He will have a limited number of stone-carving kits, so people should arrive early to participate in this activity.
A stickball game will also be played this year for the first time. The game will take place from noon to 3 p.m. at the CN complex under the direction of Shane Dominick, who is the stickball coordinator.
“If you have never played and want to learn how, this would be a perfect opportunity. If you just love to watch stickball being played, come watch this fun event,” said event organizer Cathy Monholland.
For additional information, call Monholland at 918-453-5389 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) – The Northern Arapaho tribe has filed a federal lawsuit alleging that proposed Internal Revenue Service rules could cause Native Americans to pay higher insurance premiums or lose health care benefits.
Tribal leaders said the recently proposed IRS interpretation of the large-employer mandate would unlawfully exempt Native Americans working for the tribe from receiving tax credits and cost-sharing benefits specifically outlined by new federal health laws.
Northern Arapaho Business Council members said the IRS rule would eliminate tribal tax credits for health care benefits and make those earning more than 300 percent of the federal poverty level exempt from cost-sharing provisions that currently cover Native American insurance premiums.
“The Northern Arapaho Business Council fully supports what Congress and the president have accomplished with the Affordable Care Act,” said Northern Arapaho Councilman Darrell O’Neal, “but the folks in the agencies have taken a wrong turn in implementing it.”
The Northern Arapaho Tribe has about 10,000 enrolled citizens and shares a large reservation in Wyoming, southeast of Grand Teton National Park. It employs more than 600 people.
The tribe insures its workers with plans from the federal health insurance marketplace and provides more than 80 percent of premium costs, the Casper Star-Tribune reported.
Under the rule, tribal governments and agencies are considered large employers. Those Native Americans employed by the tribes would be subject to provisions of the large-employer mandate. More than 62 percent of Northern Arapaho members live below the poverty line.
If approved, the rule would take effect Jan. 1. The rule-making is on hold, awaiting results of the case, filed in the U.S. District Court of Wyoming.
The tribe said Congress did not intend the health care legislation to block Native Americans’ benefits and that the IRS rulemaking exposes a rift between legislation and the executive branch.
The IRS referred calls to the Department of Justice, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) – California’s Pala Indians have launched their Internet gambling site in New Jersey following a test period in November, becoming the first tribe to do so in the state.
The Pala Band of Mission Indians received permission from New Jersey gambling regulators for a full launch of the website in a partnership with Atlantic City’s Borgata. PalaCasino.com started taking bets on Nov. 29, Jim Ryan, CEO of Pala Interactive, the tribe’s Internet gambling arm, said.
“We had a solid weekend and we have yet to start marketing,” he told The Associated Press. “We believe we are breaking into the New Jersey market at the perfect time.”
The tribe’s entry into New Jersey’s online market comes at the anniversary of Internet gambling, which has not produced nearly the amount of revenue state officials had hoped. When it began on Nov. 25, 2013, New Jersey officials were projecting a $1 billion a year industry in its first year. To date, only about one-tenth of that, or $111 million, has been won online by the casinos.
The tribe, which runs the Pala Casino and Spa in San Diego County, California, is using one of the Borgata’s online gambling licenses. Like other New Jersey Internet gambling providers, it can only take bets from customers within New Jersey’s borders.
It plans to launch an online poker site in the first quarter of 2015.
The site’s full debut came days after New Jersey gambling regulators said they had found no evidence Ryan was involved in a 2006 cheating scandal at his previous employer.
The report determined the UltimateBet scandal occurred while Ryan was head of Excapsa Software. That firm’s software was used to cheat players by revealing their hidden cards to other users, resulting in losses of nearly $20 million to players. But the software was developed by a different company that predated Ryan’s employment at Excapsa, according to the report. The money was ultimately refunded.
The Pala site uses a different platform, Ryan said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Candidates running for office in the 2015 Cherokee Nation General Election can pick up their election packets beginning on Jan. 5 at the Election Services Office.
According to an Election Commission press release, the filing period for candidates will begin on March 2, and will continue until 5 p.m. on March 5. If any candidate wishes to withdraw their candidacy he or she may do so 10 days following the close of the filing period, the release states.
Seats open are for principal chief, deputy chief as well as Tribal Council districts 1, 3, 6, 8, 12, 13, 14 and one At-Large.
Registered voters residing outside the CN jurisdiction who wish to vote by absentee ballot may fill out an absentee ballot request to be processed from Feb. 2 to May 8, the release states. Absentee ballot requests will be available at the Election Services Office and online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections</a>. Absentee ballots will be mailed out on May 26-27 by the Election Commission.
Voter registration will close March 31. To print a voter registration form online visit <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections</a> or pick up one in person at the Election Services Office. Citizens can request to have one sent by email or fax.
Also, voters with address changes, name changes or any changed information will need to submit a new voter registration application, according to the release.
The Election Services Office is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s located at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road. For more information call 918-458-5899.
EUCHA, Okla. – Eucha residents gathered on the evening of Dec. 13 to celebrate the opening of the new Eucha Community Center.
The center’s opening was five years in the making after setbacks prevented residents from completing the 50-foot-by-75-foot building, which will be used by the Eucha Indian Organization and community.
“We had a lot of problems. The roof blew off twice while we were trying to build it. Some of the guys got dissatisfied and they quit, but some of them stayed on. And then about three months ago I started coming up here and working on the inside of it,” community organizer Tad Dunham said. “We finally got it finished. Actually we got it finished yesterday (Dec. 12).”
The center’s opening coincided with the annual Eucha Fire Department Christmas dinner. The fire department and its firefighters are a centerpiece for the community located about four miles west of Jay in Delaware County and about two miles north of Lake Eucha. Dunham said when the lake was built in 1952 the town was moved to its present location.
In years past, the fire department, which is next door to the community building, backed its trucks out of the fire station to make room for events.
“We always worried about them freezing this time of year because some of the water lines are only an eighth of an inch that go to the gauges and they freeze really quickly,” Dunham said. “Now we don’t have to pull them out. We can use this building (community center), and it just makes everything greater. Plus we have more room in here.”
Cullus Buck, EIO chairman and EFD assistant chief, said the center would “mean a lot” because it gives residents a place to meet without using the fire station.
“We opened up the fire department many times for family reunions and different things, and now this will take care of that, and we won’t have to worry about our trucks freezing,” Buck said.
He said he wants to use the center to keep the area’s Cherokee heritage alive by having craftspeople and others visit to share their knowledge.
“I’m going to try to get some beading classes in. My wife, she knows how to (do) that and some basket weaving. We had a guy come up and said he would teach knife (making), and I’ve got a couple of people who are interested in teaching the Cherokee language,” Buck said.
He said he appreciates any help the Cherokee Nation could provide in preserving Cherokee heritage in Eucha but believes there are residents qualified to teach the Cherokee language and arts and crafts.
The CN’s Community Work Program provided $116,000 to build the center, and the nearby Seneca-Cayuga Tribe in Grove and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe in Wyandotte also provided assistance. The Eastern Shawnee donated the building’s appliances, and the Seneca-Cayuga helped fund the Christmas dinner.
“It wasn’t just the Cherokee Nation. Different tribes helped pitch in to get it (community center) done,” Buck said. “There was one point I wanted to give up. We got it all ready to go, had all the trusses up, and they all fell in because we had a tornado right down the road.”
Dunham said he believes the building will begin an era in the community because people now have a gathering place for reunions, parties, weddings and funerals.
“It’s going to open up the whole area for the community, not just the Eucha community but the surrounding area. It will be a general purpose building for the whole community,” he said. “I want to thank the Cherokee Nation not only for this building, but everything else they do for the community and all the Cherokee people – all the health care they provide, the roads they build – if you look around you can see their mark on about everything in the area, so we really appreciate the Cherokee Nation.”
TULSA, Okla. (AP) – The Cherokee Nation has opened a tag office in Tulsa as it makes its license plates available to its citizens across Oklahoma.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker says demand is up for Cherokee Nation license plates, so it was necessary to open a Tulsa office so it can deliver tags in a timely manner.
The tag office opened Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It joins five others - at Adair, Collinsville, Jay, Sallisaw and Tahlequah. The new office is in the Cherokee Nation Welcome Center off U.S. 412.
In the last fiscal year, the Cherokee Nation generated $11 million in motor vehicle tag revenue, up $2 million from the earlier year. Funds are used for public schools, road and bridge improvement projects, and law enforcement.
CATOOSA, Okla. – During its Dec. 5 meeting, Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Chairwoman Stacy Leeds announced that starting in January the commission would require a series of amendments to its regulations to implement the recently amended Gaming Commission Act.
“As you all know as soon as we hit the ground running in January we will require a series of amendments to our own regulations to implement the new ordinance, and our first order of business will be taking up changes to licensing,” Leeds said.
CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said that whatever changes are made would come from the CNGC.
“If policies are changed they will go through the Administrative Procedures Act, and there is a publication period and a public comment period,” he said. “These will not happen overnight. There are processes.”
In April, Tribal Councilors limited the CNGC’s regulatory powers over Cherokee Nation Entertainment operations with Legislative Act 07-14. In June, the council made technical changes to that act with LA 17-14. Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed both acts but the amendments didn’t become law until they received National Indian Gaming Commission approval on Oct. 27.
Before the NIGC approved the amended act, the CNGC regulated all gaming operations, including auditing, to ensure compliance with the act and any regulations adopted by the CNGC. The CNGC also enforces any gaming-related compacts with the state.
The amendment calls for the CNGC to regulate and issue regulations only related to CNE’s gaming operations and follow only the NIGC’s minimum internal control standards or MICS. Before, the CNGC was required to establish tribal internal control standards or TICS to meet the tribe’s specific gaming needs.
Nongaming operations would include areas such as food, beverage, hotel and entertainment. Because the CNGC would no longer be regulating them, they would fall under the regulation of Cherokee Nation Businesses and CNE, according to the amended act.
“So it’s my understanding that the attorney general will visit with the council, see what their desires are and he’ll propose back to us regulations that would be put into effect and those would be put into effect in this body and through our regulatory process just like everything else,” Leeds said. “But I think as a courtesy to the council we get their point of view about how that is carried through and then it becomes part of our general regulatory structure like anything else would.”
Hembree said if there were changes in policy there would be changes in the way CNB does business and it would have to follow the law and the policies. He added that he has met with Leeds, Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird, CNB officials to address changes and questions.
“With any change there are questions. One thing I believe the intent of the amendments were was to ensure that CNB played on a level playing field with other gaming facilities and that the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission was able to maintain their very well oversight of the gaming operations and that they adhere to the strict federal standards that are there,” Hembree said. “It comes into the interpretation of what is an operational facility, what is a gaming activity. Those are the questions that we are working out. I do not believe that there will be much that changes from the implementation of these amendments.”
Hembree said he, Leeds and Hummingbird also met with NIGC legal staff in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues that may or may not arise.
“I wouldn’t say concerns, but there’s unknown because we’re exploring new ground on this,” he said. “There are going to be questions that if X happens how does that effect Y, and that’s why we are meeting and working out the details and implementation. We’re not just blindly going into this. Before these things happen we talk it out and make sure we are all on the same page.”
The revised act also called for the creation of a three member, non-voting advisory board to be made up of Tribal Councilors. According to the act, Tribal Councilors shall appoint the advisory board with members serving three-year terms.
Leeds said the CNGC knows there will be an advisory board but commission officials have no guidance on how or when it’s going to be implemented.
According to the previous and revised act, the CNGC is part of the tribe’s executive branch that carries out the Nation’s responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the NIGC’s regulations. The act states the CNGC shall be consistent with all laws and resolutions of the Tribal Council.
When asked if the advisory board violates the Constitution’s separation of powers clause, Hembree said it does not because the board would serve as a non-voting board. He added that advisory board members would get access to information that a sitting commissioner would get.
Hembree also said, as of Dec. 11, he had not met with the Tribal Council but would be giving suggestions to its legal counsel “as to the policies of how the advisory members are chosen, their length of term, how they resolve any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.”