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.


03/26/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – To help with staffing, travel and community members in need, the Cherokee Nation donated $30,000 to Friends of the Murrell Home, War Pony Community Outreach and the CN Color Guard. Friends of the Murrell Home support and promote the Murrell Home Historic Site in Park Hill. The Murrell Home was built following the Trail of Tears for then CN Chief John Ross’ niece, Minerva Ross Murrell. The group uses donations to help cover museum staffing. “Without this donation from the Cherokee Nation, a Cherokee citizen who works for us in the Living History Program would be out of a job,” said Murrell Home Site Manager David Fowler. “Because of that, we’re very appreciative of the help the tribe provides.” War Pony Community Outreach is a nonprofit organization in Cherokee County dedicated to helping people across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction with living expenses. The group plans to use the donation to buy beds, washers, stoves and other household appliances. “Whatever a community member that qualifies needs, we help provide it,” said Raymond Vann, who works with the outreach. Making appearances at public events, funerals or other venues across the country, veterans who act as cultural ambassadors for the tribe make up the CN Color Guard of Native American. The Color Guard will use the donation for travel expenses.
Senior Reporter
03/25/2015 02:00 PM
WELLING, Okla. – A non-Cherokee couple that recently tried to partake in a new master-apprentice Cherokee language course offered by the tribe’s Cultural and Community Outreach is saying they were asked to leave the course after three sessions. Doug and Judy Cotter of Welling tried to participate in the program in February after receiving a call from a participant. Doug said the pilot program pays three Cherokee speakers to interact with four students, so he said there was plenty of room in the classroom for him and his wife. “I received a call from one of the participants that knew we were interested in the Master-Apprentice Program. They stated they would like for us to come sit in just as another example of people that could learn the language because he knew we had been studying it several years over here at NSU (Northeastern State University),” Doug said. “We were tickled to death and jumped at the chance.” However, after three sessions, Doug said CCO Director Rob Daugherty called them into his office and told them they could no longer attend classes. Doug added that he and Judy never got a straight answer as to why they couldn’t attend anymore. “He (Daugherty) said ‘when my students start complaining I have to do something. This is for people who are being paid to be here. It’s for participants only, and you guys just can’t be here,’” Doug said. He said he could not imagine that he and his wife somehow disrupted the classes they attended because mainly they just sat and listened to the Cherokee speakers. The program aims to teach Cherokee Nation citizens to become second-language Cherokee speakers so that they can go into their respective communities and teach others in an effort to revitalize the language, Daugherty said. Citizens will meet eight hours per day on weekdays through this fall, according to the program. “It’s a very demanding schedule,” Daugherty said. “As CCO’s director, when it was brought to my attention by other participants that Mr. and Mrs. Cotter were attending classes regularly and not merely observing, nor were they Cherokee Nation citizens, or a member of any federally-recognized tribe that I know of, I simply explained to the couple that our program is for Cherokee Nation citizens, and we simply did not have the space, nor funding to allow them to be participants.” Daugherty said the class is taught in a small office space and participants are paid stipends. Occasionally there are visitors who observe a class, and the Cotters were allowed to observe by one of the instructors. Doug said he went in strictly as a volunteer and he and his wife did not expect to get paid. “You have to be a member of the Cherokee Nation to even be considered for payment, so I didn’t expect to get paid,” he said. “I just think it would be a privilege to get to participate.” He said he was even willing to teach the language for two years after completing the program, which is required of all students enrolled in the program. “We welcome sharing our Cherokee language, and there are other online and community Cherokee language courses that are free and open to the public that the Cotters can utilize,” Daugherty said. “Moving forward, in our application for this program, we require participants be Cherokee Nation citizens, apply, be accepted and sign a contract with CCO, in an effort to avoid any public confusion.” Doug said at first he was angry because he was invited to partake in the program and then was told he couldn’t. “I didn’t understand. You’re volunteering, and you’re not causing any problems. Why would they not want someone to learn the language? In my opinion, the more people that learn it, the better. If the language is in dire straits, and we all know it is, the more people that can learn it and share it and spread it and teach it, the better off you’re going to be,” he said.
03/25/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission, candidates and representatives of candidates drew for ballot order during a March 24 special meeting after the EC ruled on candidate eligibility a day earlier. Candidates, their respective representatives and volunteers drew from a jar containing numbered chips that determined the order in which candidates would appear on the June 27 general election ballot. This year, 36 candidates are vying for eight Tribal Council seats as well as the principal chief and deputy chief positions. Those elected take office on Aug. 14. For the principal chief seat, candidate Will Fourkiller, a representative in the state House, received the first spot. Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden drew the second ballot spot for Principal Chief Bill John Baker. Former CN Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap drew the third spot, while former Principal Chief Chad Smith will be fourth on the ballot. For the deputy chief seat, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener drew the first spot followed by incumbent S. Joe Crittenden for the second position. Smith, Tribal Councilor Julia Coates’ representative, drew the third spot. Coates has appealed to the tribe’s Supreme Court an EC decision that states she is not eligible to run for the deputy chief seat because she did not meet residency requirements. However, the EC still drew her ballot placement in the chance the court rules in her favor. If the court rules against Coates, her name would be removed from the ballot. For the Dist. 1 Tribal Council seat, a representative drew the first spot for Rex Jordan and candidate Ryan Sierra drew the second spot. For Dist. 3, Brandon Girty got the first spot, which was drawn by his daughter. Incumbent David Walkingstick’s representative drew the second spot. Kathy Kilpatrick drew the third spot, while Brian Berry’s representative drew the forth spot. Larry Pritchett drew the last spot. For Dist. 6, Natalie Fullbright’s representative drew the first spot for her, while Bryan Warner drew the second position. B. Keith McCoy got the third slot, and Ron Goff drew the fourth. For Dist. 8, Corey Bunch drew the first spot, while a representative for Shawn Crittenden drew the second. For Dist. 12, incumbent Dick Lay drew the first spot and his opponent Dora Smith Patzkowski got the second. For Dist. 13, a representative drew the first spot for former Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen, while another representative drew the second spot for Kenneth Holloway. For Dist. 14, a representative for Keith Austin, a former Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board member, drew the first spot, while William “Bill” Pearson drew the second position. For the No. 1 At-Large seat, Wanda Hatfield drew the first spot, while Tommy Jones drew the second. Pamela Fox got the third spot, while Betsy Swimmer drew the fourth. Benjamin McKee drew the fifth spot, and Trey Brown drew the sixth. Deborah Reed got the seventh spot, while Linda Leaf-Bolin got the eighth. Former CN Supreme Court Justice Darell Matlock drew for the ninth spot, and Shane Jett got the last position on the ballot. After drawing for ballot positioning, the EC also drew for watcher names that were provided by candidates for some voting precincts. More than 40 names were drawn. Two names, if available for that precinct location, were drawn as well as an alternate, if possible. The EC also drew several watchers for the four days of in-person absentee voting in Tahlequah. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call 918-458-5899.
03/25/2015 10:00 AM
LANCASTER, N.Y. (AP) – A western New York school district will do away with its Redskins mascot and nickname after other districts in the region turned up the pressure by boycotting games because of it. The Lancaster Central School Board voted to retire the longtime symbol Monday during a special session called after three districts with sizeable numbers of Native American students canceled lacrosse matches. The term Redskins is considered by many to be a racial slur against Native Americans. While supporters of the nickname said it was a source of pride and never meant to offend, a resolution by Superintendent Michael Vallely said it has become a "symbol of ethnic stereotyping" and that keeping it could subject students to retaliation. The unanimous vote was shouted down by Redskins supporters, many of whom wore past and present school uniforms and jackets with the Redskins logo. "All of these years we've never used it in a negative way," Lancaster High School senior Emily Koeppel said after the meeting. "It was never meant to be hurtful." Numerous high schools and universities throughout the country have dropped the term in recent years and several Native American groups have begun a "Change the Mascot" campaign to press the National Football League to remove it from the Washington, D.C., franchise. "There is no pride in having schools boycott playing our sports teams," board member Kimberly Nowak said. "There is no pride in winning by forfeit." The lacrosse boycotts by the Akron, Lake Shore and Niagara Wheatfield districts in western New York followed a March 3 public forum in Lancaster that drew more than 100 people from both sides of the issue. Several students said they would continue to wear their Redskins apparel and call themselves Redskins despite the vote by the board to begin a "student-centered" process to develop a new mascot. "This is our school. We are Redskins," student Torie Dombrowski said. The school has been leaving the Redskins name off new uniform orders for the last three to four years, and a new football field scoreboard also is without the mascot, but district leaders had said they would take their time before deciding whether to do away with it altogether. The boycotts and other pressure from the community hastened the decision, board members said. A spokesman for the Oneida Indian Nation of central New York, which is involved in the NFL campaign, said districts that have replaced their mascots, including neighboring Cooperstown, have not seen a decline in school spirit. "Not only did the school make a powerful statement to the Native American community that they no longer wanted to use a term that is a dictionary-defined slur against native people," spokesman Joel Barkin said. "But it made a statement to the kids in that school to be self-aware and have empathy and think about how the actions that you are engaging in affect other people outside of yourself." The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 2001 called for an end to the use of Native American images and team names by non-Native schools, saying the portrayals "encourage biases and prejudices that have a negative effect on contemporary Indian people." The American Psychological Association took a similar stance in 2005, citing harmful effects "on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people." Said board member Michael Sage, "The students in this generation and those to follow need a new tradition."
03/24/2015 02:00 PM
WASHINGTON – In keeping with President Obama’s commitment to supporting Indian families and building resilient, stable and thriving tribal communities, Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced March 18 that the Bureau of Indian Affairs has published a proposed rule to govern the implementation of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 by state courts and child welfare agencies. The proposed rule also includes changes to current regulations that govern notice to state agencies under ICWA. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ proposed rule clarifies and strengthens implementation of the act’s requirements in Indian child custody proceedings to ensure that Indian families and tribal communities do not face the unwarranted removal of their youngest and most vulnerable members,” Washburn said. “I want to thank all those who attended listening sessions and provided comments and recommendations for our updated guidelines. Their contributions helped inform this proposed rule, which seeks to protect Indian children and families. We look forward to receiving more comments and feedback throughout the rulemaking process.” The Department will be conducting tribal consultations and public meetings on the proposed rule through May 2015 to facilitate input and comment on the proposed rule. Tribal consultations are open only to representatives of federally recognized Indian tribes. Public meetings are open to everyone. A public meeting is scheduled for 1-4 p.m., Thursday, May 15 at the Tulsa Marriott Southern Hills, 1902 E. 71st Street. The assistant secretary’s announcement marks the second major action the BIA has taken this year to promote implementation of ICWA. On Feb. 24, Washburn announced the issuance of revised guidelines for state courts and agencies in Indian child custody proceedings to support the full implementation and purpose of ICWA–the first such update since the guidelines were issued over 35 years ago. Protecting Indian children reflects the highest ideals of the federal government’s trust responsibility to Indian tribes, and the revised guidelines and regulations are part of this administration’s broader approach to ensuring compliance with ICWA. The proposed regulations will be published in the Federal Register and can be found at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Comments can be submitted via any of the following methods: by e-mail to <a href="mailto:"></a> (please include “ICWA” in the subject line of the message); by postal service or hand-delivery to Ms. Elizabeth Appel, Office of Regulatory Affairs & Collaborative Action – Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS-3642-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240; by phone by calling 202-273-4680, or at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The Office of Indian Services Division of Human Services administers the BIA’s ICWA regulations at 25 CFR Part 23 and the Guidelines for State Courts. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
03/24/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Attorney General’s Office released a statement on March 23 stating that no charges would be filed against Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts or former Principal Chief Chad Smith for allegedly committing fraud. At a special March 13 Election Commission meeting, the EC announced it received five candidate challenges during the contest of candidate eligibility period of March 5-12. CN citizen Carole Richmond challenged Smith, who is running for the principal chief seat, and Cowan Watts, who had campaigned for the principal chief seat before deciding not to file for the position. In her protest against Cowan Watts, Richmond alleges fraud. “Cara Cowan Watts presented herself to the Cherokee people as a candidate for Chief for over two years,” Richmond states. “Legal action needs to be taken to return funds to donors.” In the Smith protest, Richmond states her challenge was based on fraud and unethical behavior, claiming Smith’s representation of Tribal Councilor Julia Coates in a case regarding her address and At-Large Tribal Council seat. “The legal documents demanded that the Election Commission accept the Los Angeles (address). In the 2015 election, Chad Smith wants Julia Coates to be deputy chief for him and now she lives in Tahlequah and meets the 270-day requirement for residency. It would appear if Chad Smith doesn’t get his way, he files a lawsuit,” Richmond writes. “It is my belief this is unethical, unprofessional and fraudulent behavior.” Both protests were forwarded to the Attorney General’s Office because they allege illegal activity, and the EC does not conduct criminal investigations. However, according to the Attorney General’s Office statement, “there does not appear to be sufficient evidence to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that either Mrs. Watts or Mr. Smith committed the crime of fraud.” Robert Garcia, assistant attorney general, said even though his office has declined prosecution, the EC should review the surrounding facts and circumstances to ensure there are not any non-criminal sanctions that may apply. “Should new evidence become available, this office will certainly revisit this request,” he said. Smith said Richmond’s protest against him was baseless. “Carole Richmond filed it for political sensationalism and it was absolutely baseless.” The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to get a comment from Cowan Watts, but was unsuccessful.