A sample version of the Oklahoma license plate with the “Sacred Rain Arrow” sculpture. COURTESY PHOTO

Court: Man can challenge Oklahoma 'rain god' plate

06/17/2013 08:48 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A federal appeals court said on June 11 that an Oklahoma man can sue the state over its Indian “rain god” license plate, ruling that the depiction of a noted sculpture on 3 million license plates could be interpreted as a state endorsement of a religion.

Keith Cressman of Oklahoma City sued a number of state officials in 2011, arguing that Oklahoma’s standard license plate depicted Native American religious beliefs that run contrary to his Christianity. U.S. District Judge Joe Heaton dismissed the lawsuit in May 2012 but the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it on June 11.

Cressman would prefer to “remain silent with respect to images, messages and practices that he cannot endorse or accept,” the appeals court said. The man’s lawyer, Nathan Kellum of the Center for Religious Expression in Memphis, Tenn., said Cressman did not want to display an image that communicates a message “which he finds objectionable.”

“He doesn’t want to be forced to say something that he does not want to say,” Kellum said.

Diane Clay, a spokeswoman for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office, which is defending the lawsuit, said the appeals court’s decision presents another opportunity to review the case.

“We’ll continue to defend the state’s position that Oklahoma’s license plate design does not violate Mr. Cressman’s constitutional rights,” Clay said.

It is against state law to cover up the image, so to avoid displaying the image Cressman initially purchased a specialty license plate that cost $37 more than the standard plate and had a $35 renewal fee. He then purchased a cheaper specialty license plate, which cost $18 more than the standard plate and cost $16.50 for renewal.

The standard Oklahoma license plate depicts Allan Houser’s “Sacred Rain Arrow” bronze sculpture, which has been on display at Tulsa’s Gilcrease Museum for about 20 years. The tag’s design was adopted in 2008 in a license plate reissuance plan that marked the first time in almost 16 years that the state had issued redesigned license plates for the more than 3 million vehicles registered in the state.

The sculpture depicts an Indian shooting an arrow skyward to bring down rain. Cressman’s lawsuit alleged that the sculpture is based on a Native American legend in which a warrior convinced a medicine man to bless his bow and arrows during a time of drought. The warrior shot an arrow into the sky, hoping the “spirit world” or “rain god” would answer the people’s prayers for rain.

According to the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center website, “the piece depicts a young Apache warrior shooting his arrow towards heaven with the hope of carrying a prayer for rain to the Spirit World.”

Oklahoma’s previous license plate featured the Osage Nation shield in the plate’s center. The “Sacred Rain Arrow” sculpture is featured on the far left hand side of the new plates.

The appeals court’s decision says Cressman “adheres to historic Christian beliefs” and believes it is a sin “to honor or acknowledge anyone or anything as God besides the one true God.”

He eventually decided not to pay the additional fees but to cover up the image on the standard plate without obscuring letters, tags or other identifying markers on the plate. He said state officials told him it was illegal to cover up any part of it and he might have to pay a $300 fine.

Cressman is still paying additional fees for specialty license plates on two vehicles registered in the state but “does not want to incur extra expense to avoid expressing a message contrary to his religious beliefs,” the decision states.

“Mr. Cressman’s complaint states a plausible compelled speech claim,” it concludes. “He has alleged sufficient facts to suggest that the ‘Sacred Rain Arrow’ image on the standard Oklahoma license plate conveys a particularized message that others are likely to understand and to which he objects.”

State Treasurer Ken Miller, who authored the license plate reissuance legislation while serving in the Oklahoma House, said the lawsuit ‘is another case of political correctness run amok.”

“I am proud of my Christian heritage and the rich heritage of our state, which is appropriately honored with the beautiful Allan Houser sculpture on the license plate.” Miller said in a statement.


04/20/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – On April 16, the National Park Service announced the awarding of eight Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act grants totaling $74,348, which will assist in the repatriation of individuals and sacred objects, objects of cultural patrimony and funerary objects back to the tribes. “The work funded by these grants is a step toward addressing past violations of the treatment of human remains and sacred objects of native peoples, while restoring the ability of American Indian and Native Hawaiian peoples to be stewards of their own ancestral dead and cultural heritage.” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. Enacted in 1990, NAGPRA requires museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections, and to consult with culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding repatriation. Section 10 of the Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to award grants to assist in implementing provisions of the Act. The award recipients include the Native Village of Barrow in Arkansas, the Regents of the University of California, Smith River Rancheria in California, Bay Mills Indian Community in Michigan, Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, The Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma and Sweet Briar College in Virginia.
04/17/2015 04:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to campaign disclosure reports released on April 15, Principal Chief Bill John Baker has raised more than $830,000, which is more money than all other candidates combined, including two Tribal Councilors who are no longer campaigning for seats. According to the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission, the first campaign disclosure report was due April 15. A report consists of a beginning campaign fund balance and ending balance. Also included are contribution amounts, in-kind donations, loans, expenditures and advertising statements. Of those running for principal chief, Baker raised the most with $815,054.77 in monetary donations and $17,262.22 in in-kind donations for at total of $832,316.99. He loaned his campaign $4,220 bringing the balance to $836,536.99. After expenditures, his ending balance was $434,934.41. According to the disclosure reports, all other candidates combined raised $572,488.69. Included in that total is Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts, who campaigned for the principal chief seat but did not file to run, and Tribal Councilor Julia Coates, who the EC and CN Supreme Court ruled ineligible to run for the deputy chief seat because she didn’t meet residency requirements. Former Principal Chief Chad Smith received $92,850 in monetary donations and no in-kind donations. He loaned his campaign $10,072.97 bringing the balance to $103,780. After expenditures his ending balance was $50,120.64. Former CN Community Services Group Leader Charlie Soap raised $30,400 while loaning his campaign $7,565.46, bringing his balance to $37,965.46. After expenditures his ending balance was $24,943.56. State Rep. Will Fourkiller’s contributions totaled $10,800. He loaned his campaign $3,153.67 for a balance of $13,953.67. After expenditures his ending balance was $8,538.49. Cowan Watts raised $71,429 in direct contributions and $8,086.99 in in-kind donations for $79,515.99. She loaned her campaigned $50,013.87, which includes direct expenditures, according to the disclosure report. After expenditures her total came to $23,410.88. Also, according to her report, she returned several contributions. In the deputy chief race, incumbent S. Joe Crittenden raised $77,250 with $10,606.50 in in-kind donations. Crittenden loaned his campaign $2,255 making his total revenues $90,111.50. His ending balance for the campaign was $52,517.92 after expenditures. Tribal Councilor Lee Keener totaled $8,450 in direct contributions with $942.27 in in-kind donations for a total of $9,392.27. He loaned his campaign $1,272. After expenditures, his campaign fund was $6,519.97. Coates raised $10,200 with no loans to the campaign. Her ending campaign balance was $0 after expenditures. The Supreme Court on April 13 affirmed the EC’s ruling that stated Coates did not live within the tribe’s jurisdiction 270 days before the June 27 general election, which is required for a deputy chief candidate. To view any candidate’s disclosure report click the links below. <strong>Principal Chief Candidates</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_allbjbakerfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Bill John Baker's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_csmithfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Chad Smith's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_csoapfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Charlie Soap's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_wfourkillerfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Will Fourkiller's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_ccwattsfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Cara Cowan Watts' campaign financial disclosure report. <strong>Deputy Chief Candidates</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_sjcrittendenfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> S. Joe Crittenden's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_lkeenerfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Lee Keener's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_jcoatesfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Julia Coates' campaign financial disclosure report. <strong>Tribal Council Candidates</strong> <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_banglenfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Buel Anglen's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_bberryfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Brian Berry's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_bgirtyfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Brandon Girty's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_bkmccoyfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> B. Keith McCoy's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_bmckeefinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Benjamin McKee's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_bswimmerfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Betsy Swimmer's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_bwarnerfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Bryan Warner's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_cbunchfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Corey Bunch's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_dlayfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Dick Lay's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_dmatlockfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Darell Matlock Jr's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_dpatzkowskifinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Dora Patzkowski's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_dreedfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Deb Reed's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_dwalkingstickfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> David Walkingstick's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_kaustinfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Keith Austin's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_khollowayfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Kenneth Holloway's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_kpkilpatrickfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Kathy Kilpatrick's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_lbolinfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Linda Bolin's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_lpritchettfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Larry Pritchett's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_nfullbrightfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Natalie Fullbright's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_pfoxfincancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Pamela Fox's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_rgofffinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Ron Goff's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_rjordanfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Rex Jordan's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_rsierrafinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Ryan Sierra's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_scrittendenfinacial_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Shawn Crittenden's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_sjettfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Shane Jett's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_tbrownfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Trey Brown's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_tjonesfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Thomas Jones' campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_wbpearsonfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> William Pearson's campaign financial disclosure report. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/4/9179_whatfieldfinancials_april.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> Wanda Hatfield's campaign financial disclosure report.
04/17/2015 02:00 PM
ROLAND, Okla. – After working at the Cherokee Casino Roland for 25 years, Arvil Norman Wolfe has decided to retire. Hoping for some extra money during the Christmas season, Wolfe went looking for a part-time job in 1990, the same time Cherokee Nation opened the doors to its first casino, Cherokee Bingo Outpost in Roland. “Cherokee Nation put an ad in the Southwest Times Record looking for part-time employees,” Wolfe said. “I applied and was hired immediately.” Wolfe was born in Lees Chapel, a small town on the outskirts of Muldrow. He graduated from Muldrow High School in 1956 and currently resides in Dora, Arkansas, with his wife, Alta. He enjoys his family and fishing for large-mouth crappie and catfish. He decided to retire in April because he celebrates 57 years with his wife. They also share the same wedding anniversary of her parents and her sister. “There has been enormous growth since I’ve been with the company. It’s unbelievable, really,” he said. “At this point in history, the Cherokees are really on the move.” Over the years, he has seen the company transform into an economic engine for the area, hiring thousands of people since he was first hired. Wolfe was an employee in 1997 when $1.2 million was spent for additions and an improved ventilation system. He was also there in 2002 for a remodel and in April 2014 when the tribe broke ground on a new, $80 million casino and hotel. “I would like to thank Arvil for his many years of service to our Roland casino and the Cherokee Nation,” said Shawn Slaton, interim CNB CEO. “Arvil is a stellar employee and a great example to all of us. We will certainly miss him. We wish him the best in his retirement and hope he enjoys it fishing.”
04/17/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission discussed the transportation of ballot boxes on April 14 at the Election Services Office. The EC discussed how it would administer money for gas to individuals who are hired to deliver ballot boxes to each precinct in the jurisdiction. However, the commission wanted more information on credit cards so it tabled discussion until more information was received. The commission voted to approve the precinct official manual with minor cosmetic changes. The manual will dictate the processes used by precinct officials to during the 2015 election. Other action discussed including the approval of past meeting minutes as well as entering into executive session where no action was taken.
04/17/2015 10:00 AM
EDMOND, Okla. (AP) — Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby (ANNA'-tubby) will be the commencement speaker at the University of Central Oklahoma's spring 2015 ceremony for the College of Education and Professional Studies. The ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m. May 8 in UCA's Hamilton Field House in Edmond. Anoatubby has served as Chickasaw Nation governor since 1987 and is now in his seventh term in that post.
04/16/2015 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The National Park Service has announced a $4.103 grant to the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. The grant announced Wednesday is one of eight awarded nationwide under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. The act requires museums and federal agencies to inventory and identify Native American human remains and cultural items in their collections, and to consult with culturally affiliated Indian tribes, Alaska Native villages, and Native Hawaiian organizations regarding repatriation. The grants are to assist in the repatriation of individuals and sacred objects, objects of cultural patrimony and funerary objects back to the tribes and others.