A 15-district map introduced by Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts includes Cherokee citizens with ‘bad addresses” as directed by the Cherokee Nation District Court. The Rules Committee rejected the map in a 10-7 vote on June 28. COURTESY MAP

Rules Committee passes 15-district map

This 15-district map sponsored by Tribal Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk was approved by the Tribal Council’s Rules Committee on June 28. It does not include Cherokee Nation citizens with “bad addresses,” which caused it to be called into question by some councilors. COURTESY MAP
This 15-district map sponsored by Tribal Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk was approved by the Tribal Council’s Rules Committee on June 28. It does not include Cherokee Nation citizens with “bad addresses,” which caused it to be called into question by some councilors. COURTESY MAP
Senior Reporter
07/09/2012 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Racing against an Aug. 1 deadline, the Tribal Council’s Rules Committee on June 28 voted 10-7 to re-apportion the Cherokee Nation’s five representative districts into 15 districts.

The legislation, sponsored by Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk, now heads to full council on July 16. It calls for amending Legislative Act 36-10 by increasing districts within the CN jurisdiction from five to 15. Currently, each district has three councilors. If amended, LA 36-10 would create 15 districts with one councilor per district.

Councilors first approved the 15-district map during a Rules subcommittee meeting in May using data from CN Geographic Information Systems.

GIS Administrator David Justice said 7,115 CN citizens is the optimal number of citizens for each of the 15 districts and that all of the districts are within 10 percent of that optimal number. He also said the map is “representative” of the jurisdiction’s citizenship count.

However, Councilor Cara Cowan Watts disagreed, saying the map did not include citizens with bad addresses or who have not provided the Nation with updated or correct addresses.

A current GIS report states 12,000 jurisdictional citizens have bad addresses.

Fishinghawk said citizens with bad addresses were sent two mailings or visited twice to ask them to update their address with the CN. After two attempts, those addresses were no longer counted, she said.

Cowan Watts said Fishinghawk’s map also “gerrymandered” or manipulated the districts’ boundaries to favor a few councilors and prevents Councilor Buel Anglen from running in 2013.

Anglen serves Tulsa and Rogers counties, but if the 15-district map is approved on July 16, his home in Sperry would be part of Dist. 12. That district would include parts of Tulsa, Rogers and Nowata counties and all of Washington County and would be represented by Councilor Dick Lay until 2015.

“If I’m going to be voted out, I’d like to be voted out by the people,” Anglen said.

Councilor David Thornton said when the council changed from nine districts to five districts, Delaware and Adair counties lost seats to other districts.

“Mr. (Lee) Keener is sitting in one of those seats right now that went over to that district,” Thornton said.

He added that gerrymandering may be a problem, but that it also took place two years ago.
“This gerrymandering business can go two different ways,” Thornton said.

Cowan Watts introduced an alternative map during the June 28 meeting that she said “gerrymandered for all seated officials so everyone has a seat to run for in 2013” instead of only councilors in the majority.

“If we’re going to gerrymander for one, we need to gerrymander for all,” she said.

But Councilor Tina Glory Jordan interrupted her, saying there was a motion to approve Fishinghawk’s map and that Cowan Watts’ map was not “germane” to the discussion.

Cowan Watts said her map was germane and that her map includes citizens with bad addresses as instructed in 2010 by the tribe’s District Court. She said the court ruled that people with bad addresses could not be “arbitrarily stricken.”

Glory Jordan said citizens with bad addresses would be counted as part of the at-large population (citizens living outside the jurisdiction) until they give a new address to the Registration Department.

She said she believes the bad address count for Cherokee County is too low at 359 and that it’s not fair for some councilors to want to count bad addresses numbering in the thousands because it gives them an unfair advantage when re-apportioning districts.

“She’s (Cowan Watts) trying to substitute a map that’s other than the map in the (committee) book that we have worked months on. I’m just not in favor of that substitution,” Glory Jordan said. “The gerrymandering was done four years ago. It’s not being done now.”

Cowan Watts also said her map meets the 10 percent criteria set by the court. She said if bad addresses are added to Fishinghawk’s map as instructed by the court, nearly all of the 15 districts are above 10 percent deviation.

“One is even 22 percent greater than it is supposed to be,” she said.

Glory Jordan said she the court’s ruling that bad addresses be counted was “faulty” and needed to be corrected, which she said the Rules Committee did on June 28. She added that “more than likely” citizens with bad addresses are now at-large citizens.

In October 2006, the council created 15 districts, replacing the nine districts it had been using. However, then-Principal Chief Chad Smith vetoed the act. The council attempted twice more to create 15 districts, but again Smith vetoed the acts.

After two years of working on redistricting and taking part in lawsuits over whether districts were properly apportioned, the council approved a five-district map on Dec. 24, 2010, six months before the 2011 general election, which caused confusion among candidates and voters.

Keener said there’s potential for voter confusion with Fishinghawk’s map because voters at some precincts may find themselves voting for candidates from three districts.

“We want to do the will of the people, not the will of the few,” he said. “I don’t see any benefit from this map except for the dictionary. When you look up gerrymandering there will be a picture of that map.”

The committee rejected Cowan Watts’ map by a 10-7 vote and approved Fishinghawk’s map.

Those councilors voting for against Cowan Watts’ map and for Fishinghawk’s map were Joe Byrd, Fishinghawk, Janelle Fullbright, Frankie Hargis, Chuck Hoskin Jr., Glory Jordan, Lay, Curtis Snell, Thornton and David Walkingstick.

Cowan Watts said she sees more lawsuits in the future with the Fishinghawk map.

“I feel strongly this map is violating the principles that our court set out. It doesn’t meet the 10 percent standard. It doesn’t meet the use of bad addresses standard, and it doesn’t meet fairness standards that were talked about during court proceedings in putting contiguous communities together and such,” she said. “I just think we are headed to court. That doesn’t do our people any justice.”



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.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 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.


09/16/2015 10:00 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Citizens of the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 6, which covers the eastern part of Sequoyah County, has a new Tribal Councilor in Bryan Warner, who not only wants to represent his constituents but also encourage them to lead. Warner, who was sworn into office Aug. 14, said he looks forward to meeting more CN citizens and encouraging them to be leaders in the CN. “I’ve been out and about since the election. I want to continue to get out, especially here after the Cherokee (National) Holiday is over. When that kind of dies down I want to come out and be seen in the community,” he said. “My key hope for this district it to let this district know, ‘hey, we can be a leader amongst all the other districts.’” Warner said he wants Dist. 6 citizens to help take charge of their district. “I really want to promote a sense of ownership that all the citizens that live within this district need to have more of a on-hands approach to some of the things that happen in this district,” he said. “I definitely want to try to help the Nation grow. I want to help promote more job creation and just really get some overall creative thinking in this district that can eventually help the entire Cherokee Nation.” Warner said the tribe has served his family in the past so he thought it was time to give back. “I’ve been active in my community and in my county and I just had a feeling that I could do more, and I wanted to do more and get out and help individuals and just be more a part of the Cherokee Nation and be a part of the community in a different way,” he said. Warner, who has three sons with his wife Maco, said family is an important part of the way he leads his life. “Growing up my main goal in life, if I was blessed enough to have a family, was to be a good father. To try to be there for my children, try to leave a positive life,” he said. Warner is a professor at Carl Albert State College in Sallisaw where he teaches courses such as chemistry, biology and botany. He said because he has an educational background he believes in educating those within the tribe. “I feel like that education leads to better health for the individual and the entire community,” he said. “Really, if I promote a lot of education, a lot of health care, I think that leads into trying to get people better housing, better equipped to be self-sufficient.” Warner said it’s an “honor and privilege” to serve Dist. 6 and has an open-door policy for CN citizens. “I want them to always know that my door is always open. My phone line is always open to those in need. Whether they’re in this district or throughout the Cherokee Nation, I want them to know that I want to pull in everybody and unite together in our ideas and our culture and to spread the word of the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “I just want to make sure that I’m always available to them and let them know that that’s important to me.”
Senior Reporter
09/15/2015 01:22 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council confirmed the reappointments of the Cherokee Nation’s registrar and treasurer during its Sept. 14. Meeting. Linda O’Leary, a former Tribal Councilor, has served as registrar since July 2012, while Treasurer Lacey Horn has served as treasurer since December 2011. CN Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones swore in Horn during the meeting, while O’Leary, who could not attend the meeting, will take her oath later. Jones also swore in former Principal Chief and current Dist. 2 Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd as the new speaker of the Tribal Council. Dist. 11 Councilor Victoria Vazquez was sworn as deputy speaker, and Dist. 7 Councilor Frankie Hargis was confirmed to serve as secretary. Also, former Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright was confirmed to serve on the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors. As for legislation, legislators passed a bill to receive another herd of bison from the Intertribal Buffalo Council based in Rapid City, South Dakota. In October 2014, the tribe received 38 cows from Badlands National Park in South Dakota, and later received 12 bulls from the Teddy Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota. The 51 head of bison are fenced in on tribal land in rural Delaware County near Bull Hollow, and since the cows’ arrival 23 calves have been born. Dist. 9 Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said the tribe would request 50 more head of bison from the ITBC, which would be placed with the rest of the herd. The council also passed an act governing the investment of tribal funds. The act states investments of CN funds “shall be made in accordance with written policies established by the Treasurer.” Any funds invested by the CN “shall be under the control of the Treasurer who may, at his or her discretion, delegate fiduciary responsibilities to the Controller of the CN.” The revised act removed the Tribal Council’s ability to “establish laws and regulations” invested funds and gives that control to the Treasurer or Controller for the tribe. Also, no funds under the control of the CN “shall be deposited invested with in any financial institution unless the financial institution is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Association or the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation and/or the financial institution’s activities are controlled or regulated by federal law and/or federal regulations or regulators, including but not limited to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.” The council also passed acts authorizing the fiscal year 2016 capital budget ($119.4 million) and operating budget ($647.6 million). The entire budget for the fiscal year approved by the Executive and Finance Committee on Aug. 31 is $767.1 million. CNB CEO Shawn Slaton told legislators that CNB provided an additional $300,000 in tax collections to the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission in August. He added that construction activities are “winding down” at Cherokee Casino Roland in Sequoyah County. A new $80 million casino opened there in July, and the old casino and small motel were recently demolished to make room for more parking at the casino that sits near U.S. Highway 64 and I-40. Slaton said the new six-story, 120-room hotel next to the casino would open in December. In Jay, the new 42,000-square-foot health clinic there is nearly complete. Slaton said there has been an issue with the “water table” for the clinic, but the problem has been identified and a solution is being worked. Slaton said Cherokee Springs – the retail development project in Tahlequah that will include restaurants, shopping, a convention center, hotel and casino – is moving along. Stuteville Ford of Tahlequah and the restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings are the first two tenants for the retail area, he said. The development project is expected to cost $170 million. “We are currently negotiating with other companies to fill the remaining pad sites, and that’s going very well. We’ve had a lot of interest and can afford to be a little selective with what we’re doing there,” he said. “We are appreciative of the support that we’ve received from the chief’s office, also from council as well as the city of Tahlequah and Cherokee County. Everybody’s working together to make that happen.”
Senior Reporter
09/03/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Executive and Finance Committee members unanimously passed the largest Cherokee Nation comprehensive budget at $767.1 million during an Aug. 31 budget hearing. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the fiscal year 2016 budget, the largest every approved by the committee, would allow the CN to meet the needs of its citizens. “The unprecedented financial growth is directly due to the success of our businesses, strategic investments, concentrated effort in third-party health care billing, increased number of federal grants and overall excellent financial stewardship,” Baker said. “With an increased annual budget, Cherokee Nation citizens and employees will see our tribal programs and services grow meeting the needs of our people. When we have more dollars to grow our capacity and serve Cherokee people that is a great thing.” CN Treasurer Lacey Horn said the FY 2016 budget includes “unprecedented” investments in health services for Cherokee people, and the budget increased an estimated $35 million when compared to the FY 2015 budget of $731.6 million, which the Tribal Council approved in September 2014. Horn said Health Services was expected to see a nearly $30 million increase. “Our push to pursue more grant funding opportunities has been successful, and I’m proud that we can offer our citizens even greater access to services in new and expanded facilities,” she said. Also, Career Services was expected to receive a nearly $2.5 million increase, with higher education scholarships getting an increase of $1.5 million. The Commerce Department was to get an additional $3.5 million, and Human Services was expected to get a nearly $3 million bump. “Those funds will likely help put more citizens into new homes and jobs, and help our elders and families with utility assistance and childcare services, respectively,” Horn said. She said no departments or program received major reductions in the budget. Horn added that the Executive & Finance Committee generally approves the budget within one to two days of hearings but this year the committee approved it within the first day. “Hearings are scheduled over a few days to give Tribal Council the time and luxury to go over programs in detail if they choose too,” she said. “Quick approval comes from Tribal Councilors who understand the budget process and believe administration is directing programs properly for the Cherokee Nation to better serve our people.” With its Aug. 31 approval, the budget is set to appear on the Sept. 14 Tribal Council agenda. Citizens can view the FY 2016 budget on www.cherokee.org after the Tribal Council approves. Citizens can also find the tribe’s budget and financial outlook at the Popular Annual Financial Report link on <a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a>.
09/01/2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Leaders from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians gathered on Aug. 28 at Red Clay State Park for a historic Tri-Council meeting. The event marked the first time all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes assembled for a council meeting at Red Clay. After Georgia passed laws displacing Cherokees and preventing Cherokee leaders from meeting, the Cherokee capital was moved from New Echota (now in Georgia) to just over the Tennessee state line in Red Clay. Nearly a dozen separate council meetings were held there between 1832 and 1837. “The gathering of our Cherokee governments at this sacred site is not only historic, but a strong reflection of our inherent sovereignty,” Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “It is because of our Cherokee ancestors’ spirit of perseverance that we are able to gather and conduct the business of our people. We must always keep that in mind and protect that right for our future generations.” The Tribal Councilors voted on several resolutions: • Requiring all cultural or historical presenters or artisans claiming to be Cherokee to be verified by one of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes, • Recognizing, commending and supporting the efforts of the Cherokee Language Consortium and requiring that all Cherokee language materials distributed to the public, such as billboards, signs, brochures, newsletters and pamphlets, be approved by at least three members of the Cherokee Language Consortium to assure accuracy and authenticity, • Recognizing the ongoing contribution of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum in enhancing visitors’ understanding of Sequoyah and the Cherokee people’s history, and • Affirming no change can be made to the Cherokee syllabary without the consensus of the Tri-Council. During Tri-Council, attendees also visited Cherokee, North Carolina, and toured the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians’ recently completed $28 million justice center and the tribe’s $80 million hospital under construction. Attendees also watched a performance of the play Sliver of a Full Moon, written by CN citizen Mary Kathryn Nagle and directed by CN citizen Betsy Richards. Tri-Council unites the legislative branches of government of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes and is designed to create a unified and federally recognized Cherokee voice dedicated to promoting and advancing tribal sovereignty. The CN will host the next Tri-Council meeting in 2016.
08/19/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Aug. 10, six outgoing Tribal Councilors, who either termed out or gave up their seat, were honored with plaques during their last day of meetings. Former Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan thanked her constituents for entrusting her as their representative. “I believe we’ve made the situation a little better for them. I’m very proud of what we did for the Head Start Program,” she said. “I love the fact that we’ve given out more scholarships this year than we’ve ever given out before. And if you can educate a young person that’s really all they ever want from the tribe because they’re go on, they’ll be productive and they’ll take care of their families.” She said she loves that the tribe is building houses again and receiving one is a life-changing event. “We’ll never be able to build enough houses, but we’re getting there. As you have people that you satisfy on the program, you have five more that are coming on to the program. But I love the fact that we’re building houses again,” Jordan said. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts said she hopes she left the tribe a little better with her service during the past 12 years. “I know I am a better person for having served and am thankful for the experience,” she said. “I will continue to pray for the Cherokee Nation and our government and business staff who work diligently throughout the year to serve our Nation. My thoughts and prayers are with them as they make decisions for the Nation.” She added that she would continue her community service by working with Native students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and scholarships. Tribal Councilor Janelle Fulbright said one of the best things she’s seen happen within the CN during her eight years on council was the construction of the new Redbird Smith Clinic and dialysis center in Sallisaw. “And I just consider it a privilege to serve, a privilege and an honor, and I’ve greatly enjoyed my eight years. “The newly elected council members, I have great confidence in them that they will carry on and be very responsive to the needs of our people,” she said. Tribal Councilor Lee Keener said he was humbled and honored to represent the Cherokee people. “It’s been an awesome experience. One of the best experiences of my life. I’ve learned a lot. I wish every Cherokee citizen could experience being on council so they could understand their government and what goes on,” he said. “I hope that I’ve done it to the best of my ability as far as voting, and it’s been a very good education for me and I’ll have it with me for the rest of my life.” Tribal Councilors Jodie Fishinghawk and Julia Coates said a few words regarding their service to the tribe during the Aug. 10 Tribal Council meeting. Fishinghawk said she wanted to thank Adair, Delaware and Ottawa counties for the privilege to serve. “Thank you to the great employees we have over hear at the Nation,” she added. Coates said it has been an honor to serve on the behalf of the At-Large people. “I’ve said it at so many community meetings. It takes a lot of effort for the At-Large folks to remain involved and to remain connected, and it’s very gratifying to see how very many of them do continue to make that effort. I’ve tried to advocate as strongly as I possible could on your behalf,” she said. “And I appreciate the trust and honor that you have given me in these eight years and I hope I have fulfilled your trust in me.”
Senior Reporter
08/18/2015 01:19 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During an Aug. 17 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilors chose new chairs and co-chairs for their six standing committees. The new committee leaders follow the election of eight Tribal Councilors in June and July. Five of those eight legislators are new to the Tribal Council. Dist. 2 Tribal Councilor and former Principal Chief Joe Byrd was elected as speaker of the 17-member body. Byrd also serves as chairman of the Rules Committee. Dist. 5 Tribal Councilor David Thornton was initially chosen as deputy speaker, but he withdrew his name. Dist. 11 Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez was then chosen as deputy speaker. Dist. 7 Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis was chosen as the body’s secretary. She was also chosen as co-chairwoman of the Rules Committee, and is the new chairwoman of the Health Committee. New Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner was chosen as co-chairman of the Health Committee. Dist. 3 Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick will serve as chairman of the Education Committee, and Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor Don Garvin will serve as co-chairman. Dist. 15 Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor was chosen to chair the Executive & Finance Committee, while Dist. 14 Councilor Keith Austin was chosen as co-chairman. Dist. 12 Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will continue as chairman of the Community Services Committee, and Dist. 10 Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard will serve as co-chairman. Dist. 9 Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell also will continue to chair the Resources Committee, and new Dist. 1 Tribal Councilor Rex Jordan will co-chair that committee. Councilors also serve as advisory members on the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors. Current members include Byrd, Hargis, Snell and Thornton. Vazquez, Jordan, Austin and new At-Large Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield were added as advisory board members during the Aug. 17 meeting. Warner then nominated former Dist. 6 Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright to serve on the CNB board. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said Fullbright would make the board “even stronger than it is.” Fullbright said she believed she was well-qualified for the position because she served on the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission for nine years and attended many gaming seminars and workshops regarding tribal gaming. She also served on the Tribal Council for eight years with her second term ending on Aug. 14. Fullbright was unanimously confirmed to the CNB board.