Caidlen Dunham, of Jay, stands in front of Cherokee Colored Flour Corn that she and her father planted. The seeds came from the tribe’s seed bank project. COURTESY PHOTO

CN offers heirloom seeds to citizens

Former Cherokee Nation Natural Resources intern Jamie Loy holds a Cherokee heirloom Georgia Candy Roaster Squash growing in the tribe’s garden in Tahlequah, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
Former Cherokee Nation Natural Resources intern Jamie Loy holds a Cherokee heirloom Georgia Candy Roaster Squash growing in the tribe’s garden in Tahlequah, Okla. COURTESY PHOTO
02/22/2012 08:28 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The days are getting longer and all good gardeners know that means it will soon be time to start seeds for spring and summer gardens. And once again the Cherokee Nation is offering gardeners a chance to grow a bit of the tribe’s history and culture in their own backyards.

For the past few years tribal citizens have had the opportunity to request heirloom seeds from the CN Natural Resources as part of a seed bank project. The seeds are for plants that have been researched to relate historically to the CN, such as Georgia Candy Roaster Squash, Job’s Tears or Birdhouse and Dipper Gourds. Other species Cherokee Floured Corn, Cherokee White Eagle Corn, Cherokee White Flour Corn, Cherokee Yellow Flour Corn, Red Pop Corn, Rattlesnake Bean, Native Tobacco, Pumpkin Squash and Trail of Tears’ Beads. Most are rare cultivars not widely available through commercial means.

“The qualities that were desired back then, are most definitely more different than the qualities desired today,” Natural Resources Director Pat Gwin said. “You can leave our corn in a bucket for months on end and it will retain a high nutritional value and never lose its freshness. It can also be ground up into flour over the winter months. Whereas if you leave sweet corn in the same position it will shrivel up into nothing and lose all of its attributes.”

Around 2,000 seed packets were mailed to CN citizens throughout the U.S. and beyond in 2011. The Natural Resources staff is gearing up to send out at least that many seeds this winter. The seeds are free, but participating gardeners are asked to help restock the seed bank by sending seeds from their crops to share with others via the seed bank.

“We already have a significant amount of requests for seeds,” Natural Resources specialist Mark Dunham said “And we will start advertising everything we offer and grow on Feb. 1.”

A good variety will be available for request for the 2012 growing season. Beans and some other items will be limited this year due to last year’s extreme weather in parts of the country.

“The heat and drought really diminished our inventories and prevented us from replenishing our seed bank with certain varieties. Fortunately, we had some folks from back east that sent us seeds, allowing us to still be able to give those items away,” Dunham said.

Dunham said one seed the bank this year that it didn’t in 2011 is the Jewel Gourd.

He said the gourds, which measure around 2 to 3 inches in diameter, might have been worn ornamentally by Cherokees for centuries in a similar manner to how other tribes might wear a deerskin pouch.

“You see designs sometimes that show people wearing Jewel Gourds on old Eastern woodlands pottery,” Dunham said.

For more information about the seed bank project, visit the Natural Resources webpage at or email A person may specify up to two seed varieties and are encouraged to include an alternate selection if the first choice is not available. Please include a name, copy of CN citizenship card (blue card), mailing address, and if requesting tobacco seeds, proof of being at least 18.

– Reporter Dillon Turman contributed to this report


12/18/2014 10:18 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. – Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a national group of Native American parents dedicated to ending the use of Native mascots, have shown support for the Oklahoma City Public School Board of Education’s recent decision to stop the re¬enactment of the 1889 Land Run and to change the name of the Redskins mascot at Capital Hill High School. According to its press release, the group stated it applauded “the efforts of Native American students and parents of OKCPS Native American Student Services to educate their community on the harm of Native mascotry.” For more information, call Jennie Stockle at 918-¬312-¬0467 or email or call Jacqueline Keeler at 503-¬915-¬5011 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
12/18/2014 08:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Dec. 9 meeting, the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission denied a request by former Principal Chief Chad Smith for an investigation of current Principal Chief Bill John Baker and his use of monies prior to the 2015 tribal election. Commissioners and their attorney in executive session discussed a letter sent by Smith that alleges Baker is illegally operating push polls, stating that Baker’s “illegal expenditures continue.” “On Nov. 11, 2014, Cherokee citizens Pat Stanek of Portland, Oregon, and Brenda Smith Jaye reported push polls,” the letter states. Smith also states he sent the same request to CN Marshal Shannon Buhl with his point of contact being Deputy Marshal Scott Craig, who informed Smith that the CN Attorney General’s Office told the Marshal Service to terminate the investigation until the EC determined there was wrongdoing. In a response letter from EC Chairman Bill Horton, he states the commission requested EC attorney Harvey Chaffin to determine if any illegal activity had taken place. “Mr. Smith’s letters allege acts of expenditures in violation of Election Law. No provision in Election Law prohibits expenditures more than six months prior to an election,” the letter states. “Further, no prohibition is found prohibiting a potential candidate from making expenditures from their own funds more than six months prior to an election. The prohibition is on accepting contributions more than six months prior to an election. Mr. Smith’s letters do not allege that campaign contributions have been accepted more than six months prior to the election.” The letter further states the commission would not act on Smith’s request because it found no investigation was warranted because no election laws look to have been violated. In other business, the EC voted to mail out voter identification and voter registration notification cards. EC officials said notification cards are sent out after a voter-initiated change is made. The card tells the type of voter one is and his or her precinct. “The red card goes out in May for the jurisdictional voters (voters who vote within the 15 districts), which gives the address of their precinct location,” EC officials state. “The reason there are red cards sent out in May to the jurisdictional voters is because we have to confirm addresses of all the precincts locations and let voters know at least 45 days before the election. Red cards are not sent out to the At-Large voters who are not registered in the districts because they vote by absentee ballot.” It costs approximately 34 cents to mail either card. That cost is subject to change depending on postage. As of Dec. 1, there were 63,498 registered voters, which is subject to change daily. The EC voted to use the post cards it previously operated with and revisit the new cards after the 2015 election. “They will go to all voters who either send in a new application or make any changes,” officials said. The EC approved the voter ID or “red card” that EC Director Connie Parnell presented at the meeting. Also, commissioners heard two public requests, one from At-Large tribal citizen Deborah Scott and one from the Cherokee Phoenix. Scott requested that EC official attend a meeting in Anadarko to present information to assist voters in the 2015 election. That request was denied because the information requested is online or will be near the first of the year, officials said. The Cherokee Phoenix requested that it and the EC enter into a memorandum of understanding reflecting an agreement that the Phoenix not be charged for any public documents requested from the EC, including voter lists. “Under the Cherokee Nation Freedom of Information Act, disclosure of these documents is in the public interest because it is likely to contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in any commercial interest,” the Phoenix request states. “We believe that this agreement would be beneficial to both departments because it would demonstrate the Election Commission’s commitment to transparency, and it would allow the Cherokee Phoenix to reliably report this valuable public information to the Cherokee people.” However, the EC denied the request stating the Phoenix is like anyone else and should pay for voter lists.
12/16/2014 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal officials appear to have violated ethics rules governing impartiality in awarding a contract to evaluate schools attended by tens of thousands of Native American students, a federal watchdog says. The report comes as President Barack Obama makes high-profile promises to fix the schools, which are among the nation’s lowest performing and have been plagued by crumbling buildings needing $1 billion in repairs. It is the latest to highlight problems in the management and oversight of the schools. The Interior Department’s inspector general investigation concerned an $800,000-plus contract awarded early in Obama’s term to assess the schools’ management and student achievement. The main focus was Brian Drapeaux, who served as chief of staff of the department’s Bureau of Indian Education, when the contract was issued and later became acting director. The initial contract had been awarded to Personal Group Inc., a South Dakota-based company, where Drapeaux had worked on separate occasions, including within 12 months of joining the Interior Department. A department contract specialist raised conflict of interest concerns and canceled the contract and said the company, known as PerGroup, could not participate in the contract at any level and that all key decision makers should certify that there was no conflict of interest. She alleged in 2011 that she had been removed from handling the contract because of her actions. Nevertheless, the IG concluded, PerGroup was allowed to stay on the project as a subcontractor under another company and was responsible for 41 percent of the contractual work. Keith Moore, who served as director of BIE until 2012, along with Drapeaux maintained a longstanding friendship with PerGroup, according to the inspector general. The report said the two officials “appear to have acted in violation of federal ethics regulations governing impartiality ... and the use of public office for private gain.” “Finally,” it said, “other BIE officials who knew of these conflicts of interest chose to ignore them during the procurement process.” The IG said the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia had declined to prosecute the case but referred it back to the Interior Department for further action, which was taken on Sept. 30. “This issue is considered resolved and no further action will be taken,” Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said in an email. She said the department would not reveal the action because of privacy reasons. Kershaw said the department did not adopt the contractor’s recommendations. Drapeaux and Moore declined to comment. Officials from PerGoup did not respond to requests for comment. Obama addressed the challenges facing Native American youth in a historic visit to an Indian reservation last summer and again at the White House summit this week. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has announced a series of steps to restructure the federal bureaucracy that oversees the schools and turn more control over tribes. Just this week as part of the White House summit on Native Americans, Jewell reaffirmed the federal government's historic failures in connection with the schools, which goes back to the 19th century when many Native American children were forcibly assimilated in boarding schools away from their families. The government has a treaty and trust responsibility to run them, and about 40,000 students attend the more than 180 schools. The IG report follows one by the Government Accountability Office that found the schools had millions in unaccounted for dollars, including money for special education. The IG’s findings were posted initially online, but the IG’s office temporarily took the report down to make minor adjustments. It was reposted.
12/16/2014 11:03 AM
WASHINGTON – The Office of Special Trustee for American Indians is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on its advisory board. The board’s purpose, as defined in the 1994 American Indian Trust Fund Management Reform Act, is to provide advice to the special trustee on all matters associated with the trust responsibilities overseen by the office. “This board is an opportunity for OST to receive meaningful advice and prudent perspectives on trust management reforms at the Department of the Interior,” Special Trustee Vincent G. Logan said. “The Reform Act directed the special trustee to appoint leaders from academia and finance so that OST can maintain a beneficiary focus and deliver well-informed trust management services to individual Indian and tribal beneficiaries.” Members will serve two-year terms without compensation. The board, as required by the Reform Act, is composed of five members representing trust fund account holders, including both tribal and Individual Indian Money accounts; two members with practical experience in trust fund and financial management; one member with practical experience in fiduciary investment management; and one member from academia with knowledge of general management of large organizations. Nominations must include a resume or other documents demonstrating qualifications for at least one of the board member categories. Self-nominations will receive equal consideration. Nominations must be submitted by Dec. 29 to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians, Attn: Lee Frazier, Department of the Interior, located at 1849 C Street, NW, Mailstop 3256, Washington, D.C. 20240. Additional details about the request for nominations can be found in the Federal Registry notice located at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/15/2014 03:41 PM
WASHINGTON – Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered opening remarks at the sixth White House Tribal Nation’s Conference on Dec. 3, where she emphasized the Obama administration’s commitment to Indian Country, including self-determination and self-governance initiatives that are helping tribal nations to build a foundation for a successful and culturally vibrant future. “All of the work we are undertaking in partnership with tribes–whether on education, tackling climate change, or upholding trust reforms and treaty obligations–is with an eye toward the health and prosperity of the next generation,” said Jewell, who also participated in panel discussions with tribal leaders on education and Native youth and climate change during the conference. “The White House Tribal Nations Conference is one piece of President Obama’s commitment to make meaningful and lasting progress in support of American Indians’ and Alaska Natives’ vision for a strong and successful future.” The conference provides leaders from the 566 federally recognized tribes the opportunity to interact directly with President Obama, members of his cabinet and other federal policy-level officials, building on the president’s commitment to strengthen our government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the livelihood of Native Americans. President Obama held the first-ever conference and has ensured that it will be an enduring, annual conference by executive order. During this year’s conference, Jewell discussed some of the progress made by the White House Council on Native American Affairs in advancing initiatives on educational reform, energy and economic development and climate change. The council, which is chaired by Jewell and includes the heads of more than 20 federal departments and agencies, has convened four times since its inception in June 2013 and works to improve interagency coordination and expand efforts to leverage federal programs and resources available to tribal communities. Under a council initiative, Jewell and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, after consultation with tribal leaders, issued a Blueprint for Reform in June 2014 to redesign the Bureau of Indian Education. Building on the Blueprint’s recommendations, Jewell issued a secretarial order to begin restructuring BIE from solely a provider of education to a capacity-builder and education service-provider to tribes. The goal of this transformation is to give tribes the ability themselves to provide an academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to their students, according to their needs. “The heart of the matter is that no one cares more, or knows more about what’s right for young people, than their parents and their community,” said Jewell, who noted that the BIE recently awarded $1.2 million to tribes to promote tribal control of BIE-funded schools on their reservations. Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn also participated in the Tribal Nation’s Conference where he joined panel sessions and reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s sacred duty to uphold federal trust responsibilities and help restore tribal homelands. “Each of the Administration’s successes is progress for tribes because tribal self-determination and self-governance animate each of our programs,” said Assistant Secretary Washburn. “Our programs cannot fully succeed unless Indian tribal governments also succeed.” He noted Jewell’s second secretarial order focused on Indian Country and the his department’s tribal trust responsibilities–underscoring the Department of Interior’s commitment to a new chapter in government-to-government relations. The order reaffirmed the DOI’s unique, historic responsibilities and provided guidance for each of Interior agencies to carry out trust obligations to tribes and individual Indian beneficiaries. The DOI has been carrying out the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations a program designed to buy highly fractionated land interests from willing American Indian sellers at fair market value and transfer consolidated titles to tribal governments for the beneficial use of their communities. In the last 12 months, the program has made $754 million in offers to more than 44,000 individual landowners and restored the equivalent of more than 475,000 acres to tribes. The DOI recently announced 21 additional locations where the program will begin implementation, bringing the total number of locations actively engaged in the Buy-Back Program to 42. That total represents 83 percent of all outstanding fractionated ownership interests. Since assuming her role at Interior, Jewell has visited more than 20 tribal communities and half a dozen Bureau of Indian Education schools. Jewell also joined President Obama and the first lady on their historic visit to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Nation earlier this year.
12/14/2014 04:00 PM
WARNER, Okla. –The Cherokee Nation recently donated $25,000 to the Warner officials for the construction of a splash pad for local children to enjoy in the summer months. “Creating a splash pad in Warner will be a great asset to the community and the families who live there,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I’m proud we can offer this kind of project to Warner and increase the community’s recreational opportunities. I know it will be a popular space for families and small children during the summer.” The splash pad will be built in Rogers Park and is projected to be open next summer. CN’s donated money came from the administration’s annual donations and contributions budget. “Our main concern was having a fun and safe place for our children to be able to go during the summer. This splash pad, located in the park, will more than service that purpose for us,” said Warner Mayor Jack Tatum. “We appreciate the Cherokee Nation for all they’ve done to help us reach that goal.”