House approves Native American liaison bill

03/20/2012 04:10 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – State lawmakers voted March 13 to increase the number of individuals qualified to serve as Native American liaisons to the governor of Oklahoma.

Current law states, “Any person appointed to the position of Oklahoma Native American Liaison shall be an American Indian of at least one-fourth blood.”

House Bill 2563, by state Rep. Paul Wesselhoft, would change the qualification so that the Native American liaison merely has to be “a member of a federally recognized Indian tribe” possessing “valid proof of membership.”

“To institute a blood-degree requirement duplicates the past discriminatory practices of the federal government,” Wesselhoft said. “The federal government typically set an arbitrary blood-percentage requirement to institute an artificial definition of an Indian and ultimately deny treaty obligations. The state of Oklahoma should not take that path.”

Wesselhoft, a citizen of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, is also an elected representative in that tribe’s legislature.

“Most tribes rely on the historic 1893 Dawes Rolls to ascertain membership in a tribal nation,” Wesselhoft said. “If one is directly related to an Indian listed on the Dawes Rolls, then that person qualifies as an Indian. It is appropriate that the state take its lead from tribal government in this regard.”

Wesselhoft added that imposing any blood degree requirement to obtain a state government job is “discriminatory and ultimately destructive.”

“We should celebrate the diversity of our culture in Oklahoma, not set artificial requirements on what makes someone a ‘true’ Native American,” he said.

The position of Oklahoma Native American Liaison was created last session to replace the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. The governor has not filled the position. Wesselhoft said in the future he plans to author a bill to make the liaison position a Cabinet post.

House Bill 2563 passed the Oklahoma House of Representatives on a 62-19 vote. It now proceeds to the state Senate.


02/28/2015 04:00 PM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Sequoyah National Research Center is seeking three tribally affiliated student interns for summer 2015 during the period of June 1 through July 31. Interns will work at least 25 hours per week in the center doing basic archival and research work under the direction of SNRC staff. The SNRC at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock houses the papers and special collections of tribal individuals and organizations, the world’s largest archival collection of newspapers and other periodicals published by tribal individuals and organizations, and the Dr. J. W. Wiggins Collection of Native American Art, consisting more than 2,500 artworks. The goal of the American Indian Student Internship Program is to provide students an experiential learning environment in which to acquire an understanding of the value of archives and the research potential of the collections of the center and to engage in academic research and practical database building activities related to tribal culture, society, and issues. Interns are expected to demonstrate the value of their experience by either a summary report of work, finding aids for collections, reports of research or other written work that may be shared with their home institutions. To qualify for an internship, students must: be tribally affiliated, have completed at least 60 college hours, and be in good standing at their home institutions of higher learning. Applications should include a unofficial copy of the student’s academic transcript, a recommendation letter from the head of the student’s major department or from another relevant academic official, and a statement of no more than one page expressing why the intern experience would likely be beneficial to the student’s academic or career goals. To assist the student in meeting expenses during the two-month tenure of the internship, the Center will provide on-campus housing and $2,000 to defray other living expenses. Students interested in applying should send applications or inquiries by email to Daniel F. Littlefield at <a href="mailto:"></a>; Robert E. Sanderson at <a href="mailto:"></a>; Erin H. Fehr at <a href="mailto:"></a>; or by mail to: SNRC, University Plaza, Suite 500, University of Arkansas at Little Rock, 2801 S. University Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72204. The SNRC must receive applications by March 15. The SNRC staff will select three applicants and three alternates. Staff will notify students of their decision by April 1. For information regarding UALR and its guest housing facilities, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For information on the SNRC and its work, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
02/28/2015 12:00 PM
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal government decision to cancel the Washington Redskins’ trademark because it may be disparaging infringes on free-speech rights and unfairly singles the team out, lawyers argued in court papers filed Feb. 23. The team wants to overturn a decision in 2014 by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the Redskins’ trademark on the grounds that it may be offensive to Native Americans. But the team’s attorneys say the law barring registration of disparaging trademarks is unconstitutional under the First Amendment. The trademark board’s decision unfairly singles out the Redskins “for disfavored treatment based solely on the content of its protected speech, interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins’ name by choosing sides and cutting off the debate. This the U.S. Constitution does not tolerate,” the lawyers write in their brief. The lawyers argue that the government has no business deciding that a name such as Redskins is disparaging and undeserving of trademark protection while deeming other names such as Braves to be content-neutral and allowable for trademarks. The team still disputes that Redskins is a disparaging term and has asked the judge to rule in the team’s favor based on that argument. But the court papers filed Feb. 23 focus on the constitutionality of the law that bans registration of disparaging trademarks. The government has intervened in the civil lawsuit to defend the law’s constitutionality. In similar cases, government lawyers have argued that the law doesn’t ban disparaging speech; it just denies the protection of a federal trademark to those words. For instance, the Redskins would not be prohibited from calling themselves the Redskins just because they lose the trademark case – they would just lose some of the legal protections that go along with a registered trademark. The team says free-speech protections should be understood more broadly. The team says the First Amendment can be violated by government restrictions that burden speech even if they don’t ban it outright. The team argues that canceling a trademark represents such a burden, especially for a football club that has used the name since 1933. A lawyer for the group of Native Americans that sought cancellation of the trademark did not return a call seeking comment Feb. 24. The team also argues that canceling the trademark after decades of lawful registration amounts due a denial of due process because of the difficulty in trying to defend itself so many years after the fact. A hearing on the issue is scheduled for May 5.
Senior Reporter
02/28/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a Feb. 13 letter, Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree informed Tribal Councilor Lee Keener that he could not use the Cherokee Nation-owned Tribal Council photograph of himself in his campaign materials for deputy chief. “It has come to the attention of the Office of the Attorney General that you have used tribal property for campaign purposes,” Hembree writes. “On numerous political advertisements, letters and emails you have used a photograph of yourself that was paid for by the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council and is currently owned by the Cherokee Nation. Much like council stationary, tribal vehicles or other tribal equipment, pictures owned by the Nation cannot be used in campaign efforts.” Hembree tells Keener to “cease and desist any use of the photograph in question” and attached the photo for clarification. He also requests that Keener removed the photo from any website, email or any electronic form and that it not be disseminated on printed material. Hembree also states that he sent a courtesy copy of the letter to the rest of the Tribal Council to “ensure that all officials are aware that use of Cherokee Nation owned photographs in campaign materials is prohibited.” Keener told the Cherokee Phoenix he would abide by Hembree’s letter and stop using the photo. “The attorney general alerted me to an issue with a particular picture we were using on campaign materials. I am happy to comply and will cease using the photo,” Keener said. Hembree said a CN citizen brought Keener’s use of the official photograph to his attention. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> Attorney General Todd Hembree’s letter to Keener.
02/26/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a response to a citizen’s complaint, Attorney General Todd Hembree states that Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board Vice Chairwoman Kendra McGeady did not violate the tribe’s Independent Press Act by attending a recent campaign event and was within her right to attend. In a Jan. 15 letter, Cherokee Nation citizen Cheryl Brown requested Hembree investigate the matter, stating that McGeady was present at Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden’s Jan. 6 campaign kick-off event in violation of the IPA. Legislative Act 16-09 states “board members shall not participate in any political campaign or be involved in any tribal political activity, except to exercise his or her right as a citizen to express his or her individual opinion and cast his or her right to vote.” Hembree states that under the standard provided by Cherokee law there is no evidence that McGeady acted inappropriately. He also highlights the part of the act that states “except to exercise his or her right as a citizen to express his or her individual opinion and case his or her right to vote.” “Ms. McGeady herself is not a candidate, a campaign consultant for any candidate and she does not a position in any candidate’s campaign,” the response states. “She is not collecting signatures for an initiative petition, nor soliciting campaign contributions for any candidate. Her mere presence at an event does not make her a participant in a political campaign.” He further states that a diligent citizen may attend the campaign events of many candidates and her decision to investigate the relative merits of the candidates is not a violation of tribal law. McGeady, who said her attendance at the public event was lawful, agreed with the attorney general’s decision. “I think his findings are extremely appropriate,” she said. Brown said she was glad the Attorney General’s Office looked in the issue but wasn’t shocked with Hembree’s response. “One simply has to review the opinions issued by Mr. Hembree over the past year, more specifically when dealing with the free press act, to understand the outcome of this issue,” she said. “I respectfully disagree with Mr. Hembree but appreciate the process that is in place which will allow a Cherokee Nation private citizen the opportunity to voice their concerns and request that action be taken.” In his response, Hembree also states that it is not the Attorney General Office’s responsibility to remove a Cherokee Phoenix board member, but that of the principal chief or majority of the Tribal Council. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> Attorney General Todd Hembree’s letter response to Cheryl Brown. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> Cheryl Brown's letter to CN Attorney General's Office.
02/26/2015 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Election Commission found its new Election Services Office administrator when it promoted former clerk Keeli Duncan during its Feb. 19 special meeting. After returning from executive session, Election Commissioner Shawna Calico motioned to promote Duncan to the administrator position. Duncan has worked as a clerk for seven months at the office and was promoted because of the recent resignation of Madison Cornett in early February. The administrator position, according to a 2009 Cherokee Nation Human Resources job description, requires a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college or university in business administration or related field. The applicant can also have six years related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience. The description also requires an experience requirement of “two years directly related experience in a supervisory capacity and or working at an election precinct.” The Cherokee Phoenix requested to see the job description used for the recent administrator job posting but had not received it from HR as of publication. Duncan, a CN citizen, said she would have a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in health care in May. The administrator position is one dictated by CN Election Code. “The administrator of the Election Commission shall be a Cherokee tribal citizen who is independently hired by the Election Commission using objective standards developed by the Election Commission,” the law states. “The administrator shall be under the direct supervision of the Election Commission.” Before the EC promoted Duncan, Election Commissioner Carolyn Allen said she could not support the move. “I think Keeli has done a fine job here in this office as clerk, and I think she has been a great asset in that position. I have nothing personal against Keeli, and I have talked with her personally about this.” Allen said. “But I think there are situations that I’ve discussed with this commission in executive session, and I think it’s not a wise decision on behalf of this commission for me to vote in support of that.” Calico moved to promote Duncan from clerk 2 to administrator at a salary of $42,000. The motion carried 3-1 with Allen voting against. Calico also motioned to promote Brooke Tillison from a clerk 1 to a clerk 3 at a salary of $12 per hour. Tillison had served as a clerk 1 for seven months. The motion carried unanimously. The commission also hired Elizabeth Catron and Alexi Poteet for the clerk 2 and clerk 1 positions, respectively. Catron passed unanimously and Poteet passed 3-1 with Allen voting against.
Senior Reporter
02/26/2015 08:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A report by the Center for Investigative Reporting shows Oklahoma’s 5,418 earthquakes tripled the number of quakes in California in 2014 and remains well ahead in 2015. Before 2009, Oklahoma was barely on the earthquake map, but in 2014 Oklahoma recorded 567 earthquakes with a magnitude 3.0 or higher on the Richter Scale. In comparison, U.S. Geological Survey data reflect that Oklahoma experienced an average of fewer than two magnitude 3.0 earthquakes per year from 1978 through 2008. The CIR’s report blames the earthquake uptick in Oklahoma on wastewater disposal wells used in fracking. Scientists also point to fracking-related activities as the reason for the earthquakes. At least 19 peer-reviewed published reports have concluded that many earthquakes occurring in Oklahoma are man-made, triggered by billions of gallons of saltwater and wastewater injected into disposal wells associated with horizontal drilling and enhanced recovery-drilling methods. The increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes in the state was cited as the rationale behind legislation that would require insurance carriers in Oklahoma to offer earthquake insurance coverage. Insurers would be required to offer earthquake insurance coverage to their customers under House Bill 1571, a measure proposed by state Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater. [BLOCKQUOTE]If passed, it would require all residential property insurance policies issued new or renewed on or after Nov. 1, 2015, to offer coverage “for loss caused by the peril of earthquake.” The coverage would be optional, but carriers would be compelled to notify their customers of its availability. Oklahomans, particularly in the northern and central sectors of the state, have been rattled by tremors since the resumption of oil and gas development during the past four years. Cherokee Nation citizen Jennifer Barger Johnson, who lives in Oklahoma City, said her home “has felt some pretty strong tremors.” “In fact last night (Jan. 29) around 6:07 p.m. there was one that only registered 2.9 (on the Richter Scale) about 3.1 miles from us. It shook the whole house rather violently but only lasted maybe 2 seconds,” she said. “The worst by far was the one that happened right after the OU-OSU game in 2011. That one rattled us incredibly and lasted a good 10 seconds. It was 5.6 (magnitude) and centered about 50 miles from us in Stillwater (Payne County).” Johnson said after that she and her husband Eric applied for and obtained earthquake insurance. “There was a 30- or 60-day waiting period from the last quake for it to go into effect, but it’s been in force for some time now,” she said. She said she pays less than $10 a month and the policy only covers her home if it is a total loss due to an earthquake. Minor damage to a home, which she hasn’t experienced, is not covered by insurance policies in Oklahoma. The Payne County tremors have caused a lot of cosmetic damage and some structural damage. “People are very concerned,” Angela Spotts of Stillwater said. “Our houses weren’t built to withstand seismic activity of this intensity and duration.” After two earthquakes occurred in Payne County in October, Spotts said wood trim around the ceiling of her house “pulled away” from the wall, and at least one crack in her house widened. HB 1571 targets insurance policies that cover residential structures of up to four dwelling units, condominiums, manufactured or mobile homes, “or a tenant’s policy insuring personal contents of a residential unit.” Coverage would be optional, not compulsory, and a customer could terminate an earthquake insurance policy or coverage “at any time,” the legislation stipulates.