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 JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
12/08/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit on Nov. 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma against the United States, Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs and other agencies claiming the federal government mismanaged the tribe’s trust funds. According to a CN Communications release, the suit asks the U.S. to give an “accurate accounting of the Cherokee Trust Fund, which includes property, land, funds and other resources.” The lawsuit states the intent is to “resolve accounting and related equitable claims” that the CN brings against the federal government and some of its agencies and bureaus relating to the government’s management of the CN’s trust fund, including money generating obligations owed by the government to the CN. “Within the Trust Fund, the United States held and managed vast resources for the Nation including inter alia, money; proceeds from the sale of land or profits from the land; money from surface leases for agriculture, surface, oil and gas mining leases, coal leases, sand and gravel leases, businesses, and town lots; income from property owned by the Nation’ buildings; the Nation’s records; and money resulting from treaties or other agreements,” the lawsuit states. During an April 28 Rules Committee meeting, prior to the Tribal Council’s approval of the litigation, Attorney General Todd Hembree said the lawsuit’s purpose was to have a proper accounting of and to rectify any and all trust violations or trust responsibilities that were not fulfilled by the U.S. to the CN. “This is a monumental lawsuit. We discussed the details of the arrangement…This does involve treaty rights. So therefore, in accordance with the Consent to Litigation Act, before going forward we must have a council resolution,” Hembree said. “ This is a once-in-a-lifetime type of suit, and we hope to be very judicious in its prosecution and to be a game changer for the Cherokee Nation when it’s all complete.” When the Tribal Council discussed the lawsuit on April 28, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay asked if there was any kind of waiver of sovereign immunity included with the legislation. Hembree said “no” and that the lawsuit wouldn’t require a waiver either. “It is very advantageous for the Cherokee Nation. The way it’s structured, if I was the plaintiff in this lawsuit I’d be comfortable with it,” Hembree said. According to the suit, outside attorneys representing the tribe are from the Indian and Environmental Law Group in Tulsa, Hunsucker Goodstein PC in Washington, D.C., and Askman Law Firm in Denver. The Cherokee Phoenix requested costs for the outside attorney contracts through CN Communications and a Freedom of Information Act request on Dec. 5, but as of press time neither had been received. Some Tribal Councilors during the April 28 meeting said other tribes had seen success with similar lawsuits against the U.S., so in essence the groundwork had already been laid for the CN. Tribal Councilor David Thornton said the case was not expected to be resolved quickly, but over several years. Hembree said he hopes to prosecute the case within three years, but believes both sides would settle at some point. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/12/10841__nws_161205_TrustLitigation.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a>the complaint document.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/08/2016 10:00 AM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A judge has refused to move the trial of a woman charged with crashing into spectators at the Oklahoma State homecoming parade and killing four. The Payne County district judge on Tuesday turned down the request by attorneys for 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers. Defense attorneys argued that Chambers couldn't get a fair trial in Payne County because of pretrial publicity. Judge Stephen Kistler also rejected other motions, including one to suppress statements made by Chambers, who witnesses said commented about being suicidal following the October 2015 crash. Other motions denied include one to suppress autopsy photos of victims and to order the families of victims not to show emotion while in court. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
12/08/2016 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results, Joe Bunch won the Dec. 5 runoff for United Keetoowah Band principal chief against Anile Locust. Unofficial results show Bunch received 58.64 percent of the votes (302 votes) while Locust received 41.36 percent (213 votes). A total of 515 UKB citizens voted in the tribe’s nine districts. Bunch said he thanks the UKB citizens for “overwhelmingly” electing him for his first full term as principal chief. He has served as interim-principal chief since May after the Tribal Council voted to remove former Principal Chief George Wickliffe from office, a decision that the UKB courts later upheld. “I look forward in using my 32 years experience in tribal government moving our tribe forward. It will be an honor and privilege working with federal agencies in resolving our shortage of federal resources provided to all federally recognized tribal governments,” Bunch said. “I plan to move our tribe forward by getting land in trust, re-establish our gaming portfolio and develop our economic status while safeguarding our rich Keetoowah tradition and heritage. Thank you Keetoowah voters for your confidence in me.” In a Facebook post, Locust commented about conceding the race to Bunch. “It was truly a great race for the office of the chief. I had fun. I met a great bunch of people, and I was honored to have so many people support me…Pray for Joe Bunch and the rest of our leaders as this is what we are commanded to do,” she states. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Locust for comment but she declined. Bunch was expected to be sworn into office on Jan. 7. According to the UKB Election Board, results would not be official until five days after the date of the election for any protests, appeals or recounts of election votes.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 12:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will close to the public for 16 days beginning Jan. 1 after another season of promoting Cherokee history and culture. “This has been a busy year for the heritage center, and we have welcomed visitors from across the country,” Tonia Hogner-Weavel, interim CHC director, said. “We are thankful for the generous support of all of our sponsors and donors and look forward to bringing a full, fun-filled schedule again in 2017.” As the tourism season winds down, CHC will operate under holiday hours effective Dec. 1. The CHC will be closed to the public Dec. 23-26. From Dec. 27-31, it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. From Jan. 1-16 it will close to the public, and from Jan. 17 to May 27 it will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Guided tours through the ancient village Diligwa will be offered twice daily at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. While the CHC operates independently from the tribe, it continues to promote tourism within the Cherokee Nation. More than 50,000 guests visited the CHC throughout the year, taking advantage of everything the organization has to offer. In addition to permanent exhibits and archives, CHC featured four exclusive exhibits, four art shows, monthly cultural classes, group tours and various educational events. It is located at 21192 S. Keeler Drive. For information on 2017 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/07/2016 09:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden issued a statement today regarding the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. His statement is as follows: “President Franklin D. Roosevelt said Dec. 7, 1941, is a date which will live in infamy, and those words ring as true today as when he gave the famous speech 75 years ago. The attack on Pearl Harbor changed the course of history for our great country and the lives of those men and women serving at Pearl Harbor and those who served in World War II. As Cherokee Nation citizens and Americans, I encourage you to take a moment today and recognize and honor the brave men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice on that day. Also, remember to keep in your mind and heart those who answer the call to protect our freedoms and country today, especially on this day of remembrance when the United States faced and overcame its greatest challenge.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials will attend area Christmas parades with floats during the holiday season. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 9, the CN will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Lights in Tahlequah. The tribe will also have a float in Catoosa’s Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. The tribe will also have a float in the Christmas Parade in Jay, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, as well as the Christmas Parade in Hulbert, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Finishing out the holiday parade season, the CN officials will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Sallisaw, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.