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.


11/17/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council approved the newest member of the Cherokee Nation Administrative Appeals Board on Nov. 16 at the legislative body’s monthly meeting after moving forward the nomination from the Rules Committee meeting earlier in the day. Tribal Councilors, minus an absent Jack Baker, unanimously approved Junior Dewayne Littlejohn during the Rules Committee meeting and full Tribal Council. Littlejohn will begin serving Dec. 15 for a term of four years. “Junior Dewayne Littlejohn is duly qualified and should be appointed as a Member of the Administrative Appeals Board,” the legislation reads. The AAB is a board comprised of three members who hear employee grievances, including wrongful termination cases. The board’s other two members are James Cosby and Nathan Barnard. The Tribal Council also approved two budget modifications. The first modification passed the Executive and Finance Committee on Oct. 29 and increased the tribe’s budget by $4.2 million to more than $651 million. It included $3.97 million related to carryover of a Department of Labor grant. The second passed the committee on Nov. 16 and increased the tribe’s total operating budget by more than $1.1 million to more than $653 million. It contained $760,000 related to an increase in the Tribe’s Employment Rights Office program from TERO fees to be collected. Also during the meeting, Health Services Director Connie Davis recognized Craig Edgmon, a home health nurse for the tribe’s Redbird Smith Health Center, who successfully resuscitated an unresponsive patient during a home visit. “And because of his heroic efforts this patient survived that event,” she said. “He went on the next week to teach a CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) class where the following week one of his students passed on that and paid it forward and successfully resuscitated yet another patient out in the field. That shows what your efforts have done.” In other news, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said that the Outpost 1 convenient store on the Tribal Complex is expected to be open around Feb. 1. Once opened the fuel system would be shut down for about three months until new fueling stations can be added. Slaton also said the Roland Casino hotel is expected to open near Dec. 1 and that CNB’s television show “OsiyoTV” would expand to the Oklahoma City area playing at 9:30 a.m. on Sunday mornings on channel CW 34. In addition, he said that CNB Native American employment rate is at 81.6 percent with 73.5 percent of that strictly CN citizens. Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden also recognized two CN citizens for their military service, Christopher Dale Mayfield for his service in Operation Desert Storm and Jerry Wane Daniels for his time in Vietnam.
11/16/2015 12:00 PM
HULBERT, Okla. – Rex Jordan had spent the past 20 years serving the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation, but this year he is taking on a new assignment as Dist. 1 Tribal Councilor. “I was both excited and humbled when I learned the Cherokee citizens of District 1 placed their faith in me to represent them in their government,” Jordan said. “I have always called District 1 home. It is the place where I grew up, was educated, and raised my family. Over the years, I have seen this area thrive and grow, and I want to do my part in seeing that progress continue.” Dist. 1 covers the western part of Cherokee County and a portion of eastern Wagoner County. Jordan was sworn into office Aug. 14 at Sequoyah High School’s The Place Where They Play after defeating Ryan Sierra in the June 27 general election. Certified results named Jordan the winner by a vote count of 856-494. Since inauguration, Jordan said he has been “impressed” with the Cherokee Nation orientation process for new Tribal Councilors. “We had the opportunity to visit with every single department head, and are undergoing a comprehensive program in which we spend time visiting individual departments,” he said. “The time spent with staff is invaluable, as we have the opportunity to ask very specific questions. It certainly makes both committee and council meetings work better.” During his term, Jordan plans to assist those in his district by focusing on improving housing. “Housing is an area of top priority for me,” he said. “I believe providing new homes and rehabilitating existing housing to meet the needs of the Cherokee people is of utmost importance.” Jordan is already working toward that goal by joining the HACN board as an advisory member along with fellow Tribal Councilors Bryan Warner, Frankie Hargis, Janees Taylor and Curtis Snell. Advisory member positions are non-voting positions. Jordan is also focused on increasing investments in education for citizens, especially since his background includes bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture education from Oklahoma State University. “Education is also a key component of my platform,” he said. “I believe investing in tribal citizens by assisting them with their educational needs is the key to a secure future.” As only one of seven tribes in the United States to be awarded a Joint Venture Program project with the Indian Health Service, Jordan has also made it a priority to improve the health care for people of his district. “Health and the new joint venture is of great importance to the Cherokee citizens of District 1,” he said. “I want to provide all the assistance I can to seeing this completed and online within the next four years. The new health complex at (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital) will be of benefit to the Cherokee people for all our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This will be our future in health.” When completed, the project will add almost 470,000 square feet of space to the existing hospital, as well as provide state-of-the-art medical equipment to better meet the needs of patients. Jordan, a lifetime resident of Cherokee County, graduated from Hulbert High School and maintains a cattle operation on his family farm with wife and former Dist. 1 Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan. When not herding cattle, he enjoys spending time with his grandchildren and meeting with the people in his district. “I am a hands-on individual. I enjoy visiting with the people in my district, many of whom will tell you I have spent time with them in their homes or on their front porches, listening to their concerns,” he said. “It's my job to take those concerns and questions back to the council and department heads so that we can work to provide information and solutions to the Cherokee citizens that I work with every day.”
10/13/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council on Oct. 12 confirmed Sara Hill as the first cabinet level Secretary of Natural Resources. After full council confirmed her nomination, she was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones during the meeting. Hill said she was grateful for the faith that both Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the Tribal Council have in her. “This is such an important step for the Cherokee Nation that you’re taking. It’s very easy to continue to do what’s always been done. It’s difficult to do something new and I appreciate you taking this step to do something new,” Hill said. The cabinet position will be responsible for ensuring that the tribe’s natural resources are properly preserved for the future of the Cherokee Nation and its citizens. “I am so proud to say we are finally making our natural and environmental resources a priority. Our natural habitats and environment must be a factor in every decision we make. We have a responsibility to leave this land, this water and this air pure and clean for future generations,” Baker said in his weekly column regarding his nomination. “This position was originally established by the 1999 Constitutional Convention. Unfortunately, it was never filled, but this key advisory role cannot go vacant any longer.” Baker added that with the Secretary of Natural Resources in place and with the leadership of the Tribal Council, laws can be created that will sustain tribal lands, water and air for generations to come. “The Cherokee people deserve that. Clean air, safe water and a fertile land will always be our foundation for long-term health as a tribe and a people,” he said. The resolution confirming her appointment was passed unanimously. Hill previously served as the Deputy Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation, with expertise on environmental issues, water rights and natural resource protection, according to Baker’s column. Also passed by council was a resolution confirming the nomination of Tommye Sue Bradshaw Wright as a board member of Cherokee Nation Businesses. Her nomination was one of Baker’s and was passed during the Sept. 24 Rules Committee meeting with no discussion by a vote of 13-2 with one abstention. She was originally on the CNB beginning in 2011, but resigned for personal reasons in 2014. During the full council meeting where she was confirmed, Wright said she appreciates the opportunity to serve. “I will do a good job for the Cherokee people,” she added. Wright’s nomination passed by a vote of 13-3 with Councilors Harley Buzzard, Buel Anglen and Jack Baker voting against. Councilor Don Garvin abstained. Tribal Council also passed a resolution authorizing the tribe to become a member of the National Congress of American Indians as well as appoint the tribal delegates and alternates. Tribal Council also amended the agenda to bring three items from the Community Services Committee meeting that happened earlier that day. The three resolutions were voted on together: a resolution authorizing the appropriation of $267,000 of housing rehabilitation funding for FY 2015 for grant matching, a resolution certifying compliance with 24 CFR Chapter IX, and a resolution adopting standards for Section 8 housing rehabilitation. All passed unanimously. Brothers Oran L. Roberts and John Thomas Roberts Jr., who served in Vietnam as well as other service areas, were both recognized by Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Baker for their service in the army and navy, respectively. Bill Horton, former Chairman of the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, was also recognized for his service in the army where he served in Vietnam.
Senior Reporter
10/06/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – With family support, Wanda Hatfield took on the challenge of winning the At-Large Tribal Council seat. Joining a field of 9 candidates, she said she used her background of growing up in the Cherry Tree in Adair County to held her understand the needs of Cherokee Nation citizens. “Basically we all have the same needs wherever we are, but I think just growing up in this part of the country I have a really good understanding of our people and our culture. Just growing in it I think I have, not an advantage, but maybe just more knowledge of the needs of Cherokees,” she said. She also said her strong desire to serve Cherokee people, like her late father did in Adair County, set her apart from the other candidates. “I didn’t have any speeches. I spoke from my heart. I’m a good listener,” she said. “The rest of the candidates were well-qualified. I think any one of us could have served well.” Hatfield traveled the United States during the 2015 campaign visiting with At-Large citizens to learn their thoughts and concerns. She learned that many want “a closer connection to the Cherokee Nation,” and want to experience the culture. She also learned many At-Large citizens are from eastern Oklahoma, having moved away during the federal government’s relocation program in the 1950s, or are descendants of Cherokees who moved away during the state’s Dust Bowl days or during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Also, some moved to the West Coast to find jobs, she said. She said At-Large citizens do get tribal higher education scholarships, but she would like to see more funding put in that area and more scholarships go to them. She said those scholarships are needed because college tuition continues to rise and citizens need scholarships to attend vocational schools or receive career trainings. Another need for At-Large citizens is health care. She said they are not able to get the specialized or contract health care that citizens living in the tribe’s boundary are able to receive. Hatfield resides in Oklahoma City with her husband Roger. They have one daughter and three grandchildren. Her parents are the late Jack Claphan and Carolyn Doublehead Claphan of Stilwell. Her great-great grandfather was Rabbit Bunch, who served as CN assistant principal chief from 1880-87. [BLOCKQUOTE]She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma and taught in the Shawnee and Midwest City-Del City school districts for 28 years. “I have been successful in education, and I spent a lot of time in the classroom in the education field, and I was at the point in my life where I wanted to do something new and challenging,” she said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do – some kind of service for the Cherokees.” So far, she said it has been challenging to absorb the information given to Tribal Councilors regarding the tribe’s budget and other information they are expected to know. “I want to know it now, but I’m trying to embrace it slowly. I feel like the more knowledgeable I am, the more helpful I can be,” she said. She said serving on the council and meeting new people have been rewarding and the love and support she has been shown has been “overwhelming.” “I just want to thank everybody for their support. I’m available for my citizens any time, and I think it’s going to be a definite challenge but a wonderful challenge. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been an incredible journey so far.”
10/06/2015 02:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – Dist. 8 Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden is less than two months into his four-year term, but true to form the auctioneer, musician and Greasy Public Schools teacher who is accustomed to giving back is hard at work for the people of his district. “I’m settling in good,” Crittenden said. “It’s a good council. Everyone has been welcoming. We’ve had a couple meetings and I’m learning how the meetings themselves go, but as far as my district, I’ve been working every day. That’s really why I ran, to help folks. I’ve been just helping anywhere from food to trying to get some of those folk’s houses improved. It’s just what I thought it would be,” he said. Crittenden was sworn into office Aug. 14 at Sequoyah High School’s The Place Where They Play after defeating Corey Bunch for the Dist. 8 Tribal Council seat in the June 27 general election. Crittenden won by a vote count of 486-307, according to certified results of the district’s three precincts. Those results showed Crittenden receiving 61.29 percent of the 793 ballots cast to Bunch’s 38.71 percent. “I’m mainly humbled and thankful for the folks in my district,” Crittenden said on June 28 after Bunch conceded. “I had a lot of support and I thank the good Lord for the good feeling I have right now. I’m ready to get down to business with the people in my district. My plans are to be accessible and to stay on top of issues when folks need something, when they want to be heard. I want to do everything I can to show them I care and I’m going to work hard for them.” Crittenden said he has always availed himself to helping others, and the council position put him in a better position to continue those efforts. He also said that while his agenda will be concerned with health care, education and housing, he wants to move away from other specific platforms in favor of the immediate needs of those in his district. “I never felt like that was my platform because I think it’s everybody’s, but one of the things I really believe is the needs of the people become my platform and that changes every day, every phone call, that changes. It could be that person’s immediate need. It’s their priority and it’s my priority,” he said. [BLOCKQUOTE]Raised in Peavine, Crittenden graduated from Stillwell High School before attending Northeastern State University and obtaining his bachelor’s degree in education in 2007. Since graduating, he has become a family man with a wife and four children, which he said makes his job easier because he can better relate to many of the families in the district. During the next four years, Crittenden said any upcoming agenda issues he must vote on, he will vote accordingly with the interests of Dist. 8 and wants his constituents to understand that he works for them. “I would want people to feel as if for them to realize that they are my boss and that I ran for this office knowing that they would be my boss, and I want them to feel like I’m accessible to them at all times,” he said.
10/06/2015 12:00 PM
VERDIGRIS, Okla. – Keith Austin is the new Tribal Councilor for Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 14. And as the new representative, he said he’s already achieving the first of his goals: communication with his constituents. “Every citizen in my district should expect that when they need their Tribal Councilor that they can reach their Tribal Councilor. Their Tribal Councilor will return their phone calls, will return their emails in a timely basis,” he said. “They won’t be wondering if they’re going to get back with them. That’s immediately achievable. That doesn’t require the assistance of anybody. I can make that happen, I’ve already made that happen.” In Dist. 14, Austin said he plans to work on getting citizens more access to CN health care equal to other tribal citizens in other areas of the CN jurisdiction. [BLOCKQUOTE]He said he would also like to get more knowledge to his citizens regarding the tribe’s Small Business Assistance Center. “We have great economic engines in places like Catoosa and (West) Siloam Springs and Tahlequah and Roland. But we need to be finding more and better creative ways to have a positive impact on the communities,” Austin said. He said throughout his life, before owning his own business, he’s always worked for small businesses and has often found himself in leadership roles within those businesses. “I really thought bringing the small business sensibility to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council was something that would benefit the Tribal Council,” he said. He added that he is excited about the commitment to education the Nation has made. “The simple fact is the biggest difference over our lifetimes has started because of our investment in the children who are going to college and technical schools right now,” he said. Austin is a lifetime resident of Dist. 14, a characteristic he felt was a necessary of any candidate or elected official from the area. “A true lifetime resident of Rogers County to represent Rogers County. I spent my whole life in Rogers County. I raised my own kids in Rogers County. It’s where I lived because I truly want to live there. I truly want to see the best for my county,” he said. According to official results, Austin won the Dist. 14 Tribal Council race against William “Bill” Pearson on July 25. Results, which included 26 accepted challenged ballots, showed that Austin garnered 498 votes for 53.9 percent of the ballots, while Pearson got 425 votes for 46.1 percent. The tribe’s Election Commission rescheduled the Dist. 14 race after the CN Supreme Court on July 8 ruled that a winner from the June 27 general election could not be determined with mathematical certainty. Pearson was certified the winner of the Dist. 14 race after the June 27 election by one vote. Following a recount on July 2, his lead had been extended to six votes. Austin appealed the recount results to the Supreme Court alleging that ballots were cast that should not have been accepted, ballots were cast that should have been accepted and two absentee ballot envelopes could not be found. Constituents can reach Austin via email at <a href="mailto: keith-austin@cherokee.org">keith-austin@cherokee.org</a> or call 918-508-9116.