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
03/03/2015 03:11 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Regardless of inclement weather expected to hit Tahlequah Tuesday night, the Election Commission’s Election Services Office will open on Wednesday to allow candidates to file for the June 27 election. Election Director Connie Parnell said Cherokee Nation election law states that March 2-5 are the four days that are designated for filing. The filing period for candidates closes at 5 p.m. March 5. “This office will be open tomorrow even if Cherokee Nation is not,” she said. According to News On 6 Tulsa’s weather forecast, Tahlequah is expected to get rain Tuesday evening, which will turn into freezing rain and sleet during overnight with anywhere from 2-6 inches of snow expected by Wednesday morning. Thursday is expected to be sunny with a high of 35 degrees. Registered voters residing outside the CN jurisdiction who wish to vote by absentee ballot may fill out an absentee ballot request to be processed from Feb. 2 to May 8. Absentee ballot requests will be available at the Election Services Office and online at www.cherokee.org/elections. The EC will mail absentee ballots May 26-27. Voter registration will close March 31. To print a voter registration form online visit www.cherokee.org/elections or pick up one in person at the Election Services Office. Citizens can request to have one sent by email or fax. Also, voters with address changes, name changes or any changed information will need to submit a new voter registration application, according to the release. The Election Services Office is from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. It’s located at 22116 S. Bald Hill Road. For more information call 918-458-5899.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/03/2015 02:00 PM
SOUTH COFFEYVILLE, Okla. – On March 5, Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment officials will celebrate the opening of the Cherokee Casino South Coffeyville, which is expected to bring more than 100 new jobs to the area. CNE, the tribe’s gaming arm, broke ground on the 17,000-square-foot facility in August. The $10 million development offers 300 electronic games and a dining venue featuring lunch, dinner and cocktail options. CNE currently operates Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, eight Cherokee Casinos, a horse racing track, three hotels, three golf courses and other retail operations. The public ribbon cutting and opening celebration will be held at 2 p.m. at the facility located off Highway 169 south of South Coffeyville.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
03/03/2015 10:26 AM
COLUMBIA, S.C. – John Shurr, a Cherokee Nation citizen and longtime free press advocate and Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board member, died at his South Carolina home on March 1 at age 67. Shurr had served on the Editorial Board since 2000, with much time as board chairman. Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Bryan Pollard said he had a “handful of mentors” in his career and Shurr was one of them and the most influential. “He was unwavering in his dedication to ensuring press freedoms and access to information in both mainstream and tribal media,” Pollard said. “He was a dedicated journalist and passionate advocate for the truth, but most importantly, he was a good man. He was a proud Cherokee and understood the importance of a free press in Cherokee society. His contributions to the Cherokee Phoenix are indelible. He will be sorely missed.” [BLOCKQUOTE]Former Principal Chief Chad Smith said Shurr was influential in developing the CN Independent Press Act. In 1999 following the tribe’s Constitutional Crisis, it became apparent the value of a newspaper that was independent, Smith said. In determining how the free press act should read, he said Shurr was heavily involved in ensuring language that would allow the press to remain independent. “So I think he was key. While many of us had the general sentiment, he had the experience as a practitioner to give us guidance,” he said. The act’s language, Smith said, was picked up from various free press acts and Shurr was supportive with the legislation written because he knew there was a need for the press act. To the Editorial Board, Smith said Shurr brought experience and professionalism. “We looked for the best qualified Cherokee newspaperman we could find, and having been a bureau chief of AP (Associated Press) and with his experiences, it was very simple decision to make as to how he could benefit the Nation and be sure that the paper could remain independent,” he said. Former board member Jason Terrell said he worked with Shurr at the Native American Journalists Association in the late 1990s and served five years with him on the Phoenix board. “His passion for freedom of the press was unbridled and that passion extended to his immense contributions to the creation and protection of Cherokee Nation’s free press act,” Terrell said. “A Vietnam veteran, he didn’t shy away from confronting the opponents of freedom head on. The mainstream press and the tribal press have both lost a fierce advocate for the First Amendment, and those who knew him best have lost a good friend. Rest in Peace, John. You’ve definitely earned it.” Aside from his work in tribal media, Shurr was dedicated to openness in all media. In the more than 20 years that Shurr led South Carolina’s AP bureau, he continually supported the need for openness and transparency in public records and agencies and in courts. According to the AP, in 1988, the state Supreme Court unanimously voted to refuse to allow cameras or tape recorders in courtrooms. But Shurr did not waver in his commitment to transparency in the courtroom. He continued to speak to judges, lawyers and journalists about the importance of an open government. “At the time, South Carolina was one of a handful of states that didn’t allow journalists to have electronic equipment in courtrooms,” the AP states. “In 1992, largely due to Shurr’s efforts, South Carolina courts began a six-month experiment allowing cameras in the courts. Today, having cameras in the courtrooms is commonplace.” Bill Rogers, executive director of the South Carolina Press Association, said if it were not for Shurr, courtrooms in South Carolina may have still been without cameras and recording devices today. Jay Bender, press association lawyer and University of South Carolina media law professor, said many people may have not know his name, but information was out there for the public because of his efforts in South Carolina. “…But every day our people get information about officials and records they wouldn’t have otherwise had if it hadn’t been for the right-to-know fights he led,” Bender said. Shurr also created a scholarship in his name with the Cherokee Nation Foundation. It’s available to a graduate or undergraduate CN citizen who has been accepted in an accredited journalism or mass communications degree program. The student chosen for this scholarship also must apply for an eight-week, paid, summer internship with the Cherokee Phoenix. Cherokee Phoenix Reporter Tesina Jackson O’Field was the first recipient of this scholarship. “In 2009, John selected me as the first recipient of the John Shurr Journalism Award, which essentially started my career with the Cherokee Phoenix. I was about to graduate from college and unsure of the journalism world that lie ahead of me, but he saw something in me that I did not,” Jackson O’Field said. “He took a chance on me, something that I have been truly thankful for. I only hope that I have made him proud.” Shurr talked to the Cherokee Phoenix in 2009 about his scholarship and why he started it. “It’s very rewarding for me to be able to help get a young Cherokee journalist educated and also make available to them an opportunity at our newspaper,” he said. Shurr retired from the AP in 2007. He was married to Debbie Ashe Shurr. Visitation at the family residence is set for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on March 4. A memorial service will be March 5 at 2 p.m. at Incarnation Lutheran Church in Columbia. A private burial will be held at a later date at the Beaufort National Cemetery. Dunbar Funeral Home-Devine in Columbia is handling the services. <strong>JOHN C. SHURR</strong> Born: March 15, 1947, in Muskogee, Oklahoma <strong>Newspaper History:</strong> • Executive editor of the Oklahoma Daily, the student newspaper at the University of Oklahoma • Muskogee Phoenix, 1966 • Norman Transcript, 1970-1973 • Chicago assistant bureau chief • Oklahoma Associated Press bureau chief, 1981-1984 • South Carolina Associated Press bureau chief, 1984-2007 • South Carolina Press Association FOI chairman, 1986-2009 • Native American Journalists Association member, 20+ years • Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board chairman, 2000 to present <strong>Honors and Awards:</strong> • SCPA Distinguished Service Award • 2 SCPA FOI Awards • Order of the Palmetto • Gavel Award from the American Bar Association • Elias Boudinot Award • Navy Presidential Unit Citations (2) • Navy Unit Commendations (2) • Combat Action Ribbon • Battle Efficiency Awards (3) • Vietnam Gallantry Cross • Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal • Vietnam Service Medal (3 bronze stars) <strong>Education:</strong> B.A. in journalism from the University of Oklahoma <strong>Military Service:</strong> U.S. Navy <strong>Family:</strong> Debbie, his wife – Courtesy of The S.C. Press Association <strong>Remembrances of those who knew him</strong> “You were the first to encourage me to set my sights on becoming an editor. I scoffed then. That was 10 years ago. But look what happened. You were right, sir. We all have it in us to become more that what we aspire to. Walk softly into that good night.” – Lisa Snell, Native Oklahoma and Native Times publisher “I am so saddened at the news that a good friend, John Shurr, has passed. He was one of a handful of mentors I could always count on to steer me in the right direction. Rest in peace dear friend, rest in peace. This is a great loss to our media family.” – Shannon Shaw Duty, Osage News editor “John was also a mentor to many a young journalist. He was dedicated to making sure that the next generation was prepared to take on the challenges of defending a free press and we are all better for his efforts.” – Jason Terrell, former Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board member “He had impeccable comedic timing and always delivered a one-liner when things got stressful in the newsroom. He assigned me an ‘unofficial’ mentor at one point. It was a homeless man with a sign asking for money for beer, pot and hookers. ‘Hey, at least I’m honest,’ the sign read. RIP John Shurr.” – Jacob Jordan, friend and former colleague “John was always there whenever I needed him. When I had computer troubles, he would jokingly say it must be operator error. He came to Columbia the first year I started working for The Greenville News. He followed my work and when I moved to Columbia, he and Lou Krasky gave me a job as a freelancer, which later turned into a staff post in Greenville. My first assignment for the AP was when Pope John Paul II came to Columbia, and I got the front page of The New York Times. Thank you, John and Lou for giving me the greatest time of my life. Peace be with you.” – Mary Ann Chastain, friend “RIP John Shurr. You were a great captain and trusted friend. ‘Fair winds and following seas and long may your big jib draw!’ God speed my friend.” – Ken Elmore, friend “My longtime mentor, friend and primary reason I got my foot in the journalism door 10 years ago has passed away. John Shurr always believed in me and frequently checked in on me and my family. He gave me one of my first opportunities when I worked with him and a newsroom of amazing people in Columbia, South Carolina in 2005. He had a wonderful sense of humor and will be missed by many. Rest in peace, my friend. Thank you for all the wonderful stories and memories.” – Christina Good Voice, Mvskoke Media interim director and Communications manager “John Shurr was a Cherokee citizen who dedicated his life to advancing the profession of journalism. John served his country with distinction in the military and was a servant to the Cherokee people on the Phoenix Editorial Board. His work and patriotism will long be remembered. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” – Principal Chief Bill John Baker “The people of the Cherokee Nation and beyond owe a great debt to John Shurr. He was a gatekeeper for truthful communication, a career journalist. In the years I knew of him and had the honor of working with him, on the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board, John always spoke and wrote quietly, yet passionately, in defense of the people’s right to know and the people’s right to have a voice in the quest for self-governance, political challenges aside. John’s legacy is now the charge for those fortunate enough to have served under his mentorship. It is a charge that must not be taken lightly as it is endorsed by the Creator of all things who tells us this: Truth goes forth and does not return void; Truth always accomplishes that which it intends; Those who embrace the Truth will prosper. Thank you, John. Do na da’ go hv i (until we meet again). – Clarice Doyle, former Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board member
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/02/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The National Congress of American Indians Executive Council Winter Session announced that the White House invited tribal leaders to join the Generation Indigenous challenge. The Gen-I challenge is an initiative that focuses on building a bright future for Native youth. “The White House is inviting tribal leaders to take concrete steps to engage with Native youth in their communities, including working with or creating a youth council, hosting a joint meeting between youth and tribal leaders or partnering with youth to plan a program to support positive change in their community,” NCAI stated in a release. According to the release, seven tribes have accepted the Gen-I challenge, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Tribes of Alaska, Gila River Indian Community, Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians and Three Affiliated Tribes. “Existing elements of the Gen-I challenge include the recently launched Cabinet officials’ Native Youth Listening Tour and a steering committee of Native youth to plan the first ever White House Tribal Youth Gathering,” the release states.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/02/2015 02:00 PM
During the 6 p.m. Dec. 15, 2014 Tribal Council meeting, Councilors discussed: • AN ACT AMENDING LEGISLATIVE ACT #24-14 AUTHORIZING THE COMPREHENSIVE CAPITAL BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2015 - MOD. 1; AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY Councilor Taylor moved to approve. Councilor Vazquez seconded the motion. Councilors Byrd, Garvin, Cowan Watts, Buzzard, Fullbright and Snell requested to be added as sponsors. The motion carried by acclimation. • AN ACT AMENDING LEGISLATIVE ACT #25-14 AUTHORIZING THE COMPREHENSIVE OPERATING BUDGET FOR FISCAL YEAR 2015 - MOD. 4; AND DECLARING AN EMERGENCY Councilor Taylor moved to approve. Councilor Hargis seconded the motion. Councilors Byrd, Vazquez Garvin, Snell, Cowan Watts, and Buzzard requested to be added as sponsors. The motion to approve carried by acclimation. ...and more. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/3/8988_Dec15_2015CoucilMinutes.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to read</a> the Dec. 15, 2014 meeting minutes. <a href="https://cherokee.legistar.com/DepartmentDetail.aspx?ID=3301&GUID=C557BD6A-E296-4A30-BF3E-2035FF8607CC&Mode=MainBody" target="_blank">Click here to view</a> the Dec. 15, 2014 Tribal Council meeting video.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
03/02/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In February, the Cherokee Phoenix requested compensation amounts for all Cherokee Nation-affiliated boards and commissions through the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act. Some boards such as the tribe’s five-member Home Health Services board is not compensated for meeting monthly. The board includes Chairman Freddie Ferrell and members Debra Proctor, Dr. Roger Montgomery, Elmer Tadpole and Connie Davis. The tribe’s Election Commission is responsible for running the tribe’s elections and each commissioner receives a monthly $500 stipend and $100 per meeting. The five-member commission also receives an hourly pay rate of $30. Commissioners are Chairman Bill W. Horton and Co-Chairwoman Teresa Hart and members Shawna Calico, Carolyn Allen and Martha Calico. The Gaming Commission oversees gaming regulations and standards, and its commissioners receive a $1,500 stipend each month, mileage rate of 55 cents per mile and paid travel. Commissioners are Jennifer Goins, Shannon Fisher, Steve Barrick, Ruth Ann Weaver and Chairwoman Stacy Leeds. The three members of the Tax Commission are paid $700 per month and meet quarterly in Tahlequah. Commissioners Jim Hummingbird, Steve Wilson and Chris Carter are responsible for rules regulating car tag operations and tax revenue from tribally operated businesses. The Administrative Appeals Board hears appeals made by employees who have been terminated from their jobs. The three-member board receives $600 per meeting and a $200 monthly stipend. They also receive 55 cents per mile for traveling to meetings. Board members are James Cosby and Nathan Barnard. One seat is vacant. The Waste Management board is responsible for oversight of the tribe’s landfill and meets monthly. Chairwoman Fan Robinson receives a monthly stipend of $1,500 while board members Shawn Shepard and Luanne Collins receive $1,000 each. Board members also receive 55 cents per mile in travel expenses. Comprehensive Care Agency board members receive no compensation for serving. The members, which oversee the Programs for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly and Elder Care, are Chairwoman Janie Dibble and Dr. Roger Montgomery, Elmer Tadpole and Connie Davis. There is one vacant seat. The five-member Economic Development Trust Authority is also not paid for its work, according to the FOIA response. EDTA members are Mike Crawley, Johnnie Earp, Pamela Bickford, Glendon Watkins and Brian Hartley. The Environmental Protection Commission meets monthly in Tahlequah and administers environmental rules and regulations. Its five members are Marty Matlock, Ed Fite, Lynna Carson, Jack Spears and Blake Fletcher. They are paid $500 per meeting. Cherokee Nation Foundation board members, who oversee a scholarship program that includes scholarships established by CN citizens and others, are not compensated. Its six members are Tonya Rozell, Carole Richmond, Leroy Qualls, Patsi Nix Smith, Amber George and Susan Chapman Plumb. CN Community Association Corporation members are also not paid for their service. The five-member board currently has one vacancy and its members are Dawnena Mackey, Jacquie Archambeau, Ron Qualls, and Robin Smith. The board supports the efforts of Cherokee community groups that are tribally affiliated. The Registration Committee works on registration concerns and is compensated $250 per monthly meeting. Members include Registrar Linda O’Leary and Farrell Prater. In January, the Tribal Council voted to fill the committee vacancy with Carrie Philpot. She has yet to be confirmed. The Phoenix requested the compensation for the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors but was denied. According to the FOIA response, the information is exempt from public disclosure. “In response to your request, the information requested is exempt from disclosure pursuant to Cherokee Nation Legislative Act 16-14, 105(A)(6), which states: ‘all salary compensation paid by public bodies to individuals by authorized positions as classified by Cherokee Nation laws or Executive and Legislative Human Resources or Personnel Policies and Procedures. The annual budgets shall contain such position listings without the names of the individual holding such positions,’” states the FOIA response. The Phoenix attempted to get a clarification from CNB officials for why board compensation could not be disclosed but did not receive a response. According to a 2010 story, the CNB board chair received $72,000 annually while other members’ base pay ranged from $24,000 to $54,000. According to the story, as part of the base pay, each member served on at least one committee, but members also received $12,000 for each additional committee on which they served. The story also states committee chairs received an additional $6,000 annually and that Executive Committee members received an additional $12,000 annually except the board chairman, who forewent any Executive Committee compensation.