Hembree concerned with potential tribal sovereignty threats

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/28/2017 04:00 PM
LANGLEY, Okla. – For many lake enthusiasts, the July 4 holiday marks the high point of the summer season on Oklahoma’s water playgrounds. The Grand River Dam Authority’s Grand and Hudson lakes are certainly no exception, as large crowds are expected to hit the water for boating, swimming, skiing, tubing, cruising or simply relaxing along the shore. With that in mind, the GRDA Police Department wants to remind all those lake visitors that “boating safe, boating smart and boating sober” is still the best way to spend time on the water. One special message the GRDA Police share with Grand Lake visitors each Fourth of July is the reminder that special boating rules are in effect for the Duck Creek arm of the lake. Those rules are as follows: • All watercraft wider than 8.5 feet shall operate at “Idle” and avoid producing a wake at all times in Duck Creek. (If the vessel is wider than 8.5 feet, Duck Creek is no wake for the vessel at all times regardless of length). • All watercraft longer than 30 feet shall operate at “Idle” and avoid producing a wake at all times in Duck Creek. (If the vessel is longer than 30 feet, Duck Creek is no wake for the vessel at all times regardless of width). • All watercraft smaller than both measurements listed above may operate on plane not to exceed 30 mph in Duck Creek from official sunrise to official sunset. • All watercraft must “Idle” and avoid producing a wake from official sunset to official sunrise (night time) in Duck Creek between May 1 and Oct 1. (No wake in Duck Creek for all vessels at night). • All Watercraft must stay to the right of the center lane of buoys and at least 150 feet away from any dock, breakwater, structure, or shoreline. • On the actual day of the Duck Creek Fireworks (July 3) all watercraft shall operate at “Idle” and avoid producing a wake at all times in Duck Creek (all day, all night). • The area known as “The Turn” (area near Harbor’s View and Ugly John’s) is a no wake zone for all vessels at all times. The following tips can also be helpful to lake visitors as they plan a trip to GRDA lakes this summer. • Before you leave the dock, know the stability, load capability and handling of the vessel you are operating. Remember, every boat is different. Check the water conditions and know where hazards like sandbars and stump beds are located. • Before you leave the dock, check the weather conditions. Don’t get caught on the lake in a storm you could have avoided. • Airplane pilots file a flight plan. Boaters need a float plan. Tell someone responsible where you are going and when you expect to return. • Don’t drink and boat. Most lake accidents are alcohol-related. Don’t become a statistic. • All boats must be equipped with certain safety equipment, but this equipment is useless if you don’t know how to use it. Learn how to properly use all the safety equipment on your boat. • Double-check to see if you have life jackets (for all passengers), bailing device, fire extinguisher, horn or whistle, throwable cushions, anchor, oar and operating boat lights on your boat. For more information about the GRDA Police Department or how an officer can assist you, call 918-256 0911 or visit grda.com. If you need assistance from your boat, the GRDA Police Department encourages you to call 911. If you do not have a cell phone available, you can radio the GRDA Police on Marine Band 16.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/27/2017 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Management & Consulting’s centennial planning team was recently honored with the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Col. John Magruder Award. The team is being recognized for its Marine Corps Reserve Centennial Exhibit inside the Pentagon. The three honorees – Gunnery Sgt. Elizabeth Ingles, Gunnery Sgt. Brian Knowles and Cori Parker, project leader for Cherokee Nation Management and Consulting – were recognized for their collaborative efforts in researching, curating and designing the exhibit. “It is an honor to receive an award from the Marine Corps Heritage Foundation for this display,” said Parker. “Our team is proud to showcase the Marine Corps Reserve with this enduring historical artwork in the Pentagon.” Design and construction of the exhibit was a key project in an awareness-building campaign, marking the 100th anniversary of the Marine Corps Reserve. The exhibit spans 34 feet and is located within the “A” Ring of the Pentagon. During a recent ceremony at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, each member of the centennial planning team received a medal and an engraved brick to be placed in the nearby Semper Fidelis Park. The two gunnery sergeants also received a cash prize. The Marine Corps Reserve Centennial Exhibit, now a permanent fixture within a high visibility area of the Pentagon, serves as a continuous reminder of the enormous sacrifices and contributions Reserve Marines have made to help shape the reputation of the Marine Corps. CNMC, formed in 2015, provides technical support services and project support personnel to its defense and civilian agency partners. The company provides a tailored management approach for complex government programs and disciplines, including information technology, science, engineering, construction, research and development, facilities management, program management, and mission support. It is headquartered in Tulsa and is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeenationbusinesses.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeenationbusinesses.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/27/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a June 26 special meeting, the Election Commission amended the contract of Commissioner Carolyn Allen by adding $15,600. The commission also voted to give EC clerk Kendall Bishop its Employee Appreciation Award for Employee of the Year. She will receive it during the Cherokee Nation’s employee appreciation picnic on June 30. The EC also approved minutes from the June 13 regular and June 5 special meetings.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/26/2017 12:00 PM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office release, 12 people, including some Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens, were charged with marriage fraud conspiracy and related charges, for entering into sham marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws. Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said the indictments were unsealed on June 21 naming Ruth Marie Sequoyah McCoy, 54, of Cherokee; Timothy Ray Taylor, 41, of Cherokee; Golan Perez, 38, of Cherokee; Ofir Marsiano, 41, of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Kaila Nikelle Cucumber, 27, of Cherokee; Jessica Marie Gonzalez, 26, of Cherokee; Jordan Elizabeth Littlejohn, 28, of Cherokee; Kevin Dean Swayney, 36, of Cherokee; Ilya Dostanov, 28, of Panama City, Florida; Ievgenii Reint, 26, of St. Simons Island, Georgia; Shaul Levy, 26, of Norfolk, Virginia; and Yana Peltz, 30, of Israel. The release states all defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Marsiano is also charged with four counts of marriage fraud, and McCoy and Perez are each charged with three counts of marriage fraud. Taylor, Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, Swayney, Dostanov, Levi and Peltz each face one additional count of marriage fraud. According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in or about June 2015, and continuing through December 2016, in Swain and Jackson counties, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent marriage scheme, in which foreign nationals paid to enter into fraudulent marriages with U.S. citizens to secure lawful permanent residence in the U.S. The indictment alleges McCoy, Perez and Marsiano arranged the marriages by connecting U.S. citizens, including Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, and Swayney, with non-citizens, including Dostanov, Reint and Peltz. The non-U.S. citizens typically would pay $1,500 to $3,000 in exchange for the services. The indictment alleges once paired, the U.S. citizens and non-citizens would travel to Sevier County, Tennessee, and enter into fraudulent marriages with each other. The indictment states that, in most cases, after obtaining their marriage certificates, the non-citizens applied for adjustments to their immigration statuses based on their marriages to their U.S. spouses. The indictment further alleges that, at times, McCoy and Taylor also acted as “sponsors” for the non-citizens’ applications for adjustments to their immigration statuses, and in exchange, they received additional monetary compensation. Of the 12 defendants charged, seven were arrested on June 21 and appeared in federal court on the charges. Littlejohn, Dostanov, Reint, Levy and Peltz had not been arrested as of publication. The marriage fraud conspiracy and marriage fraud charges each carry a maximum prison term of five years, per count.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/25/2017 02:00 PM
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge won't decide until later this year whether to shut down the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline while federal officials conduct a more thorough environmental review. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Wednesday approved a schedule under which both sides in a lawsuit over the pipeline will submit written arguments on the matter in July and August. "We would expect a decision sometime after that, probably September," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux, which filed the lawsuit last summer that was later joined by three other Sioux tribes. The Standing Rock tribe sued because it believes the $3.8 billion pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners threatens cultural sites and its water supply. The company disputes that and maintains the pipeline is safe. The long-delayed project was finished earlier this year after President Donald Trump took office and called for its completion. On June 1, the pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois, from which it's shipped to the Gulf Coast. But Boasberg last week ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the pipeline, didn't adequately consider how an oil spill might affect the tribe. He ordered the agency to reconsider parts of its environmental analysis. About 50 anti-pipeline protesters rallied outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., during Wednesday's hearing. They sang, chanted, held signs with messages such as "water is life" and gave speeches in support of the tribe. "If that (pipeline) spills, it means game over," said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus activist group. "It means they can't wash, they can't clean, they can't feed their children. It means their way of life ends."
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/24/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State environmental officials say elevated mercury levels in fish have been found in 14 more lakes in Oklahoma than last year. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality plans a public meeting for Tuesday to discuss the mercury levels. The agency says a total of 54 lakes have mercury advisories — which is up 14 since the last advisory in 2016. The advisories deal with mercury levels in fish and do not affect drinking water safety or lake recreational activities like swimming or boating. The 14 new lakes added to the advisory are: Arcadia Lake, Birch Reservoir, Boomer Lake, Copan Reservoir, El Reno Lake, Greenleaf Reservoir, Lone Chimney Lake, Lake McMurtry, Lake Murray, Pawnee Lake, Lake Ponca, Lake Raymond Gary, Shell Lake and Waurika Reservoir.