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 • 918-207-3961
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
09/01/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – Cherokee Nation Foundation is hosting an open house during the 63rd annual CherokeeNational Holiday Sept. 4-6. CNF hopes to raise awareness about the organization and its mission to help Cherokeeyouth succeed academically and achieve their higher education goals. The open house is Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 800 S. Muskogee. Students, parents and teachers are encouraged to stop by for goodie bags and to gather information about CNF programs and scholarship opportunities. “Most people do not know that we have programs for students as young as fifth grade,” said Janice Randall, executive director of Cherokee Nation Foundation. “We have so many ways to help prepare Cherokee students, and we are dedicated to helping as many of them as possible. We just have to let them know who we are and how we can help.” CNF also plans to reveal its new branding initiative at the open house. “The Cherokee National Holiday is the perfect time to reintroduce ourselves and remind the Cherokee people that we are here to help,” said Randall. “We want Cherokee students to understand the value of higher education and know it is within reach for each and every one of them. We work diligently with all of our students to help them prepare for their academic journey and keep them informed about resources to help them succeed.” For more information, contact Cherokee Nation Foundation at (918) 207-0950 or Janice Randall at jr@cherokeenationfoundation.org.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 08:35 AM
In this month's issue: • The principal chief, deputy chief and eight Tribal Councilors take their oaths of office on Aug. 14. • CN files lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson' • CCO brings Cultural Enlightenment Series to Briggs community • OK tribes approach $1B in state fees ...plus much more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/9/9576_2015-09-01(rev).pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the Sept. 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 12:00 PM
DURANT, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Emalea Hudgens, a junior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a double major in psychology and music, recently spent a semester studying at the Swansea University, a public research university based in Wales of the United Kingdom. Hudgens received the title of Brad Henry International Scholar in 2014 and she studied abroad this past spring. The Jay native is a Cherokee Nation citizen and Harvey Scholar recipient. She is also a Savage Storm Leader and was selected to be in the President’s Leadership Class for 2012-13. Hudgens is a member of the Southeastern Chorale, Sparks Dance Team and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, according to the SOSU Communications Department. “I am very blessed and excited to get this opportunity to study abroad and become immersed in a different culture,’’ Hudgens said to the Southern, the SOSU newspaper. “It has been a life-long dream of mine to travel the world, and I cannot wait to share the stories and experiences with family and friends.” Hudgens said she felt fortunate to have studied overseas. “It has always been a dream of mine to study abroad and to live in Europe for a period of time. I hope to learn about their culture and get opportunities to work there myself, getting the experience that I need to do so. I just think it would be cool to work in a different culture.” She told the Cherokee Phoenix she was nervous to leave Oklahoma and live in a culture different than hers. “To say the least, it turned out to be the most life-changing experience. During my stay in Wales, I travelled to 11 different countries across Europe,” she said. “It was amazing to see the different cultures and the different people. I came to find people were very interested in hearing about the American culture and they found it fascinating to learn that I was a member of the Cherokee Nation.” Hudgens said studying abroad opened her eyes to many ideas about the world. “It is common to think the world is scary, but it is also very beautiful and filled with beautiful things,” she added. “Since travelling, I have created a passion to want to continue to travel and go see more of the world. I encourage everyone to travel if they get the opportunity.”
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 10:00 AM
NEWKIRK, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation, with the approval of five other tribes, negotiated a lease of more than 8,000 acres to Weatherby Energy for oil and gas exploration at the former Chilocco Indian School in Kay County. CN Real Estate Services Director Ginger Reeves said meetings were held between the CN and Kaw, Pawnee, Ponca, Otoe-Missiouria and Tonkawa tribes in 2009. “Public Law 99-283 in the Federal Register grants Cherokee Nation the authority to lease the trust acres,” she said. “The leases are recorded at the Kay County Clerk’s Office in Newkirk, Oklahoma.” According to CN Resolution 134-09, Reeves said then Principal Chief Chad Smith and the Tribal Council approved a resolution to lease the property. “Regarding the referenced lease, the six Chilocco tribes’ trust lease was approved April 4, 2011, and has until April 4, 2016, to drill and produce or expire. Samson Resources Company, the current lessee, is in the process of assigning the lease to a Texas group (MPG Energy Inc., a subsidiary of Weatherby Energy.) Real Estate Services is processing that assignment approval through the BIA,” she said. Weatherby Energy has received Bureau of Indian Affairs approval for this assignment, officials said. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Weatherby Energy but did not receive a response as of publication. The Chilocco properties are trust and fee lands and the lease covers both. “The fee land lease will expire Nov. 5, 2015, unless they drill and produce. This fee lease was also recently assigned by Samson to the Texas group. Real Estate Services is processing the assignment for Cherokee Nation approval,” Reeves said. “Both leases were five-year leases and are filed in Cherokee Nation Title Plant. There is also a smaller acreage lease on fee lands at Chilocco with another oil company, which was in place before the lease started.” When the previous leases ended in the early 1990s, Reeves said it covered 320 acres and leased for $11,520 over a three-year term. She said it lasted longer because of oil and gas being produced in “paying quantities” from the property. Officials said the CN receives $8,736.30 on trust property annually plus $6,985.23 on fee property for a total of $15,721.53. A total of 8,152.61 acres are under lease with more than 5,000 acres being trust land and more than 2,300 acres in fee.
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
08/31/2015 08:21 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have filed a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. claiming the companies misbranded the drug Risperdal and failed to disclose risks posed to elderly patients. According to drugs.com, Risperdal is an antipsychotic medicine and is used to treat schizophrenia and symptoms of bipolar disorder and manic depression. Risperdal is also used in autistic children to treat symptoms of irritability. Initially filed by the tribe in April in Sequoyah County, where the drug was distributed at the Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw, the suit was moved in July to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma in Muskogee. According to court documents, the CN claims the companies admitted to selling the “misbranded” drug for unapproved uses more than a decade ago, during the time the tribe purchased it. The tribe also claims that from 1999 through 2005, the companies sold Risperdal for uses that were not approved as safe and effective and between March 3, 2002 and Dec. 31, 2003, the CN purchased the drug after the defendants expressed that the drug was not misbranded. The suit also claims negligence, breach of warranty, unjust enrichment and violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act on the part of the companies. Court documents state the tribe “is entitled to restitution to the extent of the increased revenue received by defendants from Risperdal prescriptions that were purchased or reimbursed by the Cherokee Nation and which resulted from the sale of misbranded Risperdal.” The tribe is asking for a judgment of $75,000 for “attorney fees, civil penalties and all other relief this court deems just and equitable.” “The crux of our case is that unbeknownst to us, this drug is a bad drug,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “We prescribed it through our clinics to our citizens. We now know it’s a bad drug and we don’t do it anymore, but as a result of it damaging our citizens, we incur the extra costs of having to take care of those citizens. Money that we otherwise would not have spent if it had not been for this bad drug.” Currently, no hearing has been scheduled. In 2013, Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. reached a $2.5 billion settlement with the U.S. Justice Department over the marketing of the antipsychotic drug for failing to warn that it could cause gynecomastia, which is abnormal development of breasts in males. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler served as an expert witness for the family that issued the lawsuit and testified that Johnson & Johnson knew about the risks associated with Risperdal but failed to disclose the data showing the extent to which youth may develop gynecomastia. According to the Wall Street Journal, lawsuits continue to be filed against Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc. across the country. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to get a comment from Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Pharmaceuticals but was unsuccessful. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/8/9571_nws04_150814_JJSuit.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the lawsuit.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/27/2015 04:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – The First Nations Development Institute is accepting applications for five $1,000 Native Agriculture and Food Systems Scholarships until Sept. 30. The program is to encourage more Native American college students to enter agricultural-related fields so they can one day assist their communities with food production, improving health and nutrition and eliminating food insecurity, according to the organization’s website. The scholarship can be used in degree fields such as agribusiness management, agriscience technologies, agronomy, animal husbandry, aquaponics, fisheries and wildlife, food production and safety, food-related policy and legislation, horticulture, irrigation science, plant-based nutrition and sustainable agriculture or food systems. Scholarship applicants must be a full-time undergraduate student majoring in agriculture or an agricultural-related field, be Native American with proof of tribal enrollment, have at least a 3.0 GPA and demonstrate a commitment to helping their community reclaim local food-system control. Applicants are also required to submit an enrollment verification form, unofficial transcript, letter of recommendation from a faculty member and a 250-500 word essay addressing how their degree program will help regain control over their local food and explaining how the money would be used. The FNDI’s mission is to strengthen American Indian communities by investing and creating institutions and models that support economic development. To apply, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship" target="_blank">www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/scholarship</a>. For more information, call 303-774-7836 or email <a href="mailto: ktallmadge@firstnations.org">ktallmadge@firstnations.org</a> or <a href="mailto: mwhiting@firstnations.org">mwhiting@firstnations.org</a>.