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 ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/03/2016 12:00 PM
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
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Jacob Tanner, Sequoyah High School assistant baseball and softball coach, died on April 28 at age 61. “We are deeply saddened to unexpectedly lose such a valued and respected member of our Sequoyah High School family,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said. “Coach Tanner was a great mentor, teacher and coach for our students. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” Tanner, known for always smiling, served as the assistant baseball and fast-pitch softball coach and science teacher at Sequoyah since 2006. He also sponsored the robotics program at Sequoyah. “Coach Tanner was very well liked and respected by students, staff and faculty. His passing is a great loss for our Sequoyah family, and we will miss him greatly. Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with his family, players, students, colleagues and all who will be grieving this loss,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Tanner served more than 35 years in education, including his time at Sequoyah. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on May 4 in The Place Where They Play gym.
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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/26/2016 03:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to courthouse officials, the Cherokee Courthouse will be closed on April 27-28 for building maintenance. “We will be open on Friday for normal business hours,” officials said. The courthouse is located at 101 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-458-9440.