Assistant Secretary of the Department of Interior Larry Echo Hawk, left, speaks to tribal leaders during a reception held in his honor on March 14 at the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel Tulsa in Catoosa, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

BIA meets with Oklahoma tribal leaders

Senior Reporter
03/22/2012 08:47 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Twenty-three tribal leaders from eastern Oklahoma met with Larry Echo Hawk, assistant secretary of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs head, March 14-15 in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa.

Echo Hawk came to Oklahoma at the invitation of tribes to discuss with them common issues and concerns. During two days of meetings, he met with tribal leaders individually.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the issue all of the tribes agreed was most paramount was getting a BIA area director for the bureau’s area Muskogee office.

“We’ve been without an area director for over two years, and it’s cost about $850,000 that should be going to technical assistance that should be taking care of our needs and our problems,” Baker said. “We just feel like we deserve a full-time decision maker at the local level, as it’s designed, for us to be serviced.”

He said internal problems at the BIA forced the last area director, Jeanette Hanna, to be reassigned to Washington, D.C. This has forced the BIA to use acting area directors to attempt to assist tribes, and as is the case with someone in an acting role, Baker said, they can only do so much.

“They really don’t have the full faith and credit to give you direct answers, and it makes it dysfunctional and causes us to go through two or three levels instead of having an area director that has a certain amount of authority,” he said.

Baker said Echo Hawk has put naming a new area director on the “front burner.”

During a March 14 reception in his honor, Echo Hawk said during his three years of service as DOI assistant secretary, he has tried hard to meet with tribes in their homelands and not just in Washington.

“It’s an honor for me to be here in the Cherokee Nation. My favorite part of my job is meeting with people, the tribes. This is kind of typical day for me meeting with Indian tribes, meeting nation to nation. I represent the United States in communicating with the 566 tribes that are spread across Indian Country,” Echo Hawk said.

He said he hopes by meeting tribes in eastern Oklahoma they work together on common issues.

“The Obama administration has been working for the last three years plus to address some major issues for Indian Country. We’re not going to be able to solve every single issue that’s brought to us, but I think we’ve got a pretty strong record in the first three years,” he said. “It’s wonderful to have a president that cares. It’s wonderful to have a secretary of Interior that cares, and it’s wonderful to have career employees in the Bureau of Indian Affair and the Bureau of Indian Education…that care really care about the work that they do.”

During the National Congress of American Indians’ winter session in early March in Washington, leaders of the Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw, Choctaw and Seminole nations met to discuss resurrecting the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes.

The Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes was established to promote positive relationships among five of Oklahoma’s largest tribes while acknowledging the need for a united front from tribal leaders on various issues.

The council’s first major task was convincing Echo Hawk to travel to Oklahoma to meet with tribes in eastern Oklahoma, which he immediately agreed to do.

Baker said it was more economical for Echo Hawk and two staff members to come to Oklahoma to meet with 23 tribal leaders than to have the leaders fly to Washington.

“Traveling to D.C. is expensive. Getting two or three people to come this way instead of 40 to 60 people go that way – it just really made sense,” he said.


About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.


04/25/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Six current Tribal Councilors have perfect attendance with regards to Tribal Council and special Tribal Council meetings, according to meeting minutes. For current legislators serving between Aug. 14, 2011, and April 13, 2015, Jack Baker, Joe Byrd, Tina Glory Jordan, Dick Lay, Janees Taylor and David Walkingstick have 100 percent attendance. Byrd began serving on the Tribal Council on Jan. 23, 2012, after winning an election to replace Bill John Baker, who became chief on Oct. 19, 2011, after a drawn-out principal chief’s race. Janelle Fullbright has 98 percent attendance and Don Garvin had a 97 percent attendance record. Lee Keener and Curtis Snell have 96 percent attendance. Harley Buzzard, who began serving on the Tribal Council on Aug. 14, 2013; Frankie Hargis, who began serving on Dec. 12, 2011; and Victoria Vazquez, who began serving on Oct. 22, 2013, have 95 percent attendance. David Thornton was next with 94 percent attendance. Julia Coates and Cara Cowan Watts both have 88 percent attendance, and Jodie Fishinghawk has 84 percent attendance. Four other people served on the Tribal Council during the time period but are no longer serving. Buel Anglen, who served from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 13, 2013, had 100 percent attendance. Bill John Baker, who served about two months before becoming principal chief, also had perfect attendance. Chuck Hoskin Jr., who served from Aug. 14. 2011, to Aug. 29, 2013, had perfect attendance as well. Meredith Frailey, who served from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 13, 2013, attended 93 percent of the meetings. The Cherokee Nation’s legislative branch consists of 17 Tribal Councilors. They are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Fifteen are elected to represent the districts within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional boundaries and two are elected to represent CN citizens who live outside the boundaries. The Tribal Council has the power to establish laws, which it shall deem necessary and proper for the good of the Nation. According to the CN Constitution, the council shall establish its rules for its credentials, decorum and procedure however there are currently no policies regarding absences in their rules and regulations.
04/24/2015 02:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The “Mid-Afternoon Frolic,” second edition, in May at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum is planned for younger talents. Designed for students in the seventh grade and lower, the family friendly talent show will be 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on May 3 in the museum’s Will Rogers Theater. Will Rogers entertained audiences at the “Midnight Frolic,” held on the rooftop of the New Amsterdam Theatre in New York City. Patrons were entertained with music, humor and dance numbers. Named for that venue, the “Mid-Afternoon Frolic” will include talent numbers of music, humor and dance. Space is limited to 20 participants. Acts are limited to four minutes. BancFirst will sponsor cash prizes including $150 for first place, $100 for second place and $50 for third place. Applications are available on line at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, link on Upcoming Events, by email at or by calling 918-343-8118.
04/24/2015 12:00 PM
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In an unusually public fight, a Cherokee advocacy group is challenging a half-million dollars in extra pay the Tribal Council recently approved for itself, saying the North Carolina tribe can't afford raises for top officials while other services suffer. The dispute has exposed details of tribal operations not often seen by outsiders and comes months before elections for top tribal posts. The group argues that Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians lawmakers violated tribal law when they voted in October to give current and former council members raises retroactive to 2010, according to a letter to the council. The raises and back pay through 2015 exceed $500,000, and hundreds of thousands more in tribal funds will go to adjusted retirement benefits, the group says. "At a time when vital Tribal programs in the areas of health, elder services, families and children continue to be underfunded, such exploitation of public office for personal gain is simply unconscionable," the letter dated April 16 states. The group's Asheville-based attorney, Meghann Burke, said the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for Justice and Accountability plans to file a lawsuit in Cherokee Tribal Court if the council doesn't return the money by its May 7 meeting. The group quotes tribal law as saying pay raises can't go into effect until the council's next term and that increases "shall not exceed the amount appropriated in that fiscal year for tribal employees." All 12 Tribal Council members, who serve two-year terms, as well as the principal chief, who serves a four-year term, are up for election in the fall. Tribal lawmakers passed the pay raises 9-1, with two sitting out, in their budget in October. Budget documents obtained by the advocacy group show each member received a raise of about $10,000 for the fiscal year starting in October. The new salaries range from about $80,000 for most members to about $86,000 for chairwoman Terri Henry. The group says several former council members also received retroactive payments of as much as nearly $24,000. The members who sat out of the vote, Teresa McCoy and Albert Rose, filed protests and unsuccessfully sought to undo the raises. A memo from Rose to Henry says the "Tribal Council cannot institute a pay increase until the next Council is seated" and the raises are "a direct violation" of tribal law. If filed, the advocacy group's lawsuit would ask the court to declare the raises invalid and make the council members return the money. The tribe's acting attorney general, Hannah Smith, and Tribal Council Vice Chairman Bill Taylor declined to comment, and Henry didn't respond to a phone message. Principal Chief Michell Hicks didn't return a message left Wednesday with his assistant. In the past, dismay over raises for the council led to changes in the law. The 2004 resolution that became the law on council pay raises said tribe members felt the panel had previously given itself unfair raises of $10,000 or more. "Tribal Council should set the example for curbing spending," says the unanimously passed resolution. Documents obtained by the advocacy group show average annual pay increases for tribal employees were between 2 and 4 percent annually for the decade ending in 2013. A 2014 memo from Smith to top tribal officials says tribal employees are in a separate category from members of the government. The tribe has approximately 15,000 enrolled members and employs about 4,000 in government and tribal businesses, spokeswoman Lynne Harlan said. Most of the tribal government's revenue comes from gambling operations anchored by the sprawling Harrah's Cherokee Hotel and Casino, and the tribe is building a second casino. A report by an outside accounting firm showed that gambling provided nine-tenths of tribal government revenues for the 2008 and 2009 fiscal years. The dispute provides a wider look at tribal operations than outsiders typically get. The tribe's laws guarantee enrolled members — but not necessarily others — access to public records and meetings. A reporter for the Smoky Mountain News, a weekly newspaper that has frequently covered the tribe, wrote in December that she and other journalists were denied entry to a meeting that month. Becky Walker, one of the leaders of Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians for Justice and Accountability, said a core group of 6 to 10 members has participated for years but support has swelled since the decision on pay raises. "We have been attending meetings for years ... and have been really upset with some of the decisions," she said, adding that this is the first time they've hired a lawyer to take action. There were public protests of the decision, and Walker says she's heard from many tribe employees who are upset but afraid to speak out. Concerns include that the tribe has overextended itself with the new casino and other businesses. "A lot of the enrolled members have concerns about how much debt we're in," she said.
04/24/2015 10:00 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A group of American Indian actors walked off the set of an Adam Sandler movie this week over complaints about stereotypes, offensive names and scenes they say disrespected Native American religious practices. Actor Loren Anthony told The Associated Press on Thursday that he and eight others quit the production of the satirical Western "The Ridiculous Six" after producers ignored their concerns about its portrayal of Apache culture and the inappropriate use of props. Anthony said the script included offensive names for Native American female characters and a scene where a Native American woman urinated while smoking a peace pipe. Another scene used chicken feathers on teepees, he said. "Right from the get-go, it didn't feel right. But we it let it go," said Anthony, a Navajo actor who started work as an extra on the movie Monday. "Once we found out more about the script, we felt it was totally disrespectful to elders and Native women." "The Ridiculous Six" is produced by Sandler and Allen Covert and is slated for a Netflix-only release. Production began this month in Santa Fe and elsewhere in northern New Mexico. The film is a comedy designed to lampoon stereotypes, Netflix said. "The movie has 'ridiculous' in the title for a reason: because it is ridiculous," a company statement released by Netflix said. "It is a broad satire of Western movies and the stereotypes they popularized, featuring a diverse cast that is not only part of — but in on — the joke." A spokesman for Sandler's Manchester, New Hampshire-based production company, Happy Madison Productions, didn't immediately return a phone message. Goldie Tom, another extra who departed the set Wednesday, said producers told the group to leave if they felt offended and that script changes were not up for debate. "This just shows that Hollywood has not changed at all," Tom said. She added the production had a number of non-Native American actors portraying American Indians, a long-standing complaint about the movie industry. The actors said a Native American consultant hired by the production also walked off the set. The New Mexico Film Office said Thursday the dispute was a First Amendment issue and the office had no say over the movie's content. "As long as the production meets the requirements in the film credit statute, there is nothing prohibiting them from filming in New Mexico and receiving the rebate," the office said in a statement. Outgoing Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly lauded the extras' decision. "Our Native American culture and tradition is no joking matter," Shelly said. "I applaud these Navajo actors for their courage and conviction to walk off the set in protest." David Hill, 74, a Choctaw actor from Oklahoma who left the set, said he thought the film industry was heading toward better portrayal of American Indians before this experience. "Over the years, we have seen change. Then this," Hill said. "We told them, 'Our dignity is not for sale.’"
04/23/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix is asking Cherokee Nation citizens to submit questions they would like to ask either the principal chief or deputy chief candidates during the Cherokee Phoenix Debate 2015. The debates are slated for 6 p.m. on May 16 at the Northeastern State University’s Robert P. Webb Auditorium in Tahlequah. Those interested in submitting a question can do so by using #askthechief2015 on social media websites Facebook or Twitter. The Cherokee Phoenix may select or modify a submitted question and ask it during the debates. Click <a href="" target="_blank"></a> for additional information.
Senior Reporter
04/23/2015 08:45 AM
EUCHA, Okla. – Three Cherokee families gathered April 18 at the Round Springs Cemetery to honor their respective ancestors who survived the Trail of Tears and later died in the Cherokee Nation. The descendants of Chief Charles “Oochalata” Thompson, Anderson Springston and Charlotte Chopper, some traveling from other states, came to the cemetery west of Jay for a ceremony hosted by the Oklahoma Trail of Tears Association. On the headstone of all three survivors, a metal plaque was placed that read: “In honor of one who endured the forced removal of the Cherokees in 1838-39. The Trail of Tears Association Oklahoma Chapter” and included the TOTA and CN seals. Oklahoma TOTA President Curtis Rohr said 130 survivors’ graves have been marked since 1997. Daniel Tanner, 66, came from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, to honor “Oochalata” Thompson. “It was hard to hold back tears,” he said. “I’m really glad I came down here when I did. I’ve been here for two weeks now, and this is going to be the highlight of my trip. I think it’s a real honor to be recognized in this way, and all the family that’s here should be really proud of our ancestors and those who survived the Trail of Tears.” Thompson was born in the CN East circa 1821. Prior to the removal, the family lived on the Toccoa River in what is now Gilmer County, Georgia. In 1838-39, Oochalata’s family endured the removal, traveling with the Choowa-looky/Wofford Detachment, and settled on Brush Creek, south of what is now Jay. In 1875, running on the Downing Party ticket, Thompson defeated Chief William Potter Ross and was elected chief of the CN. He was the last monolingual Cherokee speaker to be chief. His term was marked through its entirety by disagreements with the U.S. government over its refusal to allow the CN to set its citizenship requirements and remove people the Cherokees felt were intruders in the Nation. He died in 1891. Patti Jo King of Muskogee is a descendant of Springston. The director of Bacone College’s Center for American Indians in Muskogee, she has researched her ancestors and knew about Springston before the ceremony. “I’ve been coming out here (cemetery) since I was child,” she said. “I thought the ceremony was absolutely beautiful, and I wouldn’t have missed this for the world…My mother was quite close to Anderson Springston’s son John Leak Springston. I’m so happy that this has happened. I thank the Trail of Tears Association for bringing our family’s history to light.” Springston was born Oct. 13, 1814, in the CN East, probably on the Tennessee River and possibly in present-day Marshall County, Alabama. He was adamantly opposed to removal. In 1834, he and his half-brother, James Foreman, were implicated in the murder of John Walker, a removal advocate. However, they were not convicted. On June 22, 1839, he and five others took part in the assassination of Major Ridge, a signer of the Treaty of New Echota that sold remaining Cherokee lands in the east and leader of the Treaty Party. Disagreements over this removal treaty caused tension in the CN during the next decade. Springston eventually settled near Spavinaw Creek in what is now Eucha in Delaware County. About 1844 he married Sarah “Sallie” Elliott. They had seven children. Trained as an attorney, Springston served as solicitor in the Delaware District from 1841-44. In 1845, he was elected to the Cherokee Committee (later called the Senate) from the same district and served one term. Springston died on March 15, 1866. He was originally buried in a cemetery at Galcatcher Hollow. In 1952, his body was reinterred in Round Springs Cemetery. Carol Hamby came to honor her great-great grandmother Charlotte Chopper. She said she is “proud” of her grandmother for surviving the Trail of Tears and submitted the paperwork to have her grandmother honored two years ago. “I looked at her headstone, saw her birthdate, saw when she died, and said, ‘she had to have come across it’ (Trail of Tears),” she said. “It’s been exciting. I have relatives here from Denver, Joplin, Missouri; Kansas City, Missouri; Dallas, Texas; Tahlequah; Jay; Tulsa. We have a bunch of family here” Sah-lah-dah, known in English as Charlotte, was a full-blood Cherokee born circa 1817 in the CN East. Her father’s name has not been preserved, but her mother was named Ne-di. About 1833, she married Gah-loo-yah, known in English as Chopper. They lived on the Ellijay River in what is now Gilmer County, Georgia, and had four children. In 1838-39, she had her husband and daughter endured the forced removal in the Choowalooky/Wofford detachment. The family settled in the Delaware District near what is now Eucha. She died on Feb. 28, 1858, at Eucha and was buried in the Chopper family cemetery near the Lake Eucha Bridge on Hwy. 59. At the formation of the Lake Eucha in 1952, her body was reinterred at Round Springs Cemetery. National President of the Trail of Tears Association and Tribal Councilor Jack Baker said the markings honor Trail of Tears survivors and enable their families to understand the removal wasn’t an “isolated event” in the tribe’s history and it happened to their family. “This wasn’t just an event in history, but it actually happened to our family,” he said. “We have the markers on the grave, so when you visit the gravesites with your children later on...and they ask what that marker is you can tell them that’s your family and your family was a part of the Trail of Tears.”