Cherokees may wait 10 years for Cobell land buys

05/06/2013 08:57 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens who signed up for the Land Buy-Back Program under the $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement may be waiting up to 10 years before selling their fractionated lands.

As part of the settlement that dealt with lost royalties, the Interior Department established the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations, which Congress approved on Nov. 24, 2012. The program calls for a $1.9 billion Trust Land Consolidation Fund for resource mismanagement and consolidation of fractionated lands.

“A fractionated track is a parcel of land owned by multiple owners or few (people) to many (people),” Steve Beleu, director of the U.S. Government Information Division at the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, said.

The money must be expended by Nov. 24, 2022, according to the settlement.

The fractionation of Indian lands is a result of the General Allotment Act of 1887, or the Dawes Act, which allowed tribal lands to be allotted to individual tribal citizens in 80- or 160-acre parcels. The number of fractional land interests grew by 12.5 percent from 2007 to 2011.

There are approximately 150 tribal nations and/or reservations with 2.9 million fractional land interests owned by more than 219,000 individuals that will participate in the Land Buy-Back Program, Beleu said.

Ninety percent of the purchasable fractional interests are located within the top 40 of the 150 tribal nations and/or reservations that have purchasable fractional interests. The CN is ranked at 145.

“The top 40 are the ones that have the highest percentage of highly fractionated land,” Beleu said. “The owners tend to be more willing to sell, and those owners tend to be older in age so they could actually personally benefit from the buy back.”

Within the CN, there are only 135 fractionated tracts containing purchasable interests and no highly fractionated tracts. Sixty-six Cherokees who owned fractionated land are over the age of 65.

The program seeks to support tribal sovereignty by providing individual American Indians opportunities to get cash payments for voluntarily transferring their fractional land interests. Upon transfer, the interests will be held in trust for the benefit of the tribe with jurisdiction over the lands.

More than $1.7 billion of the $1.9 billion is expected to go to the top 40 tribes. About $130 million will go to the rest of the tribes not in the top 40.

“Within years to come, the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) will be setting up pilot programs working with tribal governments and concentrate on buying back lands,” Beleu said.

CN Communications said the BIA has not contacted the Nation as of April 30.

918-453-5000, ext. 6139


06/30/2016 04:00 PM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center is getting an $8,500 grant from the Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation to expand its award-winning Cultural Outreach Program by providing free services within Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah, LeFlore, Latimer and Haskell counties. “We are so pleased to be receiving this grant and are looking forward to utilizing it to further our reach in northeast Oklahoma,” CHC Executive Director Candessa Tehee said. “These funds will allow us to continue our work promoting Cherokee culture so our history and traditions may thrive for generations to come.” The Cultural Outreach Program has been recognized by the American Association of State and Local History. The program aims to engage and enlighten participants, inspire curiosity and foster learning through hands-on art classes, interactive theatrical storytelling and cultural presentations. For more information, call Gina Burnett at 918-456-6007, ext.6144 or email The Carolyn Watson Rural Oklahoma Community Foundation was founded by the late Carolyn Watson, CEO and chairman of Shamrock Bank N.A. in 1995 to improve the quality of life in rural Oklahoma. Through its two grant programs, the organization promotes education, health, literacy and arts and the humanities in 20 Oklahoma counties. Since its inception, the foundation has awarded nearly $900,000 in grants to schools, teachers and communities in rural Oklahoma. Additionally, the Carolyn Watson Opportunities Scholarship offers awards of up to $10,000 per academic year for high school seniors graduating from 62 rural Oklahoma counties to attend college. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
06/30/2016 12:00 PM
TAHELQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation on June 3 honored 30 community organizations formed and run by CN citizens who do volunteer work, promote Cherokee culture and make other contributions. About 500 organization members attended the tribe’s Community Impact Awards banquet held at Northeastern State University. Most of the organizations honored are located within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and range from organizations that run shelters to those building playgrounds. “These Cherokee Nation citizens deserve our praise for doing extremely important work to improve the lives of others in their cities and communities,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “That work includes mentoring Cherokee youth with their homework after school to running nutrition centers as volunteers for our elders, which is why it’s fitting that we honor these groups each year.” Breanna Potter, 21, a CN citizen from Sallisaw, started the Brushy Youth Dream Team after she noticed there were not many places for teens to hang out in the Brushy community. The tribe honored her with the Community Inspiration Award. “We’ve had two youth lock-ins with about 50 students, and we train on leadership, healthy lifestyles and teambuilding,” she said. “It’s providing them a place to go that is positive.” The teens also go through leadership training and work on community service projects together. The Spavinaw Community Building Board Inc., of Mayes County, received the Elder Care Award. Three days a week they cook meals for about 60 seniors and hold sessions on elder care, blood pressure checks, signs of dementia and other topics. They also deliver food to homebound seniors. “We have to check on our elders to make sure they are OK in our community,” board member Susan Winn said. “It’s important these elders see someone or have someone to talk to, since in many cases most are in a one-resident home.” Winn said she was honored by the Nation’s recognition. “I was almost in tears, I was so proud. It’s the first award for us and a milestone.” The following organizations received the following Community Impact Awards: • Newcomer of the Year Award: P.O.T.L.U.C.K. Society of Claremore • Mary Mead Volunteerism Award: Brushy Cherokee Action Association, Sequoyah County • Most Improved Award: C.C. Camp Community Organization of Adair County • Best in Technology Award: Tahlequah Men’s Shelter and Cherokees of Orange County, Calif. • Continuing Education Award: #4Hope Inc. of Locust Grove • Elder Care Award: Spavinaw Community Building Board Inc. and Colorado Cherokee Circle of Denver • Evaluations and Outcomes Measurements Award: Encore! Performing Society of Tahlequah • Best-In-Reporting Award: Stilwell Public Library Friends Society of Adair County and Cherokee Community of Central California • Technical Assistance Award: Tri-Community W.E.B. Association in Briggs • Grant Writer of the Year Award: Cherokee Elders Council of Locust Grove • Strong Hands Award: Orchard Road Community Outreach of Stilwell • Cultural Perpetuation Award: Cherokee National Treasures Association and Valley of the Sun Cherokees of Phoenix • Historical Preservation Award: Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association and San Diego Cherokee Community • Lifetime Achievement Award: George and Linda Miller of Webbers Falls • Community Partnership Award: Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation in Tahlequah and Capital City Cherokees of Washington, D.C. • Outstanding Communication Award: Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club of Claremore and Cherokee Community of North Texas of Dallas • Above and Beyond Award: Neighborhood Association of Chewey • Youth Participation Award: Encore! Performing Society of Tahlequah and Kansas City Cherokee Community • Mission Accomplished Award: Native American Association of Ketchum • Community Inspiration Award: Breanna Potter of Sequoyah County and Roger Vann of Adair County (posthumously) • Organization of the Year Award: Neighborhood Association of Chewey in Adair County and Mount Hood Cherokees of Eugene, Oregon.
Special Correspondent
06/30/2016 08:15 AM
TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is getting some new equipment courtesy of the Cherokee Nation. On June 15, Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen presented a $5,000 check to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of the Nation. The funds, generated by the tribe’s motor vehicle tag compact with the state, will go towards replacing some of the department’s bulletproof vests, which last about five years. With each vest priced at about $700 each, the contribution will cover seven vests. Officials with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said they expect to replace about 40 full-time deputies’ vests this year. That figure does not include participants in the department’s currently suspended reserve deputy program. With most of his constituents living in Tulsa County, Anglen said the contribution was overdue. His district includes the city of Tulsa north of Admiral Boulevard, Sperry and portions of Collinsville, Skiatook and Owasso. “I’ve always really wanted to contribute to Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office because I’ve regularly contributed to law enforcement agencies in Rogers County,” Anglen said. “So I found a connection and made it happen. Tulsa County is a big county and while I don’t have it all in my district, I do have a huge amount of it that’s served by Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s protection. They deserve some of that money just like any other law enforcement agency.”
06/29/2016 02:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will meet at 9 a.m. CST, July 12, 2016, via conference call. It is an open meeting and the public is welcome to attend by using the conference call information to join the meeting. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the agenda. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4183136#
Special Correspondent
06/28/2016 08:15 AM
WASHINGTON – National retailer Dollar General will have to go before a tribal court judge thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. On June 23, the Supreme Court announced it had deadlocked 4-4 in Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians vs. Dollar General, which raised the question of whether tribes have the authority to pursue civil litigation over the activities of non-Natives on tribal trust land. By virtue of the tie, the court upheld a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with the tribe. In 2003, a non-Native Dollar General manager allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old Mississippi Choctaw boy who was working at the Dollar General store on the reservation through the tribe’s summer youth program. When the federal government declined to pursue criminal charges against the manager or company, the victim’s parents sued both the manager and the retailer in tribal court. Despite signing a lease that required it to give the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ court system legal authority over it, Dollar General balked, claimed the tribe did not have jurisdiction and pursued litigation that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2015. More than 100 tribes and Indigenous organizations filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in support of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, with many noting the potential implications for Indian Country’s domestic violence cases if the court sided with Dollar General. According to a recent study released by the National Institute of Justice, a supermajority of violent crimes against Native Americans – both male and female – are committed by non-Native assailants. “Today’s decision reaffirms tribal sovereignty and the inherent civil authority of tribal courts to protect our citizens when non-Indians assault them,” Jana Walker, a senior attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center, said. “This is critical considering that a National Institute of Justice research report issued last month found that more than four in five Native women have experienced violence in their lifetimes, and more than one in two have experienced sexual violence.” With the tie, the possibility remains for the Supreme Court to revisit the issue of tribal jurisdiction in the future, as the decision does not create a binding nationwide precedent. “It is a reminder that more work is needed to educate lawyers, judges, and lawmakers about tribal sovereignty and the authority of tribal courts,” Walker said. The case will now go back to tribal court. The family of the victim is seeking $2.5 million in damages. In a statement released June 24, Principal Chief Bill John Baker praised the Supreme Court’s decision. “As tribal sovereign governments, we applaud the Supreme Court’s preservation of our right to protect tribal citizens on tribal land,” he said. “The Cherokee Nation is taking critical steps to strengthen its ability to arrest, convict and prosecute people who commit crime in our jurisdiction and against our citizens. “We also continue to strengthen our civil code to allow us to increase our exercise of civil jurisdiction over non-Indian people and companies who commit wrongs within the Cherokee Nation. This will better protect all of our citizens, including our most vulnerable, like the elderly, women, and children.”
06/27/2016 02:00 PM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he set a fire five years ago that burned 142 acres of land belonging to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Raymond Neal Swayney was indicted last month after being accused of setting the May 21, 2011 fire. Swayney pleaded not guilty to the two arson-related charges Monday in U.S. District Court in Asheville. If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison, in addition to a fine. Swayney has been released from custody on a $25,000 bond.