Willy and Billy’s Tobacco Shack on West Allen Road in Tahlequah, Okla., is one Cherokee Nation-regulated smoke shop that will receive a 75 percent subsidy from the tribe during fiscal year 2013 to help pay its monthly land lease agreement. The Tribal Council on Sept. 17 passed an act calling for the subsidy so that smoke shop operators can keep Cherokees employed and tobacco revenue coming to the tribe. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Councilors pass smoke shops subsidy act
Tobacco products are displayed at Willy and Billy’s Tobacco Shack on West Allen Road in Tahlequah, Okla. The shop is a Cherokee Nation-regulated smoke shop that will receive a 75 percent subsidy from the tribe during fiscal year 2013 to help pay its monthly land lease agreement. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors unanimously passed an act on Sept. 17 that calls for subsidizing 75 percent of monthly land lease payments for operators of certain Cherokee Nation-regulated smoke shops.
“One of the burdens the retailers face is the payments they make each month to landowners. So in a situation like this you have someone that operates the smoke shop. The land on which they operate is land held in trust for a Cherokee. A lease payment is paid from the shop operator…to the landowner,” Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.
He said Legislative Act 12-109 calls for the subsidies to be disbursed only for fiscal year 2013, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, 2013.
According to Cherokee Nation Tax Commission records, the commission regulates 52 operational smoke shops. However, only 37 shops will be eligible for the subsidy because 15 are owned by Cherokee Nation Businesses.
Treasurer Lacey Horn said the subsidies are expected to total nearly $725,000 and come from the tribe’s General Fund, which will receive FY 2011 carryover to cover the subsidies.
Hoskin said the subsidy amount each smoke shop operator will receive is based on individual land lease agreements. He said the subsidy would “free up” cash for operators and allow them to keep their doors open, Cherokees employed and revenue coming to the Nation.
“They employee a lot of Cherokees, and they pay lease payments for the most part to Cherokee landowners,” Hoskin said. “So there’s a lot of economic activity that’s generated by our smoke shops that benefit the Cherokee people, but we know that they’re struggling.”
He said one reason why smoke shops struggle is because the tribe’s tobacco compact with the state restricts how the Nation can help CNTC-regulated smoke shops.
“The current tobacco compact, which comes up for negotiation next year, was generally considered not to be a good compact for the retailers,” Hoskin said. “They’ve struggled under it, and there’s other market forces at play – neighboring tribes, and of course, you’ve got the big players in the industry. So there’s a lot of market pressure on these smoke shops.”
He added that some shops have closed and others are near closing, which will result in more lost revenue and jobs. Hoskin said the legislation should help operators bridge the gap until a better tobacco compact is signed next year.
According to the tribe’s FY 2011 audit, tobacco tax revenues have decreased from $7 million in FY 2006 to $3.99 million in FY 2011.
The Cherokee Phoenix contacted several smoke shop operators for statements but was told they did not know enough about the legislation to comment.
Councilors also unanimously passed an act that allows armed security staff at Cherokee casinos.
Previously, the only armed security officers at the casinos were reserve marshals. However, the new act allows any CNE security personnel to become armed.
Also, councilors unanimously confirmed Linda O’Leary, Betty Barker and Farrell Mackey Prater as CN Registration Committee members.
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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 12 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the construction of a transmission power line that would carry power generated by windmills in western Oklahoma through the state and Arkansas into Tennessee.
With Julia Coates absent, the 16 Tribal Councilors present voted against the 750-mile project being proposed by the Plains & Eastern Company based in Houston. Legislators are particularly opposed to the line running through Sequoyah County, which is within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts initially abstained from voting for the resolution in committee because she said she did not have enough information.
“We don’t have information, all the information, I think. Even if it is accurate and it’s going to impact our facilities or places and locations and historic places and routes, not just in Sequoyah County but also in Arkansas, we have a lot of work to do,” Cowan Watts said. “What came out in committee was potentially they had been contacting the tribe for three years, and we (council) hadn’t been informed. So, I think there’s additional investigations that need to occur about what did or didn’t happen with involvement with the tribe.”
Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright, who helps represent Sequoyah County, said she has attended public meetings regarding the transmission line and heard from landowners who may be affected and who do not want to give up lands.
She said landowners, some of them CN citizens, also do not want to see 200-foot towers on their lands or hear humming noises emitted by transmission lines. There is also the possibility that the lines would emit a low-grade level of radiation, Fullbright said.
She said 800 Sequoyah County residents have signed a petition against the transmission line and that Sequoyah County commissioners are also against it. Also, the line would run near and parallel to the marked Trail of Tears trail in the county, she said.
Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, who serves as the president of the national Trail of Tears Association, said the superintendent who oversees the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is also opposed to the project because it would affect Trail of Tears sites in Oklahoma and Arkansas.
“I’m also opposed to it simply because of the affect it will have on Cherokee citizens as it crosses their property,” he said.
In other business, the Tribal Council unanimously approved Nathan Barnard nomination to the CN Administrative Appeals Board, which hears appeals from people who have lost employment with the tribe.
Barnard is filling a vacancy left by Lynn Burris, who resigned after being confirmed to the tribe’s Supreme Court. Bernard will serve from Jan. 13 to Oct. 31.
Supreme Court Judge John Garrett swore in Barnard during the meeting.
“I want to thank Chief (Bill John) Baker for nominating me, and I want to thank the council for the opportunity to serve the Nation, and I will certainly do my very best,” Barnard said after taking his oath.
During his State of the Nation report, Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the tribe has expanded maternity leave for tribal employees.
“This means it’s on our insurance, and it doesn’t mean it is sick leave or vacation. It’s above and beyond (employee insurance), so that our young mothers, and fathers, can nurture our young Cherokee children,” he said.
Also, for tribal employees, the CN has adopted a new emergency communications system to better inform workers of “bad weather days.”
“The system will allow us to send voice mails and/or text messages directly to the staff in the event of a closing or a delay or any emergency,” Principal Chief Baker said.
The Tribal Council also honored CN citizen and artist Donald Vann for his support of fellow Cherokee veterans by donating his art to them and for his achievements as an artist.
Vann is a veteran who served in the Vietnam War and was assigned to the 1st Calvary Aviation Division. In November 1969, Vann’s helicopter was shot down. Only he and his crew chief survived the violent crash. After recovering from his injuries, Vann rejoined his unit in Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned to desk duty and later went on to be a drill instructor. In March 1973, he received an honorable discharge. He earned several medals, including the Purple Heart, National Defense, Good Conduct, Vietnam Campaign and Republic of Vietnam Campaign.
Vann’s Stilwell High School principal, Dr. Neil Morton, spoke about Vann during the meeting saying he recognized that Vann was not like other students and enrolled him in an alternative program and allowed him to paint murals on the school’s walls for two hours every day. He said Vann’s first mural was a depiction of the Trail of Tears.
Vann thanked the body for the honor and his business partner, Scott Bernard, for his assistance since moving to Tahlequah from Austin, Texas, about five years ago.
During the 6 p.m. Nov. 13, 2014 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:
• A resolution confirming the reappointment of James Amos as a commissioner of the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Board of Commissioners
• A act amending the Legislative Act #25-14 authorizing the comprehensive operating budget for FY15
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/12/8797_Nov13_2014CouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Nov. 13, 2014 meeting minutes.
<a href="https://cherokee.legistar.com/DepartmentDetail.aspx?ID=3301&GUID=C557BD6A-E296-4A30-BF3E-2035FF8607CC&Mode=MainBody" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the Nov. 13 Tribal Council meeting video.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to a Dec. 19 statement, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said he is resigning his position as a Cherokee Nation member of the Claremore Indian Hospital advisory board effective immediately.
“I have worked hard and greatly enjoyed my opportunity with the Claremore Indian Hospital Unit in service to Cherokee Nation citizens of the Claremore service area,” he said.
He added that during his tenure on the board he helped accomplish:
• Taking over the contract referrals for CN citizens in most of the service area,
• Supporting the purchase and installation of the MRI equipment at the hospital,
• Having the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service assist in law enforcement at the hospital,
• Having CN physicians on loan to Claremore hospital when needed,
• CN assist with Claremore patients during emergencies, and
• Providing all Claremore board reports to the Tribal Council and CN administration.
He said overall there the board has achieved “great cooperation” with the Indian Health Service, federal authorities, Claremore management, Claremore hospital personnel and the CN.
Lay added that serving on the board has helped him serve not only the hospital but also the tribe, which was one of his goals as a representative.
“I would like to thank all the Claremore advisory board members for their friendship and their service to the board,” he said. “Thanks also to the UKB (United Keetoowah Band) representative Dr. Charles Gosnell for his friendship and great insight. Thank you to (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker and his Cabinet for their trust in me and allowing me to serve our people.”
The Cherokee Phoenix asked for a reason for his resignation, but Lay declined to comment.
Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. released a statement on Dec. 22 stating the tribe appreciated Lay’s service on the board but that the position is an CN administration appointment and the executive branch was in the process of selecting his successor.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2015 comprehensive operating and capital budgets.
The operating budget increased to $622.9 million from $615.4 million. The extra funds came from FY 2014 carryover funds. The $7.5 million is to provide $2.1 million to operate the Ochelata Health Center and add new jobs, while $2.4 million will add employees at other CN health facilities. The CN health center in Bartlesville will move from its 5,000-square-foot space to a new 28,000-square-foot stand-alone facility in Ochelata. Approximately $2.7 million will be allocated to additional child care resources for CN citizens who meet income guidelines, and another $300,000 will go toward miscellaneous grants.
“Providing Cherokee citizens with quality health care is the top priority of this body, and in order to achieve that goal we must ensure our health facilities employ staff that will meet the health needs of the citizens,” Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said. “We not only want to build first-class health care facilities, but we want to staff the facilities with first-class personnel. This increase in funds helps the Cherokee Nation work toward that goal.”
The capital budget increased by $4.8 million to $124.5 million. The money is earmarked for medical equipment for the four new health centers, which are under construction.
“Big, aesthetically pleasing health care facilities are only as good as the equipment and staff inside,” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright said. “By increasing funding for staff and earmarking money for medical equipment, the Cherokee Nation is making it known the tribe is committed to the health of its citizens.”
Officials also honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism.
Arthur “Watie” Bell, 80, of Claremore; Robert G. Ketcher, 72, of Stilwell; and Samuel W. O’Fields, 80, of Claremore, were all presented plaques and medals by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden.
Bell enlisted in the Navy in 1951 and was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Miramar-San Diego from 1951-53. While there his assignment was base security, which included roving patrols and brig force gate duty. He also trained guard dogs.
Bell completed eight weeks of Airman Class P School in Norman in 1953 and reported to the USS Tarawa CV-40 where he was assigned to the aviation gasoline division. Bell maintained the inert gas room and refueling aircrafts on the flight and hanger decks.
Bell made one cruise, which encircled the world and ended in October 1954. He was later released from active duty and returned to reserve status and was eventually discharged from the Navy in 1955. He then joined the Army Reserve and completed his eight years of military service. Bell was discharged from the Army in 1959.
“This gentleman serves on our color guard, honor guard and does a great job and we’re so thankful for that,” Crittenden said.
Ketcher enlisted in the Army in March 1966. In December 1966 he deployed to Vietnam where he became the 1st Calvary’s squad leader and fired 81mm mortar guns. While there Ketcher’s mission was to “search and destroy.” He was discharged in 1968.
O’Fields enlisted in the Army in 1956. He completed seven weeks of basic training and specialty unit training in California. He was sent to Bamberg, Germany, and served in the Tactical Operations and Equipment unit, which was part of the Mortar Battery, 2nd Battalion Group, 29th Infantry.
O’Fields’ rank was private first class when he was discharged in June 1962.
Terry Crow, 47, of Tahlequah, was to be honored but was not able to attend.
Crow enlisted in the Army in 1989. He served in Desert Storm in Iraq. Crow received a Bronze Star during his service and was discharged in 1992.
During Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton’s monthly report, Tribal Councilor Lee Keener questioned Slaton about what would happen to the former American Woodmark building in Tahlequah that CNB purchased in 2012. The building was home to Cherokee Nation Industry employees who evaluated and repackaged televisions that had been returned to United States-based Wal-Mart stores.
CNI had a two-year contract with Miami, Florida-based company TRG to repair and refurbish TVs for Wal-Mart. The contract ended Dec. 1.
Slaton said employees were cleaning the site and he hoped to have something in the building as soon as possible. “We’re currently in the process of giving that a good scrub down and cleaning. (CNB Executive Vice President) Chuck Garrett’s group is actively searching for the next tenant. We’ve got two or three possibilities, one from Muskogee. We’re just trying to work those possibilities to see what we can land there.”
During the 6 p.m. Oct. 13, 2014 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed:
• A resolution authorizing the submission of an application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for FY15 funding for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
• A resolution confirming the nomination of T. Luke Barteaux as an Editorial Board member of the Cherokee Phoenix
• A resolution confirming the nomination of Kendra Sue McGeady as an Editorial Board member of the Cherokee Phoenix
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2014/12/8710_Oct13_2014CouncilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Oct. 13, 2014 meeting minutes.
<a href="https://cherokee.legistar.com/DepartmentDetail.aspx?ID=3301&GUID=C557BD6A-E296-4A30-BF3E-2035FF8607CC&Mode=MainBody" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the Oct. 13 Tribal Council meeting video.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council approved Cherokee Nation citizens Luke Barteaux and Kendra McGeady to the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board during its Oct. 13 meeting.
Barteaux replaces board member Claryce Doyle, whose term ends October 2014.
Under the Independent Press Act, Doyle’s term might have been a six-year term. Section 6 of Legislative Act 16-09 states “the terms of office of the Board members shall be six years.”
In an opinion, Attorney General Todd Hembree addresses the discrepancy in the length of Doyle’s term after having a question presented to him by Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. The question asked was “Will Claryce Doyle’s term as Editorial Board Member of the Cherokee Phoenix end in October 2014?”
According to Hembree’s opinion, “there is nothing ambiguous about the language used in the (Doyle’s) Resolution.”
“Because there is no ambiguity in the language used by the Tribal Council, it is the opinion of the Attorney General that the resolution must be taken at face value; the body has expressed its intent in the language of the Resolution, and the Council must have intended the result that it dictated,” the opinion states. “The Attorney General cannot re-write the resolutions and acts passed by the Tribal Council, and the plain language of Resolution 04-12 leaves no room for interpretation or examination of legislative intent.”
The opinion states that pursuant to the language in Doyle’s resolution, it expired in October 2014.
“It is highly recommended in the future that the Tribal Council clearly delineate what office an appointee is filling in the resolution itself,” Hembree states.
Barteaux, who will serve a six-year term as the principal chief’s appointment, passed by a 14-1-1 vote. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts voted against the nomination, while Tribal Councilor Julia Coates abstained.
During the meeting, Cowan Watts said she could not support Barteaux because she did not think he met the journalism qualifications the Independent Press Act requires.
Hoskin said the administration vetted the nominee.
“I have to respectfully disagree with the council lady from Rogers County. In fact, Mr. Barteaux by any objective standards, meets the letter of the law that this council passed,” Hoskin Jr. said. “Very confident that he meets the qualifications.”
The Phoenix requested vetting documents from Hoskin but was told no vetting documentation existed.
Barteaux has a juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa and a bachelor’s degree in public affairs and administration from the University of Oklahoma. His work history includes being an editorial board member for the Family Law Section Practice Manual for the Oklahoma Bar Association. He also works as an attorney, as well as having worked for Cherokee Nation Enterprises from 2004-07 and in 2009.
McGeady, the Tribal Council’s appointment who will serve a six-year term, also had her nomination questioned during the meeting.
Cowan Watts said she did not think McGeady was qualified because McGeady has no management-level experience in journalism as required by the law.
However, Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said she thinks McGeady meets requirements.
“I feel that you’re very qualified. I feel that both the nominees were very qualified,” Glory Jordan said.
McGeady is a graduate of NEO A&M College in Miami. She is presently the director of planning and development/marketing director for Home of Hope Inc. Her past employment includes working two stints at the Vinita Daily Journal as a reporter, as well as working as a secretary for Craig County Commissioners and a contract survey specialist for Grand Gateway.
Her nomination passed with a vote of 13-2-1. Cowan Watts and Tribal Councilor Lee Keener voted no, while Coates abstained. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez was absent.
Coates said she was saddened that board member and At-Large CN citizen Jason Terrell, who McGeady replaces, wasn’t reappointed.
Editorial Board Chairman John Shurr said the Phoenix has made great strides since 2000 and that he has high hopes for the two new board members.
“My history with the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board predates its existence and, in fact, was a mechanism I developed as a way to protect the newspaper and its staff from political interference. I was asked in 1999 to contribute ideas to what became the Independent Press Act of 2000 and I figured an editorial board, initially made up of three people, would be a good wedge between tribal politics and our newspaper,” he said. “It won the prestigious Elias Boudinot Award from the Native American Journalists Association in 2001 and has held up well, so far. That same year we also won the General Excellence Award for newspapers publishing one to six times a year, and today we publish monthly, with more frequent updates on the Phoenix web site. We now have five editorial board members including two new ones, neither of whom I’ve met or had a conversation, but I have high hopes that they’ll help carry on the standards that the law mandates.”