Remember the Removal bike rider Tighe Wachacha celebrates on June 20 as he crosses into Oklahoma from Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cyclists return after retracing Trail of Tears

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians rider Marvel Welch of Cherokee, N.C., center, helps lead the Remember the Removal riders on June 21 into Tahlequah, Okla. At 53, Welch was oldest rider. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Friends and family greet LaTasha Atcity of Tahlequah on June 21 as she enters the Cherokee Courthouse Square in Tahlequah, Okla., during a welcoming ceremony for the Remember the Removal bike riders who retraced the northern route of the Trail of Tears. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclist Hilary Gallegos, right, rides into the Cherokee Courthouse Square during a welcoming ceremony on June 21 for 22 Cherokee riders who retraced the Trail of Tears on the 175th anniversary of the forced removal. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, N.C., speaks on June 21 during a welcoming ceremony about the importance of the Remember the Removal bicycle ride. Cooper, who rode the trek in 2011, commended the Cherokee Nation for organizing the ride. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A map showing the route of the Remember the Removal bike ride from New Echota, Ga., the old Cherokee Nation capital, to Tahlequah, Okla., the current CN capital. COURTESY PHOTO
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians rider Marvel Welch of Cherokee, N.C., center, helps lead the Remember the Removal riders on June 21 into Tahlequah, Okla. At 53, Welch was oldest rider. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter – @cp_wchavez
06/25/2013 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Marvel Welch, 53, the oldest of the 2013 Remember the Removal bicycle riders, helped lead the cyclists on June 21 into Tahlequah as they ended their journey to cheers by family and friends.

Welch was one of seven riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who joined 15 riders from the Cherokee Nation. Together, they rode through seven states in three weeks – from New Echota, Ga., to Oklahoma – to commemorate the Trail of Tears. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the beginning of the forced removal that began in May 1838 when Cherokees were captured and moved to Indian Territory.

Welch of Cherokee, N.C., said her Cherokee ancestors remained in their North Carolina homelands after the removal, but dispelled the thought that her ancestors were not affected.

“My grandfather French moved back to North Carolina (after living in Oklahoma) and brought my mother. He traveled back and forth between Tahlequah and Cherokee,” she said. “This journey has been truly amazing with the young spirits that are with me. They’re all younger. I consider them kids. Their energy has kept me going. The land, at the places we have stopped, you can feel our past relations with us.”

Welch said she struggled at times during the journey, once riding up a large hill in Tennessee’s Cumberland Gap. She said she refused to get off of her bike and walk as other riders saw her struggle and came back to encourage her and put their hands on her back without pushing as she made it to the top of the hill.

“It’s just the amazing the energy that was there and the togetherness. I thought I was here to watch over them, and they were watching over me,” she said.

LaTasha Atcity of Tahlequah said she’s known of the ride since 2009 when it was reorganized 25 years after the initial trek. She hesitated turning in an application for four years. After hearing more about the ride she thought it would be an “amazing experience” because she knew little about her Cherokee heritage or the Trail of Tears and saw the ride as a way to learn.

“That’s something that really motivated me – to figure out what my heritage is and (learn about) the ancestors that brought me where I am today,” she said. “When I struggled every single day or when it was hot and I’m hungry, I knew that there was an end. My ancestors didn’t really know what the end was going to be. I’m going to go home, and I’m going to be able to sleep in my bed and see my family. They didn’t have that opportunity.”

EBCI rider Tighe Wachacha helped film a documentary about the ride two years ago. He applied for the ride in 2012 but was not selected. He trained and applied for this year’s ride and made the cut.

“After I watched them complete the ride...I immediately knew I wanted to try it,” he said. “Yeah, my ancestors didn’t have to make the trip, but the people of the Cherokee Nation are cousins or brothers and sisters of mine. I get a sense of how they felt leaving my own family behind because I’ve got two girls and a wife at home who I’ve not seen in three weeks.”

Fellow EBCI rider Hilary Gallegos said the opportunity to take the journey gave her a chance to learn about a time in Cherokee history that her family barely discussed and to form a bond with Oklahoma Cherokees.

“I’m glad I had this opportunity to get to know the facts about the Trail of Tears and what happened and to let everyone know we’re still here,” she said. “I’m just overwhelmed with joy for getting to know those that are in this journey that will forever be my family.”

The riders pedaled 950 miles through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma via a land route known as the Northern Route. Approximately 16,000 Cherokee people were removed from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina in the spring of 1838. It’s estimated nearly 4,000 of them died during the roundup, incarceration and removal.

EBCI rider Yona Wade said he can imagine how Cherokee people felt leaving their homes as he left his in Cherokee, crossing the Tennessee River at Blythe Ferry and watching the mountains fade into the distance.

“The Trail of Tears is a very important part of Cherokee history as a whole and us as one people, so it was very important for me to participate in this to understand the trials and tribulations our people faced during their journey to Oklahoma,” Wade said.

During the welcoming ceremony, Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, spoke about the importance of the ride and encouraged CN leadership to support it. Cooper, who took the ride in 2011, commended the CN for organizing it to instill leadership in youth and teach Cherokee history.

“I am confident that your investment in your future leadership will bring you more yield than anything else you could possibly invest in,” he said. “We hope that you endeavor to keep this alive and that you will continue to put all the resources necessary into ensuring that not only our tribe, the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Band, UKB (United Keetoowah Band) and tribes across the country never forgets the Trail of Tears, but that our country never forgets the Trail of Tears.”

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
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.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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.
BY LENZY KREHBIEL-BURTON
Special Correspondent
06/27/2016 12:28 PM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Cherokee Casinos’ footprint may be going beyond Oklahoma’s borders in the near future. On June 23, Arkansas Wins in 2016, an advocacy group trying to expand commercial gaming into the Natural State, announced that it had reached an agreement with Cherokee Nation Entertainment to own a casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County, Arkansas. “It’s been an interest of ours for many years to leverage our nearly 30 years’ experience in gaming, hospitality and entertainment into markets outside of Oklahoma,” Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said. “This commercial gaming venture is a natural evolution of our business model that will be good for the state, northwest Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation. We employ thousands of people, and are good community partners, and we look forward to extending that into Arkansas.” The agreement is contingent upon the passage of a potential ballot measure. On June 1, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the form for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow gaming in three specific counties: Washington, Boone and Miller. Boone County is in north-central Arkansas near Branson, Missouri. With its county seat at Texarkana, Miller County is in the southwestern corner of the state. The state’s third-most populous county, Washington County is home to the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus in Fayetteville. Robert Coon, a spokesman for Arkansas Wins in 2016, said the group’s decision to target specific counties rather than seek approval for gaming statewide was a conscious one to not over-saturate Arkansas’ gaming market. In addition to a statewide lottery, there is a horse race facility with video poker in Hot Springs and a dog racing track in West Memphis. State law currently only allows casinos at facilities with pari-mutuel betting. “We don’t want to overwhelm the market,” Coon said. “We wanted to look at where would be opportunities where there’s already specific tourism draws where people are going and taking their money outside the state’s boundaries.” According to the ballot measure’s text, an Arkansas-based limited liability company would operate each of the three sites, which would be subject to state law. The commercial casinos would also be governed by regulations enacted by the Arkansas Gaming Commission, established by the same ballot measure. “The Cherokee Nation, just like any other operator, would be subject to the requirements of the amendments, including laws enacted by the General Assembly,” Coon said. “They would be an operator just like any other business venture operator would be treated here.” Repeating language from the proposed ballot measure, Amanda Clinton, Vice President of communications for CNB, said the casino would be subject to the laws enacted by the Arkansas General Assembly, regulations promulgated by the Arkansas Gaming Commission. Several of the specifics about the project, including the site, size, number of new jobs and available amenities, have not yet been determined. Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs is about 30 minutes away from Washington County’s two largest communities: Fayetteville and Springdale. For the measure to get on the November ballot, organizers must collect signatures from 84,859 registered Arkansas voters by July 8. Coon was unable to provide the number of signatures collected as of June 24, but said the group was “on track” to meet the minimum requirement by the Arkansas secretary of state’s deadline. Two similar referenda were slated to go before Arkansas voters in 2012, but both were stricken from the ballot at the last minute due to litigation. In an interview with the Tulsa World, Slaton confirmed that ties between CNB and the Arkansas pro-casino group were established during that failed 2012 campaign. “We’ve watched closely as Arkansas has moved to legalize casino gaming in recent years,” Clinton said. “Now that this initiative seems poised to be on the ballot this fall, it was the perfect time for this strategic business decision.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/25/2016 10:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A man who pleaded guilty in the killing of a prostitute featured on the HBO series “Cathouse” and three other people has testified in the Oklahoma City trial of two other men charged in the case. The Oklahoman reports that Cherokee Nation citizen Jonathan A. Cochran, 37, testified June 7 at the trial of Denny Phillips and Russell Hogshooter. Both men charged with six counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy in the deaths of Brooke Phillips, Milagros Barrera, Jennifer Lynn Ermey and Casey Mark Barrientos. The other two murder charges are because Brooke Phillips and Barrerra were pregnant. Hogshooter is accused of shooting Brooke Phillips, who was among the prostitutes featured on the cable network’s show about the Moonlite BunnyRanch, a legal brothel near Carson City, Nevada. Prosecutors say Denny Phillips ordered the killing of Barrientos and that the women were killed to eliminate witnesses. Phillips and Hogshooter have pleaded not guilty. David Tyner, who is also accused of being involved in the slayings, pleaded guilty in the case and has testified that he killed Barrientos, Barrera and Ermey because Denny Phillips threatened his family. Cochran testified that before he entered a home and saw several bodies, he heard muffled gunshots from inside. Cochran, who was given a 25-year prison sentence, also testified that he knew that the killings were going to take place, but that he “didn’t verbally agree to kill anybody.” “I went there under the assumption that somebody else was going to murder someone. I didn’t agree to the murders but I agreed to go down there,” Cochran testified. Cochran said that he saw three bodies in the home once he entered, and that Hogshooter told him to shoot a woman who prosecutors identified as Brooke Phillips. Cochran said he fired a couple of shots, purposely missing. Defense attorneys argue that there are inconsistencies in Cochran’s version of events. But prosecutors argue that significant details of what happened have stayed consistent with other testimony.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/24/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored Korean War veterans Jack Merle Gardner, George Edward Dewayne Johnston, Ralph George Grass and Eva D. Rider Tallon with the Medal of Patriotism at the June 13 Tribal Council meeting. Cpl. Gardner, 74, was born April 16, 1942, in Claremore and joined the Marine Corps in 1959. Gardner attended basic training in San Diego and was sent to Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan, a Marines supply depot. He received weapons maintenance training while in Okinawa and maintained the base’s weapons. He also played football on its team. A colonel saw him playing and had Gardner transferred to Quantico, Virginia. He was part of the traveling football team that played football at Air Force, Army and Navy bases across the country. When the Cuban Missile Crisis began, football was suspended and all Marines were on standby. Gardner received an honorable discharge in 1963. He received medals and ribbons for his service, including the Good Conduct Medal. “Serving the country helped me buy my home and get through college with the GI Bill,” Gardner said. “I appreciate the Cherokee Nation for this recognition award. I also thank the tribe for their quick response when a tumor was found on the lower part of my spine. I thank God they were on the ball.” Staff Sgt. Johnston, 85, was born May 4, 1931, in Kenwood and entered the U.S. Air Force in 1952. Johnston attended basic training in San Antonio and radio school in Biloxi, Mississippi. While waiting for his top-secret clearance, Johnston travelled to Burma, London, Germany and Amsterdam before being stationed in Scotland as a radio operator. He was responsible for copying all Russian aircraft Morse Code transmissions. Johnston spent 20 months overseas copying Russian transmissions. He returned to the United States and received an honorable discharge in 1956. Johnston received ribbons and medals for his service, including the National Defense Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. Petty Officer 3rd Class Grass, 79, was born March 7, 1937, in Locust Grove and enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1955. Grass attended basic training in San Diego and was stationed on the USS McCoy Reynolds, where he trained servicemen from New Zealand. After the USS McCoy, Reynolds was turned over to the New Zealand Navy, deployed on the USS Picking to the South China Sea, where he served as a boiler operator helper. During his service, Grass made one trip around the world. He received an honorable discharge in 1959 and earned ribbons and medals for his service. Cpl. Rider Tallon, 86, was born June 13, 1930, in Bunch and joined the U.S. Army in 1951. She attended basic training at Fort Lee in Virginia and surgical technician school at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio. Rider Tallon was then stationed at Fort Lawton in Washington, where she served as a company clerk. While at Fort Lawton, she received “Soldier of the Week” honors and attended the University of Seattle. She was then deployed to the 8168th Army Hospital Unit in Yokohama, Japan, where she served as the editor of the battalion newspaper and attended Red Cross activities for wounded soldiers from the Korean War. Rider Tallon received an honorable discharge in 1954 and earned ribbons and medals for her service. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/24/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation donated $75,000 to organizations that ensure school children get snacks and school supplies when they return to school this fall. In northeastern Oklahoma at least 20 organizations participate in backpack programs that send backpacks home with students who are in need of everything from school supplies to nutritious weekend snacks. The tribe donated the funds from its donations and charitable contributions budget. Tribal Councilors individually delivered the checks totaling $75,200 to the churches, schools and organizations in their areas. “We have a responsibility to our children, especially those in need, to ensure they have access to basic and essential items when they are away from structured activities like school and church,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Networking with these partners, organizations that have similar values and a mission to help kids, enables us all to do more, and that is critical if we hope to raise healthy and happy children in northeast Oklahoma. If we can address any insecurity a child has at home, whether it’s food or clothing or supplies, then we are helping build a better tomorrow.” The programs serve 3,643 students, with half of those students being CN citizens. Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd said the tribe is able to help more families when developing healthy partnerships with organizations inside the 14-county jurisdiction. “By partnering with churches, schools and organizations inside the communities, we are able to make the greatest impact with our tribal dollars,” Byrd said. “These organizations know the needs of our young people in their respective communities, and I am proud that the Cherokee Nation can contribute to meeting those needs.” Organizations receiving funds are in Adair, Cherokee, Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Muskogee, Nowata, Rogers, Sequoyah and Washington counties. New Life Church in Stilwell received $15,000 to help. At the beginning of every school year, the church hosts a cookout and backpack giveaway night for parents and students in Adair County. The church also partners with four rural Adair County schools and uses the donation to provide nutritious weekend snacks to students every week during the school year. “We are so thankful to be able to partner with the Cherokee Nation and help students and parents in our area with necessary school supplies and nutritious snacks on the weekend,” said New Life Church Pastor Max Ford. “The tribe’s generosity is a godsend for our community, and we are more than happy to help pass that blessing on to those in need.” <strong>Receiving Donations</strong> Organization, County, Award New Life Church, Adair, $15,040 Hulbert Public Schools, Cherokee, $9,388.32 Tahlequah Public Schools, Cherokee, $3,689.94 Craig County Salvation Army, Craig, $1,121.49 Okay Public Schools, Delaware, $1,961.74 Choteau-Mazie Public Schools, Mayes, $781.04 First United Methodist Church Locust Grove, Mayes, $710.95 Boulevard Christian Church, Muskogee, $2,350 Chandler Road Church of Christ, Muskogee, $555.45 Eastern Heights Baptist Church, Muskogee, $1,516.82 First United Methodist Church Muskogee, Muskogee, $1,602.27 Grace Ministries Inc., Muskogee, $341.82 Warner Public Schools, Muskogee, $3,845.45 Boys & Girls Club of Nowata, Nowata, $6,118.14 Oologah United Methodist Church, Rogers, $791.58 Rogers County Salvation Army, Rogers, $14,248.42 Hillside Pentecostal Church, Sequoyah, $1,388.64 Lee’s Chapel Assembly of God, Sequoyah, $2,307.27 The BOD Church, Sequoyah, $1,132.27 Agape Mission of Bartlesville Inc., Washington, $6,308.39