Cherokee Nation citizen Sharon Kyles of Locust Grove, Okla., completes a change-of-address form on June 22 after casting a challenged ballot in the Dist. 15 Tribal Council race. Precinct workers in the Locust Grove Town Hall said she was supposed to vote in the Dist. 9 race despite Kyles receiving a letter from the tribe’s Election Commission stating she was in Dist. 15. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

6 incumbents to remain on Tribal Council

Cherokee Nation citizen Jimmy Leeds of Tahlequah, Okla., signs in on June 22 to vote in the Tribal Council election at the Dist. 2 precinct in the W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A Cherokee Nation citizen on June 22 places her ballot into a ballot machine at the District 2 precinct located in the W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Okla. Candidates Tamsye Dreadfulwater and Joe Byrd were vying for the seat. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Lorraine A. Gifford of Rocky Ford, Okla., places her ballot for the Dist. 2 Tribal Council race in a ballot machine located at the precinct inside Lowery Public School. The Cherokee Nation’s election was held on June 22 and Dist. 2 pitted Tamsye Dreadfulwater against incumbent Joe Byrd. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Jeanette Riley of Locust Grove, Okla., votes in a Tribal Council election on June 22 at the precinct located in the Locust Grove Town Hall. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Linda Keener of Rose, Okla., votes in the Tribal Council elections on June 22 at the precinct located in the tribe’s AMO Clinic in Salina. JAMI CUSTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Jimmy Leeds of Tahlequah, Okla., signs in on June 22 to vote in the Tribal Council election at the Dist. 2 precinct in the W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/23/2013 04:42 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to unofficial results from the Cherokee Nation’s June 22 election, six current Tribal Councilors will remain on the legislative body when the new 15-district representative map replaces the five-district map on Aug. 14. In two other district races, one incumbent faces a runoff while another incumbent lost.

Incumbent Joe Byrd of Tahlequah will serve as councilor for the new Dist. 2. Unofficial results showed Byrd receiving 67.97 percent of the votes, or 416 ballots, while Tamsye Dreadfulwater of Tahlequah received 32.03 percent or 196 votes.

“Now it’s time to go to work,” Byrd said. “And all the people that helped, the volunteers, the people that let me put signs in their yard, it was really a team effort and there were a lot of people involved with my reelection and I just want to thank all of the people that supported me.”

Byrd previously served on the Tribal Council from 1987-95 and since 2012. He also served as principal chief from 1995-99.

“One of my main initiatives in this go-around is going to be making sure that any of the elderly that want a storm shelter, I want to make sure they have one available to them because of the uncertainty of what our weather patterns have been,” he said. “Everybody talks about health care and scholarships, and that’s OK and I still support that, but I’m really going to concentrate on our elders this go-around.”

In the Dist. 4 race, incumbent Don Garvin of Muskogee will face challenger Mike Dobbins of Fort Gibson in a runoff election on July 27 because Garvin did not receive more than 50 percent of the vote.

Garvin received 304 votes, or 43.8 percent, while Dobbins received 240 votes or 34.58 percent. Candidate Justin Carlton of Muskogee received 150 votes or 21.61 percent.

Attempts to reach Garvin for a comment were unsuccessful.

Dobbins said he was “happy” to be in the runoff and he has a lot of work in front of him. He added that the biggest concern for Dist. 4 constituents is health care.

“With sequester cuts, I’m trying to reassure the Cherokee people that we will everything we can to keep health services intact,” he said.

Incumbent David Thornton of Vian will serve as Tribal Councilor for the new Dist. 5 when he’s inaugurated. Results showed that Thornton received 56.75 percent of the votes, or 311 votes, while his opponents Dink Scott of Vian received 35.22 percent or 193 votes. Candidate Sherri Doolin of Braggs received 44 votes for 8.03 percent.

Thornton was first elected to the council in 2003. The Phoenix attempted to reach him but was unsuccessful.

In the Dist. 7 race, incumbent Frankie Hargis of Stilwell received 547 votes, or 55.09 percent, to defeat Joe Adair of Stilwell who received 446 votes or 44.91 percent.

Hargis first won a seat on the council in December 2011 during a special election to fill a seat vacated by now Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden. She also defeated Adair in that race.

Hargis credited her friends and family for working “tirelessly” with her to win the race. She said she appreciated those who voted for her and gave her their support.

Hargis said she’s heard from Cherokee people that they need help with application processes to receive tribal services such as housing, health care and education.

“We’ve made progress with all of that, and I’m so happy that I get to continue to help moving us forward to even better opportunities for our people,” she said.

In Dist. 9, unofficial results show that incumbent Curtis G. Snell of Rose won by 57.49 percent, or 407 votes, to defeat Lonus Mitchell of Rose who got 301 votes for 42.51 percent. Attempts to reach Snell were unsuccessful.

In Dist. 10, Harley Buzzard of Eucha received 66.82 percent of the vote for getting 290 ballots, while his opponent Nettie Detherage of Fairland received 33.18 percent or 144 votes.

Buzzard was not available for comment when election results were posted.

Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr., drew no opponent for the new Dist. 11, so he will be inaugurated on Aug. 14 as that district’s council representative.

Three candidates campaigned for the Dist. 15 seat and unofficial results show that Janees Taylor of Pryor won with 50.7 percent or 289 votes. Incumbent Meredith Frailey of Locust Grove had 45.96 percent of the vote or 262 votes, and candidate Marilyn Cooper of Locust Grove got 19 votes for 3.33 percent.
Attempts to reach Taylor were unsuccessful.

The council’s At-Large Seat No. 2 had six candidates vying for it. Unofficial results show incumbent Jack Baker of Nichols Hills winning with 739 votes for 51.64 percent.

Candidates Curtis Bruehl of Norman received 30.4 percent from 435 votes. Ken Luttrell of Ponca City got 5.87 percent from 84 votes, while Robin Mayes of Denton, Texas, received 5.24 percent from 75 votes. Curtis West of Klamath Falls, Ore., received 3.63 percent of the vote, 52 votes overall, while Carol Richmond of Tulsa received 46 votes for 3.21 percent.

Although the results were unofficial, Baker said he feels he “fought a clean fight and did not run down any other candidate.”

“Even with all the money that was spent trying to take me out, I think the Cherokee people were able to see through that and still re-elect me,” he said.

The Election Commission is expected to certify the results within three days. – Senior Reporter Will Chavez and Reporters Jami Custer, Tesina Jackson and Stacie Guthrie contributed to this report.


News

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/28/2016 10:00 AM
OCHELATA, Okla. –Tribal Councilor Dick Lay will host a community meeting from noon to 1:30 p.m. on April 30 at the Cooweescoowee Clinic. A meal will be served at noon, and officials with several CN departments will be present to explain the services they provide. For more information, call 918-822-2981.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/27/2016 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading. The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed. The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen. No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water. According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate. “That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.” Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date. When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary. In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level. “Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.” The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead. For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/27/2016 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Employees from Cherokee Nation Businesses and Cherokee Nation Entertainment are once again celebrating the spring season by volunteering in a statewide initiative to make Oklahoma cleaner, greener and more beautiful. Joining the Oklahoma Department of Transportation and Keep Oklahoma Beautiful for the 28th annual Trash-OFF, employees from the tribe’s corporate and entertainment properties cleared trash and debris from alongside local roadways. Trash-OFF is Oklahoma’s signature event in the Great American Cleanup, the nation’s largest community improvement program. Each spring, Trash-OFF brings together thousands of volunteers working to improve the state’s appearance and the safety of its roads. The official Trash-OFF cleanup day was April 23, but the annual effort is held from March 1 through May 31. CNB and CNE employees are volunteering throughout April and May. “The Trash-OFF is a great way to unite communities and show pride in Oklahoma,” said Melody Johnson, ODOT Beautification coordinator. “We are fortunate to have so many caring people pitch in to keep our land grand.” The effort to make Oklahoma roads cleaner and safer for motorists is part of a longstanding partnership between CNB and ODOT. CNB’S involvement with cleanup projects, such as Trash-OFF and the Adopt-A-Highway program, are coordinated through the company’s Community Impact Team, which helps promote volunteerism and community engagement for all employees. “We live in such a beautiful part of this country. It is an honor to be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the two-mile stretch of Highway 59 South, near our casino,” said Amber Nelson, Cherokee Casino Sallisaw marketing manager, “Many of our team members drive that route every day and feel proud each time they see the Adopt-A-Highway sign with our name on it.” To beautify local communities, CNB and CNE have additional cleanup days scheduled throughout the year. All eight of CNE’s Cherokee Casinos and Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa have separate CIT teams that also participate in ODOT’s Adopt-A-Highway program.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/26/2016 03:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to courthouse officials, the Cherokee Courthouse will be closed on April 27-28 for building maintenance. “We will be open on Friday for normal business hours,” officials said. The courthouse is located at 101 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-458-9440.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/25/2016 03:30 PM
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration asked the Supreme Court on April 19 to uphold a federal law aimed at people who have been convicted of repeated acts of domestic violence on Indian lands. The case argued at the high court tests whether the law and its stiff prison terms can be used against defendants who did not have lawyers in earlier domestic violence convictions in tribal courts. The U.S. appeals court in San Francisco threw out a 46-month federal prison term for defendant Michael Bryant Jr. because his earlier domestic violence convictions were handled without a lawyer in tribal courts on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in Montana. Several justices seemed skeptical of the argument of Bryant's lawyer, Steven Babcock. Bryant never challenged his earlier convictions or prison sentences of up to a year. Congress has put limits on prison terms imposed by tribal courts. "So if it's a valid conviction, why can't you use it?" Justice Stephen Breyer asked. Babcock said the use of the earlier convictions in prosecuting Bryant on new charges violated his constitutional right to a lawyer. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an attorney for criminal defendants in state and federal courts. Under the Indian Civil Rights Act, defendants have the right to hire their own attorneys in tribal court but are not guaranteed that one will be retained by the court for them. Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Prelogar said Congress, in 2005, provided for prosecutions in federal court and lengthier penalties for repeat offenders "in response to the epidemic of domestic violence in Indian Country." Bryant has more than 100 tribal court convictions on his record, including five domestic violence convictions between 1997 and 2007, the government said. In 1999, he attempted to strangle his live-in girlfriend and hit her over the head with a beer bottle, the government said. In 2007, Bryant beat up his girlfriend and kneed her in the face, breaking her nose, the government said. In 2011, federal agents arrested him under the law at issue on charges he beat two women in the span of several months. Prelogar said the appeals court was wrong to rule in favor of defendants like Bryant "who have abused and battered their intimate partners again and again." A decision in U.S. v. Bryant, 15-420, is expected by late June.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/21/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On June 5, 10 Cherokee Nation cyclists and seven Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclists will begin a three-week bicycle ride from New Echota, Georgia, to travel along the northern route of the Trail of Tears. The “Remember the Removal Memorial Ride” ride is held to commemorate the forced removal of Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in the 1830s. Since late January, the CN group has been performing physical training in preparation for the journey. And since March, the riders have been training with their bicycles. Kelsey Girty, 24, of Gore, said the riders begin their training day with Cherokee language and history classes at the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah before preparing their bikes to ride. On April 16, they rode hills to prepare for the hills and mountains they will see in eastern Tennessee and beyond in June. She said the bicycle training she has taken part in has made her stronger. “I remember the first day (of training) we went up a hill and it was like so difficult, and then we went up it two weeks later, and it was nothing. We’ve already overcome a lot of obstacles,” she said. Girty said she grew up playing sports and knows about self-discipline to train and practice on her own. Two days a week she lifts weights and another two days she rides her bicycle or runs, she said, in addition to the training with the nine other riders. Along with preparing for the nearly 1,000-mile journey, all of this year’s cyclists, seven women and three men, must complete a 70-mile ride in one day before they are allowed to go on the trip. “I’ve been thinking about it a lot. We’ve done 54 miles, which is getting us close. That’s the furthest we’ve done so far,” she said. Girty said she’s heard about the Trail of Tears all of her life from family and in school but wants to learn more about it by tracing the actual trail. “This is just a way to actually see it with my own eyes and feel it,” she said. She said she also wants to see the removal route in honor of her grandmother, who told her stories about the Trail of Tears, to make her proud. Amber Anderson, of Warr Acres, guessed she was in for a tough day after she was told the cyclists would be training on hills during their April 16 training ride. They tackled a steep hill on Horseshoe Bend Road south of Tahlequah, which has a 7 percent grade and is about a mile long. The 10 cyclists rode up the hill twice along with other steep hills on the day’s route. “It’s challenging. On weekends we train for two days and then on weekdays they encourage us to train every couple days as well,” Anderson said. At home she trains in a gym twice a week and rides 30 to 40 miles two days a week. She credits ride coordinators Kevin Jackson and Sarah Holcomb for encouraging them to improve and for providing the training needed to prepare for the six states they will cross before returning to Oklahoma. “With every ride everyone seems to be meshing together a little bit better, getting to know each other, getting comfortable around each other,” Anderson said. “It’s really great to work with a team of individuals who are passionate about our culture and are here for the same reasons.” Anderson said her family traveled the northern route of the Trail of Tears in the winter of 1838-39, and she said she not only wants to memorialize the Cherokee people who perished during the forced removals, but also celebrate the Cherokee people’s “tenacity.” Blayn Workman, of Muldrow, seemed unfazed by the hill work on April 16. “Whenever we see someone coming up a hill we always cheer them on and clap and tell them ‘good job,’” he said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape considering we’ve only had our bikes for about four weeks now.” He said he applied to go on the trip because he wants to learn more about his ancestors, culture and about the trail. “In schools they only really teach about the Treaty of New Echota. I just wanted to further my knowledge about it (Trail of Tears),” he said. “I want to see the sights my ancestors used to see every day. I want to see the trail they walked. I want to see the monuments, and I want to become connected with that side of myself.”