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

08/12/2013 08:36 AM
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.”

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07/01/2015 08:37 AM
In this month's issue: • Baker, Crittenden win 2nd terms • 6 Tribal Council candidates win, 2 are incumbents • Dist. 6, At-Large council races head to runoffs • Chief, governor sign hunting, fishing compact much more. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the July 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix.
06/30/2015 04:21 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn announced June 16 that Indian Affairs offices and bureaus have hired nearly 600 American Indian and Alaska Native veterans in fiscal year 2015. Those numbers exceed the goal set last year to increase the number of Native American veterans employed by these agencies from nine percent of the workforce to 12.5 percent. “Our intent to build a 21st century Indian Affairs workforce depends upon attracting and retaining experienced and motivated personnel, and we know that America’s veterans are among the most capable, dedicated and well-trained individuals we need,” Washburn said. “I am very proud that we have not only met, but exceeded our goal of hiring American Indian and Alaska Native vets. We will continue to provide those veterans with opportunities to use their knowledge and skills in our mission of serving Indian Country.” On June 14, 2014, Washburn announced the launch of a new initiative to hire more American Indian and Alaska Native veterans throughout Indian Affairs, which includes the Office of the Assistant Secretary, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Bureau of Indian Education. The initiative targets veterans prior to their discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces and actively seeks members of the National Guard and reserves who are looking for careers that serve Indian Country. Indian Affairs bureaus, regional offices and agencies provide a wide range of direct services to 566 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes and thousands of Indian Trust beneficiaries. Almost all Indian Affairs positions are filled with American Indians and Alaska Natives under a congressionally approved Indian Preference policy. In total, Indian Affairs employees number approximately 7,940. They work throughout the United States not just with tribes, but also with state, local and other federal agencies in matters ranging from public safety, family and child welfare, and education to infrastructure maintenance, environmental protection, land and natural resources management, and other areas. For more information about Indian Affairs’ Hire American Indian and Alaska Native Veterans Initiative, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call Nancy Nelson, Human Resources Specialist, Indian Affairs Office of Human Capital Management, at 202-208-6175.
06/30/2015 11:10 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Council candidate Keith Austin filed a request with the Cherokee Nation Election Commission on June 29 to have the Dist. 14 election recounted. According to his request, Austin wants the recount to include “all in-district ballots, early voting ballots and absentee ballots.” According to certified general election results, William “Bill” Pearson defeated Austin by one vote to win the Dist. 14 Tribal Council seat. Results show that Pearson received 534 votes for 50.05 percent of the ballots, while Austin received 533 votes for 49.95 percent. Both Austin and Pearson declined to comment about the recount request. Recount requests can be made up to 5 p.m. on July 1. EC officials said recounts cost $750 per district and $750 for absentee ballots. EC officials said the tribe’s Supreme Court justices would be present during the recount, which is slated for Thursday, July 2. The EC has July 2-3 to complete any recounts. Election appeals can be filed through July 6, according to the EC’s timeline.
Senior Reporter
06/30/2015 08:35 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With quiet determination, 19 “Remember the Removal” cyclists pedaled up a long, steep hill on June 24 about two miles from Stilwell – the next-to-last stop of their nearly 1,000-mile journey retracing the northern route of the Trail of Tears. On a hot day, the cyclists stared at the pavement or looked straight ahead as they quickly ascended the hill with legs strengthened by climbing mountains in Tennessee and rolling hills in Missouri. One of those riders, 37-year-old Kevin Tafoya, of the Wolftown Community in Cherokee, North Carolina, was a cyclist at the rear of the group, but still moved steadily up the hill. He was riding with his new “family” and would not quit nor let them down. “I thought I was going to have a hard time matching faces to names, but now that we’ve ridden together, camped together, eaten together, it’s like you know everybody personally, all their little quirks. You can recognize them from behind and their riding style. It’s just like they’re family now,” Tafoya said. He said if called upon when he gets home to speak about the three-week trip through seven states he would tell people the trip is mostly about remembrance. “Just to remember what happened to our people and what they had to go through. We need to honor that memory and just keep it alive for our kids, so we know what our past is and how much we’ve been affected as a people,” he said. Caleb Cox, 19, of Miami Oklahoma, said the ride’s last day was “surreal” and “emotional” for him as he anticipated riding into Tahlequah on June 25 with family and friends waiting on him. “It’s really bittersweet. We’re all excited to see our families, but we also made another family here. It’s going to be really, really hard, but we’re excited and grateful,” he said. “Coming in I didn’t think that all of these people that I didn’t even know would become family. It’s kind of like those blessings in disguise I guess. I’ve learned a ton about our history and culture, and I’m just really blessed to be a part of the select few that were able to do this.” He said now that he’s seen firsthand the graves, the tough terrain and other obstacles Cherokee people faced during the forced removals in 1838-39, it’s his and the other cyclists’ responsibility to share those stories and how they felt at those places with others. The cyclists averaged 60 to 70 miles a day, and Cox said getting up early some mornings, at 5:30 or 6, was tough because the cyclists were always fatigued. “It was the hardest thing, but then again when you’re sitting there you’re thinking ‘I’m blessed to be able to sleep in a bed, and I’m blessed to be able to rest.’ That’s what kept us going along with all the other riders, the support we had, and the kinship we gained on the ride. When we struggled, we helped each other out, and we just remembered our ancestors had it a lot worse,” he said. Darius Thompson, 19, of the Wolftown Community, said the trip was life-changing, and he’s more appreciative of what his ancestors went through. “Just being at the campsites and seeing it firsthand and seeing what they went’s been an amazing journey. I know the true meaning of being Cherokee now,” he said. “Every day was something new. We had a tough time dealing with the heat. Some days I just wanted to fall over on my bike, but I looked over at my teammates and they were struggling with me, so that gave me strength to keep pedaling.” “Remember the Removal” ride coordinator Joseph Erb also said the trip was a “life-changing experience” for the 12 Cherokee Nation and seven Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclists who started the ride June 7 in New Echota, Georgia. “You know we travel those long distances and we run into lots of people who don’t know our story, and they’re living right on the trail. This crew represented you guys very well,” Erb said to the parents and family members at the return ceremony held June 25 on the Cherokee Courthouse Square. “It’s a painful journey, to not only learn the history, to see the places where our people perished. Cemeteries, sites, camps, we got to see all of that, and we’re honored and thank our nations for the support. These kids are better than when they left. They’ll be better for the rest of their lives for it.” The other 2015 Remember the Removal cyclists are CN citizens Tristan Trumbla, 25, Tahlequah; Kayla Davis, 19, Stilwell; Tanner Crow, 19, Tahlequah; Charles “Billy” Flint, 25, Tahlequah; Shawna Harter, 18, Tahlequah; Maggie McKinnis, 16, Hulbert; Wrighter Weavel, 18, Tahlequah; Alexis Watt, 21, Monkey Island; Tennessee Loy, 22, Kenwood; Hailey Seago, 18, Claremore; and Haylee Caviness, 18, Tahlequah. The other EBCI cyclists are Savannah Hicks, 21, Painttown Community; Corlee Thomas-Hill, 25, Yellowhill Community; Matthew Martens, 30, Yellowhill Community; Kelly Murphy, 25, Painttown Community; and Jake Stephens, 36, Birdtown Community. The 2015 “Remember the Removal” ride is chronicled on Facebook at
06/29/2015 12:33 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission certified voting results from the June 27 general election during a special meeting on June 29. Winners for the eight races in which a victor was declared are: • Bill John Baker, principal chief, • S. Joe Crittenden, deputy chief, • Rex Jordan, Dist. 1, • David Walkingstick, Dist. 3, • Shawn Crittenden, Dist. 8, • Dick Lay, Dist. 12, • Buel Anglen, Dist. 13, and • William “Bill” Pearson, Dist. 14 There will be two run-off elections slated for July 25. In the Dist. 6 Tribal Council race, Natalie Fullbright will face Bryan Warner. In the At-Large Tribal Council race, Wanda Claphan Hatfield will face Betsy Swimmer. The EC will mail runoff absentee ballots July 13-14. Voters interested in early walk-in voting can do so from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18 and July 21- 23 at the Election Services Office in Tahlequah. Election day voting will be held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precincts inside the tribe’s jurisdiction. The EC election timeline states the recount request deadline was 5 p.m. on July 1. Recounts were scheduled for July 2-3 with Supreme Court justices in attendance. The election appeals deadline was July 6. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court was expected to hear any of those cases on July 7-9. Candidates elected to office during the general and runoff elections are to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline. For more information on the upcoming runoff elections, call 918-458-5899. According to the EC, the June 27 election had 19,298 ballots cast out of 63,703 registered voters. <a href="" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the official count document.
06/29/2015 01:26 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to the certified election results of the June 27 general election, William “Bill” Pearson beat Keith Austin by one vote to win the Tribal Council’s Dist. 14 seat. Results show that Pearson received 534 votes for 50.05 percent of the ballots, while Austin received 533 votes for 49.95 percent. The Cherokee Phoenix contacted both candidates, but neither was available for comment at the time of publication. The EC certified the results at on June 29. Candidates have until 5 p.m. on July 1 to request a recount. Recounts are scheduled for July 2-3 with Supreme Court justices in attendance. The election appeals deadline is July 6. Provided there are any appeals, the Supreme Court will hear those cases July 7-9. Candidates who are elected to office during the general and runoff elections are expected to be sworn in Aug. 14, according to the tribe’s election timeline. The runoff election is set for July 25.