Appeals Court: Freedmen can sue principal chief
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.
EUCHA, Okla. – Eucha residents gathered on the evening of Dec. 13 to celebrate the opening of the new Eucha Community Center.
The center’s opening was five years in the making after setbacks prevented residents from completing the 50-foot-by-75-foot building, which will be used by the Eucha Indian Organization and community.
“We had a lot of problems. The roof blew off twice while we were trying to build it. Some of the guys got dissatisfied and they quit, but some of them stayed on. And then about three months ago I started coming up here and working on the inside of it,” community organizer Tad Dunham said. “We finally got it finished. Actually we got it finished yesterday (Dec. 12).”
The center’s opening coincided with the annual Eucha Fire Department Christmas dinner. The fire department and its firefighters are a centerpiece for the community located about four miles west of Jay in Delaware County and about two miles north of Lake Eucha. Dunham said when the lake was built in 1952 the town was moved to its present location.
In years past, the fire department, which is next door to the community building, backed its trucks out of the fire station to make room for events.
“We always worried about them freezing this time of year because some of the water lines are only an eighth of an inch that go to the gauges and they freeze really quickly,” Dunham said. “Now we don’t have to pull them out. We can use this building (community center), and it just makes everything greater. Plus we have more room in here.”
Cullus Buck, EIO chairman and EFD assistant chief, said the center would “mean a lot” because it gives residents a place to meet without using the fire station.
“We opened up the fire department many times for family reunions and different things, and now this will take care of that, and we won’t have to worry about our trucks freezing,” Buck said.
He said he wants to use the center to keep the area’s Cherokee heritage alive by having craftspeople and others visit to share their knowledge.
“I’m going to try to get some beading classes in. My wife, she knows how to (do) that and some basket weaving. We had a guy come up and said he would teach knife (making), and I’ve got a couple of people who are interested in teaching the Cherokee language,” Buck said.
He said he appreciates any help the Cherokee Nation could provide in preserving Cherokee heritage in Eucha but believes there are residents qualified to teach the Cherokee language and arts and crafts.
The CN’s Community Work Program provided $116,000 to build the center, and the nearby Seneca-Cayuga Tribe in Grove and the Eastern Shawnee Tribe in Wyandotte also provided assistance. The Eastern Shawnee donated the building’s appliances, and the Seneca-Cayuga helped fund the Christmas dinner.
“It wasn’t just the Cherokee Nation. Different tribes helped pitch in to get it (community center) done,” Buck said. “There was one point I wanted to give up. We got it all ready to go, had all the trusses up, and they all fell in because we had a tornado right down the road.”
Dunham said he believes the building will begin an era in the community because people now have a gathering place for reunions, parties, weddings and funerals.
“It’s going to open up the whole area for the community, not just the Eucha community but the surrounding area. It will be a general purpose building for the whole community,” he said. “I want to thank the Cherokee Nation not only for this building, but everything else they do for the community and all the Cherokee people – all the health care they provide, the roads they build – if you look around you can see their mark on about everything in the area, so we really appreciate the Cherokee Nation.”
TULSA, Okla. (AP) – The Cherokee Nation has opened a tag office in Tulsa as it makes its license plates available to its citizens across Oklahoma.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker says demand is up for Cherokee Nation license plates, so it was necessary to open a Tulsa office so it can deliver tags in a timely manner.
The tag office opened Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. It joins five others - at Adair, Collinsville, Jay, Sallisaw and Tahlequah. The new office is in the Cherokee Nation Welcome Center off U.S. 412.
In the last fiscal year, the Cherokee Nation generated $11 million in motor vehicle tag revenue, up $2 million from the earlier year. Funds are used for public schools, road and bridge improvement projects, and law enforcement.
CATOOSA, Okla. – During its Dec. 5 meeting, Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Chairwoman Stacy Leeds announced that starting in January the commission would require a series of amendments to its regulations to implement the recently amended Gaming Commission Act.
“As you all know as soon as we hit the ground running in January we will require a series of amendments to our own regulations to implement the new ordinance, and our first order of business will be taking up changes to licensing,” Leeds said.
CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said that whatever changes are made would come from the CNGC.
“If policies are changed they will go through the Administrative Procedures Act, and there is a publication period and a public comment period,” he said. “These will not happen overnight. There are processes.”
In April, Tribal Councilors limited the CNGC’s regulatory powers over Cherokee Nation Entertainment operations with Legislative Act 07-14. In June, the council made technical changes to that act with LA 17-14. Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed both acts but the amendments didn’t become law until they received National Indian Gaming Commission approval on Oct. 27.
Before the NIGC approved the amended act, the CNGC regulated all gaming operations, including auditing, to ensure compliance with the act and any regulations adopted by the CNGC. The CNGC also enforces any gaming-related compacts with the state.
The amendment calls for the CNGC to regulate and issue regulations only related to CNE’s gaming operations and follow only the NIGC’s minimum internal control standards or MICS. Before, the CNGC was required to establish tribal internal control standards or TICS to meet the tribe’s specific gaming needs.
Nongaming operations would include areas such as food, beverage, hotel and entertainment. Because the CNGC would no longer be regulating them, they would fall under the regulation of Cherokee Nation Businesses and CNE, according to the amended act.
“So it’s my understanding that the attorney general will visit with the council, see what their desires are and he’ll propose back to us regulations that would be put into effect and those would be put into effect in this body and through our regulatory process just like everything else,” Leeds said. “But I think as a courtesy to the council we get their point of view about how that is carried through and then it becomes part of our general regulatory structure like anything else would.”
Hembree said if there were changes in policy there would be changes in the way CNB does business and it would have to follow the law and the policies. He added that he has met with Leeds, Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird, CNB officials to address changes and questions.
“With any change there are questions. One thing I believe the intent of the amendments were was to ensure that CNB played on a level playing field with other gaming facilities and that the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission was able to maintain their very well oversight of the gaming operations and that they adhere to the strict federal standards that are there,” Hembree said. “It comes into the interpretation of what is an operational facility, what is a gaming activity. Those are the questions that we are working out. I do not believe that there will be much that changes from the implementation of these amendments.”
Hembree said he, Leeds and Hummingbird also met with NIGC legal staff in Washington, D.C., to discuss issues that may or may not arise.
“I wouldn’t say concerns, but there’s unknown because we’re exploring new ground on this,” he said. “There are going to be questions that if X happens how does that effect Y, and that’s why we are meeting and working out the details and implementation. We’re not just blindly going into this. Before these things happen we talk it out and make sure we are all on the same page.”
The revised act also called for the creation of a three member, non-voting advisory board to be made up of Tribal Councilors. According to the act, Tribal Councilors shall appoint the advisory board with members serving three-year terms.
Leeds said the CNGC knows there will be an advisory board but commission officials have no guidance on how or when it’s going to be implemented.
According to the previous and revised act, the CNGC is part of the tribe’s executive branch that carries out the Nation’s responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and the NIGC’s regulations. The act states the CNGC shall be consistent with all laws and resolutions of the Tribal Council.
When asked if the advisory board violates the Constitution’s separation of powers clause, Hembree said it does not because the board would serve as a non-voting board. He added that advisory board members would get access to information that a sitting commissioner would get.
Hembree also said, as of Dec. 11, he had not met with the Tribal Council but would be giving suggestions to its legal counsel “as to the policies of how the advisory members are chosen, their length of term, how they resolve any potential or perceived conflicts of interest.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Hunger Buster Beef Cuts, a made-in-Oklahoma company, donated 720 pounds of beef cuts to the Cherokee Nation Foundation to supplement programs helping the tribe’s citizens facing food insecurities.
Wal-Mart, Hunger Buster and Jason Christie, professional angler and CN citizen, presented the donation to tribal officials on Dec. 11.
“Our mission is to provide education assistance to Cherokee students,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said. “We know hunger is often an obstacle to learning. This is a way for us to support the Nation’s efforts in addressing food insecurities and provide more food for backpacks going home with kids this winter.”
As part of Christie’s partnership with Hunger Buster Beef Cuts and Wal-Mart, the company is donating 25 percent of all products sold at participating Wal-Mart locations to the CNF in the form of beef sticks. Hunger Buster as well as Cherokee Nation Businesses sponsors Christie.
“Wal-Mart is proud to partner with Hunger Buster Beef Cuts and Jason Christie to provide a great product to our customers,” Jim Enneking, fishing buyer for Wal-Mart, said. “We are excited to be part of the donation to the Cherokee Nation Foundation to combat hunger.”
Christie and Wal-Mart chose the CNF to receive the beef cuts in hopes a portion would be used to support backpack programs throughout the rural areas of the CN as well as other CN programs addressing food insecurities. Backpack programs provide a bag of shelf-stable food to elementary, junior high and high school students at risk of going hungry over weekends and school holidays.
“I am a big advocate of giving back to the community, and Cherokee Nation is a major part of our community,” Christie said. “I take pride in representing Hunger Buster Beef Cuts not only because they are a healthy snack, but because of their 25 percent donation of food to charities. I value being a part of that.”
Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was instrumental in forming the partnership and praised the donation.
“Jason is a former educator and coach at a rural school district and is aware of some of the hardships our kids face,” he said. “His generosity to give back to our tribe and help these kids from missing one less meal is overwhelming. It takes a tribe to raise these children.”
“We couldn’t be more proud of Jason and his example of leadership and giving back,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We will work diligently alongside the foundation to ensure this donation supplements our existing programs. I know it will be utilized by Cherokee families and Cherokee children in need.”
Hunger Buster beef sticks are 100 percent beef, gluten-free, low-calorie, low-carb, low-sugar and contain no MSG or trans fat.
“Jason Christie is a valuable partner of ours, having been a major supporter of our products and our mission to help feed the hungry,” Richard Cranford, owner of QuarterShare LLC, said. “We are pleased that the Cherokee Nation Foundation is his choice to receive our donation. To provide children with nutritious snacks is a principal priority for our company.”
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Technologies, a division of Cherokee Nation Businesses, has advanced and expanded its abilities to support unmanned systems integration and operations.
Recently retired Department of Defense acquisition professional and naval aviator John Coffey is leading CNT’s efforts to offer unmanned support and services.
“We have a long standing relationship with several key agencies focused on developing unmanned systems,” Steven Bilby, president of CNB diversified businesses, said. “John’s experience and knowledge has proven to be valuable and we look forward to his leadership in advancing our position in the market.”
Coffey teamed up with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to create and implement an unmanned systems strategy that delivers recommendations for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems and other unmanned technologies as well.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for CNT to advance into a thriving business with the potential to have a lasting economic impact and create jobs,” Coffey said. “There is estimated to be $70 to $100 billion pumped into the economy through the development of UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) over the next 10 years, and CNT is striving to be at the forefront of the industry.”
The team works to conduct in-depth analyses of new and developing systems and evaluates the different observation requirements in hopes to establish how those needs can be attained by using unmanned aerial vehicles.
According to a CN press release, the two major systems in development are the Puma, a ship-launched unmanned aerial vehicle specializing in low-altitude and short-endurance missions and the Global Hawk, which is the size of a 737 aircraft and made for high-altitude and long-endurance missions.
“Our goal is to match systems to requirements that will increase organizational observing capacity and develop high-science-return missions such as high-impact weather monitoring, polar monitoring and marine monitoring,” Coffey said. “Unmanned systems have the potential to efficiently, effectively and economically fulfill observation requirements in an environmentally friendly manner, and it is a privilege to be a part of these industry advancements.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokee-cnt.com" target="_blank">www.cherokee-cnt.com</a>.
PORTLAND, Ore. – Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, a national group of Native American parents dedicated to ending the use of Native mascots, have shown support for the Oklahoma City Public School Board of Education’s recent decision to stop the re¬enactment of the 1889 Land Run and to change the name of the Redskins mascot at Capital Hill High School.
According to its press release, the group stated it applauded “the efforts of Native American students and parents of OKCPS Native American Student Services to educate their community on the harm of Native mascotry.”
For more information, call Jennie Stockle at 918-¬312-¬0467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Jacqueline Keeler at 503-¬915-¬5011 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com"> firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.