TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council on July 12 approved the submission of the Cherokee Nation’s fiscal year 2017 Indian Housing Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
According to the legislation, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 requires a tribe to adopt a one-year plan for each fiscal year it requests federal funding. The resolution states the CN must submit an IHP in a form prescribed by HUD to receive its FY 2017 housing funding. According to the IHP, the plan needed to be submitted by on or by July 18.
“The Indian Housing Plan is basically a road map. It is a plan, but it’s basically a road map that says ‘federal government, here is how we propose to spend these federal funds that we get under NAHASDA,’” Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Director Gary Cooper said.
Tribal Council officials said the tribe is requesting $52.8 million. According to the IHP the money will be used to help meet the following needs: overcrowded households, renters wanting to become homeowners, substandard units needing rehabilitation, homeless households, households needing affordable rental units, college student housing, disabled households needing accessibility, units needing energy efficiency upgrades and infrastructure to support housing.
The resolution passed unanimously with all councilors present.
Councilors also unanimously approved two applications to the Federal Highway Administration for money to replace two bridges located in Delaware and Washington counties.
Washington County’s bridge is over a tributary to the Caney River, according to the legislation. The legislation states that Bridge 84 provides “crucial access for many Cherokee citizens” and is identified as a candidate for replacement.
Bridge 27 in Delaware County bridge is over Whitewater Creek, and it too provides crucial access for CN citizens, according to the resolution. The resolution states it is identified for replacement as well.
Tribal Councilors also unanimously approved Sandra Hathcoat’s nomination to the CN Home Health Services and Comprehensive Care Agency or PACE boards.
Legislators also unanimously amended Legislative Act 05-16, the CN Employment Rights Act, to address businesses that are owned by trusts and assure that the beneficiaries of the enterprises are Native American.
According to the act, “Indian-owned economic enterprise” shall mean any Indian-owned commercial, industrial or business activity established or organized for the purpose of profit, provided that such Indian ownership shall constitute not less than 51 percent of the enterprise, and the ownership shall encompass active operation and control of the enterprise. No business that is more than 49 percent owned by a trust as a trust-owned business shall be included, legislation states.
The tribe’s FY 2016 comprehensive operating budget was also unanimously increased by $128,142 for a total budget authority of $676.8 million.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its June 13 meeting, the Tribal Council voted to transfer Cherokee Nation Waste Management LLC, which operates a landfill in Stilwell, back under the tribe.
At the May 26 Rules Committee meeting, Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill told Tribal Councilors the resolution would eliminate the LLC and brings it back under the tribe’s fold.
“We’re wanting to eliminate the Cherokee Nation Waste Management entity and move the landfill back under the Cherokee Nation, which is where it started back before the LLC was created,” she said. “So we’re going to put the Cherokee Nation Waste Management group out and put the landfill back under the control of the Cherokee Nation itself.”
She also said for that to occur the tribe would need to incur the $1.5 million debt the LLC has.
“It’s about $1.5 million debt for equipment that they took out in 2014. They want to move that debt from the LLC over to the Cherokee Nation itself,” Hill said. “The Cherokee Nation will be responsible for that debt instead of the LLC. This includes consent to be sued… If we didn’t pay our loan to the bank (Welch State Bank) the bank could sue us to get the money that we owe them back.”
[BLOCKQUOTE]During the Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd asked Hill if the CN is looking to permanently close the landfill in the future. Hill said that “every landfill closes eventually.”
“Every landfill has a life cycle…When you sit down to plan a landfill you should plan it for 100 years worth of operations, closure and post-closure because it’s a long-term business,” she said. “But what there hasn’t really been at Cherokee Nation is a long-term strategic plan for the landfill, and that’s what we’d like to do. We’d like to go in and look at a closure, post-closure plan and set a date so we know, ‘OK, the landfill, it was open in the (19)80s. It can’t run forever.’ So we’re going to look at what is the best date to close that on, and that can be a 5-to-10-year time span potentially looking at that. But those are not decisions that we have made right now.”
The resolution passed unanimously. Tribal Councilors Janees Taylor, David Thornton and Wanda Hatfield were absent.
Legislators also unanimously renewed the Cherokee Immersion Charter School as a state charter school for another five years.
“This ensures our youth who are immersed in our Cherokee language each day are not only learning the culture to pass on to future generations, but learning it based on a curriculum that is state-certified,” Byrd said. “Research shows that bilingual learners often think more critically and are analytical, but this charter also ensures students learn the same grade-level standards as their counterparts across the state.”
According to CN Communications, the school serves more than 100 students from preschool to eighth grade.
Tribal Councilors also approved a grant application that would provide storm shelters to select Head Starts within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
During the June 13 Education Committee meeting, Marshal Shannon Buhl said, if obtained, the grant would provide safe rooms at various Head Starts.
“This grant is only intended for Head Start programs that’s on tribal lands, so there’s eight of them,” he said. “It’s going to be eight facilities in Kenwood, Cherry Tree, Pryor, Walhalla up in Nowata, Redbird, Jay. Those are going to be 400-square-foot facilities that’s going to be attached to the existing building, and they can hold about 80 people.”
He said the other two locations would be in Tahlequah.
“There’s going to be two facilities at the Children’s Village (Early Head Start) at the circle (at Sequoyah Schools). One is specifically for infants and the other will be for other children,” he said. “The big one’s going to be 2,000 square foot and hold about 400 people. The second one is going to be 800 square foot and going to hold about 160 people for the infants.”
Buhl said the approximate $800,000 grant is specifically for staff, students and those picking up students during a storm.
“These are not community storm shelters,” he said. “They’re specifically paid for and designed for the staff, students and any parents or family members that are there to pick the kids up if a storm happens.”
In other business, legislators:
• Increased the fiscal year 2016 capital budget by $129.5 million to $291.8 million,
• Increased the FY 2016 operating budget by $11.4 million to $676.6 million, and
• Confirmed Evan M. McLemore to the Cherokee Nation Administration Appeals Board.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council unanimously amended the Cherokee Nation’s election law during its May 16 meeting after removing the definition of “term” as a full four years when pertaining to an elected office.
Previously, the Rules Committee added the definition to Legislative Act 04-14 to further define “term” within the CN Constitution. However, during the May 16 meeting, Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, who sponsored the act, introduced it with an amendment.
“I have one small change. We will be striking the definition of ‘term’ in its entirety,” she said.
Tribal Councilor Jack Baker seconded the motion before the body voted by acclamation.
After the meeting, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor told the Cherokee Phoenix that the legislation’s intent was to make tribal elections run more smoothly.
“Changes needed to be made to avoid issues that have come up in past elections such as a candidate raising funds and campaigning then not filing for office. There were some very good changes made with this act, and it was important for this council to work through the details until we reached a solution we could all live with. In the end, the only issue we could not agree on was the definition of ‘term.’ It speaks to the integrity of this council that we were able to work together to find a solution that we all could agree on and I am pleased that it passed unanimously,” she said.
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, who opposed defining term as “a full four years,” said he was happy the definition was removed from the legislation. “Council can now move forward to important issues on behalf of Cherokee citizens.”
Vazquez deferred comments to Attorney General Todd Hembree, who said he believes several necessary changes were made to the election law with the amendment.
“I’m proud of the collaboration between the council, the Election Commission and the AG’s office making these amendments happen,” he said.
Regarding the “term” definition being pulled from the amendment, Hembree said the Tribal Council did not define what constitutes a complete term, but left that interpretation up to the plain reading of the Constitution.
In March, the Rules Committee discussed the word “term” in the Constitution, and Hembree said that “term” was not defined within the election law. “Nowhere during the election law have we ever defined what a term of office is.”
The committee then voted to define “term” as “consecutive full four (4) years in which the elective or appointed officer may perform the functions of office and enjoy its privileges, a term shall not include the remainder of any unexpired term or partial year.”
However, after debate during the April 12 Tribal Council meeting, legislators sent back the act to the Rules Committee for review. The committee again approved the “term” definition with a 9-6-1 vote until May 16 when it was pulled from the amendment.
Also with the election law change, Tribal Councilors moved the general election from the fourth Saturday in June of the election year to the first Saturday to allow the Election Commission more time to for election matters. They also defined the term “candidate” as a person who has raised funds and/or accepted in-kind contributions in excess of $1,000 or has filed for office.
With this change, one can be considered a candidate before actually filing for an elected position.
Other changes included a new section for record retention and assessing a civil penalty for a person who has become a candidate and fails to file as one.
Also at the May 16 meeting, the Tribal Council approved Pamela Sellers as the EC’s fifth member. Sellers took her oath during the meeting with Supreme Court Justice John Garrett presiding.
The body also approved Valerie Rogers to the Home Health Services board and the Comprehensive Care Agency or PACE board.
Councilors also approved nine donations of surplus equipment to various organizations within the CN.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on April 12 sent back to the Rules Committee Legislative Act 04-14, which amends the Cherokee Nation’s election code, after several legislators voiced concerns regarding the definition of “term.”
In March, the committee defined “term” as “consecutive full four (4) years in which the elective or appointed officer may perform the functions of office and enjoy its privileges, a term shall not include the remainder of any unexpired term or partial year.”
Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said on April 12 that he could not support the act.
“I feel like the Cherokee people had a constitutional convention and had decided what they wanted in the election code…I think we’re really messing with the Constitution of the Cherokee Nation if we go to changing some of the wording of that act. I could see if this passes as it’s stated, we’re going to have some problems with further elections that come down the road,” he said.
Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen added that from what he’s read in the Constitutional Convention transcripts those involved did not want to add the word “full” when referring to one’s elected term.
“There’s a lot of good stuff in this election law that we looked over for a long time, but at this time, putting that one (definition) in there is going to keep me from supporting this act,” Anglen said.
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said she felt the committee discussions were geared toward making the election code clearly match the CN Constitution. “And so, I feel like our intent was to match the Constitution, which says in several areas a term is four years. If the Constitution can stand on its own, I’m not opposed to taking out “EE” (the section in the legislation defining term), but I just want to clarify that our intention was to firm it up and match the Constitution.”
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay offered a friendly amendment to remove the section defining “term,” and Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez initially accepted it. She later revoked the friendly amendment and motioned to send the legislation back to Rules Committee. That motion passed with no opposition.
Legislators also unanimously authorized the “approval of a loan agreement and limited waiver of sovereign immunity” as part of the Indian Health Service Joint Venture expansion in Tahlequah.
According to the legislation, the CN will accept and execute a general obligation credit facility loan agreement “with a group of lenders to be arranged by BOKF, NA dba Bank of Oklahoma” and approved by the CN in a principal amount of $170 million to finance construction of the Cherokee Nation Tahlequah Outpatient Facility.
The body also passed an act creating the Cherokee Nation Judgment Fund, which “governs all judgments, inclusive of attorney fees and interest, entered against the Cherokee Nation or any department, agency or subdivision thereof.”
According to the act, “all monies accruing to the credit of the fund are hereby appropriated, and shall be budgeted and expended by the Treasurer for the payment of eligible claims.”
Legislators also approved the three initial members of the Cherokee Immersion Charter School board: Rufus King, Melvina Shotpouch and Russell Feeling.
According to CN Communications, all three are Cherokee speakers and will serve five-year terms.
“Through the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, the Cherokee Nation is cultivating a new generation of Cherokee speakers,” Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “The revitalization of our language is of the utmost importance, thus making this board extremely vital. We need governing school board members who not only speak our language, but understand the seriousness of the mission of our school.”
The Tribal Council also:
• Authorized interviews and research within the CN by the National Institute of Justice Regarding Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault regarding violence against Indian women;
• Amended Title 21 of the CN code annotated relating to offenses against property;
• Authorized the name change of Sallisaw Creek to National Cherokee Nation Park;
• Allowed CN to lease tribal trust land to the Kenwood Rural Water District for a water treatment plant, tank, pump station and wells; and
• Supported the deployment of the F-35 Lightning II Fighter Aircraft to the 138th Fighter Wing.
Legislators also amended both the capital and operating budgets for fiscal year 2016.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its March 14 meeting, the Tribal Council approved the renomination of Chuck Hoskin Jr. as the Cherokee Nation’s secretary of state.
He has served as state secretary since 2013 and officially began his second term following his confirmation and oath of office. Hoskin, who served as a Tribal Councilor from 2007-13, thanked Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the legislators for the “confidence” they have in him.
“I appreciate the confidence that each of you have, and I will do my best to continue in good service to the (Cherokee) Nation,” he said. “We've got great challenges ahead, and I’m glad to be on the part of the team that is taking that on, and I do appreciate working with you and all of your colleagues, Mr. Speaker (Joe Byrd).”
Hoskin’s wife, January, held the Bible as Supreme Court Justice John Garrett swore him into his second term.
Councilors also separated the Education and Culture Committee, creating a respective committee for each. Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez said one of the best ways to continue preserving the Cherokee culture is to give it its own committee.
“It’s very important to highlight the culture and the opportunity that we have to carry forward the Cherokee legacy of culture, art and language. It’s my theory that it can best be done by having a separate Culture Committee instead of having it as part of education/culture,” she said.
They also authorized the tribe to lease trust lands to Burgher Haggard LLC “for the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Mustang Program.” Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick voted against the resolution, but Tribal Councilor David Thornton said it is important to help the horses.
“The thing I think of when I think of horses is the Trail of Tears and I think about our people coming across from North Carolina, Tennessee all that way. And people, there’s some of them that would have never made it if it hadn’t been for a horse,” he said. “I think this is a great time to bring these horses here to this land because in time of need. We needed them and now they need us.”
According to legislation, the horses would have trust land set aside in Adair and Delaware counties for five years beginning Oct. 1. There is also an option for a renewal of five additional years at a price that is set forth by the BLM.
Tribal Councilors also amended wording within the Employment Rights Act. According to legislative details, Title 40, subsection 103 was amended to include “if a business is owned by a trust, it must be held in trust with over 51 percent of Indian trustees and 51 percent and more of the beneficiaries of the trust must be Indians to maintain majority Indian control of the business.”
Another ERA amendment included “if the business is a trust owned business, the business must certify Indian trustees and beneficiaries and TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) will then” determine if the business would be given Indian preference within the TERO section of the act.
Legislators also passed a resolution supporting Oklahoma House Bill 2261, which changes the definition of who can sell “Indian art” under the American Indian Arts and Crafts Sales Act of 1974.
The proposed measure, which passed the House 90-0, defines “American Indian tribe” as any Indian tribe federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and “American Indian” as a citizen or enrolled member of an American Indian tribe.
Councilors also authorized the acceptance of five tracts of day school land in fee. The lands consist of the former Cave Springs School in Cherokee County, Mulberry Hollow School in Adair County, Oak Hill School (Piney) in Delaware County, Ballou School in Mayes County and Redbird Smith School in Sequoyah County.
Councilors also authorized the BIA to update the tribe’s Inventory of Tribal Transportation Facilities to include the Rocky Mountain School Road extensions 1 and 2 in Adair County.
They also increased the fiscal year 2016 operating budget by $878,981 to $657.6 million. In it the DOI-Self Governance received an increase of $56,200. The remaining $822,781 came from grants.
In other business, legislators:
• Revised the tribe’s 2016 Indian Housing Plan to provide rental assistance for Native American veterans who qualify,
• Amended the Motor Vehicle Licensing and Tax Code to include items manufactured homes, commercial trailers, farm trailers and CN vehicles to the license plates section,
• Authorized the CN to negotiate and/or advertise for bid to lease tribal units on fee or trust land for grazing and farming, and
• Reconfirmed Jack L. Spears to the Environmental Protection Commission and Johnnie Earp to the Economic Development Trust Authority board of directors.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Feb. 16 meeting, Tribal Councilors unanimously declared support for the continual operation of dependent public schools located within Cherokee Nation jurisdiction.
According to the resolution, there are 26 dependent public schools located within the jurisdiction. Those schools have 6,965 students enrolled, and 3,294, or 47 percent, of them are CN citizens.
The resolution states the CN percentage of students enrolled at the schools is higher than the number of CN students enrolled at independent schools within the tribe’s jurisdiction and that the closure of dependent schools would have a “devastating” effect on CN citizens attending and the CN families living in surrounding communities.
Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said keeping the rural schools open is important for “the good of the students and community.”
“The small, rural dependent school districts are the heartbeat of their community, and the Cherokee Nation has an obligation to help keep that heartbeat going,” Byrd said. “Whether it is financial support through car tag sales or vocal support through legislation, this Tribal Council stands united in backing our dependent school districts and helping them keep their doors open.”
Tribal Councilors also passed an act affirming and codifying CN laws and statues.
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said the act acknowledges that tribal officials have created a volume of five books titled “Cherokee Nation Code Annotated” that has the tribe’s laws and resolutions within them.
“It took quite a while to do, but it’s just making it official that those are our laws and our resolutions, basically everything that we have,” she said. “If somebody wants to look up a law for some reason they can do it in one place now.”
Taylor said the books can be found in the legislative offices and the Attorney General’s Office. The books can also be purchased at the CN Gift Shop for $455.
Legislators also confirmed John Sparks, of Norman, to the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission; Shaun Shepherd, of Tahlequah, to the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors; and Fannie Robinson, of Kansas, Oklahoma, to the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission.
Sparks and Robinson were approved unanimously while three legislators opposed Shepherd’s confirmation.
Sparks said he is thankful for the opportunity to serve on the CNGC.
“Thank you all for having me, and I just want you to know how flattered and honored I am to be asked to serve…to execute my duties in this role,” he said.
While serving on the CNB board, Shepherd said he looks forward to the challenges it holds.
“Mr. Speaker, council, I want to thank everybody in this administration for putting their trust in me for this position,” he said. “I look forward to the challenges, and look forward to serving the Cherokee Nation and its citizens.”
Councilors also passed a resolution supporting the CN’s Promise Zone application.
The Promise Zone is a White House initiative that consists of the federal government investing in and partnering with tribal communities to increase economic activity, create jobs, leverage private investment, reduce violent crime and improve educational opportunities.
According to hud.gov, Promise Zones are “high poverty communities.” The initiative provides resources such as tax incentives, pending enactment of tax incentives by Congress and grants to these communities.
Currently the only location in Oklahoma designated as a Promise Zone is the Choctaw Nation, which occurred in 2014.
Councilors also unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the Bureau of Indian Affairs to revise and update the tribe’s Inventory of Tribal Transportation Facilities to include three new routes.
The routes are in Ottawa County and consist of S610 Loop, EW-0190 Road and NS-4610 Road.
In other news, councilors increased the fiscal year 2016 capital budget by $2.2 million to $121.6 million. The increase of $2,245,423 went to the Motor Vehicle Tax budget. Councilors also increased the FY 2016 operating budget by $1.9 million to $656.7 million. In it the General Fund increased by $84,578, the Motor Vehicle Tax increase by $1,156,896 and DOI-Self Governance received $124,108. The remaining $609,208 came from grants.
The council also passed nine resolutions authorizing the donation of surplus office equipment to Nowata Cherokees in Nowata County, Redbird Stomp Grounds in Sequoyah County, Boys and Girls Club in Delaware County, 51 West Fire Department in Adair County, Brushy Cherokee Community Organization in Sequoyah County, Boys and Girls Club in Sequoyah County, Stokes Stomp Grounds in Sequoyah County and Belfonte Baptist Church in Sequoyah County.
The next Tribal Council meeting is set for 6 p.m. on March 14.