Council alters its travel policy

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
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.”

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org


918-453-5000, ext. 6139

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.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
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.

Council

BY STAFF REPORTS
10/28/2014 08:03 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored a World War II veteran posthumously, a Navy Vietnam veteran and an Army veteran with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism during the Oct. 13 Tribal Council meeting. The late Ben Haner, of Claremore; Ray Dean Grass, 68, of Locust Grove; and Robert W. Johnson, 53, of Wagoner, each received a medal and plaque. Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden acknowledged the veterans’ services to the country. The late Pvt. Haner was born in Yonkers on Aug. 16, 1918, to Tom Haner and Virginia Williams. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1942 during World War II. After training, his squad was assigned to guard the eastern coast of the United States and then France and Germany. In a battle for control of a bridge over Lake Ammersee in Germany, Haner was wounded three times in the right leg, which he lost to gangrene while waiting for evacuation. After recovering in a hospital in San Francisco, he was honorably discharged in 1946. Haner received a number of honors, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Haner’s family is donating his Cherokee Medal of Patriotism to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, making it the first of its kind in their collection. “I’m very, very proud of my father and his service to this country,” Bennie Haner, who accepted the award in her father’s place, said. “He was very proud of being Cherokee, and I think this is an outstanding honor.” Staff Sgt. Ray Dean Grass was born on May 4, 1946, to Thomas W. Grass and Ella Standingwater. He attended Oaks Mission School before enlisting in the U.S. Navy on May 8, 1963. After basic training, he entered the Vietnam War doing supply runs aboard the USS Castor and refueling ships aboard the USS Guadalupe. He earned the Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Medal and more. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1967 as petty officer second class, and six months later he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was trained as an aircraft maintenance specialist, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and finally transferred to Guam and assigned to a C-97 aircraft. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force on Jan. 9, 1970. Spc. Robert W. Johnson was born Nov. 8, 1960, in Riverside, California. He enlisted in the Army on June 28, 1978. He trained at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, as a communications specialist. His training included operating switchboards, laying wires and repelling off mountainsides to maintain communication between companies. He also earned the title of rifle sharpshooter. He carried out the remainder of his service in Fort Carson, Colorado, where he adapted his training for the snow and trained in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare tactics. He was honorably discharged on April 20, 1984. 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 all veterans. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-453-5541 or 1-800-256-0671, ext. 5541.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/14/2014 02:33 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During their Oct. 13 meeting, Tribal Councilors unanimously approved resolutions requesting the U.S. Interior Department to place into trust land associated with two of the tribe’s health facilities. Legislators approved land-into-trust applications for 5.6 acres that the Redbird Smith Health Clinic in Stilwell sits on and .98 acres that is part of the W.W. Hastings Hospital expansion in Tahlequah. Earlier this year, CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses officials said they would invest $104.3 million for new and existing health facilities. More than $53 million is expected to build a new 150,000-square foot Hastings Hospital. That project is expected to start next spring and conclude in the fall of 2015. Redbird Smith Health Center’s main building recently underwent a remodel the past two years because of mold found inside. The building was closed in 2012, and its patient services were moved to different parts of the health center after the mold was discovered. “We’ve been wanting to put it into trust for a long time,” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright said. “All of our properties need to be in trust that way if there’s ever anything like a special project, such as a joint venture, and we have the opportunity for something that comes up, the land needs to be in trust.” Councilors also approved an application to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for fiscal year 2015 funding for the tribe’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The funding amount in the application is more than $1.3 million, which would provide residential health assistance payments for approximately 2,000 low-income tribal households. It will also provide crisis aid for about 800 eligible households, and if funding permits, cooling assistance payments to about 1,800 households. LIHEAP services contain Residential Heating Assistance, which provides assistance to eligible households for their primary sources of heating, including wood, wood pellets, natural gas, propane, electric, kerosene and coal. To continue the tribe’s Food Distribution Program, councilors also approved an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for more than $3.3 million with a cash match of more than $840,000 and an in-kind amount of more than $70,000. The resolution states that the funding would provide distribution of food to approximately 11,000 participants a month, representing 4,900 tribal households. “This is accomplished through the current operations of 7 Food Distribution Centers located in the communities of Tahlequah, Jay, Salina, Sallisaw, Stilwell, Collinsville, and Nowata,” the resolution states. The centers operate in a grocery store environment allowing people to shop in comfortable and familiar settings. The Tribal Council also approved the nominations of Luke Barteaux and Kendra McGeady as Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board members. Barteaux, who was nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker and will serve a six-year term, passed via a 14-1-1 vote. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts voted against the nomination, while Tribal Councilor Julia Coates abstained. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez was absent. “I’m familiar with Luke. He’s a great individual and this has nothing to do with him as a person,” Cowan Watts said. “It’s a responsibility of the chief’s office to fit the letter of the law and unfortunately, I don’t believe, even though he’s a highly qualified individual, he’s not qualified with the way I understand our Free Press Act is written. So at this time, I cannot support the nomination even though I fully believe in Luke as a person.” Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd asked Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. if the criteria was checked to see if Barteaux was qualified to be nominated as a board member. “Yes, we have,” Hoskin said. “I just have to say that I respectfully disagree with the council lady from Rogers County. In fact, Mr. Barteaux, by any objective standards, meets the letter of the law that this council passed. I’m very confident that he meets the qualifications.” Barteaux thanked Baker for the nomination and the council for the confirmation. “I look forward to working with the Cherokee Phoenix,” he said. “It’s a great asset to the Cherokee people, and I look forward to helping them move forward and doing even more great things.” McGeady, who was nominated by the Tribal Council and will serve a six-year term, passed by a 13-2-1 vote. Tribal Councilors Cowan Watts and Lee Keener voted no, while Coates abstained. “I just wanted to reiterate my comments in the committee and this is nothing against Miss McGeady or her qualifications,” Coates said. “I just am saddened that the person who was serving on this board, Jason Terrell, who is from Memphis, Tennessee, and one of the few At-Large people that is able to serve on any of our boards and commissions, and who had done a very able job in the years, that he had been on this board, that the decision to not reappoint him. That’s my sadness about it.” McGeady said she appreciated the confidence of the tribe’s leadership in her nomination and confirmation and looked forward to serving the Phoenix and tribal citizens. Councilors also modified the tribe’s budget by moving $429,313 out of General Funds into the fund being used for the new Ochelata health clinic, or Cooweescoowee Health Center, in Washington County. The budget item includes new positions for a physician and a registered nurse as well as operating expenditures. The 28,000-square-foot health center in Ochelata, just south of Bartlesville, will replace the existing 5,000-square-foot CN Bartlesville Health Center, which operates in a small storefront building.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/30/2014 11:52 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored a World War II veteran, a Vietnam veteran and a veteran on government contract during Operation Iraqi Freedom with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism during the Sept. 15 Tribal Council meeting. William Wood, 94, of Vinita; Gary Craig Daugherty, 68, of Stilwell; and Peggy Zuber, 59, of Tulsa, received medals and plaques from Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, acknowledging their service to the country. Wood was born in 1920 to John Edward and Helen Wood. He graduated from Nowata High School and joined the U.S. Air Force in 1942. He attended training in Ontario and Taft, California, learning to fly single engine planes. In 1943, Wood transitioned to the B-25 bomber. He was sent to India in 1944 where his aircraft was shot in the left wing and the tail. In all, Wood flew 63 missions and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, two air medals and four campaign ribbons for his service. “I can’t explain what it means to be recognized by my tribe,” Wood said. “It’s a great day for me to be recognized by Cherokees, and it’s just something I can’t express.” Daugherty was born in 1946 to Grover Eugene and Ernestine Craig Daugherty. He attended Wauhillau School for first through eighth grades and graduated from Stilwell High School. In 1969, Daugherty enlisted in the U.S. Army and received basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. He was stationed in Germany and served overseas during the Vietnam War. Daugherty received an honorable discharge in 1971 and was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation Medal for his service. Zuber was born in 1955 to Ray and Nancy Zuber. She followed her father’s footsteps by joining the U.S. Navy in 1976. Zuber completed basic training in Orlando, Florida, and served four years. After her service, she enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves. During Zuber’s 17 years, she served in various overseas operations in Belgium and Germany. After retiring in 2001, she worked as a U.S. Department of Defense contractor on the ground in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Zuber now works for Cherokee Nation Businesses as a contract analyst for government contracts. Each month the tribe honors Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all 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 Cherokee Nation citizen, call 918-453-5541 or 1-800-256-0671, ext. 5541.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
09/16/2014 03:11 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Sept. 15, the Tribal Council amended the tribe’s election code to address notary public issues stemming from Cherokee Nation citizens in California. According to the act, the purpose is to address notary public requirements to assure legal notarization of At-Large absentee ballots. “A voter shall mark his ballot in permanent black or blue ball point ink; seal the ballot in the secrecy envelope; fill it out completely and sign the affidavit on the front of the affidavit envelope in the presence of a notary public; the affidavit envelope must be notarized and the notary seal affixed for the ballot to be counted; and return the documents inside the postage paid return envelope via the United States mail to the Election Commission,” the legislation states. “Only those absentee ballots which are mailed to the Election Commission and which reach the Election Commission post office box in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, no later than 7 p.m. on election day shall be counted; provided that personal delivery of an absentee ballot shall be accepted from the Wednesday prior to election day until election day only if the voter or a person designated by the voter delivers the ballot to the Election Services Office between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. during those four days.” Tribal Councilor Julia Coates abstained from the act’s vote, saying the act would make better policy than legislation. “I don’t necessarily have any opposition. It’s a fairly meaningless amendment that simply describes how a ballot or an envelope is to be arranged. It’s not something I would necessarily favor legislating,” Coates said. “What I am happy about is that we have worked, and this body has worked, and we have gotten a promise from the Election Commission that they will shift the language on the Cherokee Nation ballot so that it is the same language that is acceptable under California law. And it’s language that should be acceptable under any state, including Oklahoma. So I’m glad for the acknowledgement and the understanding of the people on this body that there was an issue here.” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fulbright said acquiring a notary in California isn’t as easy as it is in Oklahoma. “But out there it’s a totally different world. And I think this is going to ease the pathway for them to, you know, make it easier for them to vote, and that’s what we want. And we certainly never intended or meant in any way to disenfranchise someone or make it difficult for them to vote,” she said. After some discussion, the act passed by acclamation with Coates abstaining. Also, councilors appointed six people to the Cherokee Health Partners board. The board is comprised of employees from the tribe and Northeastern Health System, which is formerly known as Tahlequah City Hospital. Those appointments were Ricky Kelly, Sandie Taggart, Ami Sams, Brian Hail, Connie Davis and Dr. Roger Montgomery. According to board’s website, the NHS and CN joined forces to fight heart disease among Native Americans. From this union, Cherokee Health Partners was born. It states that CN and NHS leaders realized they could offer quality care and improved services to both communities if they worked together. The Tribal Council also approved CN citizen Steven Barrick as a Cherokee Nation Gaming Commissioner. Barrick replaces Jason Soper. Barrick’s term began on Sept. 16 and will end on Sept. 30, 2017. The CNGC is the independent tribal gaming regulatory authority that ensures fairness and integrity of gaming activity within CN gaming facilities, as well as to protect the Nation’s assets and the public health and safety of those who work and visit CN gaming facilities. “It’s a pleasure to serve the Nation and I’m excited to get started,” Barrick said during the meeting. The council also authorized the tribe to become a National Congress of American Indians member, as well as named Principal Chief Bill John Baker as the tribe’s delegate. The tribe’s alternate delegates included Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and all the Tribal Councilors. The motion passed with Tribal Councilor David Thornton voting against it. The NCAI is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities. Councilors also passed three resolutions to donate surplus items: a surplus travel trailer to a citizen in Sequoyah County, exercise equipment to the Claremore Housing Authority and three flagpoles to the community organization Owen School House in Park Hill.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
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.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
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.