The Keetoowah Cherokee Casino sits along Muskogee Avenue in Tahlequah, Okla. The casino, which is owned and operated by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, is the center of a federal court filing by Cherokee Nation officials on July 23. The filing seeks an injunction and temporary restraining order to prevent Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn and the Bureau of Indian Affairs from placing land on which the casino sits into trust. ARCHIVE PHOTO

CN files injunction against UKB trust land

07/23/2013 02:09 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation filed a petition on July 23 in federal court in Tulsa for an injunction and temporary restraining order to prevent Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn and the Bureau of Indian Affairs from placing land into trust for the United Keetoowah Band’s casino.

The filing in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Oklahoma states the UKB for more than 18 years has operated the “illegal gaming facility” on 2.03 acres located in Tahlequah, which is the capital of the CN and UKB.

“The attempt by the BIA to place land into trust for another tribe or band of Indians in our jurisdiction is contrary to law, and we intend to prove that in court,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The Cherokee Nation will do everything in its power to preserve the integrity of our sovereignty.”

State officials in 2004 sued the UKB to cease gaming operations. The case was moved to U.S. District Court a year later. The UKB was able to continue gaming with a federal temporary injunction while the trust issue was resolved. The UKB reached an agreement in 2012 with the state to either cease gaming or have the land taken into trust by July 31, 2013.

The BIA recently notified the CN it would proceed with the UKB’s trust application before the deadline. The notification is what prompted the CN’s July 23 filing.

In 2012, hours before a deadline to cease gaming operations on July 30, UKB officials received word that the Department of Interior had granted trust status for casino land. The BIA operates under the DOI.

A 10-page letter from then-acting Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Michael Black stated the evaluation of the UKB request indicates that federal requirements for acquiring the land into trust had been satisfied.

Black added that DOI officials believe the “former reservation” of the CN is the “former reservation of the UKB” and that the “UKB may conduct gaming on this property.”

“Now that we have determined that the former reservation of the Cherokee Nation is also the former reservation of the UKB…the regulatory consent of the Cherokee Nation is no longer applicable,” Black’s letter stated.

According to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, tribes may only game on eligible lands within the limits of the tribe’s jurisdiction, held in trust by the United States.

CN officials have said the UKB has no legal ground for trust land within the Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction. Before the July 30, 2012, decision, the CN was appealing a ruling by former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Larry Echo Hawk that granted the UKB trust status on 76 acres south of the casino.

The UKB opened the casino in 1986 and has operated it without federal oversight or a compact with the state for years. In 2000, the UKB obtained an injunction from then-Cherokee County District Court Judge John Garrett that kept law enforcement from imposing gaming law violations on the casino. That injunction was lifted on July 10, 2012, as part of the UKB’s agreement with the state.

On July 21, 2011, the National Indian Gaming Commission ruled the casino land was not Indian land and didn’t qualify for gaming. Less than a month later, the UKB amended a trust application to include the casino property.

In response to last year’s DOI statement, Hembree said the CN has always had “exclusive jurisdiction over” the 14 counties that make up its boundaries. He said the BIA’s belief that the UKB and CN are both predecessors of the CN “brought over here through the forced removal” was troubling because the UKB formed in 1946 under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act.

In response to the filing, UKB attorney James C. McMillin said the CN’s request was part of its “never ending quest to destroy its Cherokee brother and sisters.”

“The effect of this injunction, if granted, would immediately throw some 300 Keetoowahs out of work. We trust that the federal court, upon hearing all of the evidence, will decline to issue an injunction and permit the Department of Interior provisionally to take the land into trust,” McMillin said.


Click here to view the Plaintiffs' motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction.

Click here to view the Plaintiffs' brief in support of motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction.

Click here to view the declaration of Todd Hembree in support of plaintiff's motion for injunctive relief.

Click here to view plaintiffs' amended motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction.
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08/29/2014 04:09 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix will be selling subscriptions and merchandise Sat. Aug. 30, 2014 during the 62nd Annual Cherokee National Holiday. Come visit with staff members from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Courthouse Square and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. inside the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex during it's annual open house. Scroll through the photos to see when and where each staff member will be.
08/29/2014 11:40 AM
<a href="" target="_blank">Here</a> you will find the schedule of events for the 62nd Annual Cherokee National Holiday.
08/29/2014 10:23 AM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, September 10, 2014. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
08/29/2014 08:31 AM
Tahlequah Daily Press TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Authorities with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service and Ontario Provincial Police in Canada say that until last month, a man living in Tahlequah had been presumed dead as a result of a 1977 barn fire. “The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service, acting on a tip, did locate Ronald Stan alive and living in Tahlequah on Aug. 5,” said Amanda Clinton, the Cherokee Nation communications director. She said the tribe would make no other comment about the discovery. Authorities in Canada say Stan, who has been living in Tahlequah under the alias of Jeff Walton, disappeared from his home in Ontario nearly 37 years ago. According to media reports out of Canada, Stan lived in the former Township of East Williams in Middlesex County, but was reported missing when a barn caught fire on Sept. 29, 1977. Witnesses reportedly saw Stan near the barn before it broke out into a blaze. Remnants of a body were never found, but in 1986, Stan was declared legally dead in Canada. He had reportedly left behind a wife and children there. But authorities in Canada say a recent audit of Stan’s disappearance somehow connected the supposedly missing person to a man living near Tahlequah, 69-year-old Jeff Walton. According to some media reports, police used Facebook connections to pinpoint Walton in Cherokee County. Authorities have not said what Stan’s motives might have been for disappearing 37 years ago, nor whether the barn fire thought to have taken his life was or is now considered to have been suspicious. But Canadian officials have suggested Stan faces no criminal charges there. Stan’s 35-year-old son, Jeff Walton Jr., told the Toronto Star that his family is “still trying to put all the puzzle pieces together.” He said family members from Stan’s U.S. life learned of the former life last month. Stan reportedly has grandchildren in the U.S. as well. On April 23, 2000, Stan, under the name of Walton, married Cherokee County resident Debra E. Proctor in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Court records show Proctor and Stan divorced earlier this month – according to Walton Jr., because of the revelation of his father’s secret Canadian past. In Proctor’s petition for divorce, she cites “incompatibility” between herself and Stan. Walton Jr. told the Toronto Star that his father now suffers from vascular dementia and heart disease, and was in a nursing home when authorities began to uncover Stan’s past. According to court documents, Stan has also gone by the name of Jeff Winton, and reportedly spent some time in Louisiana after leaving Canada. “It’s been tough on me, but he’s still my father,” Walton Jr. told the Toronto Star. “It doesn’t change the man I knew for 35 years. Hopefully one day, he can sit down and write a book and remember all the stuff he’s been through in his life. It’d be a damn good book, I’ll tell you that, just from what I’ve heard.” Canadian media also reported that the Ontario Provincial Police have closed their case. – REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION
08/28/2014 01:21 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The stables are filling up as quarter horse racing returns to Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs on Sept. 6 for a fifth consecutive year. The schedule features 28 days of American Quarter Horse Association, Appaloosa and Paint races through Nov. 8. Races begin at noon every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each day features 12 races. Popularity of the track’s quarter horse racing meet continues to draw some of the most talented people in the sport to WRD. “We are very excited that Eddie Willis and Toby Keeton, the top two trainers in earnings in the United States, will be returning with full stables to compete at this year’s meet,” Jesse Ullery, WRD racing secretary and simulcast manager, said. The 2014 WRD racing schedule features 34 stakes races. Top 10 qualifiers from the non-pari-mutuel Kansas Jackpot Trials and Black Gold Division 350 Futurity Trials previously held on Aug. 23 will be part of the opening race cards for the finals on Sept. 9. Both finals include added money, with the Black Gold Division 350 Futurity Finals guaranteeing $150,000, while $25,000 is promised for the Kansas Jackpot Futurity Finals. Race fans visiting on Sept. 28 will witness the $15,000 added AQHA Zoetis Starter Allowance Challenge, the $27,500 guaranteed AQHA John Deer Juvenile Challenge Finals, the $30,000 added AQHA Red Cell Distance Challenge Finals and the AQHA Adequan Derby Challenge Finals, worth an estimated $32,500. The 400-yard Black Gold Division 400 Futurity Finals for 2-year-olds on Oct. 5 also promises to be an exciting event, adding $150,000 to the pot with $7,500 going to stallion awards. “We have a very competitive stakes program this year for all ages of horses. There is a lot to see,” Ullery said. The $294,625 Black Gold Futurity Championship highlights the meet on Nov. 8. The finale on Nov. 8 also includes the $25,000 Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Derby Finals and the Oklahoma Horsemen’s Association Mystery Futurity Finals Grade II, worth $75,000. Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs is located 3 miles east of Claremore on Highway 20. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and click on the Will Rogers Downs tab or call (918) 283-8800.
08/26/2014 02:28 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation department employees are completing work in preparation for the Cherokee National Holiday. The annual event begins on Aug. 29 and ends Aug. 31. A listing of holiday event times and locations can be found <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. The task of preparing for nearly 100,000 visitors requires multiple departments to work together to complete the variety of improvements to event locations. Cherokee National Holiday Director Lou Slagle acknowledged CN Facilities Dept. for taking on the majority of the physical labor.