The first issue of the newspaper was printed on Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia), and edited by Elias Boudinot.
Cherokee Phoenix celebrates 184 years
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Phoenix was the first Native American newspaper and the first bilingual publication in North America. Today it celebrates its 184th birthday.
The first issue of the newspaper was printed on Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Cherokee Nation (now Georgia), and edited by Elias Boudinot. It was printed in English and Cherokee, using the Cherokee syllabary created by Sequoyah.
Rev. Samuel Worcester and the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions helped build the printing office, cast type in the Cherokee syllabary and procure the printer and other equipment. Also, Boudinot, his brother Stand Watie, John Ridge and Elijah Hicks, all leaders in the tribe at that time, raised money to start the newspaper.
In 1829, the newspaper name was amended to include the Indian Advocate at the request of Boudinot. The Cherokee National Council approved of the name change and both the masthead and content were changed to reflect the paper’s broader mission.
In the 1830s Boudinot and Principal Chief John Ross used the Cherokee Phoenix to editorialize against the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the growing encroachment and harassment of settlers in Georgia.
The newspaper also contained news items, features, accounts about Cherokees living in Arkansas and other area tribes, and social and religious activities. The two U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia), which affected Cherokee rights, were also written about extensively.
As pressure for the Cherokee to leave Georgia increased, Boudinot changed his stance and began to advocate for the removal of Cherokee to the west. At first Chief Ross supported Boudinot’s opposing view but by 1832 the two leaders’ differences caused them to split and Boudinot resigned.
Elijah Hicks, a brother-in-law of Ross, was appointed editor in August 1832, but the Phoenix was silenced in May 1834 when the Cherokee government ran out of money for the paper. Attempts were made to revive the paper. When word leaked that Chief Ross intended to move the printing press from New Echota to nearby Red Clay, Tenn., the Georgia Guard, who were already brutally oppressing the Cherokee people, moved in and destroyed the press and burned the Cherokee Phoenix office with the help of Stand Watie who was a member of the Treaty Party. The party advocated selling what remained of Cherokee land and moving west.
Four years later most of the Cherokees who remained on their lands in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina were rounded up and forcibly marched or sent by boat to Indian Territory.
A Cherokee Nation newspaper was again published in September 1844 in the form of the Cherokee Advocate. The paper was published in Tahlequah and edited by Cherokee citizen William Potter Ross, a graduate of Princeton University.
The Cherokee Advocate returned after the Cherokee government was officially reformed in 1975. The newspaper continued under that name until October 2000 when the paper began using the name Cherokee Phoenix and Indian Advocate again. Also, that same year, the tribe’s 15-member council passed the Cherokee Independent Press Act of 2000, which ensures the coverage of tribal government and news of the Cherokee Nation is free from political control and undue influence.
In January 2007, the newspaper began using the original name the Cherokee Phoenix, launched a website and began publishing in a broadsheet format. Today the newspaper reports on the tribe’s government, current events and Cherokee culture, people and history. The news organization has also broadened their outreach to include locally aired radio shows that are also available online as well as podcasting those same shows on iTunes.
The current readership of the Cherokee Phoenix is approximately 40,000 and the paper is read nationally and internationally.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The second Tribal Film Festival will be held during Cherokee National Holiday in downtown Tahlequah to include more than 30 Native American films as well as a Native Pop art show.
Founder and Executive Director Celia Xavier will host the festival. This year she’s partnered with Brent Learned of Native Pop, who will feature top Native Pop artists for a live art exhibit at 6 p.m. at the NSU Jazz Lab on Sept. 2 for the red carpet reception on opening night.
The festival takes place Sept. 2-4 at the Dream Theater.
Xavier said the festival saw great success in 2015 and expects to have more than 1,000 attendees during the three-day weekend. She added that this year’s festival will bring a “wide range of films and shorts,” and each one is indigenous with some being in their own language. Proceeds from the silent auction to be held during the red carpet event will be used to benefit the Student Filmmaking Bootcamp.
Films and short films will begin screening at 2 p.m. on Sept. 3 and children’s movies will be on Sept. 4 beginning at 2 p.m.
2 p.m. We Eat Fish!
2:30 p.m. St’at’ic The Salmon People
2:45 p.m. Nowhere to Call Home
4:10 p.m. Blessed
4:40 p.m. What does God smell like
5 p.m. Gambling for the Future
5:15 p.m. Q&A with Director Alan O’hashi
5:30 p.m. Ode to a Mentor
5:35 p.m. Q&A with sculptor Eddie Morrison
5:45 p.m. Rod Pocowatchit
5:57 p.m. Miss Lady
6 p.m. The Price of Peace
8 p.m. Smoke That Travels
8:03 p.m. Native Evolution
8:15 p.m. One Who Talks with God
8:30 p.m. Reign of Terror Preview
8:40 p.m. Q&A with Mark Williams
8:50 p.m. Wait a While
9 p.m. Shiloh with Wes Nofire & Shy
9:30 p.m. Q&A with Mark Williams
(Children’s movies from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.)
2 p.m. Agrinoui
The No Face Doll
Glooscap and the Baby
Ogress of the Gravel Bank
Little Folk of the Artic
Adzaa Doo Ats’a- The Lady and the Eagle
No. 16, Da An Road
The Ice Cream Man
3 p.m. Voyage into the depths of Kanloa
4 p.m. Medicine Woman
5 p.m. Punks for West Papua
5:45 p.m. Marovo Carver
5:57 p.m. Story of Rock
6 p.m. Honor Riders
7:45 p.m. Amazon Voice
8:30 p.m. What was Ours
9:30 p.m. Yacuna
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation administration and Tribal Council issued statements of support for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in its effort to halt the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline.
In Cannon Ball, North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux citizens and supporters are protesting the construction of the pipeline that would carry crude oil through four states. The pipeline would be built through that tribe’s land, and its tribal citizens are concerned that if the pipeline fails it will contaminate their water supply and surrounding sacred sites.
In July, the Standing Rock Sioux sued to stop construction of the pipeline, and it has been halted for now.
“The Cherokee Nation stands in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its effort to halt the development of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and I applaud our Tribal Council for showing the support of the legislative body of the Cherokee Nation as well,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker in a statement. “The Standing Rock people have an inherent right to protect their homelands, their historic and sacred sites, their natural resources, their drinking water and their families from this potentially dangerous pipeline.”
Baker said the CN supports safe and responsible energy development, and energy development in Indian Country is only responsible if it respects the sovereign rights of tribal governments and includes meaningful consultation with tribal officials.
“As Indian people, we have a right to protect our lands and protect our water rights. That’s our responsibility to the next seven generations. The Standing Rock Sioux should be allowed a place at the table to express their legitimate concerns on a pipeline plan that could be detrimental to their tribe for many future generations,” Baker said.
On Aug. 19, the 17-member CN Tribal Council also stated its standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Nation in its peaceful opposition to the pipeline project as the $3.8 billion, 1,172-mile-long pipeline would cross Lake Oahe and the Missouri River, and would disturb burial grounds and sacred sites on ancestral treaty lands, states a press release from the Tribal Council.
Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, CN a noted historian, said the company constructing the pipeline has failed to recognize environmental and historical preservation issues.
“I am opposed to the Dakota Pipeline,” Jack Baker said. “They have refused to comply with an environmental assessment and have refused to consult with the tribal nations including the Cherokee Nation under Section 106 for Historic Preservation. They will be crossing the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in southern Illinois. Without a consultation, it is not known what effect it could have on our forced removal route.”
Joe Byrd, Tribal Council speaker and vice president of the Eastern Oklahoma Region of the National Congress of American Indians, pointed out the lack of consultation infringes on the tribe’s sovereignty as a nation.
“They have not respected the Standing Rock Sioux as a federally-recognized tribe, with all the rights the treaties they have signed affords them as a sovereign nation,” said Byrd. “The pipeline could present both environmental hazards to native people, as well as possibly having a harmful impact on ancestral lands.”
SALLISAW, Okla. – In March, the U.S. Department of Energy announced its participation in the development of Clean Line Energy’s Plains & Eastern project, a 700-mile, high-voltage transmission line expected to transfer wind energy from western Oklahoma to Tennessee.
A study shows the line would deliver 4,000 megawatts of power from the panhandle to utilities and customers in Arkansas, Tennessee and the Mid-South and Southeast areas.
One county the line would traverse is Sequoyah County. Many residents there are Cherokee Nation citizens, and the proposed route would run near and parallel to the historic Trail of Tears and Sequoyah’s Home, a site where the noted Cherokee linguist lived.
Residents who could be affected by the line recently met to discuss opposition to it.
Kathryn Wilburne, who lives near Sallisaw, said she and her husband James would have a clear view of the line from their living room. They bought their property about 12 years ago and built a home on it in 2008 when they retired.
“This has been a dream for decades to come back (from California) and have a farm and be in a beautiful historical area that we have here,” she said. “It is so precious what is here. It can be found nowhere else. It’s an honor to be here. It’s an honor to be a steward here. We love our farm.”
Kathryn, a Sequoyah County Historical Society member, said she’s concerned about the potential loss of hidden historic places. She said the lands were Cherokee allotments and that Cherokee families have plots and cemeteries throughout the county. Surveyors have worked to document the historic aspects and discoveries in the area, she said, and those would be key to developments.
“There are also Indian signal trees here (trees bent to mark routes or significant sites), and there are also paths people have found designating where wagons have gone through,” she said. “We have to be respectful of what is here. We know that there are people buried here, and as such, the landowners know it, and they are very protective of these people that are buried here even if they’re not related to them.”
Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner said he’s listened to citizens living in areas where the line would pass.
“What I’m hearing from this group overall is about the lack of transparency, the disgraceful tactics and the other things that have come from Clean Line. I feel if there was big need, this group (landowners) would consider letting this thing come through, but from the research they have done they believe there is not that great of need at this moment,” he said.
He said the Tribal Council stands behind its 2015 resolution objecting to the line going through the CN.
“I’ve talked with (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker. I’ve talked with the Attorney General Todd Hembree. I’ve talked with Sara Hill, secretary of Natural Resources, and we all still are a go to help these individuals and do what we can to help stop this transmission line,” Warner said.
He said because the CN owns part of the Arkansas Riverbed, it may be able to stop Clean Line from crossing the river in western Sequoyah County.
Clean Line Energy Executive Vice President Mario Hurtado said the CN resolution contains information that is “not factually true.” It states the line would cross ceremonial grounds, however, Hurtado said Clean Line has worked hard not to do that and “has absolutely no knowledge” it would.
The resolution suggests the project would go “across the Stokes Smith Ceremonial Ground” near Vian, but Hurtado said the DOE obtained locational details about the ground from the CN.
“The route is more than 0.5 miles to the south of the Stokes Smith Ceremonial Grounds, along an existing transmission line. Extensive analysis was done on this location and there is no visual or other impact from locating the new transmission line along the south side of the existing line in that area,” reads a company statement.
Hurtado said crews have been active along the right-of-way for the line gathering data on wetlands, rivers and other waters regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Crews are also conducting surveys to ensure cultural resources are not harmed.
He said crews are also working to acquire easements along the route, which would contain 150-foot towers.
“We are working with a couple of Oklahoma-based companies that do this kind of work a lot for all kinds of infrastructure projects. We’ve done training with those agents. We’re going to make sure they are going to be following the code of conduct. We’ve got to work with landowners to make sure they are respectful and treat people correctly,” Hurtado said.
The agents are also there to ensure landowners understand they will get 100 percent of the market value of the right-of-way, he said, and that Clean Line is paying for property structures that would need removed.
“People can get annual payments for structures on their property. Even if they don’t have structures on their property they can still get annual payments,” he said.
Steve Parish, who lives near Gore, said the proposed line “takes out” his 20 acres, which includes his home.
“If there was a need for this power to come through, if it was helping everybody, I would sacrifice. I probably would just go ahead with the deal, but it’s not. It just takes away, and we worked too hard for that,” he said.
Parish said he learned of the line in 2013 and met with a Clean Line official who showed him where the line would cross in relation to his property.
“It does affect me quite a bit. The 200-foot easement they are looking at is right next to my house, and I told them that’s pretty close,” he said.
He said the representative offered to move the line about 200 feet from his home. He said the representative also told him “it would still be in his backyard” and that Parish “wouldn’t get two cents.”
In July, Parish said Clean Line representatives returned for an environmental survey. He said he questioned whether they had already performed it on his property. Parish said his wife intervened and told them they did not have permission for the survey.
“They said, ‘we see that you’re going to be a little bit difficult. We’ll send somebody else out.’ I haven’t heard from them since,” he said.
Hurtado said if a landowner does not want to talk to a representative that wish is respected and the representative leaves and does not knock on their door again.
“If the result of that conversation is ‘I just don’t want an agent from Clean Line contacting me,’ then we take note of that, and we try to be respectful of that, but we have to be able to at least try. In fact, we are obligated to talk to people about the project, about easements,” he said. “People can always contact us. If they have an issue about how a land agent is acting towards them or they feel they haven’t been treated fairly, we want to know about that.”
People can call 1-855-466-1021 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to voice concerns, Hurtado said.
Projects like the transmission line take much time and planning, Hurtado said, and that it’s important to recognize the benefits that can come from the $2 billion endeavor.
“If folks have issues we want to be able to work through those. Our job is to do this in the best way possible. We really want to do right by the communities where the project is going to be located,” he said. “I think it’s important for people to know that it’s going to provide very economic, low-cost energy to well over a million homes, and it’s going to provide economic development and jobs to thousands and thousands of people.”
Hurtado said Clean Line wants to begin construction in late 2017 and for the line to be operational in 2020.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Attorneys for former Cherokee Nation Foundation Executive Director Kimberlie Gilliland filed a motion in the tribe’s District Court on Aug. 17 requesting the court stay a civil case filed against her on July 27 by the CNF.
The stay is requested pending the disposition of a criminal case against Gilliland filed by the CN attorney general’s office on July 28 alleging embezzlement and fraud during her time as CNF executive director.
In the civil case, Gilliland faces 22 counts that stem from a more-than-two-year investigation involving irregularities in her salary, travel expenses, spending and awarding of CNF scholarships. Gilliland was appointed to serve as CNF executive director in August 2009 and served until July 2013.
Gilliland has called the court filings “baseless.”
Her request for a stay states that eight of the nine counts in the criminal case “are based upon the same allegations” in the civil case and that she would face a dilemma of self-incrimination in the criminal case if she chooses to defend herself against the civil charges. The motion also states a stay pending a final resolution of the criminal case “would further the interests” of the court and “would not harm the public.”
Her civil case attorney, James Proszek of the law firm Hall, Estill, Hardwick, Gable of Tulsa, signed the motion.
Also on Aug. 17, her attorney in the civil suit filed a motion to dismiss embezzlement and conversion claims by CNF attorney Ralph Keen. The motion claims the embezzlement and conversion claims were filed two years after the claims accrued and exceed statute of limitations and should be dismissed.
District Judge Bart Fite had not responded to the two motions as of publication.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At an Aug. 19 press conference, Tahlequah Police Chief Nate King said he believed his officers were justified in shooting 49-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen Dominic Rollice while responding to an Aug. 12 disturbance.
Rollice was transported to Northeast Health System where he was pronounced dead.
At the press conference, King released the incident’s 911 call as well as body camera footage from one officer that showed the shooting.
According to the 911 call, at about 9:35 p.m. Rollice was “drunk” at the caller’s home in the Shawnee Court vicinity. The caller said she was afraid the situation was going to “get ugly real quick.” King said Rollice was at the home, in which he did not live, and would not leave.
Lt. Brandon Vick and Officers Josh Girdner and Chase Reed arrived at the home shortly after the call, King said.
Reed’s body camera footage shows the three policemen speaking to Rollice and then following him into a garage. After Rollice retreats to the back of the garage, he pulls a claw hammer from a tool bench area and holds it above his head. The footage shows the officers ordering him to drop the hammer several times. Rollice says “no” and states that he’s in his house and he’s doing “nothing wrong.”
Video shows Reed stating that he’s going to use his Taser and Rollice making a quick movement with the hammer. Girdner and Vick then fire six gunshots at Rollice at the same time Reed fires his Taser. After falling to the floor, the footage shows Reed performing CPR until emergency responders arrive.
King said the footage shows a “violent encounter which resulted in the loss of a human life” and that the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.
He said the OSBI interviewed the three officers on Aug. 18 and that the officers were on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete. King added that the OSBI would provide the investigation’s results to the district attorney, who would then determine whether the shooting was justified.
Although, the shooting is under investigation, King said he felt the officers followed procedure and were justified in how they handled the situation.
The Cherokee Phoenix contacted Rollice’s parents for comment, but they declined.
Court records show Rollice pleaded no contest to a 2015 child sexual abuse charge in Cherokee County and was serving a suspended sentence.
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will meet at 9:30 a.m. CST, Sept. 1, 2016, inside the Tribal Services conference room in the Cherokee Nation complex. It is an open meeting and the public is welcome to attend. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/8/10560__9.1.16CherokeePhoenixEditorialBoardMeetingAgenda.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the agenda.