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. • 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.


10/13/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council on Oct. 12 confirmed Sara Hill as the first cabinet level Secretary of Natural Resources. After full council confirmed her nomination, she was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Angela Jones during the meeting. Hill said she was grateful for the faith that both Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the Tribal Council have in her. “This is such an important step for the Cherokee Nation that you’re taking. It’s very easy to continue to do what’s always been done. It’s difficult to do something new and I appreciate you taking this step to do something new,” Hill said. The cabinet position will be responsible for ensuring that the tribe’s natural resources are properly preserved for the future of the Cherokee Nation and its citizens. “I am so proud to say we are finally making our natural and environmental resources a priority. Our natural habitats and environment must be a factor in every decision we make. We have a responsibility to leave this land, this water and this air pure and clean for future generations,” Baker said in his weekly column regarding his nomination. “This position was originally established by the 1999 Constitutional Convention. Unfortunately, it was never filled, but this key advisory role cannot go vacant any longer.” Baker added that with the Secretary of Natural Resources in place and with the leadership of the Tribal Council, laws can be created that will sustain tribal lands, water and air for generations to come. “The Cherokee people deserve that. Clean air, safe water and a fertile land will always be our foundation for long-term health as a tribe and a people,” he said. The resolution confirming her appointment was passed unanimously. Hill previously served as the Deputy Attorney General of the Cherokee Nation, with expertise on environmental issues, water rights and natural resource protection, according to Baker’s column. Also passed by council was a resolution confirming the nomination of Tommye Sue Bradshaw Wright as a board member of Cherokee Nation Businesses. Her nomination was one of Baker’s and was passed during the Sept. 24 Rules Committee meeting with no discussion by a vote of 13-2 with one abstention. She was originally on the CNB beginning in 2011, but resigned for personal reasons in 2014. During the full council meeting where she was confirmed, Wright said she appreciates the opportunity to serve. “I will do a good job for the Cherokee people,” she added. Wright’s nomination passed by a vote of 13-3 with Councilors Harley Buzzard, Buel Anglen and Jack Baker voting against. Councilor Don Garvin abstained. Tribal Council also passed a resolution authorizing the tribe to become a member of the National Congress of American Indians as well as appoint the tribal delegates and alternates. Tribal Council also amended the agenda to bring three items from the Community Services Committee meeting that happened earlier that day. The three resolutions were voted on together: a resolution authorizing the appropriation of $267,000 of housing rehabilitation funding for FY 2015 for grant matching, a resolution certifying compliance with 24 CFR Chapter IX, and a resolution adopting standards for Section 8 housing rehabilitation. All passed unanimously. Brothers Oran L. Roberts and John Thomas Roberts Jr., who served in Vietnam as well as other service areas, were both recognized by Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and Baker for their service in the army and navy, respectively. Bill Horton, former Chairman of the Cherokee Nation Election Commission, was also recognized for his service in the army where he served in Vietnam.
Senior Reporter
10/06/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – With family support, Wanda Hatfield took on the challenge of winning the At-Large Tribal Council seat. Joining a field of 9 candidates, she said she used her background of growing up in the Cherry Tree in Adair County to held her understand the needs of Cherokee Nation citizens. “Basically we all have the same needs wherever we are, but I think just growing up in this part of the country I have a really good understanding of our people and our culture. Just growing in it I think I have, not an advantage, but maybe just more knowledge of the needs of Cherokees,” she said. She also said her strong desire to serve Cherokee people, like her late father did in Adair County, set her apart from the other candidates. “I didn’t have any speeches. I spoke from my heart. I’m a good listener,” she said. “The rest of the candidates were well-qualified. I think any one of us could have served well.” Hatfield traveled the United States during the 2015 campaign visiting with At-Large citizens to learn their thoughts and concerns. She learned that many want “a closer connection to the Cherokee Nation,” and want to experience the culture. She also learned many At-Large citizens are from eastern Oklahoma, having moved away during the federal government’s relocation program in the 1950s, or are descendants of Cherokees who moved away during the state’s Dust Bowl days or during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Also, some moved to the West Coast to find jobs, she said. She said At-Large citizens do get tribal higher education scholarships, but she would like to see more funding put in that area and more scholarships go to them. She said those scholarships are needed because college tuition continues to rise and citizens need scholarships to attend vocational schools or receive career trainings. Another need for At-Large citizens is health care. She said they are not able to get the specialized or contract health care that citizens living in the tribe’s boundary are able to receive. Hatfield resides in Oklahoma City with her husband Roger. They have one daughter and three grandchildren. Her parents are the late Jack Claphan and Carolyn Doublehead Claphan of Stilwell. Her great-great grandfather was Rabbit Bunch, who served as CN assistant principal chief from 1880-87. [BLOCKQUOTE]She earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Oklahoma and taught in the Shawnee and Midwest City-Del City school districts for 28 years. “I have been successful in education, and I spent a lot of time in the classroom in the education field, and I was at the point in my life where I wanted to do something new and challenging,” she said. “This is something that I’ve always wanted to do – some kind of service for the Cherokees.” So far, she said it has been challenging to absorb the information given to Tribal Councilors regarding the tribe’s budget and other information they are expected to know. “I want to know it now, but I’m trying to embrace it slowly. I feel like the more knowledgeable I am, the more helpful I can be,” she said. She said serving on the council and meeting new people have been rewarding and the love and support she has been shown has been “overwhelming.” “I just want to thank everybody for their support. I’m available for my citizens any time, and I think it’s going to be a definite challenge but a wonderful challenge. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s been an incredible journey so far.”
10/06/2015 02:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – Dist. 8 Tribal Councilor Shawn Crittenden is less than two months into his four-year term, but true to form the auctioneer, musician and Greasy Public Schools teacher who is accustomed to giving back is hard at work for the people of his district. “I’m settling in good,” Crittenden said. “It’s a good council. Everyone has been welcoming. We’ve had a couple meetings and I’m learning how the meetings themselves go, but as far as my district, I’ve been working every day. That’s really why I ran, to help folks. I’ve been just helping anywhere from food to trying to get some of those folk’s houses improved. It’s just what I thought it would be,” he said. Crittenden was sworn into office Aug. 14 at Sequoyah High School’s The Place Where They Play after defeating Corey Bunch for the Dist. 8 Tribal Council seat in the June 27 general election. Crittenden won by a vote count of 486-307, according to certified results of the district’s three precincts. Those results showed Crittenden receiving 61.29 percent of the 793 ballots cast to Bunch’s 38.71 percent. “I’m mainly humbled and thankful for the folks in my district,” Crittenden said on June 28 after Bunch conceded. “I had a lot of support and I thank the good Lord for the good feeling I have right now. I’m ready to get down to business with the people in my district. My plans are to be accessible and to stay on top of issues when folks need something, when they want to be heard. I want to do everything I can to show them I care and I’m going to work hard for them.” Crittenden said he has always availed himself to helping others, and the council position put him in a better position to continue those efforts. He also said that while his agenda will be concerned with health care, education and housing, he wants to move away from other specific platforms in favor of the immediate needs of those in his district. “I never felt like that was my platform because I think it’s everybody’s, but one of the things I really believe is the needs of the people become my platform and that changes every day, every phone call, that changes. It could be that person’s immediate need. It’s their priority and it’s my priority,” he said. [BLOCKQUOTE]Raised in Peavine, Crittenden graduated from Stillwell High School before attending Northeastern State University and obtaining his bachelor’s degree in education in 2007. Since graduating, he has become a family man with a wife and four children, which he said makes his job easier because he can better relate to many of the families in the district. During the next four years, Crittenden said any upcoming agenda issues he must vote on, he will vote accordingly with the interests of Dist. 8 and wants his constituents to understand that he works for them. “I would want people to feel as if for them to realize that they are my boss and that I ran for this office knowing that they would be my boss, and I want them to feel like I’m accessible to them at all times,” he said.
10/06/2015 12:00 PM
VERDIGRIS, Okla. – Keith Austin is the new Tribal Councilor for Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 14. And as the new representative, he said he’s already achieving the first of his goals: communication with his constituents. “Every citizen in my district should expect that when they need their Tribal Councilor that they can reach their Tribal Councilor. Their Tribal Councilor will return their phone calls, will return their emails in a timely basis,” he said. “They won’t be wondering if they’re going to get back with them. That’s immediately achievable. That doesn’t require the assistance of anybody. I can make that happen, I’ve already made that happen.” In Dist. 14, Austin said he plans to work on getting citizens more access to CN health care equal to other tribal citizens in other areas of the CN jurisdiction. [BLOCKQUOTE]He said he would also like to get more knowledge to his citizens regarding the tribe’s Small Business Assistance Center. “We have great economic engines in places like Catoosa and (West) Siloam Springs and Tahlequah and Roland. But we need to be finding more and better creative ways to have a positive impact on the communities,” Austin said. He said throughout his life, before owning his own business, he’s always worked for small businesses and has often found himself in leadership roles within those businesses. “I really thought bringing the small business sensibility to the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council was something that would benefit the Tribal Council,” he said. He added that he is excited about the commitment to education the Nation has made. “The simple fact is the biggest difference over our lifetimes has started because of our investment in the children who are going to college and technical schools right now,” he said. Austin is a lifetime resident of Dist. 14, a characteristic he felt was a necessary of any candidate or elected official from the area. “A true lifetime resident of Rogers County to represent Rogers County. I spent my whole life in Rogers County. I raised my own kids in Rogers County. It’s where I lived because I truly want to live there. I truly want to see the best for my county,” he said. According to official results, Austin won the Dist. 14 Tribal Council race against William “Bill” Pearson on July 25. Results, which included 26 accepted challenged ballots, showed that Austin garnered 498 votes for 53.9 percent of the ballots, while Pearson got 425 votes for 46.1 percent. The tribe’s Election Commission rescheduled the Dist. 14 race after the CN Supreme Court on July 8 ruled that a winner from the June 27 general election could not be determined with mathematical certainty. Pearson was certified the winner of the Dist. 14 race after the June 27 election by one vote. Following a recount on July 2, his lead had been extended to six votes. Austin appealed the recount results to the Supreme Court alleging that ballots were cast that should not have been accepted, ballots were cast that should have been accepted and two absentee ballot envelopes could not be found. Constituents can reach Austin via email at <a href="mailto:"></a> or call 918-508-9116.
10/06/2015 10:00 AM
SPERRY, Okla. – On Aug. 14, eight Cherokee Nation citizens took their oaths of office for Tribal Council, including Dist. 13 representative Buel Anglen, who makes his return to the legislative branch. “I feel privileged and humbled that the citizens of my district, Dist. 13, and I’m glad that they felt the need to send me back down here to Tahlequah to represent them and I feel like I can work with everybody,” Anglen said in the Aug. 27 Rules Committee meeting. “I’m glad to be back.” [BLOCKQUOTE]Anglen was appointed to the Tribal Council in 2002 after Tribal Councilor Dorothy Jean McIntosh died, leaving a vacancy. He was elected to that seat in 2003 and served until 2013 when he lost his seat due to redistricting. Anglen was also a member of all standing committees, co-chairman of the Employment Committee, a member of the Five Civilized Tribes Council and served as a Cherokee Nation Business advisory board member. “I decided to run again because I just wanted to serve the Cherokee people in my district,” he said. “I felt like I still had a lot to offer them. I wanted to get back and do what I had always done, which was serve the Cherokee people.” Anglen said a main focus while serving as Tribal Councilor would be increasing health care for Cherokee Nation citizens in Dist. 13, which covers parts of Tulsa and Rogers counties. “I hear it everyday of people not being able to access clinics. The same-day appointment deal is not working properly like it should,” he said. Anglen said he also plans to focus on quickening the housing program process so more citizens in Dist. 13 will have new homes faster. “We’ve been in the housing business for years and years and years. We should know how to get a house started,” he said. Anglen said there are several Tribal Employments Rights Office construction companies that are capable of building homes to make the process go faster. Anglen owns Sperry Boat Storage, Anglen Construction Company LLC and Anglen Custom Homes LLC. He is also a co-owner of A&S Investments LLC and was a general contractor on the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation addition and constructed the Cherokee Nation Bingo Outposts at Catoosa and West Siloam Springs. One of seven children, Anglen has lived in the Sperry and Skiatook areas for 65 years. He and wife Clara have been married for 44 years and presently reside in Sperry. They have two daughters and six grandchildren. Outside of the CN, Anglen is a member of the Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization and Victory Cherokee Organization. He also served as a commissioner on the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and was instrumental in helping form the Victory Cherokee Organization in Collinsville, Oklahoma and the Washington County Cherokee Association in the Bartlesville and Dewey areas.
09/16/2015 10:00 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Citizens of the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 6, which covers the eastern part of Sequoyah County, has a new Tribal Councilor in Bryan Warner, who not only wants to represent his constituents but also encourage them to lead. Warner, who was sworn into office Aug. 14, said he looks forward to meeting more CN citizens and encouraging them to be leaders in the CN. “I’ve been out and about since the election. I want to continue to get out, especially here after the Cherokee (National) Holiday is over. When that kind of dies down I want to come out and be seen in the community,” he said. “My key hope for this district it to let this district know, ‘hey, we can be a leader amongst all the other districts.’” Warner said he wants Dist. 6 citizens to help take charge of their district. “I really want to promote a sense of ownership that all the citizens that live within this district need to have more of a on-hands approach to some of the things that happen in this district,” he said. “I definitely want to try to help the Nation grow. I want to help promote more job creation and just really get some overall creative thinking in this district that can eventually help the entire Cherokee Nation.” Warner said the tribe has served his family in the past so he thought it was time to give back. “I’ve been active in my community and in my county and I just had a feeling that I could do more, and I wanted to do more and get out and help individuals and just be more a part of the Cherokee Nation and be a part of the community in a different way,” he said. Warner, who has three sons with his wife Maco, said family is an important part of the way he leads his life. “Growing up my main goal in life, if I was blessed enough to have a family, was to be a good father. To try to be there for my children, try to leave a positive life,” he said. Warner is a professor at Carl Albert State College in Sallisaw where he teaches courses such as chemistry, biology and botany. He said because he has an educational background he believes in educating those within the tribe. “I feel like that education leads to better health for the individual and the entire community,” he said. “Really, if I promote a lot of education, a lot of health care, I think that leads into trying to get people better housing, better equipped to be self-sufficient.” Warner said it’s an “honor and privilege” to serve Dist. 6 and has an open-door policy for CN citizens. “I want them to always know that my door is always open. My phone line is always open to those in need. Whether they’re in this district or throughout the Cherokee Nation, I want them to know that I want to pull in everybody and unite together in our ideas and our culture and to spread the word of the Cherokee Nation,” he said. “I just want to make sure that I’m always available to them and let them know that that’s important to me.”