Principal Chief Bill John Baker speaks during a Sept. 17 dedication ceremony for the new Cherokee Casino Ramona in Ramona, Okla. Behind him is a 45-foot tall and 12-foot wide steel oil derrick with the Cherokee syllabary as part of the design. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Casino Ramona expansion adds 100 jobs

Cherokee Nation leaders and Ramona residents officially opened the new Cherokee Casino Ramona with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 17. The 31,000-square-foot casino, located south of Bartlesville, replaces a much smaller one and offers more amenities. COURTESY PHOTO Principal Chief Bill John Baker speaks during a Sept. 17 dedication ceremony for the new Cherokee Casino Ramona in Ramona, Okla. The 31,000-square-foot casino replaces a smaller one and offers more amenities. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation leaders and Ramona residents officially opened the new Cherokee Casino Ramona with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 17. The 31,000-square-foot casino, located south of Bartlesville, replaces a much smaller one and offers more amenities. COURTESY PHOTO
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
09/19/2012 04:08 PM
RAMONA, Okla. – About half of the 200 jobs needed to operate the expanded Cherokee Casino Ramona will be new positions and filled by Cherokee Nation citizens, tribal officials said during the casino’s Sept. 17 dedication.

“We are thrilled to open this new casino because it allows us to add nearly 100 new jobs to the area, as well as economic development opportunities for Ramona, Ochelata and Bartlesville,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Our casinos exist to provide jobs and opportunities for our citizens, so I’m proud to say that 100 percent of our new hires at this location are Cherokee citizens.”

Because of added space and amenities, nearly 200 employees are needed to work in the new $18 million casino. Ramona Mayor Cyle Miller said having 200 jobs in a small community such as Ramona means a lot and that the town appreciates the tribe’s contributions for local schools, fire departments, police departments and infrastructure.

Baker said the new casino could draw other businesses to its vicinity, which would create more jobs and opportunities for Cherokee people. He added that the casino’s profits would contribute funding for the tribe’s health care needs and allow Cherokee Nation Businesses to “grow its other businesses” for the future.

“When gaming goes away, the Cherokee Nation will be strong and grounded in other businesses, creating more jobs for our Cherokee people,” he said.

After opening two years ago, Cherokee Casino Ramona’s popularity was a welcome surprise for Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials. So much that CNE expanded the facility from 11,000 square feet to 31,000 square feet because it was too small for the large crowds that visited it.

The new casino features the Ramona Grill, a café-style restaurant; the Watering Hole bar; entertainment space; and 500 electronic games.

Cherokee Casino Ramona General Manager Rusty Stamps said 200 games have been added and include new titles such as “Wheel of Fortune,” as well as progressive games that were not available before.

He said progressive games are tied to other casinos throughout the United States and earn higher jackpot winnings. Stamps said games are switched out about every 90 days.

The Ramona Grill is a full-service restaurant that seats 100 guests compared to the previous restaurant that seated only 16.

Live entertainment will be at the Watering Hole stage area each weekend. Seating is available near the stage as well as a bar area where guests can order drinks while enjoying country and rock ’n’ roll bands Friday through Sunday. Stamps said retractable sound panels near the stage will keep the music confined to the bar area.

Near the casino’s main entrance sits a replica of an oil derrick, which commemorates the area’s link to Oklahoma’s petroleum industry. Cherokee National Treasure Bill Glass Jr., his son Demos and Cherokee artist Ken Foster created the 45-foot-tall, 12-foot-wide steel tower that includes the Cherokee syllabary.

The six lines of Cherokee syllabary are meant to describe a second derrick of the same size the men are working on that will be placed in front of the casino later. Reading from left to right and top to bottom, the translation reads “Cherokee. Rising from the ashes, Phoenix. By itself, flying. The fire is flaming up. I am talking. It’s here/Hello/Win.”

During the dedication ceremony, Baker honored the Shawnee family that leased the land on which the casinos sit and presented family members with a Pendleton blanket.

According to the Washington County Assessor’s Office, William Shawnee owns the land that CNE leased for the casino in 2010. According to CNB records, Cherokee Nation Entertainment paid Shawnee an advance of $600,000, as well as annual lease fees of $325,000.

CNB records also state that the annual lease fee will increase to an unspecified amount in 2013.

CNE’s lease runs through 2020 with additional renewal options of 10 years each, and upon expiration of the lease, all improvements revert to the landowners, CNB records state.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/04/2016 02:00 PM
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) – A woman accused of driving her car into Oklahoma State’s homecoming parade, killing four people and injuring dozens, has pleaded not guilty to the charges against her. Cherokee Nation citizen Adacia Chambers entered her plea on May 4 in Payne County District Court after previously waiving her right to a preliminary hearing. The 25-year-old Chambers is charged with four counts of second-degree murder and more than 40 counts of assault and battery for the Oct. 24 crash. Prosecutors said Chambers intentionally drove her car around a barricade and into spectators at the parade. Her attorney, Tony Coleman, said his client is mentally ill. A pretrial conference is set for June 1, but Judge Stephen Kistler did not set a trial date after Coleman said he is still seeking information from prosecutors.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/04/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation awarded 130 volunteer and rural fire departments with $3,500 checks totaling $455,000 on May 3 during its 2016 Volunteer Firefighter Awards Ceremony at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The tribe treated about 500 firefighters to dinner and presented each station a check to help with equipment, fuel or other items that help maintain their fire stations in northeastern Oklahoma. “Recognizing these brave men and women is one of my favorite duties as principal chief. Every unit is highly trained and skilled. These firefighters are on call 24/7, 365 days a year, and the most impressive thing is that they do all this for the love of their community and to ensure our families remain safe,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “I’m proud our tribal government sees the importance in making this annual financial commitment. Because of this money, 130 rural volunteer fire departments in northeast Oklahoma will be better equipped and better prepared when an emergency strikes.” During the ceremony, the CN named the Illinois River Fire and Rescue in Cherokee County and Afton Fire Department in Ottawa County as “2016 Volunteer Fire Departments of the Year.” In the past year, Illinois River Fire and Rescue increased its volunteer staff to 20 active members. The station formed a “brown water team” that partners with neighboring districts and counties to help with rescues after the 2015 spring flooding on the Illinois River. During the December 2015 flooding, the team worked 40 hours straight to rescue 26 people. There were no fatalities. The department was also commended by the tribe for helping victims with cleanup efforts. “The financial backing from the Cherokee Nation is tremendous, because like everyone else, money is difficult at times. It plays a major role in us being able to continue to provide the best services possible,” Gary Dill, assistant fire chief of the Illinois River Fire and Rescue, said. The Afton Fire Department responded to 325 calls in 2015. Most calls were from first responders. The department helped with grass and structure fires, and also water rescue calls. During the December flooding, the department rescued two families. The tribe honored the firefighters for their efforts, including pulling one family from an SUV that had been swept away and overturned. “It’s a real big honor to have the Cherokee Nation recognize our department as one of the volunteer fire departments of the year, but the biggest honor is having the good lord on scene with us helping in difficult situations,” Terry Miller, fire chief of the Afton Fire Department, said. The CN also named five “2016 Volunteer Firefighter of the Year” awards to the following: • Jeff Mueller, of Vinita, for eight years of service to the Centralia Fire Department in Craig County, • Jordan Shofler, of Vinita, for demonstrating courage, leadership and dedication on every call the Carselowey Fire Department receives, • Brian Gibson, of Afton, for working behind the scenes on the day-to-day operations of the Afton Fire Department, • Austin Moore, of Oologah, for his nine years of service and leading volunteer trainings every month for the Northwest Rogers County Fire Protection District, and • Gary Dill, of Tahlequah, for sharing 34 years of firefighting experience and knowledge with members of the Illinois River Fire and Rescue.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/03/2016 12:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – Do you have a ranching or farming operation in your community and want to move it forward? Are you looking to build a sustainable tribal ranching or farming enterprise? Do you desire to increase your business knowledge and fundamentals of running and maintaining a successful agricultural business? Or perhaps you assist producers in your community with advice on how to grow their businesses and by helping them gain access to bigger and better opportunities. Or maybe you are interested in helping assess the status of your community’s food sovereignty and help make it better and stronger? If so, First Nations Development Institute has three, three-day training workshops for you. Two in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Denver are producer-focused, and one in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is intended as a train-the-trainer workshop. The fee for each training is $100, which covers the cost of materials and any meals that are included. Participants will receive copies of First Nations’ The Business of Indian Agriculture curriculum and Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool. Day 1-2: The Business of Indian Agriculture producer-focused trainings in Green Bay and Denver are designed to help farmers and ranchers succeed in managing their businesses. It covers topics such as how to develop a business plan, how to set up bookkeeping systems, agribusiness economics and marketing and land use and management. It also covers important topics such as risk management, personal financial management and using credit wisely. The two-day training offers attendees the opportunity to expand their understanding and knowledge of agriculture business and the opportunity to network with other producers. The train-the-trainer workshop in Tulsa will focus on giving the technical knowledge, tools and guidance to conduct training with farmers and ranchers in a community. Day 3: The optional third day of training covers Food Sovereignty Assessment. Food has always played a central role in Native communities. It reflects environmental, economic, social and political values. For some communities today, the relationship to food is much less visible than it used to be. The diet history, gathering and consumption practices, value of food products and source of foods tell the story of a community and its people and can help define their future. For example, there are complex cause-and-effect relationships between food choices or lack thereof that have consequences for health, economy and even social implications. The Food Sovereignty Assessment Training, utilizing the Food Sovereignty Assessment Tool, is meant to begin the process of telling the food story of a community through a community-driven and participative process of data collection. The information can be used to understand community food supply chains, agricultural and food profiles, as well as community economic and health considerations. It can also be used to improve and strengthen a community's food sovereignty. The Green Bay training is sponsored and hosted by the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin. The Denver and Tulsa trainings are sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Room rates vary by location, so visit the individual registration page for each event, which contain specific logistics and other information. Visit the links below for more information or to register. Green Bay: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1822850" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1822850</a> Denver: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1833972" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1833972</a> Tulsa: <a href="https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1834133" target="_blank">https://www.regonline.com/builder/site/Default.aspx?EventID=1834133</a>
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/02/2016 10:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Jacob Tanner, Sequoyah High School assistant baseball and softball coach, died on April 28 at age 61. “We are deeply saddened to unexpectedly lose such a valued and respected member of our Sequoyah High School family,” Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin said. “Coach Tanner was a great mentor, teacher and coach for our students. Today, our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” Tanner, known for always smiling, served as the assistant baseball and fast-pitch softball coach and science teacher at Sequoyah since 2006. He also sponsored the robotics program at Sequoyah. “Coach Tanner was very well liked and respected by students, staff and faculty. His passing is a great loss for our Sequoyah family, and we will miss him greatly. Right now, our thoughts and prayers are with his family, players, students, colleagues and all who will be grieving this loss,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said. Tanner served more than 35 years in education, including his time at Sequoyah. Funeral services will be at 10 a.m. on May 4 in The Place Where They Play gym.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.