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 STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 04:04 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 29, Loretta Lynn will perform at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. After being encouraged to learn to play the guitar and write songs by her husband, Doo, who she married at 13, Lynn quickly became a natural and began playing at area nightclubs. She caught the attention of Zero Records and recorded her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Lynn made herself a fringed cowgirl outfit, and she and Doo drove across the country promoting her single. By fall 1961, Lynn was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage and in 1962 her Decca Record debut came out with the smash hit “Success.” It was the first of her 51 Top 10 hits. Among Lynn’s other songs are “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” “Love Is the Foundation” and “One’s on the Way.” In 1967, she began picking up various Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn dominated the charts with hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Somebody Somewhere,” “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed,” “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” and her 1982 smash hits “I Lie” and “Making Love from Memory,” which brought her into the new decade. In 1971, Lynn and fellow country musician Conway Twitty won several Duet of the Year awards. In 1972, Lynn made history as the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year trophy. The country star continued renewing her creativity after being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 with the hit “Heart Don’t Do This to Me.” In 1988, Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned a gold record in 1994 with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a trio CD with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. In 2000, she was back again with the CD titled “Still Country.” She also returned to the concert trail. In 2002, Lynn published a second memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2003. The following year she won two Grammy Awards for “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with rocker Jack White. Lynn added to her collection of awards in 2008, when she was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010, when she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets start at $40 and go on sale Nov. 28. Tickets are available online in The Joint section of <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will hold its annual “Light Up” event at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The event will feature the Cherokee National Youth Choir, holiday lights as well as cookies and hot cocoa for guests. Following the event will be the Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. in downtown Tahlequah.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/25/2014 08:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – More than 150 people attended the Cherokee Cultural Day event on Nov. 22 at the Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center. The Vinita Indian Territory Coalition and Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez sponsored the second annual event. “This is the second year that I have helped host. We call it ‘Cherokee Culture Day’ at the Vinita health clinic. Last year I came up the idea right before I got elected to council, but I wanted to honor the National Treasures in Vinita because we rarely get a lot of culture activities in Vinita,” Vazquez said. The event had several cultural activities for the community to take part in, including cornhusk dolls, handprint making, basket weaving, story telling and flute playing. Vazquez said she invited two National Treasures to the event as well. “I brought two National Treasures. I try to focus on different ones each year because there are 40-something still living,” she said. Some members of the VITC also volunteered to make Indian tacos and sell them to raise funds for the local Special Olympics team. CN citizen and VITC President Paula Butcher said the VITC raised nearly $700. The money raised will be used to send about 10 kids to the Special Olympics winter games in Oklahoma City. Vazquez said even with the rain the day was a success. “Even though it was cold and rainy people were looking for something to do, and all the artists sold well, and everyone loved it. In fact, I had people come up to me that said ‘how can I participate next year as an artist?” she said. “We were amazed at how busy it was, and I had a door prize drawing every hour.” She added that seeing people of all ages enjoying the many activities was a great sight. “But I think what was just the cutest thing was that different ages of people learning to make baskets…one elderly man standing there working on a basket and an elderly woman was sitting there making the cornhusk dolls. She’d never got to do that before, and then we had lots of kids. So it was fun for everybody,” Vazquez said. Vazquez said she’s thankful for all the help from the volunteers as well as the donation of the location by the CN Vinita Health Center. Vazquez said they plan to continue to have this event each year and eventually grow the VITC and make it into a CN community organization. Cherokees interested in getting in touch with Vazquez can email victoria-vazquez@cherokee.org or call her at 918-323-2980.
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>.