Appeals Court: Freedmen can sue principal chief

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/21/2012 09:10 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A federal court on Dec. 14 ruled that descendants of slaves who were owned by Cherokee Nation citizens can sue the tribe’s current chief in an attempt to restore their tribal citizenship.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia overturned a lower court’s ruling that the case could not proceed because the tribe was not a defendant in the case and couldn’t be compelled to abide by the court’s ruling.

“Applying the precedents that permit suits against government officials in their official capacities, we conclude that this suit may proceed against the Principal Chief in his official capacity, without the Cherokee Nation itself as a party,” Judge Brett Michael Kavanaugh wrote in the unanimous ruling.

The court noted that an 1866 treaty granted the former slaves known as Cherokee Freedmen all tribal rights, including the right to vote. But in 2007, the tribe approved an amendment to its constitution requiring all tribal citizens to have a by-blood Native American ancestor listed on the Dawes Roll, thus rescinding the tribal citizenship of about 2,800 Freedman descendants.

The Freedmen claim the chief – and through him the sovereign tribe – broke federal law by not honoring the treaty. Chad Smith was serving as principal chief in 2007 when the constitution was amended.

Marilyn Vann, a Freedman and the plaintiff in the case, said she was pleased with the court’s ruling and looked forward to having the merits of the case determined in court.

“We look forward to continuing on until we have final vindication of the enforcement of our rights,” she said.

Vann said slaves owned by Cherokees played an integral role in the survival of the tribe along the Trail of Tears during the forced relocation of most of the tribe in the 1830s from their ancestral homelands in the southeast to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. And she likened the Freedmen’s plight today to the struggle for civil rights by blacks in the South during the 1950s.

CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said the tribe is pleased that the appellate court reaffirmed in its ruling that the Nation is a sovereign government.

“However, the Court of Appeals also ruled that the interests of the tribe can adequately be represented through its elected officers,” Hembree said. “Although our principal chief stands ready, willing and able to protect and defend the Cherokee Nation Constitution and the will of its people, we believe that the entity that should be tasked with that responsibility is the Nation itself.”

Removing the Freedmen from the tribe was not a racially motivated decision, but one of a tribe’s sovereign ability to determine who is a citizen, Hembree said.

“It’s not asking too much that in order to be a citizen of an Indian tribe, that you be Indian,” he said. “We believe that’s very important, and so did the Cherokee people, and we intend on representing their will in this case.”

Vann et al v. Salazar was dismissed in September 2011 by federal Judge Henry Kennedy in Washington, D.C. Ken Salazar is the current United States Secretary of the Interior.

The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal, which forced the CN to file a response. Oral arguments for an appeal of the dismissed Freedmen case were heard in October.

The lawsuit was filed in 2003. Vann and five other Freedmen contend the CN, with approval from then-Department of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, prevented them from voting in the 2003 CN elections.

The plaintiffs sought a court order declaring the elections invalid. They also wanted the DOI secretary to not recognize the results of the elections until Freedmen were permitted to vote.

News

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
01/26/2015 11:06 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – After growing up on her father’s ranch, Cherokee Nation citizen Dr. Kristin Vickrey knew she wanted to become a veterinarian. “I’ve always wanted to be a vet,” she said. “I grew up raising cows so my dad always had cows. I was always out there working, and I always loved the medicine side of things. Going out and actually helping make the animals feel better, it was just something I’ve always wanted to do. It led to where I am today.” Vickrey attended Oklahoma State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in animal science and veterinary doctorate. In 2011, she began working at the Regional Animal Care Center in Claremore as an associate veterinarian with Dr. Jerome Yorke. While Vickrey still attends larger animals for her family, her focus is small animals such as cats and dogs with the occasional ferret, rabbit and guinea pig. “I think my smallest patient is a little 2-pound Chihuahua and my biggest patient is a 200-pound Bull Mastiff,” she said. “So there’s a big range difference. It makes my job interesting, going from one to the next and everybody is just a little bit different. They might have the same problem but it doesn’t always present the same.” Kimberlee Coates, pet owner and Claremore resident, said she began going to Vickrey after being assigned to her two years ago. “…we just really loved her and the compassion that she had for our pets and the fact that she was very personable and attentive to them and reassured us that everything was going to be OK whenever we had to have a procedure done,” Coates said. “It just gives us a lot of piece of mind to know that our pets will be well taken care of and that we don’t have to worry.” Coates has four cats and one dog that she has brought to Vickrey. “They can’t speak for themselves, and so as a pet parent you really feel like you need a doctor that can tune into them and can show them the compassion because there’s that gap in communication that you so much wish your pets could just talk,” Coates said. “Because if they could it would just make everything so much easier, but they can’t so you really have to have somebody that can fine tune into looking for the signs and the things that we as pet parents sometimes miss and don’t see, and she’s excellent at being able to do that.” Regional Animal Care Center offers several types of surgeries and services such as exploratory surgery, spaying, neutering, bone surgeries, dental, vaccinations, micro chipping, amputations, general medicine, therapeutic lasers, digital x-rays, endoscopic ear exams and blood work. “I think probably my favorite part is that I really like orthopedic work,” Vickrey said. “I like fixing the broken bones and repairing torn ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments). Those I get the biggest reward out of because I fixed it and now it’s better. I like those big rewarding cases.” Vickrey said the most challenging part of her job is telling owners that their animals will need to be put down. “We’re the advocate for the animal. The animals can’t tell you what they’re going through so we have to come to the owners and tell them ‘unfortunately your animal is not going to make it or it’s suffering’ and it’s not always the easiest part because the owners love it. They want to keep it alive. They want to do everything they can for it, but at the end of the day if I don’t tell the owner that their animal is suffering and is in pain, the only thing it’s hurting is the animal,” she said. “I wish I could save them all, but unfortunately you just can’t.” Vickrey, along with Yorke, also work with a nonprofit animal rescue group called Zoi’s Animal Rescue, which is a no-kill animal rescue with locations in Claremore and Navasota, Texas. Regional Animal Care Center, which is located at 1201 N. Lynn Riggs Blvd., also offers grooming and a full indoor and outdoor boarding facility. For more information, call 918-341-5551.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/25/2015 04:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Jack C. Montgomery Veteran Affairs Medical Center will hold its annual creative arts competition on Feb. 2-3 for enrolled veterans. The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama, and creative writing. Nationwide, VA medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. Each year, veterans treated at VA facilities compete in a local creative arts competition. A national selection committee chooses first, second and third place winners among all of the entries. Select winners will be invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, which will be held Oct. 12-19 at the Durham VA Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. For registration information, call Deborah Moreno at 918-577-4014. For information about the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and other VA special events, visit VA’s Adaptive Sports website: <a href="http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/" target="_blank">http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/25/2015 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The new 114th Congress counts more minorities and women than ever, although lawmakers remain overwhelmingly white and male in the Republican-controlled House and Senate. A record 104 women are in the new Congress, and for the first time, African-American members of both genders and representing both parties are among the ranks on Capitol Hill. The number of female lawmakers is up slightly from 100 at the close of the last Congress, but represents about 20 percent of the total in Congress. It's far less than the nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population. A total of 96 racial minorities will serve in Congress, about 18 percent. There are 100 senators and 435 seats in the House. The House will have 246 Republicans and 188 Democrats. One seat is vacant following the resignation on Monday of Rep. Michael Grimm, R-N.Y., who pleaded guilty to a felony tax evasion charge. The Senate will have 54 Republicans and 44 Democrats, plus two independents - Maine's Angus King and Vermont's Bernie Sanders. Both caucus with Democrats. <strong>HOUSE</strong> A total of 84 women will serve in the House, compared with 80 in the last Congress. The new lawmakers include Elise Stefanik, a 30-year-old New York Republican who is the youngest woman ever elected to the House. Also making history is Mia Love, 38, whose election to a suburban Salt Lake City district made her the first black female Republican to win a seat in Congress. Forty-four African-Americans are in the House, including Love and another black Republican freshman, Will Hurd of Texas. Hurd made news last month as he was named chairman of an Information Technology subcommittee on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, an unusual distinction for a freshman. There are 34 Hispanic lawmakers, including 10 Republicans, as well as 10 Asian-Americans and two Native Americans, both Oklahoma Republicans. <strong>SENATE</strong> The number of women in the Senate remains at 20, following the election of Republicans Joni Ernst of Iowa and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, and the defeat of Democrats Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. (Re-elected were Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.) Two African-Americans serve as senators - Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey. There are three Hispanic senators: Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas and Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey. Democrat Mazie Hirono of Hawaii is the only Asian-American in the Senate. <strong>FRESHMEN</strong> Fifty-eight House freshmen join the ranks - 43 Republicans and 15 Democrats. Three other members are new to Congress but are considered veterans of a few weeks. Reps. Dave Brat, R-Va., Donald Norcross, D-N.J., and Alma Adams, D-N.C., took the oath shortly after November's elections to fill the seats of lawmakers who had left Congress. The Senate welcomes 13 new members - 12 Republicans and one Democrat, Gary Peters of Michigan.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/24/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Oklahoma Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration is considering improvements on Highway 82 in Cherokee County that would begin near East Allen Road in Tahlequah and go north to near Gideon, according to reports. The meeting will be held from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Jan. 27 in the University Center Ballroom at Northeastern State University. ODOT held a meeting in 2013 regarding the highway, and following that meeting the state performed studies on the corridor. ODOT officials said within that study they evaluated upgrading the existing highway. They plan to discuss their findings from the studies during the meeting. The meeting is open to the public and will be an open-house format. It will allow for some discussion with engineers and planners for the potential project. For more information, call Frank Roesler III at 405-521-2350 or email <a href="mailto: m-coordinator@odot.org">m-coordinator@odot.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/24/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation NAHASDA Annual Performance Reports are readily available for the public to view and to make comments upon. The reports are available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Jan. 27 at the Cherokee FIRST department located in the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex and in the lobby of the HACN office located at 1500 Hensley Drive in Tahlequah. <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=7G5FQptSBvE%3d&tabid=5274&portalid=0&mid=5878" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the report.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
01/24/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Businesses officials said before work on any site to be developed can begin they must do due diligence with regards to pre-development steps. Currently, that is where CNB officials area at on the Cherokee Springs Plaza project. Since the project’s September announcement, CNB officials said they have done several “behind the scenes” tasks in preparation for construction. From September to December, CNB officials said they met with Tahlequah officials to review city permit requirements, located all existing utilities and completed some infrastructure planning. They also they developed and posted a request for proposal for civil engineering work, completed the land survey for the site, as well as competed an aerial topography of the site for elevations and civil engineering design work. CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett said CNB officials selected a civil engineer in November for master planning and design and are conducting a traffic impact study that’s required prior to roads being designed or built. CNB officials said they also began civil engineering design of utilities, roads and temporary storm water, as well as identified what parts of the land would be submitted for a trust application. “(CNB) Developed, posted and selected a geotechnical firm to do a soils investigation report that is required by civil engineering for the design of foundations, utility and roads,” Garrett said. “In January we will be drilling 56 borings throughout the site. With the soil borings taking place, we will have the information required to develop a grading plan and start turning dirt to develop Phase I of the site.” In September, Garret said the first phase was establishing the infrastructure that creates access and provides the necessary utilities and the “civil engineering” portion of the project that would consist of road construction and pad sites where potential businesses will be developed. The continuation of the project will include two other phases, one being the construction of a new Cherokee Casino Tahlequah that will include a resort hotel, convention center and golf clubhouse. The third phase will create a retail strip, centering along Grand Boulevard, which will enhance the pedestrian and shopper experience. Overall, it is anticipated 1.3 million square feet of mixed-use space will be developed at an estimated cost of $170 million, officials said.