Council alters its travel policy

02/11/2014 08:09 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Jan. 30 altered their travel policy prohibiting any councilors who declare their candidacies for the principal chief or deputy chief seats from using council travel funds or being reimbursed for any travel other than to committee and full council meetings.

The policy, sponsored by Tribal Councilors Tina Glory Jordan and Jodie Fishinghawk, passed 10-5 in the council’s Rules Committee meeting. Tribal Councilors Jack Baker, Julia Coates, Don Garvin, Lee Keener and Cara Cowan Watts voting against it. Tribal Councilors Harley Buzzard and Frankie Hargis were absent.

Because it is a policy change the item did not have to appear on the Tribal Council’s Feb. 10 agenda, and Glory Jordan was expected to sign the amendment, making it effective in February.

Under the new policy, once Tribal Councilors declare or announce their respective candidacies for the principal chief or deputy chief seats they will not be allowed to use council travel funds and shall not be reimbursed for any travel other than to regular or special committee and full council meetings.

“I believe firmly that council members should use travel money only for official business, not for politics,” Fishinghawk said. “A majority of councilors agreed. The policy is simple: a councilor can travel anywhere they want and even campaign for chief; they just cannot use tribal funds to do so. A couple of our colleagues appeared to be crossing the line, but that won’t be a problem anymore.”

Fishinghawk said the change was brought up because she believed that Cowan Watts and Keener have been abusing the travel policy by “politicking on the tribe’s dime.”

In a Jan. 10 Cherokee Phoenix article, Cowan Watts and Keener stated their intentions to campaign as running mates with Cowan Watts vying for the for principal chief seat and Keener for the deputy chief post in the tribe’s 2015 election.

Fishinghawk said she saw a Facebook posting by Cowan Watts announcing her intention to run for principal chief. She added that if any other councilor had announced their respective intentions to run for a higher office, the policy would also apply to them.

Those interested in running for CN governmental seats in the tribe’s next election can’t file until March 2015.

Keener said the policy change was a simple case of “tyranny of the majority.”

“They think they can do whatever they want to attempt to silence the minority and keep us from doing basic job functions required by the Cherokee Nation Constitution, law and policy,” Keener said.

He said the change was arbitrary and that it denied Cowan Watts and himself travel reimbursements for official business such as to the Joint Tribal Council with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians or the National Congress of American Indians.

“Other official travel required to do our jobs is also stopped,” he said.

Legislative Act 17-09 gives the legislative body the authority to set its own rules and procedures for travel expense reimbursement. The act states that council shall develop internal policies and procedures for reimbursement of mileage and travel expenses concerning any meetings of the Tribal Council, conducting official tribal business or attending other meetings in furtherance of their duties of office.

But Cowan Watts said with the new policy she can’t get reimbursed for traveling to the district she represents for community meetings.

“I live about 20 miles away from the nearest border of District 13 because the same group (of majority councilors) put me in a district where I do not live,” she said. “The majority has taken away reimbursement and funds for travel within my own district when I still have more than a year and a half to serve the Cherokees in portions of Tulsa and Rogers counties.”

At the Jan. 30 meeting, Cowan Watts made a motion to make a friendly amendment to the policy suggesting that it allow councilors who declare or announce their principal chief or deputy chief candidacies to be reimbursed when traveling to the Cherokee National Holiday, Joint Council, Presidential Inauguration events and NCAI meetings. The friendly amendment was denied.

“I understand tribal resources are not to be used for campaigning,” Cowan Watts said. “I do not understand the behavior of tyrants who abuse their power to silence the voice of the minority. By cutting Lee Keener and my day-to-day travel monies for council business, as well as other official travel such as Joint Council with the Eastern Band, the majority has deliberately penalized the minority for disagreeing with the chief and is stopping us from doing our job.”

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About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.


09/04/2014 07:38 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Councils of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians passed three pieces of legislation, including affirming equality among the three tribes, at the annual Tri-Council meeting on Aug. 15 at Northeastern State University. Although the resolutions passed unanimously, the resolution affirming equality among the three tribes caused about an hour’s worth of debate after CN Tribal Councilor Lee Keener offered an amendment to change the name Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma to Cherokee Nation. “Our constitution has us as Cherokee Nation only, and also updating or amending this would make it the same as the second and third propositions that are before us,” Keener said. “It would be consistent with all three.” However, UKB Chief Wickliffe, who chaired the meeting, took issue with the amendment. “We are representing the Cherokee Nation, the original, all three of us sitting here,” Wickliffe said. “We’re federally recognized. You people are too, and the Eastern Band. I don’t think there needs to be superiority anywhere. If we’re going to work together, let’s do it right.” Keener said he did not mean to have one tribe over another, but if Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma was to be in the first legislation then it would need to be in the other two as well. “I’m not understanding. That’s just our name. We’re not better than anyone else that’s just our name,” Keener added. “I don’t understand the opposition.” After discussion among the three tribes and a recess, a compromise was suggested. Rather than naming all three tribes, the councils decided to accept EBCI Chief Michell Hicks’ suggestion of changing the names to “the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes.” “Instead of postponing this issue…what if we said the ‘three federally recognized Cherokee tribes.’ And we don’t get into these technicalities because we’re fussing over technicalities here. Make it something more generic. But I think when it comes to the federal government, obviously they’ll recognize the stamps of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes.” Wickliffe and Keener, as well as all councilors, accepted the compromise. The councils also passed a resolution to combat the regulations the federal government is attempting to pass with regards to federal recognition. Tribal officials said the standards for becoming federally recognized are potentially going to be reduced allowing for smaller state recognized tribes to seek federal recognition. Currently, to be acknowledged, a tribe must have history dating back nearly 200 years. But with the possible changes it would only mean the group seeking the recognition could have history dating back to the early 1900s. The resolution states the three tribes being against the more lenient guidelines. CN Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd said legislation was to keep other Cherokee groups throughout the United States from seeking federal recognition. “We only have three federal recognized tribes in the United States, only three, and we don’t need any more the federal government is attempting to recognize,” he said. “They’re trying to water down policies from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ state recognized tribes. We do not condone that. So we want to keep three federal Cherokee tribes in the United States and that’s it. That’s all we’re trying to do here.” The Tri-Council also passed a resolution supporting the establishment of a steering committee for the cultural preservation of historically significant Cherokee sites and heritage events. The UKB hosted the nearly weeklong Tri-Council gathering, which included pre-meetings and cultural activities. The EBCI will host the next meeting in 2015. According to EBCI officials, they are looking to have the meeting in Red Clay, Tenn.
09/02/2014 07:56 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a special meeting on Aug. 28, the Tribal Council unanimously approved the Cherokee Nation’s fiscal year 2015 comprehensive operating and capital budgets for a total of $731.3 million. The operating budget, which is the tribe’s overall budget, was approved for approximately $611.7 million. The capital budget, which funds construction projects, was approved for approximately $119.6 million. According to a previous Cherokee Phoenix story, the tribe had about $73 million more at the beginning of FY15 than it did at the start of FY14. The tribe’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. CN officials said the increase was because of new grant awards, increases in motor vehicle tax revenues related to the car tag expansion, changes in the rebate structure of the tobacco tax compact, proceeds from contract support cost settlement as well as increased Indian Health Service funding for the Vinita Health Center and contract health care. Officials said programs and services that received the largest increases this fiscal year are Higher Education scholarships at $11.37 million and Charitable Contributions with an $890,000 budget increase. Charitable contributions are made to communities and organizations to improve communities and help organizations perform. Officials said the Day Training and Summer Youth Employment Program fund received a $275,000 increase, while the Vocational Assistance Program that helps CN citizens train for and gain employment received a $150,000 budget increase. The Citizens Access to Transparency fund was increased by $650,000 for a total budget of $800,000. This program assists citizens who are seeking information about their tribal government, including how money is spent. The additional funding will provide free one-year subscriptions for the Cherokee Phoenix to Cherokee households with good addresses, both in the 14-county jurisdiction and outside the jurisdiction. Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan said working on the different budgets takes a lot of work. “This is an ongoing, yearly thing and a very important part of our duties, which we have taken very seriously this year,” she said. “I think everyone on this council has done a very good job. I think we’ve come up with a really good budget for the Cherokee people for the next (fiscal) year.” Councilors also unanimously modified the tribe’s overall budget for FY14 by $5.45 million for a total budget authority of $623.87 million. Approximately $1.15 million came from grants, while $4.3 million resulted from modification requests such as $2.49 million going to the General Fund and $687,000 going to the Motor Fuel Tax Fund. The next council meeting is at 6 p.m. on Sept. 15.
08/14/2014 08:25 AM
BY WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Elmer C. Tadpole Jr., his brother Thomas Tadpole and Richard Acorn were the three Cherokee veterans honored with Cherokee Warrior awards during the Aug. 11 Tribal Council meeting. Elmer was born in June 1940 to Elmer Tadpole Sr. and Lillian Napier Tadpole in Muskogee. His father was an original enrollee with Cherokee family history tracing back to 1737. When Elmer was 4 years old, his family moved to Tulsa where he grew up and went to school. On his 17th birthday, in 1957, he joined the U.S. Navy Reserves. After graduating from high school he went active duty serving on the USS Woodson DE and USS Hornet CV-12. The USS Woodson DE was home ported at New Orleans where the boat patrolled from St. Louis down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico to Miami. He then transferred to the USS Hornet CV-12. The USS Hornet CV-12 was home ported at Long Beach, Calif., and was part of the Pacific Sixth Fleet patrolling Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States. After this stint he was transferred to a naval supply and training base in Subic Bay, Philippines. There, Elmer performed duties such as security and training exercises. He was honorably discharged in June 1963. Elmer said he accepted the Warrior Award for “all the veterans lost in service.” Thomas Tadpole was born in Tulsa on July 21, 1948, to Elmer Sr. and Lillian Tadpole. Thomas lived in Tulsa and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1966. In 1968, Thomas volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio after which he attended Security Police Training at Lackland AFB. In 1970, Thomas volunteered for duty in Vietnam and served there from September 1970 to September 1971 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. He was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam/7th Air Force, 12th Recon Intelligence Technical Squadron. Staff Sgt. Thomas Tadpole was honorably discharged in May 1972 and was awarded various medals and ribbons including USAF Commendation Medal (1971-Vietnam), Vietnam Service Medal with three Campaign Stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/device, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and a Presidential Unit Citation (Vietnam). Thomas returned to Tulsa where he was re-employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He spent 34 years with the Corps of Engineers as a construction representative and project engineer working on military and civil works construction projects in several states and retired in 2004. He and his wife Floy live in Claremore. “I want to thank you for this. I think this is a great thing to do for veterans,” he said during the meeting. Richard F. Acorn was born July 20, 1934, in Stilwell to Lillie Mae Acorn and Fred Aguirre in the family home place where Richard still lives. Shortly after his birth, his father and mother divorced. He was raised and adopted by his grandfather and grandmother Rev. John B. Acorn and Adeline Smith Acorn. After graduating from Sequoyah Indian School in Tahlequah in 1952, Acorn moved to Wichita, Kan., and worked in a sheet metal shop until 1955 when he moved back to Oklahoma to do plumbing with his uncle Bill Acorn. At this time he also met and married Shirley Dreadfulwater. Acorn was drafted into the Army in 1957. He was sent to Fort Chaffee, Ark., for basic training. After training he was assigned to overseas duty with 7th Army Headquarters, 78th Ordinance Company Field Supply, Mannheim, Germany, and drivers training for military vehicles in Mannheim. After his tour in Germany, Acorn returned back to the United States to join his family and they moved back to Wichita in 1959 where he worked at Cessna Air Craft Company and joined the U.S. Army Reserve Unit 5048th. He spent four years in the reserves and was honorably discharged in 1963. In 1965, with the death of his wife, he was left with three girls ages 5, 3 and 18 months. In 1967, he met Judith Ann, who had two girls and two boys, and they married and had a son together. They are still together after 47 years of marriage. In 1971, Richard moved back to Oklahoma, and in 1973 he began working for the Indian Health Service as an inspector. In 1983, he began working for the Cherokee Nation in Community Development and security. He currently serves as a security guard. “I’m proud to have been a part of the world’s greatest armed forces. I’m proud to work for the Cherokee Nation,” Acorn said after receiving the Cherokee Warrior medal.
08/13/2014 08:55 AM
BY WILL CHAVEZ Senior Reporter TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Aug. 11 meeting, the Tribal Council approved a request to participate in the Indian Health Service’s 2014 Joint Venture Construction Program so that it can build a hospital in Tahlequah. If the tribe’s request is approved, the IHS would agree to provide staffing and operations funding. Under the agreement, the Cherokee Nation would purchase the necessary equipment and construct the facility. The CN has a construction budget of $54.1 million, and the construction is managed by Cherokee Nation Construction Resources LLC. CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the CN would not break ground for the hospital until it receives word about whether the tribe can participate in the program. To do so would disqualify the CN from being considered by the IHS. The IHS is authorized to establish Joint Venture Construction Program projects with tribes for the construction of health care facilities as long as tribes are able to spend tribal funds or other non-IHS funds, including loan guarantees, for the construction of a tribally owned health care facility. In exchange, for a minimum of 20 years, the IHS agrees to lease the health care facility and the land under a no-cost lease and agrees to provide equipment, supplies and staffing for the operation and maintenance of the facility, according to IHS information. The CN is receiving funding for the hospital from its business arm, Cherokee Nation Businesses. The CNB board has also allocated additional funding to improve upon the hospital’s plans. In April, the board approved $7.5 million to the hospital’s construction budget to “strengthen” the hospital’s construction in the event of a tornado. In February, it added $650,000 for a 1,500-square-foot area that will house a C-section unit and storage for the intensive care unit. In other business, the council unanimously approved a resolution to receive 35 to 50 head of bison through the Intertribal Buffalo Council in Rapid City, S.D. The ITBC is a cooperative of 57 Native American nations with more than 15,000 head of bison. The resolution states “the Cherokee Nation as a working member in the Intertribal Buffalo Council is taking necessary steps for the development and required expertise needed for American Bison husbandry.” The buffalo are coming from the Badlands of South Dakota and will be fenced in on CN land near Kenwood in Delaware County. “We’re getting 35 to 50 or whatever we can haul. We’ve already got our fences built on the Cherokee Nation ranch, and we’re ready to receive them,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. The council also approved a resolution to accept 1,000 pounds of bison meat from the ITBC. The meat will be distributed during the Cherokee National Holiday, Snell said. The council also added $3,334 to the tribe’s comprehensive capital budget for fiscal year 2014 for a total budget authority of $103.4 million. Also, $4.6 million was added to the tribe’s comprehensive operating budget for a total budget authority of $618.4 million. Also, during his State of the Nation address, Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the tribe’s school clothing voucher program has “been a true success,” having provided $100 vouchers to more than 7,000 students. The next council meeting is 6 p.m. on Sept. 15.
05/15/2014 08:29 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its May 12 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously voted to provide equal per capita funding to all eligible Johnson-O’Malley students attending public schools within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. The resolution adds Lowrey, Shady Grove and Mosley public schools to the Cherokee Nation Education Services’ JOM funding list, which will serve more than 250 additional students at $45 per student in the 2015 fiscal year. All three schools previously did not receive JOM funding for eligible Native American students. The tribe’s fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and runs to Sept. 30. The JOM program’s purpose is to meet specialized and unique educational needs of American Indian children attending public and some tribal schools through the use of supplemental education programs. “I’m just glad that the tribe supports Indian education,” Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick, who sponsored the amendment, said. “The Cherokee Nation must guarantee all of our students are given equal opportunity to succeed. Creating equal per capita funding for all JOM students within the Cherokee Nation gives each student access to educational programs that will only enhance their learning capabilities and open more doors that lead to successful lives.” Before the resolution, which excludes charter and private schools, the tribe’s JOM program worked with 71 school districts with a total of 24,167 eligible students. “Today we are making critical investments in the next generation of Cherokee leaders. Successful JOM programs in our service area not only ensure all Cherokee children receive the educational tools they need to succeed, like books, fees and equipment, but they also incorporate our tribal heritage and culture in the local education curriculum,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We have a responsibility to keep pushing for greater successes and raising the bar for our JOM programs. With those increased opportunities comes hope for a brighter future for our youth.” CN Communications officials said money for the per capita funding would come from the tribe’s existing Education budget. Tribal Councilors also approved resolution authorizing a 15-foot temporary access easement across and existing roadway located on tribal trust land for a term of 30 years to CN citizens Jeremy and Jamey Croley. During the April 14 Resource Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said he was concerned about granting the easement access in the middle of the property because, if not taken care of properly, it could ruin the property. Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan made a friendly amendment that the easement be considered non-assignable and if the owners decide to sell the easement, it would be reverted back to the tribe. The amendment passed and was included in the resolution approved on May 12. The council also approved two budget modifications for fiscal year 2014. One modification increases the tribe’s comprehensive operating budget by more than $9.8 million for a total of more than $606 million. The other budget modification increases the tribe’s capital budget by more than $3.3 million by adding money from the Tribal Council House Building Fund and $2.7 million in carryover funds to Health Services for a total of more than $102 million. As part of the capital budget modification, approximately $6 million worth of equipment and supplies will go inside the tribe’s four new health centers under construction and Hastings Hospital, slated for construction later this year. Tribal Councilors also amended the agenda to add a resolution from the May 12 Community Services meeting. The resolution authorized Human Services to submit an $83,333 grant application to the U.S. Family and Youth Services Bureau to supplement the emergency shelter operations and supportive services of the John A. Ketcher Youth Services Center. The next Tribal Council meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on June 16.
05/01/2014 10:09 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored a World War II veteran and Vietnam veteran with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism at the Tribal Council’s April 14 meeting. Elmer Scullawl, 89, of Bartlesville, and Durbin Feeling, 67, of Tahlequah, both received a medal and plaque from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledging their military service. Seaman Scullawl was born on Dec. 15, 1925, near Ochelata to Maggie and Richard Scullawl. He graduated from Ochelata High School in 1944 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He attended boot camp at Camp Wallace, Texas, and was assigned to the USS St. Louis. Scullawl said during the meeting he might be the last member of the St. Louis crew still living. During WWII, he was involved in air attacks near the Philippines and was wounded in when Japanese Kamikaze pilots flew their planes into the ship. He was awarded the Purple Heart for his injuries and the Navy Unit Citation. He said he was glad the United States dropped atomic bombs on Japan to end the war because he believes the bombs saved a lot of lives, including his. “I’m glad I’m still here,” Scullawl said. “Back in 1945 when we were getting ready to make the attack on Japan, we’d done been guaranteed that we weren’t coming home, but we did. I think I’m about the last one on that ship that’s left. Thank you for this honor.” Spc. Feeling was born April 2, 1946, near Locust Grove to Jeff and Elizabeth Feeling. In 1964, he graduated from Chilocco Indian School, where he was active in football and the marching band. After high school, he received an associate’s degree from Bacone College. Feeling was drafted into the Army in 1967 and trained at Fort Polk, La. He served as a door gunner with the 195th Assault Helicopter Company during Vietnam and was honorably discharged in 1970. He received the Vietnam Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation and other service medals. Feeling went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University and studied linguistics at the University of California-Irvine. In 2004, Feeling received an honorary doctorate from Ohio State University for his work in linguistics. He wrote the Cherokee dictionary used by the tribe. He now works as a translation specialist for the CN. “Chief Baker, Deputy Chief Crittenden, Tribal Council and everybody who has had a part in the nomination of my award, I thank you very much,” Feeling said. “My wife, I’m glad she’s here with me because of some of the things she has to go through living with somebody who has gone through combat. Lastly, I want to salute the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice: the heroes and their families.” Each month the CN recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds veterans. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-453-5541 or 1-800-256-0671, ext. 5541.