Hembree concerned with potential tribal sovereignty threats

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
03/27/2014 08:17 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree told Tribal Councilors at the Feb. 27 Rules Committee meeting that two issues within the state could pose threats to tribal sovereignty.

Hembree said he and members of his staff on Feb. 26 joined Chickasaw Nation and Choctaw Nation representatives to meet with Steve Mullins, general counsel for Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, to discuss “two major topics.”

One topic is a proposed rule change by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement Commission to require a limited waiver of sovereign immunity to any tribal casino that applies for a liquor license with the state, which the tribes oppose.

“There are many legal reasons that this cannot take place. This is an issue that Gov. Fallin is promoting. It was a very impressive sight to see the Cherokees, Choctaws and Chickasaws all at one table with a united voice on this matter,” Hembree said. “I do believe we got the governor’s attention in this matter, and whether it is through policy negotiation or through legal challenge, I don’t not believe the ABLE Commission will be able to go forward with this rule. We will engage them.”

The item was not listed on the ABLE Commission’s March 10 meeting agenda, according to the commission’s website. Commissioners tabled the item at its February meeting.

The other issue deals with Shawnee city officials giving notice to the Citizen Pottawatomie Tribe in central Oklahoma that they intend to begin collecting sales tax from Citizen Pottawatomie Tribe-owned businesses located within the city limits.

Hembree said he believes issues similar to this issue have already been litigated in the state court and the U.S. Supreme Court. The Governor’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office “are contemplating weighing in” one the side of the city, he added.

“Obviously this is an issue that is of great importance for all Indian tribes in Oklahoma. The Choctaws, Chickasaws and Cherokees expressed our thoughts on this matter, and we stand ready to engage the city of Shawnee or the state of Oklahoma,” Hembree said.

The two issues, however, could be decided by current litigation in the U. S. Supreme Court involving a Michigan tribe, he said.

This past fall, the CN joined 11 tribes in support of the Bay Mills Indian Community and its lawsuit against Michigan. The state is at odds with the BMIC because it believes it can close the tribe’s casino because it is not on the tribe’s lands.

A federal judge agreed with the state and issued an injunction in 2011 ordering the casino closed. However, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the judge’s injunction in late 2013.

“That (Supreme Court) decision could come in early April. My office is working on contingency plans depending on the severity (of the ruling). I think there will be some restriction of some sort,” Hembree said. “Depending on the tenor and wording of the United States Supreme Court decision, this tribe needs to be ready to act and act quickly to protect our sovereign immunity and our business rights.”

Hembree said after the Feb. 26 meeting between the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw nations and Oklahoma, he had a second meeting with state officials to discuss a hunting and fishing agreement.

“We have set up a series of meetings to exchange information and data to get that ball rolling,” he said.

Hembree also gave updates on litigation with the Department of Interior regarding the United Keetoowah Band’s 2.03 acres on which its casino sits, as well as 76 acres, also in Tahlequah, the UKB wants in trust status. He said the land lawsuits are separate and will not be joined together.

The court case for the 2.03-acre tract will be heard on May 9 in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Oklahoma in Tulsa.

Hembee said there has not been a briefing set for the 76-acre tract.

On Feb. 28, the CN filed an objection into the UKB’s intervention in the case for the 76-acre tract. Also, Hembree said the CN has managed to get a restraining order against putting that land in trust until the lawsuit is decided.

On Jan. 6, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals dismissed the CN’s appeal of a 2011 decision by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to allow the UKB to place the 76-acre parcel of land in trust. CN officials have said the UKB has no legal ground for trust land within the Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction.

On Jan. 13 the CN filed a complaint with the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Oklahoma against Interior officials.

In the complaint, the CN states the DOI’s dismissal of its appeal makes the 2011 decision by the DOI “final” and permits Secretary Sally Jewell to take the 76 acres into trust for the UKB.

For the Freedmen case in federal court, Hembree said oral arguments are to be heard on April 28 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-453-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/26/2014 11:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report shows the state of Oklahoma collected $122 million in gaming fees from Native American tribes during the last fiscal year. The report issued Nov. 19 by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that for the first time ever, the fees paid to the state declined from the previous year. The report noted a drop of nearly $5.5 million – or about 4 percent – from previous year’s collections. The funds are used primarily for public education. Possible reasons cited for the decline include an increase in the number of Class II games such as electronic bingo for which tribes do not pay exclusivity fees and “possible market saturation.” The annual report was prepared by the state agency’s Gaming Compliance Unit.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law. “The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said. The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16. “I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said. Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her. “But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said. Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends. “It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said. Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference. “We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.” Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape. Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved. “Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered. Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.” Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said. “Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.” Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex. It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said. Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school. “That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said. Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18. “Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said. The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said. (If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage. “Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added. Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee. <strong>Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Cherokee Nation:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex. <strong>Oklahoma:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 04:04 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 29, Loretta Lynn will perform at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. After being encouraged to learn to play the guitar and write songs by her husband, Doo, who she married at 13, Lynn quickly became a natural and began playing at area nightclubs. She caught the attention of Zero Records and recorded her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Lynn made herself a fringed cowgirl outfit, and she and Doo drove across the country promoting her single. By fall 1961, Lynn was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage and in 1962 her Decca Record debut came out with the smash hit “Success.” It was the first of her 51 Top 10 hits. Among Lynn’s other songs are “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” “Love Is the Foundation” and “One’s on the Way.” In 1967, she began picking up various Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn dominated the charts with hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Somebody Somewhere,” “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed,” “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” and her 1982 smash hits “I Lie” and “Making Love from Memory,” which brought her into the new decade. In 1971, Lynn and fellow country musician Conway Twitty won several Duet of the Year awards. In 1972, Lynn made history as the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year trophy. The country star continued renewing her creativity after being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 with the hit “Heart Don’t Do This to Me.” In 1988, Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned a gold record in 1994 with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a trio CD with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. In 2000, she was back again with the CD titled “Still Country.” She also returned to the concert trail. In 2002, Lynn published a second memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2003. The following year she won two Grammy Awards for “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with rocker Jack White. Lynn added to her collection of awards in 2008, when she was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010, when she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets start at $40 and go on sale Nov. 28. Tickets are available online in The Joint section of <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will hold its annual “Light Up” event at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The event will feature the Cherokee National Youth Choir, holiday lights as well as cookies and hot cocoa for guests. Following the event will be the Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. in downtown Tahlequah.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/25/2014 08:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – More than 150 people attended the Cherokee Cultural Day event on Nov. 22 at the Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center. The Vinita Indian Territory Coalition and Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez sponsored the second annual event. “This is the second year that I have helped host. We call it ‘Cherokee Culture Day’ at the Vinita health clinic. Last year I came up the idea right before I got elected to council, but I wanted to honor the National Treasures in Vinita because we rarely get a lot of culture activities in Vinita,” Vazquez said. The event had several cultural activities for the community to take part in, including cornhusk dolls, handprint making, basket weaving, story telling and flute playing. Vazquez said she invited two National Treasures to the event as well. “I brought two National Treasures. I try to focus on different ones each year because there are 40-something still living,” she said. Some members of the VITC also volunteered to make Indian tacos and sell them to raise funds for the local Special Olympics team. CN citizen and VITC President Paula Butcher said the VITC raised nearly $700. The money raised will be used to send about 10 kids to the Special Olympics winter games in Oklahoma City. Vazquez said even with the rain the day was a success. “Even though it was cold and rainy people were looking for something to do, and all the artists sold well, and everyone loved it. In fact, I had people come up to me that said ‘how can I participate next year as an artist?” she said. “We were amazed at how busy it was, and I had a door prize drawing every hour.” She added that seeing people of all ages enjoying the many activities was a great sight. “But I think what was just the cutest thing was that different ages of people learning to make baskets…one elderly man standing there working on a basket and an elderly woman was sitting there making the cornhusk dolls. She’d never got to do that before, and then we had lots of kids. So it was fun for everybody,” Vazquez said. Vazquez said she’s thankful for all the help from the volunteers as well as the donation of the location by the CN Vinita Health Center. Vazquez said they plan to continue to have this event each year and eventually grow the VITC and make it into a CN community organization. Cherokees interested in getting in touch with Vazquez can email victoria-vazquez@cherokee.org or call her at 918-323-2980.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
11/24/2014 08:37 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – It’s been 10 years since Oklahoma voters approved State Question 712, the constitutional amendment that allowed state tribes to bring in compact games, like those at casinos in Las Vegas, into their respective casinos. Cherokee Nation, along with those who supported SQ712, celebrated the state question’s 10th anniversary during a Nov. 17 gathering at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said passing SQ712 was a “win-win” for the state, tribes, Oklahoma Quarter Horse Association, Thoroughbred Racing Association of Oklahoma and education. “You’ve heard the numbers of economic development and the $1.3 billion impact that only the Cherokee Nation had,” he said. “There are 39 tribes in the state of Oklahoma, and they all have similar circumstances. We are the economic engines of northeastern Oklahoma. We could not be that without 712.” Former Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry expressed how he had faith in SQ712. “We have so much to be proud of in these 10 short years,” he said. “If you just think about it tribal gaming in the state of Oklahoma has been an unbelievable impact.” Henry said SQ712 betters Oklahomans today and would continue to do so. “I don’t think there’s anything that we’ve done as a state in the last 50 years that has the kind of impact that SQ712 has,” he said. “There were visionaries who saw a great vision in the future, but none of us anticipated the incredible impact of 712 that we see today. I don’t think any of us fully grasp the future of this program and where we’re headed and the incredible things that will result in the state of Oklahoma for all Oklahomans, Native American and not, in the future.” Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton said he’s thankful that Baker has given CNB the opportunity to build clinics and a new hospital in the tribe’s jurisdiction from a portion of the tribe’s gaming profits. “Everyone’s talked about the vision of 712 and where that’s taken us. Chief, I appreciate your vision beyond that and what you’ve allowed the businesses to do with the profits,” he said. “Gov. Henry, I really appreciate you pushing that (712) to a vote of the people, and I’d like to thank the people of the state of Oklahoma for passing it because without them this wouldn’t be possible.” Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird said the addition of compact games to Cherokee casinos has brought in people who would otherwise travel to Las Vegas or Tunica, Mississippi, to game. “Just by virtue of having the ability to take advantage of some of the game libraries that are offered by some of the class three gaming manufactures has brought a lot of new players out to the facilities,” he said. Hummingbird said there are approximately 6,500 gaming machines and 83 table games in Cherokee casinos. “The table games are all compact,” he said. “As far as the total number of compact machines, 60 percent of that roughly is compact games. Our ratio is roughly 60/40 between compact games and Class II games.” Hummingbird said the game ratio has stayed at 60/40 percent for approximately five years but that it could change depending on players’ tastes. “If they are wanting more compact games, or games that we can only get through the compact, then that’s what we will see,” he said. “A lot of this is going to be dictated by the players.” Hummingbird said when looking back he didn’t believe anyone could foresee what SQ712 has provided for tribes and the state. “I think that the overall impact the tribe’s have had by virtue of having the compacts through SQ712 have far exceeded what anybody had anticipated 10 years ago,” he said. “We’ve done this through an effort between the tribal government, including the gaming commission, as well as the casino operators, as well as the vendors and the state. I think the success is not just because of one piece of the puzzle, but just by having everybody working together to make sure it has been a success. It’s been a complete team effort.” After the 2004 election, the CN was one of the first tribes to sign a gaming compact with Oklahoma. Currently 33 of 39 tribes in Oklahoma have gaming compacts. Since the signing the compact, which expires in 2020, the CN has created approximately 4,000 jobs. It has also paid more than $100 million in fees to support Oklahoma’s horse racing industry and approximately $126 million for education. Tribes in Oklahoma have provided approximately $895 million for the state under SQ712. The revenue brought in last year was approximately $122 million. The state originally projected tribes would bring in $71 million per year.