Cherokee Nation citizen Dusten Brown plays with his daughter Veronica with two unidentified children, far left and far right, in this undated photo. Brown returned to Oklahoma from Army training in Iowa to attend a CN District Court custody hearing regarding his daughter Veronica. COURTESY PHOTO
Dusten Brown returning to Oklahoma
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – The father of a Cherokee Indian girl mired in an adoption dispute was allowed to leave an Iowa National Guard base and return to Oklahoma, an Iowa Guard spokesman said on Aug. 11.
Oklahoma National Guard spokesman Col. Max Moss said Dusten Brown was cleared on Aug. 10 to return to the Oklahoma National Guard.
Brown, a Cherokee Nation citizen, is charged with custodial interference involving his 3-year-old daughter, Veronica. A South Carolina couple has been trying to adopt Veronica since her birth in 2009. They raised her for two years.
Moss said Brown asked for permission to leave training in Iowa to return to Oklahoma so he could attend a hearing in the guardianship case.
The issue has been clouded by the Indian Child Welfare Act, which prompted a court in 2011 to favor the girl living with her father. But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that South Carolina courts should decide who gets to adopt Veronica.
The girl’s biological mother, Chrissy Maldonado, is not Indian and supports the adoption. She has filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming the Indian Child Welfare Act is unconstitutional.
More recently, a South Carolina judge finalized the couple’s adoption and approved a plan to reintroduce Veronica to the couple, Matt and Melanie Capobianco. Brown didn’t show up for the first scheduled gathering Aug. 4, prompting the charge.
Brown was attending a military training school at Camp Dodge, a National Guard base in the Des Moines suburb of Johnston. Iowa National Guard spokesman Col. Greg Hapgood said Brown had been living in barracks at the camp, as is typical for people receiving training.
Brown and others had been given a two-day pass to leave the camp this past weekend. He was supposed to report back on Aug. 11, but that changed when the Oklahoma National Guard freed him from his training orders on Aug. 10 and required he return to Oklahoma, officials said.
The Capobiancos on Aug. 12 called on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help them bring the 3-year-old named Veronica to live with them. Matt Capobianco said he would go to Oklahoma himself to retrieve Veronica if that request is denied.
Several American Indian groups are also pursuing a federal civil rights case, saying a hearing should be held to determine if it is in Veronica’s best interest to be transferred to South Carolina.
Cherokee Nation spokeswoman Amanda Clinton has called the move to charge Brown “morally reprehensible” and “legally questionable.”
Clinton noted in a written statement that the case hasn’t been fully litigated and condemned the charge when there is legal action pending in South Carolina, Oklahoma and Cherokee Nation courts.
The Cherokee Nation District Court had scheduled a closed hearing for the case at 9 a.m. on Aug. 12 in Tahlequah, Okla.
The attorneys for Veronica’s adoptive parents and her birth mother argued in a joint statement on Aug. 11 that not only is Brown committing a felony, but anyone who hides the child from law enforcement or stands in the way of the court order to turn her over – including the Cherokee Nation – also should be considered lawbreakers.
“It seems the lesson here is that Matt and Melanie Capobianco should have refused to turn Veronica over 19 months ago, and denounced it as outrageous that they were being forced to comply with a court order when they still had the entire appeals process before them. They did not do that, because they understood that they would be fugitives from justice if they resorted to ignoring the rule of law,” the statement said.
The statement said the charge filed against Brown isn’t surprising: “It is absolutely necessary to ensure that the rule of law is followed and a little girl is returned to her parents.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials, citizens and guests on July 18 celebrated the life and achievements of former CN Secretary of State Charles L. Head at the Cherokee Courthouse as part of the third annual Charles L. Head Day.
Head co-founded the tribe’s ONE FIRE Against Violence Victim Services Office before dying in a car accident on Jan. 30, 2013 near Chouteau. The CN citizen and Pryor native was 63.
That same year Principal Chief Bill John Baker designated July 18, Head’s Birthday, as a “national day of celebration of the life of Charles L. Head throughout the Cherokee Nation.”
According to the tribe’s website, ONE FIRE provides services to increase the safety for victims of crime. ONE FIRE stands for Our Nation Ending Fear, Intimidation, Rape and Endangerment.
“We’re real excited because today is our annual butterfly release in remembrance of Charles L. Head” ONE FIRE Victim Services Director Nikki Baker said. “Before he passed away, he was really working hard on ONE FIRE, which helps victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Today, we release butterflies in his memory and also to the legacy he leaves behind, which are the survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Domestic violence survivor and former ONE FIRE client Lena Nells also spoke at the event about how the program helped her be successful after being abused.
Nells, who is Cheyenne-Arapaho, Kickapoo and Navajo, said as commissioned intelligence officer for the U.S. Army she never expected her life to be affected by domestic violence but was thankful ONE FIRE was available when it did.
“They educated me, helped me understand what I was going through.” Nells said.
Other speakers described how the program has helped and what Head meant to them. ONE FIRE Victim Services Manager Amanda Drizzle told the audience that the department saw 216 clients in 2015 and has seen 107 in 2016.
“We were also able to help 120 kids get to safe homes,” Drizzle said. She also credited CN marshals for their help in domestic violence issues. “They’ve been referring a lot of people to us, and we’ve been able to help a lot of women get to households…Out of these people, we were able to get several women to safe homes, where they could spend Christmas, where they can spend birthdays, where they can come home safe after work.”
Former Little Miss Cherokee and sexual assault survivor Cierra Fields read a poem honoring both the domestic violence victims and their caregivers as butterflies were released.
“With this symbolic gesture, we honor those who have left us and encourage those left behind to continue on the fight, on the wings of hope,” she said.
MUSKOGEEE, Okla. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the conviction and 12-year prison sentence of a former Choctaw Nation construction director.
A three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a motion for a mistrial Tuesday sought by Jason Merida, who was convicted in November 2014 on two counts each of theft and tax fraud and one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit bribery.
Prosecutors alleged contractors used false billing practices between 2008 and 2011 during construction of the tribe's Durant and Pocola casinos. Money generated from the false billings was used to make campaign donations and purchase gifts.
Merida testified he received gifts from vendors but claimed it didn't affect his decisions because he did not have the authority to select contractors.
BRUSHY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Breanna Potter and the Brushy Cherokee Action Association on July 14 hosted the second annual back-to-school giveaway at the Brushy Community Center, providing children and their families needed items such as backpacks, shoes, coats and hygiene kits.
“We…have some families in our area that are homeless. They don’t have anywhere to live,” Potter said. “We have families in our area that live in tents, and those families oftentimes can’t get those types of items. So we’re just here to kind of fill in the gaps.”
In 2015, Potter and the BCCA began applying for an in-kind donation grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation to get the needed items for the giveaway.
“The reason we started writing this grant last year was because there’s a big need in our community for basic essential items, and a lot of time a lot of these families fall through the cracks,” Potter said. “They either make just enough that they don’t qualify for things, or some of the families aren’t actually Cherokee so they don’t qualify for services at the Cherokee Nation. So we have a lot of families that end up falling through the cracks and the system and aren’t able to get the items they need, and the kids are the ones who end up suffering.”
Earlier this year Potter received another grant through the Running Strong for American Indian Youth Foundation called the Dreamstarter Grant. With it she created a youth group in the community to help youths gain leadership skills and learn about diabetes prevention. Now youth group members, known collectively as the Brushy Youth Dream Team, are in turn using those acquired skills to give back to their community with Potter leading them as program director.
Parents of BYDT members said they noticed the development in their children thank to the new skills.
“I think it’s great because my kids are shy. This will teach them, maybe, to communicate better with their peers and with adults and learn to make their way in the community and kind of what their role is, that they can do something even though they’re just kids,” Crystal Thomas, mother of a BYDT member, said.
Potter said the impacts the BYDT and BCCA are making in the community are noticeable with events such as the giveaway.
“The coolest things is when I’m driving around and everything, I see kids out and I see them wearing these shoes, or I see the kids at school and I happen to stop by for a few minutes and some of the kids have the backpacks or the coats,” Potter said.
Potter said the biggest impact she’s seen in the community is that kids are able to receive items that their families struggle to provide. Potter said she and her teams are trying to get additional funding so they can host more events and help more families.
For more information about the BCCA and the BYDT, visit <a href="http://www.brushycherokeeactionassociation.org" target="_blank">brushycherokeeactionassociation.org</a>.
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Members of the Tri-Community (W.E.B.) Association horseshoe league in Briggs, Oklahoma, are set to compete in the 2016 National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Horseshoe Tournament on July 25 through Aug. 6 in Montgomery.
The members include Cherokee Nation citizens Al Ross, David Mallory and Michael Cummings along with United Keetoowah Band citizens Gary Bearpaw and Billy Vann.
As Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association members, all five men compete in sanctioned tournaments throughout the state to qualify for the annual world tournament. They will compete against pitchers from all over the United States, Canada and Switzerland.
This year, the world tournament consists of 935 entries across eight divisions: open men, open women, senior men, senior women, elder men, junior boys, junior girls and junior cadet. The tournament will be held in the Multiplex at the Crampton Bowl.
Mallory, Cummings, Bearpaw and Vann are pitching in the open men’s division while Ross pitches in the senior men’s division.
There are varying classes within each division where a pitcher is seeded based on his/her ringer averages. Bearpaw is seeded in Class A1, the highest class in the men’s division, with Vann seeded in Class A2, Mallory is seeded in Class B1, and Cummings is in Class D1. Ross is seeded in senior Class A.
There are 16 pitchers in each class who pitch over a three-day span known as the preliminary round.
The preliminary round is played July 25 through Aug. 3 for all divisions and classes. Once the preliminary round is complete, monetary prizes worth up to $500 are given to the winners of each class. Winners also have a chance to compete in the championship round Aug.4-6.
Winners of the championship round compete for a monetary prize worth up to $4,200 and to call themselves a world horseshoe champion.
For updates, go to the NHPA Facebook page. For pitching schedules and live coverage, go to <a href="http://www.horseshoepitching.com" target="_blank">www.horseshoepitching.com</a>.
STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) — A prosecutor said the state wants its own psychologist to examine a woman charged with crashing her car into a crowd at the Oklahoma State University homecoming parade.
The Tulsa World reports that a pretrial status conference in 26-year-old Adacia Chambers' case was held Tuesday.
Payne County District Attorney Laura Austin Thomas said the state would like to have its own witness examine Chambers, a Cherokee Nation citizen, if defense attorney Tony Coleman intends to call a psychologist who met with Chambers soon after her arrest.
Coleman said at the hearing that he intends to call on the psychologist to testify. Coleman has said Chambers is mentally ill, but she was found competent to stand trial in December.
According to Coleman, the psychologist has not yet performed his evaluation of Chambers because he hasn't received a copy of the final order from the judge approving the use of state funds to pay for his services.
Prosecutors said Chambers intentionally drove around a police barricade and into spectators on Oct. 24 in Stillwater. Chambers has pleaded not guilty to four counts of second-degree murder and 42 counts of assault and battery.
Chambers' trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 10
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission approved a press release it intends to use to share voting registration and 2017 election information with CN citizens during its July 12 meeting.
In the release, the commission states the first date to remember for the next CN election is Jan. 2, which is the first day to request an absentee ballot.
<strong>Other important dates are:</strong>
• April 21 – Last day to submit an absentee ballot request form for the general election,
• May 27 and May 30 through June 1 – Early walk-in voting,
• June 3 – General election,
• June 26 – Last day to submit an absentee ballot request form for runoff election, and
• July 29 – Runoff election.
According to the release, March 31 is the last day for CN citizens to register to vote for the 2017 election. The release states that the Tribal Council seats up for election in 2017 are districts 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 15 and one At-Large.
According to the release, anyone wanting to vote must be a registered CN citizen and registered to vote with the EC. A tribal citizenship card (blue card) alone does not mean a citizen can vote.
Also, a person must be 18 years old on or prior to the June 3 general election. Voter applications are available at the EC’s office or online at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/elections" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/elections</a>.
“Voters residing within the jurisdictional boundaries may vote at their selected precinct, early walk-in voting, or by absentee ballot. At-Large voters may only vote by absentee ballot or early walk-in voting,” the release states.
A precinct is an official voting place within a district, as designated by the Election Commission. Voters who reside in the jurisdictional boundaries may select a precinct in the district where their residence is located.
Voters residing outside the jurisdictional boundaries, registering for the first time and under the age of 25 may select the districts and precincts of their choice.
For more information, write the EC at P.O Box 1188, Tahlequah, OK 74465 or call 918-458-5899 or toll free at 1-800-353-2895.
To view the July meeting in its entirety click here.
<strong>Frequently Asked Questions</strong>
<strong>How do I get an absentee ballot request form?</strong>
You can get an absentee ballot request form from the Cherokee Nation Election Commission Office, our website, or contact the Election Commission Office and our staff can mail, email, or fax a form to you.
<strong>Will I receive a Precinct Voter ID Card?</strong>
Voters registered in the jurisdictional boundaries will receive a Precinct Voter ID Card to inform the voter where they will go to vote. At-Large voters will not receive a Precinct Voter ID Card because they do not have a precinct in which to vote.
<strong>I do not live within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction, can I still vote?</strong>
Yes. If you have a Cherokee Nation citizenship card (blue card) you are eligible to vote as long as you have registered to vote with the Cherokee Nation Election Commission. Voters who live outside the jurisdictional boundaries are known as At-Large voters.
<strong>I have a felony on my record, can I still vote?</strong>
Yes, there is no law prohibiting you from voting in the Cherokee Nation elections.
<strong>What do I do if I only have a rural route or P.O. Box address?</strong>
If your physical address is a rural route or you only have a P.O. Box, you will need to provide driving directions to your home in order to place you in the correct district.