The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians’ casino sign flashes in front of the casino in Tahlequah, Okla. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering an application by the UKB to put the casino land into trust. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

BIA considering UKB trust application

The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians’ casino sign flashes in front of the casino in Tahlequah, Okla. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering an application by the UKB to put the casino land into trust. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians’ casino sign flashes in front of the casino in Tahlequah, Okla. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering an application by the UKB to put the casino land into trust. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY CHRISTINA GOODVOICE
11/18/2011 02:40 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Bureau of Indian Affairs is considering placing land into trust for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians for gaming purposes, but Cherokee Nation officials said they would object to the UKB trust application.

According to a Nov. 4 letter from BIA Acting Regional Director Charles Head to CN Principal Chief Bill John Baker, the bureau’s Eastern Oklahoma Regional Office is considering placing 2.03 acres of fee simple property into trust for the UKB. The UKB casino sits on the property, which is located at 2450 S. Muskogee Ave.

However, CN Attorney General Diane Hammons said the CN would file an objection to the trust application. According to the letter, the CN has until Dec. 3 to do so.

“I do not know of any other federally recognized tribes that have attempted to have land put into trust within our jurisdiction,” she said.

The UKB, which formed under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, has no trust-land base and operates within the CN 14-county jurisdiction.

Although the letter was sent to Baker and CN Real Estate Services on Nov. 4, Baker, Hammons and the Tribal Council didn’t learn of the letter until Nov. 14 due to a delivery error by mailroom staff.

Todd Enlow, CN Leadership executive director, said mailroom workers pick up all certified, registered and express mail from the U.S. Postal Service; electronically checks in the mail; and then delivers the mail to the proper addressee within the Tribal Complex.

“When they received that letter, I’m not sure if it was just accidentally appended to another letter, or if it was accidentally grabbed in the wrong batch,” Enlow said.

The letter was processed in the mailroom on Nov. 7 and delivered on Nov. 8 to the CN Indian Child Welfare Office. After ICW workers opened the letter, they realized the letter was delivered to the wrong department and rerouted it to Real Estate Services on Nov. 10, Enlow said.

He added that the two workers in Real Estate, who have responsibility for viewing such letters, were out on real estate closings on Nov. 10, and all CN offices were closed Nov. 11 for Veteran’s Day. So, Enlow said, nobody in Real Estate saw the letter until the morning of Nov. 14.

Within 20 minutes of the letter being discovered, it was scanned and sent via email to Baker and Hammons, Enlow said.

“Just because of a busy normal day, that email was not noticed by the chief until it was brought to his attention at the council meeting,” he said. “He hadn’t had a chance to go through all of his email. He received it sometime around 11 a.m. on the 14th, but he hadn’t read it yet.”

Tribal Councilors inquired at their meeting on Nov. 14 as to why Hammons wasn’t notified sooner about the UKB trust request.

“It stuns me that nobody has come to us before now with this information. I’m just stunned and I’m upset,” Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said.

Prior to learning of the UKB request, councilors were discussing legislation regarding other tribes possibly requesting trust land within the CN.

“This is pretty serious stuff when another tribe comes within our jurisdiction and tries to put land in trust,” Tribal Council Speaker Meredith Frailey said.

After some discussion, councilors unanimously approved an act addressing “foreign” tribes attempting to place land into trust within the CN. According to the act, the principal chief and his officers would reject any application by a foreign Native American tribe to acquire, transfer or otherwise place land in federal trust status within the CN jurisdictional boundaries unless the principal chief is authorized by a two-thirds vote of the council’s entire membership.

Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts went a step further by emailing Head on Nov. 17.

“Attached you will find the Land into Trust Act passed unanimously at full Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting the night of Monday, November 14, 2011,” Cowan Watts wrote.

“Although I have not seen a signed copy from Principal Chief Baker’s office, he assured us publicly he agreed wholeheartedly on the issue and would fight to protect our sovereign borders from foreign Tribes including the United Keetoowah Band (UKB).”

In her email, Cowan Watts referenced the BIA letter and wrote that Nov. 14 was the first time she heard of the UKB application.

“The Cherokee Nation is adamantly opposed to any other tribe putting land into trust within the legal and sovereign boundaries of the Cherokee Nation per the fee patents of 1838 and 1846,” she wrote. “The Cherokee Nation is adamantly opposed to the United Keetoowah Band putting land into trust for any reason within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation as defined by the highest form of land ownership, our fee patents of 1838 and 1846.”

Cowan Watts also requested all forms of correspondence between any CN official and the BIA, as well as the written process for notification of land into trust.

CN officials said Baker is opposed to other tribes putting land into trust within the CN.

“Chief Baker will always protect and defend the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation and will aggressively defend the Nation’s boundaries and any encroachment within those boundaries,” Baker’s spokesperson Kalyn Free wrote in a Nov. 16 email to the Cherokee Phoenix.

christina-goodvoice@cherokee.org • 918-207-3825


News

BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
07/26/2016 04:00 PM
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.”
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
07/26/2016 08:30 AM
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>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/25/2016 04:00 PM
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>.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
07/25/2016 12:00 PM
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.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/22/2016 12:00 PM
MUSKOGEEE, Okla. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and 12-year prison sentence of a former Choctaw Nation construction director. A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for a mistrial Tuesday sought by Jason Merida, who was convicted in November 2014 on two counts each of theft and tax fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery. Prosecutors alleged contractors used false billing practices between 2008 and 2011 during construction of the tribe's Durant and Pocola casinos. Money generated from the false billings was used to make campaign donations and purchase gifts. Merida testified he received gifts from vendors but claimed it didn't affect his decisions because he did not have the authority to select contractors.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
07/22/2016 09:15 AM
BRUSHY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Breanna Potter and the Brushy Cherokee Action Association on July 14 hosted the second annual back-to-school giveaway at the Brushy Community Center, providing children and their families needed items such as backpacks, shoes, coats and hygiene kits. “We…have some families in our area that are homeless. They don’t have anywhere to live,” Potter said. “We have families in our area that live in tents, and those families oftentimes can’t get those types of items. So we’re just here to kind of fill in the gaps.” In 2015, Potter and the BCCA began applying for an in-kind donation grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation to get the needed items for the giveaway. “The reason we started writing this grant last year was because there’s a big need in our community for basic essential items, and a lot of time a lot of these families fall through the cracks,” Potter said. “They either make just enough that they don’t qualify for things, or some of the families aren’t actually Cherokee so they don’t qualify for services at the Cherokee Nation. So we have a lot of families that end up falling through the cracks and the system and aren’t able to get the items they need, and the kids are the ones who end up suffering.” Earlier this year Potter received another grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation called the Dreamstarter Grant. With it she created a youth group in the community to help youths gain leadership skills and learn about diabetes prevention. Now youth group members, known collectively as the Brushy Youth Dream Team, are in turn using those acquired skills to give back to their community with Potter leading them as program director. Parents of BYDT members said they noticed the development in their children thank to the new skills. “I think it’s great because my kids are shy. This will teach them, maybe, to communicate better with their peers and with adults and learn to make their way in the community and kind of what their role is, that they can do something even though they’re just kids,” Crystal Thomas, mother of a BYDT member, said. Potter said the impacts the BYDT and BCCA are making in the community are noticeable with events such as the giveaway. “The coolest things is when I’m driving around and everything, I see kids out and I see them wearing these shoes, or I see the kids at school and I happen to stop by for a few minutes and some of the kids have the backpacks or the coats,” Potter said. Potter said the biggest impact she’s seen in the community is that kids are able to receive items that their families struggle to provide. Potter said she and her teams are trying to get additional funding so they can host more events and help more families. For more information about the BCCA and the BYDT, visit <a href="http://www.brushycherokeeactionassociation.org" target="_blank">brushycherokeeactionassociation.org</a>.