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
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 www.cherokee.org or email email@example.com. 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
SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — A Shawnee casino security guard who shot himself after fatally shooting a fellow officer has died.
The Oklahoman reports 28-year-old Justin Wells entered the Grand Casino on Jan. 10, shot and killed 22-year-old Matt Palmer and then turned the gun on himself. An online obituary says Wells was hospitalized and died Wednesday.
FBI spokesman Terry Weber says that Wells had not yet been arrested. The agency is handling the case because the casino sits on trust land for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, which also owns and operates the casino.
Potawatomi spokeswoman Jennifer Bell says Palmer and Wells were both security guards at the casino, who are not allowed to carry guns. Bell declined to comment on the shooting.
The tribe says Palmer was hired in August, and Wells in 2012.
GROVE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Grove officials on Jan. 17 dedicated the Cherokee Casino Grove with a ribbon-cutting and grand opening.
The tribe’s 10th casino is expected to bring 175 jobs to northern Delaware County.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the jobs means employees would be able to take advantage of health insurance, retirement plans and other benefits to better their lives. He added that the casino would also bring more sales tax revenue to Grove.
Most importantly, he said, the casino means there would be more funding to provide health care in northeastern Oklahoma.
“You don’t have to drive very far to the south to see where we took $100 million dollars and used part of it to build a new clinic in Jay, Oklahoma. So each and every one of these employees that work here can come to work each and every day knowing they are making the lives of their parents, their grandparents and their children better because these dollars...go back into services, scholarships for our kids, builds houses for our people and provides better health care,” he said.
The facility offers 400 electronic games, a full-service bar, live music venue, dance floor and restaurant serving lunch and dinner. The rustic, lodge-style venue features an outdoor patio and event space for hosting private and community events.
CNB CEO Shawn Slaton told casino employees the fruits of their labor are helping Cherokee people. Along with thanking CNB employees, he thanked Grove’s leaders, Delaware County officials, CN administration officials, Tribal Councilors, CNB management and the construction company for their efforts in helping finish the casino in eight months.
“We always had our eye on Grove. We felt with the lake here and the population that comes in the summer it was a good area to take a look at. We did our market surveys and market studies and that supported the decision to go forward with an investment in a property like this,” Slaton said. “We worked on this quite a while and finally made it happen. We’re happy to be here, and we hope that this is just the start for what we do with this facility.”
He acknowledged the casino does have “a lot of competition” from area tribal casinos, but he expects people from Missouri and Arkansas to frequent the casino.
“The one thing we have that they (competition) don’t is the lake right next door, and we know Grove blossoms in the spring and summer and the early fall, and we’re positioned well to take part in that,” Slaton said.
The Red Stone Construction Company started work on the 39,000-square-foot casino in March and finished in December. The casino is located near Highway 59 and E. 250 Road, northwest of Grove.
“It’s beautiful. Eight months ago...we were here looking to the future to see what this was going to be, and now here it is. What’s more exciting is what we have to look forward to in 10 years or five years or three years,” said Grove Mayor Marty Follis. “I can’t wait for them to knock out a wall in this place and start expanding. We’ve got a big future ahead of us.”
Follis said the casino coupled with the popular 64-mile long Grand Lake o' the Cherokees about 200 yards from the casino should be a winning combination.
“It’s a great advantage that we have. We are super excited. It’s a great partnership between the city and the Cherokee Nation,” Follis said.
Based on what happened in Rogers County when the tribe expanded the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the intersection of Hwy. 59 and E. 250 Road in Grove is bound to see tremendous growth, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said.
Buzzard, whose district includes Grove, said he is glad casino profits would go toward health care and other services and that the facility created jobs.
“We just recently opened a clinic in Jay (about 10 miles south of Grove), which brought over 100 jobs to Jay, so Delaware County is on the move,” he said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – More than 30 members of “The Association of Mary,” a Brazilian Christian organization, visited the Cherokee Nation on Jan. 3 to offer prayers for unity and peace in 2017. The group held a cultural and informational exchange with tribal officials.
A representative from the association said prayers are offered daily for Indigenous populations in North and South America.
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. addressed the group and thanked them for traveling to learn firsthand about issues facing tribal citizens in America, including the protection of natural resources.
“Now more than ever we should embrace an opportunity to bond with people of goodwill all over the world, people who are praying for our wellness and success,” Hoskin said. “They traveled thousands of miles to learn more about Indian issues, history and spirituality. Seeing this global support reinforces just how important and powerful unity can be.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Jan. 17, Cherokee Nation citizen and Dist. 86 Rep. Will Fourkiller refused to appear before the House of Representative’s committee that is investigating him and another state representative for sexual harassment claims.
The Stilwell native said he would only speak to the Special Investigation Committee if the proceeding was open to the public. According to reports, the committee has been hearing from witnesses in only closed sessions.
“Though uncertain of the precise allegation, I am certain I have nothing to hide,” Fourkiller told Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, in a letter. Cockroft chairs the committee. “A confidential, closed-door proceeding does not provide the equitable forum to repair my character and reputation.”
Fourkiller is under investigation for a sexual complaint lodged against him in April 2015 by a female high school page.
“That was the extent of what I was told,” Fourkiller said on Jan. 17 of his 2015 meeting with a House attorney and an employee of the House chief clerk. “The page was not identified and I did not inquire. I denied anything improper but immediately shied away from my normal interaction and role with the page program for that week out of an abundance of caution.”
According to the program, high schools students from the state server as pages for a week during regular legislative sessions and do interact with legislators.
Fourkiller on Jan. 11 said he was made aware in 2015 that a page had indicated he had said something that made her uncomfortable and he had apologized.
“I do not know what I did or said, but whatever it was I certainly didn’t mean to do it, and I apologized,” he said.
He added that the 2015 incident is the only one that he was made aware of by House staff.
The House has declined to release the complaint, citing personnel reasons.
Cockroft on Jan. 17 defended the investigation and said making the committee meetings public would discourage wronged employees from coming forward.
“The sole reason for holding these meetings in private is to protect the confidential information of victims and unelected witnesses — not to protect lawmakers,” he said. “In order to have a workplace where employees feel protected and valued, it is vital that we guard the privacy of those who make claims of harassment and discrimination.”
Cockroft said the committee would make its findings public and that it could recommend the House take disciplinary action against a member, including up to expulsion.
According to reports six Republicans and three Democrats comprise the committee. However, Democrats – Rep. David Perryman, Rep. Steve Kouplen and Rep. Meloyde Blancett – have refused to be involved because of the committee’s secrecy rules.
The committee was formed in response to public outrage over a settlement paid to a fired legislative assistant who had accused Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, of sexual harassment.
The former assistant, Hollie Anne Bishop, complained the House fired her in November 2015 in retaliation for reporting Kirby had sexually harassed her. Former House Speaker Jeff Hickman approved the $44,500 settlement of her wrongful termination claim shortly before he left office.
Officials said there was no financial settlement in the complaint against Fourkiller.
Fourkiller said he and his family were leaning on God through the ordeal. “We have not lost faith. In fact, it is growing stronger. We know that God is good and at the end of all this there is something great waiting for us.”
Fourkiller was first elected to the Dist. 86 seat in 2011. He was re-elected in 2013 and 2015. He also ran for principal chief of the CN in 2015, finishing third at 10.58 percent with 2,040 votes.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission continues to prepare for the 2017 Tribal Council elections with less than a month before people begin filing for candidacy.
At the commission’s Jan. 10 meeting, records showed that 40 people had picked up or requested candidate packets from the commission. According to records, three people who picked up packets but do not intend to file are Lisa Trice, who got a packet for education purposes; Commissioner Martha Calico, who got one for reference; and Cherokee Phoenix Senior Reporter Jami Murphy, who got a packet for the news organization.
The candidacy filing period is scheduled for Feb. 6-9.
At the Jan. 10 meeting, EC Administrator Brooke Tillison reported that there were 66,433 CN citizens registered to vote, which is more than 200 less than the previous month after removing voters who had died but were still registered.
Also during the meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Allen asked to be recognized and requested to speak on her own behalf.
“There were some comments that were made last month in the December meeting that I consider to be a direct attack on my character. And I thought long and hard about how to address this issue, but I have chosen and I’m going to take the high road on this issue,” Allen said.
At the December meeting, Commissioner Teresa Hart read a statement regarding her motion to accept new resumes for the fifth commissioner’s spot that is in holdover after the expiration of Allen’s term.
At that meeting, Hart said “we need to vote whether to cast a vote to keep seat No. 5 as is or move to open it up for replacement.” She also read a statement regarding Allen and her actions while on the commission.
<a href="http://cnmediav1.cherokee.org/vod/Phoenix/News/2017/vid_170111_CNECregMtg_rjg_wc.mp4" target="_blank">Click here to watch</a>the January meeting
<a href="http://cnmediav1.cherokee.org/vod/Phoenix/News/2016/vid_161213_CNECregularMeeting_rjg_wc.mp4" target="_blank">Click here to watch</a>the December meeting.
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's tax on gasoline and diesel, untouched since 1987 and among the lowest in the nation, is becoming a tempting target for state lawmakers desperate for revenue amid a third straight year of budget declines.
Several Republican legislators said last week they expect proposals will be unveiled once the session begins in February to increase the state's gasoline and diesel taxes of 17 cents and 14 cents, respectively.
"I would not be surprised to see a fuel tax, tobacco tax or a tax on services being filed just so there is a vehicle out there, a placeholder for that discussion," said new House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. "But actually getting that accomplished is a totally separate issue."
Oklahoma ranks 49th among the 50 states for its tax on diesel and 48th for its tax on gasoline, according to a November report from the American Petroleum Institute.
During last year's session, as lawmakers looked to close a $1.3 billion hole in the budget, Rep. Earl Sears introduced a bill to increase the tax by 3 cents per gallon. The measure would have generated about $41 million annually, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill by House researchers, but it failed on a 14-9 vote against it.
"It was an election year," said Sears, R-Bartlesville. "We had members who were very reluctant to raise taxes."
This year, lawmakers are again facing another massive budget hole of about $870 million, or 12 percent of state spending, and many of the one-time sources of revenue that the Legislature tapped last year to balance the budget are no longer available.
While there is a lot of chatter this year among Republican leaders about the prospect of raising revenue through increased taxes, it's unclear how much political will there is to do so. The approval of any tax increase requires a three-fourths vote in the House and Senate, and nearly a third of the members in each chamber are brand-new, and many of them campaigned on a platform of lower taxes.
"That's a very high threshold," McCall said, noting a 76-vote requirement in the House. "The size of our caucus (75 members) ... we don't even have 76 members if you could get them all together. And there's going to be a division in the caucus on that issue.
While McCall said he expects to have a good working relationship with House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman, the minority party likely won't be too eager to vote for tax increases that disproportionately affect the middle-class and working poor. Democrats in both chambers have been particularly vocal about Republicans' recently enacted tax cuts on both income and oil and gas production, both of which favor high-income earners.
Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said that while he's open to looking at a fuel tax increase, it likely will generate a diminishing amount of revenue because of greater fuel efficiency and an increase in electric vehicles. Dunnington said it makes more sense to look at increasing income taxes for the wealthiest Oklahomans.
"Are we thinking ahead far enough about technology and are we appropriately assessing taxation that is going to work for our future?" Dunnington said. "Or are we just being short-sighted and scrambling because we're broke and making bad decisions."