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

Court: Man can challenge Oklahoma 'rain god' plate

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.

News

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
11/24/2014 08:37 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – It’s been 10 years since Oklahoma voters approved State Question 712, the constitutional amendment that allowed state tribes to bring in compact games, like those at casinos in Las Vegas, into their respective casinos. Cherokee Nation, along with those who supported SQ712, celebrated the state question’s 10th anniversary during a Nov. 17 gathering at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said passing SQ712 was a “win-win” for the state, tribes, Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and education. “You’ve heard the numbers of economic development and the $1.3 billion impact that only the Cherokee Nation had,” he said. “There are 39 tribes in the state of Oklahoma, and they all have similar circumstances. We are the economic engines of northeastern Oklahoma. We could not be that without 712.” Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry expressed how he had faith in SQ712. “We have so much to be proud of in these 10 short years,” he said. “If you just think about it tribal gaming in the state of Oklahoma has been an unbelievable impact.” Henry said SQ712 betters Oklahomans today and would continue to do so. “I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve done as a state in the last 50 years that has the kind of impact that SQ712 has,” he said. “There were visionaries who saw a great vision in the future, but none of us anticipated the incredible impact of 712 that we see today. I don’t think any of us fully grasp the future of this program and where we’re headed and the incredible things that will result in the state of Oklahoma for all Oklahomans, Native American and not, in the future.” Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton said he’s thankful that Baker has given CNB the opportunity to build clinics and a new hospital in the tribe’s jurisdiction from a portion of the tribe’s gaming profits. “Everyone’s talked about the vision of 712 and where that’s taken us. Chief, I appreciate your vision beyond that and what you’ve allowed the businesses to do with the profits,” he said. “Gov. Henry, I really appreciate you pushing that (712) to a vote of the people, and I’d like to thank the people of the state of Oklahoma for passing it because without them this wouldn’t be possible.” Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird said the addition of compact games to Cherokee casinos has brought in people who would otherwise travel to Las Vegas or Tunica, Mississippi, to game. “Just by virtue of having the ability to take advantage of some of the game libraries that are offered by some of the class three gaming manufactures has brought a lot of new players out to the facilities,” he said. Hummingbird said there are approximately 6,500 gaming machines and 83 table games in Cherokee casinos. “The table games are all compact,” he said. “As far as the total number of compact machines, 60 percent of that roughly is compact games. Our ratio is roughly 60/40 between compact games and Class II games.” Hummingbird said the game ratio has stayed at 60/40 percent for approximately five years but that it could change depending on players’ tastes. “If they are wanting more compact games, or games that we can only get through the compact, then that’s what we will see,” he said. “A lot of this is going to be dictated by the players.” Hummingbird said when looking back he didn’t believe anyone could foresee what SQ712 has provided for tribes and the state. “I think that the overall impact the tribe’s have had by virtue of having the compacts through SQ712 have far exceeded what anybody had anticipated 10 years ago,” he said. “We’ve done this through an effort between the tribal government, including the gaming commission, as well as the casino operators, as well as the vendors and the state. I think the success is not just because of one piece of the puzzle, but just by having everybody working together to make sure it has been a success. It’s been a complete team effort.” After the 2004 election, the CN was one of the first tribes to sign a gaming compact with Oklahoma. Currently 33 of 39 tribes in Oklahoma have gaming compacts. Since the signing the compact, which expires in 2020, the CN has created approximately 4,000 jobs. It has also paid more than $100 million in fees to support Oklahoma’s horse racing industry and approximately $126 million for education. Tribes in Oklahoma have provided approximately $895 million for the state under SQ712. The revenue brought in last year was approximately $122 million. The state originally projected tribes would bring in $71 million per year.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2014 02:39 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 15, comedian Kevin Nealon will bring his stand-up comedy tour to The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. As one of the longest running cast members on “Saturday Night Live,” Nealon created some of the show’s most memorable characters, including The Subliminal Man, Hans and Franz and a reoccurring role as an anchor on Weekend Update. In 1988, he earned an Emmy Award nomination as part of the “SNL” writing team. Since his time on “SNL,” Nealon has encountered great comic success with an extensive film career starring in films such as “Just Go With it,” “Eight Crazy Nights,” “The Wedding Singer,” “Happy Gilmore,” “You Don’t Mess with The Zohan” and “Blended.” Nealon’s other film credits include “Joe Dirt,” “Daddy Day Care,” “Good Boy,” “Grandma’s Boy” and “Bucky Larson: Born to be a Star.” He starred in the television show “Weeds” until the final season in 2009 and is a sought-after guest star on television shows “Hot In Cleveland,” “Franklin & Bash,” “Monk,” “Fat Actress,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Still Standing.” In 2008, Nealon released his first book, “Yes, You’re Pregnant, But What About Me?” – a comical look at the male perspective of pregnancy. In 2009, he scored his first one-hour, stand-up special, “Kevin Nealon: Now Hear Me Out!” which aired on Showtime. In 2012, he recorded his second Showtime stand-up special, “Whelmed… But Not Overly.” Tickets to the show start at $35 and can be purchased online at <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK. For more information on Kevin Nealon, visit <a href="http://www.kevinnealon.com/" target="_blank">kevinnealon.com/</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2014 12:18 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – After touring and recording for the past 44 years, ZZ Top will be performing on Jan. 16 at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers will perform classic hits ranging from “Sharp Dressed Man” to “La Grange” and “Legs” and "Tush" along with “I Gotsta Get Paid” and other new material from “La Futura,” their latest album with producer Rick Rubin. ZZ Top formed in Houston in 1969, becoming an international touring act in the 1970s. Their unique hybrid of dirty blues and hard rock, incorporating new sounds and technology, earned them induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. The band will be releasing a comprehensive greatest hit collection titled “The Baddest of ZZ Top.” They will be sharing bills with Jeff Beck next summer and undertaking a slate of tour dates on their own in the fall. Tickets to the show start at $60 and can be purchased online at www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com or by calling 918-384-ROCK. For more information on the band, visit <a href="http://www.zztop.com" target="_blank">zztop.com</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
11/21/2014 08:40 AM
LOST CITY, Okla. – American flags lined the dirt road leading up the Swimmer Church in rural Lost City on Nov. 11 as veterans and their families came to partake in the church’s annual Veterans Day program. One of the event’s organizers, Pat Martinez, said her late mother, Lora Crittenden, and her mother’s best friend, Juanita Allen, began honoring veterans at the church 25 years ago on Veterans Day. She said her late uncle, Bob Crittenden, was a prisoner of war during World War II, and her mother and Allen thought it would be nice to honor Bob and other veterans in the community on Veterans Day. “So they called and they went to see people and asked people to come to Veterans Night. They made little trinkets and used crate paper (to make decorations). It’s evolved to 25 years later to what it is now,” Martinez said. “We give them something to remember the church and also to remember them being a veteran. We’re proud of this small community coming together and making a difference.” During the program, veterans enter the church after everyone else is seated and are seated in the front. Veterans are presented with certificates and medals and are asked to stand or sit on the stage and tell everyone the military branch in which they served. After the program, which includes a welcome from the pastor and patriotic songs, the veterans walk next door to the church’s fellowship hall for a potluck meal. Martinez said the church’s congregation understands a program and a meal is “not much” to thank the veterans for their willingness to sacrifice themselves to help protect the country. “If you served during peace time or if you were combat, our freedom still depends on men and women like you,” she said during the program. “God bless you veterans and God bless America.” Cherokee veteran Ross Gourd, who lives in the nearby community of Double Springs, served in the Army from 1969-71. He has been coming to the Swimmer Church Veterans Day program for 13 years and appreciates that veterans have a place to get together on their day and enjoy a home-cooked meal. He is a recipient of the Cherokee Warrior Award from the Cherokee Nation. Jimmy Carey of Hulbert served in the Air Force during the Vietnam era from 1966-70. “I did what I had to do to show that my people were supportive of this government. I think it’s the greatest government there is. It’s not perfect, but it’s great, and I wouldn’t want to live anyplace else,” he said. A CN citizen, Carey taught the Cherokee language at Sequoyah High School for 14 years and worked for the Nation for 22 years. He retired from teaching this past spring. It was his first time attending the church’s Veterans Day program and he said he was “impressed.” “This is what can happen when you get to thinking you need to do something. I like it. I really do. I’ll be back next year,” he said. Martinez said 20 to 25 veterans attend the program each year, but as the years pass there are less and less World War II and Korean War veterans. “We hope the younger ones will pick up the torch and come,” she said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/19/2014 10:01 AM
WASHINGTON – Photographer Dana Gluckstein is working alongside Amnesty International to honor Native American Heritage Month. In doing so they announced the tour of DIGNITY: Tribes in Transition, an award-winning photography exhibition that honors indigenous peoples worldwide. Exhibition photographs are being shared on social media sites during November. The exhibition will open on Jan. 29 at the Boston University Art Gallery. According to a Boston University College of Fine Arts press release, DIGNITY’s artistry, power and impassioned call to action create a historic exhibition in support of indigenous peoples, who represent six percent of the global population. DIGNITY previously toured in European museums for the past several years. More exhibition dates and locations will be announced soon. To view Gluckstein’s work, visit her Twitter and Instagram @DanaGluckstein.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
11/18/2014 01:52 PM
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Revenue at U.S. casinos jumped more than 6 percent in 2012, the first significant increase in three years as economic growth picked up speed and more casinos opened in several markets. But revenue generated by Indian casinos rose less than 2 percent the same year, Casino City’s North American Gaming Almanac found. Growth is limited due to regulations restricting tribal casino expansion beyond reservations and differences between tribes over how best to expand, said Vin Narayanan, editor-in-chief of Casino City. “There’s a giant political question about that,” he said. Total gambling revenue in 2012 was $94.47 billion, with the largest share, $40.38 billion, from casinos and card rooms. Tribal casinos generated $28.14 billion followed by lotteries ($23.41 billion) and racing and sports gambling ($2.55 billion) in 2012. Casino revenue grew by a fraction of 1 percent in 2011 and 2010 and fell nearly 6 percent in 2009 as the steepest economic downturn since the Depression took hold. Year-to-year revenue changes are vastly different from one state to another. In Ohio, for example, total gambling revenue jumped by one-third from 2011 to 2012 as casino gambling ramped up. But in New Jersey, seventh largest among the states in overall gambling revenue in 2012, casino revenue fell from $3.69 billion in 2009 to $2.71 billion in 2012 as three Atlantic City casinos shut. Nevada, California and New York are the top three states in casino revenue. Narayanan said saturation is the culprit for the decline of Atlantic City’s casinos, but it’s not an issue elsewhere. “Are there too many casinos in the market? As far as Atlantic City is concerned, there are too many casinos on the market,” he said. But casinos opening in Ohio are satisfying “pent-up demand,” he said. Similarly, the legalization of casino gambling in Maryland in 2008 and the opening of the state’s first casino in 2010 generated tremendous revenue. Casino and card room revenue increased from $27.6 million in 2010 to $377.8 million in 2012. Total gambling revenue jumped to $1.15 billion in 2012 from $760.6 million in the same period. “Maryland is a place that’s just taking off,” Narayanan said. The opening of casinos in Massachusetts in the next few years is expected to lead to a significant new source of revenue, possibly at the expense of neighboring Connecticut’s Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort casinos. Narayanan questioned if gamblers who check out a Massachusetts casino will still be comfortable traveling to Connecticut’s tribal casinos. “That’s a real good question,” he said.