Fallin questioned repercussions in custody dispute

04/30/2014 08:39 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin sought to speak with advisers about repercussions with the Cherokee Nation as she considered intervening in a custody dispute involving a Cherokee girl, according to correspondence released to The Associated Press under an open records request.

Fallin’s spokesman, Alex Weintz, emailed Fallin’s legal counsel on Aug. 13, saying the governor would like to meet to go over issues, including “Repercussions with Cherokees ... repercussions with national guard.”

The bitter custody case centered on a 4-year-old girl named Veronica. Her birth mother was pregnant when she put the girl up for adoption, and Matt and Melanie Capobianco of James Island, S.C., had been lined up to receive custody since 2009. But Veronica’s biological father, Dusten Brown, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and his family claimed the Indian Child Welfare Act mandated that the child be raised within the Cherokee Nation, and he won custody when the girl was 2.

The case went in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which found in June 2013 that the federal law did not apply. Brown refused to give up custody, and he was charged in South Carolina with custodial interference. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley made a request for extradition on Aug. 12, but Fallin said she wanted to wait until Brown had his day in court.

This appears, based on the documents the AP obtained, to have been a concern for Fallin and her aides, who were cognizant of how it would be perceived that one governor was not responding to another governor’s request.

“Just FYI I spoke with (South Carolina’s communications director) and explained our position,” Weintz wrote in an email to Fallin and Denise Northrup, Fallin’s chief of staff, on Aug. 14. “He said thanks, they understand. Also said they weren’t doing any national media appearances on this subject and were conscious of avoiding a Gov vs. Gov storyline.”

Two days later, Fallin was set to sign a compact with the Cherokee Nation. Weintz emailed Fallin to tell her that the state’s largest tribe was planning to bring a camera crew and that they may ask her to make comments.

“I think its (sic) a good thing ... As much as we can show cooperation on any issue during the whole baby veronica deal,” Weintz wrote, to which Fallin responded: “Sounds good.”

Fallin signed the extradition order Sept. 4 for Brown to face the criminal charge. Later that month, after the Oklahoma Supreme Court lifted an emergency stay that kept Veronica in Oklahoma, Brown handed her over to the Capobiancos. The extradition order was then dropped.

The emails were among more than 2,600 pages released to the AP that included correspondence between the governor and her advisers; emails and Facebook messages from constituents as well as out-of-state individuals about the case; and news articles. The records only included non-privileged documents relating to the case.

Weintz did not respond to a phone message and email on Friday about whether any documents were not released due to privilege and if so, what privilege was being cited.


10/12/2015 08:30 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – After leaving their seats nearly three months ago, former Tribal Councilors Julia Coates, Lee Keener and Cara Cowan Watts are adjusting to civilian life by some seeking employment or falling back to their previous careers. Keener, who is searching for a new job, said he felt privileged to have served as a tribal employee for seven years and a Tribal Councilor for four. “I would still be honored to serve in some capacity for the Cherokee people. I would still like to make a contribution in the future,” he said. “As a Nation, we have much more to accomplish, individually and collectively. Employees know when they see jobs being created for political favors. That is not good for a positive work environment. My hope is that we would hire and promote the most qualified Cherokee.” Coates said she continues to teach as an adjunct instructor while looking for full-time employment. As for Cowan Watts, she has returned to her engineering career and her consulting firm, Cherokee Star. “Which is designed to assist tribes to develop their own hands-on education programs such as the three-hour scholarship workshop I designed and much, much more,” she said. “I have no financial ties to the Cherokee Nation other than the giving of my time and money for my personal community work. I continue to volunteer in my local community with Cherokee organizations and youth.” She said she is focusing on her family and personal life mission of increasing the number of Cherokee Nation citizens and other American Indians in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. “I have renewed my relationship with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and recently been appointed to the Oklahoma Women in STEM board of directors,” Cowan Watts said. She added that she would continue to operate her email lists that include events, job opportunities and scholarship leads. If interested in receiving email from Cowan Watts, email cara@caracowan.com. Of the six Tribal Councilors who left their respective seats in August, Janelle Fulbright was appointed to the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors, Jodie Fishinghawk was hired at CNB as a project manager for Community Programs, and Tina Glory Jordan was hired as an attorney for the Housing Authority of Cherokee Nation.
10/09/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Native bull riders and calf ropers to barrel racers will converge Sunday in Tahlequah for the Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo. Bareback Riding World Champion Cody Parker, Professional Bull Rider Zane Cook and World Champion Calf Roper Steve Brickey are just a few who will compete for $20,000 in cash and prizes at the Cherokee County Rodeo Grounds, 16818 S. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah. The rodeo starts at 5 p.m. with slack starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. Admission is free. “The Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo was created as a way to showcase our talented Native cowboys and cowgirls,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “These cowboys and cowgirls will receive much-deserved recognition for their talents while also competing for some beautiful prizes, bragging rights and, of course, the cash. We hope the public comes out to enjoy this new event, as we fully expect it to be a great success.” Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo events will include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, junior bull riding, mutton bustin, barrel racing, junior barrel racing, breakaway, senior breakaway, junior breakaway, team roping, senior team roping, junior team roping, steer wrestling and calf roping. For more information, contact Diamond Thomison at 918-905-0364 or GV Gulager at 918-772-7701
10/09/2015 08:30 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Former Tribal Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk accepted a position with Cherokee Nation Businesses in late August to be its project manager for Community Programs. According to CNB Communications, Fishinghawk’s hire date was Aug. 24, but prior to accepting the position, Fishinghawk spoke with the Cherokee Phoenix about the job and its duties. The Adair County native said she already had the job-required knowledge needed for the position after her eight years of being a Tribal Councilor. She said she expected to work within tribal communities and with the Cherokee people in those communities, as well as CNB employees. “Which is something that I’ve been doing for a long time as a Tribal Councilor. I think I’m very qualified for this position,” she said. According to the job description, the position is responsible for the coordination of various special programs and will be a liaison between Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses and the 14-county jurisdiction. “The incumbent will be knowledgeable about services and programs offered by Cherokee Nation,” the description states. According to the job description, some skills and experience needed for this position include leadership skills, experience in managing multiple projects, coordinating project, ability to write routine reports and the ability to problem solve. There is also a degree requirement as well as five years experience with five or more years managing projects, the description states. She added that some job duties she was expected to handle included working closely with CNB employees. “I’ve noticed that there is a big disconnect with our employees at CNB and the Cherokee Nation. They know about health care if they’re sick. They know about education if they have a student in college, and they know about housing if they use rental assistance or have a house. But not a lot know about the Nation in general and its programs,” Fishinghawk said. “I’m there to try and fill that disconnect.” According to CNB Communications, the job is a new position that began Oct. 1 and was advertised publicly. Fishinghawk works within the CNB Community Relations under Molly Jarvis, vice president of Marketing and Cultural Tourism. Fishinghawk said she preferred to work in the Tahlequah area rather than Catoosa, where CNB is based, and upon her hiring she was given that option. Prior to her hiring, she said her salary would be comparable to what she made her last year as a Tribal Councilor, approximately $56,000. The Cherokee Phoenix requested an interview with Fishinghawk through CNB Communications after her hire date, but was denied. According to the tribe’s Constitution, “All Council members shall be limited to two consecutive elected terms on the Council. All Council members having served two consecutive terms must sit out one term before seeking any seat on the Council.” Fishinghawk was elected to her first term in 2007 and her second in 2011.
10/08/2015 02:30 PM
AUSTIN, Texas – Operation Enduring Respect is a nonprofit group that takes wounded veterans to college and NFL football games. It’s operated by Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Phelps. He said since starting the organization he’s taken more then 1,000 veterans to sporting events. “We’re all about healing. Wounds are not only physical, but there are also mental wounds and trauma, and I’m trying to help make a difference in the lives of those who risk their lives,” said Phelps, 58, who serves as the nonprofit’s director of operations. “We’re helping these service members come out of their shell and get back into society.” Phelps was raised in the military life and after seeing the effects of war on people he helped co-start the organization. He’s taking three CN citizens to the Red River Rivalry football game between the universities of Oklahoma sand Texas in Dallas on Oct. 10. Plans are also in the works, according to CN Communications, to take 25 veterans to a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving and perhaps some to the Super Bowl. His family during the years has always kept their Cherokee culture close. Phelps said he loves the fact that he’s Cherokee. “I was raised to have a deep affection for the tribe and culture,” Phelps said. “With this nonprofit I knew I also had the chance to help wounded Cherokee and Native veterans, and so bringing those two together is very rewarding.” U.S. Army veteran Staff Sgt. Marvin Cochran went to Iraq twice and served in Afghanistan. The Tahlequah, Oklahoma, native is one of three Cherokees going to the Red River game with Phelps. According to CN Communications his father, Jim Cochran, a Vietnam veteran, and RC Brashears, a Korean War veteran, are also planning to go. For more information about Operation Enduring Respect, visit <a href="http://www.enduringrespect.com" target="_blank">www.enduringrespect.com</a>.
10/08/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Communication department released its October events calendar on Oct. 1. Oct. 10 6 p.m. – Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach will host a free movie night at the Dream Theatre in Tahlequah. Attendees will be treated to Holt Hamilton films “Legends from the Sky” and “More than Frybread.” For more information, contact Kevin Stretch at 918-207-4919 or kevin-stretch@cherokee.org. Oct. 11 5 p.m. – The Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo will be held at the Cherokee County Rodeo Grounds in Tahlequah and will feature bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, junior bull riding, team roping and much more. Admission is $2, and kids 12 and under get in for free. Oct. 12 6 p.m. – Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting at the W.W. Keeler Complex, 17675 S. Muskogee Ave., Tahlequah. For the agenda, visit http://legislative.cherokee.org. Oct. 12-15 The Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw will be hosting free activities in connection with Breast Cancer Awareness Week. For more information, contact Neoma Flynn at neoma-flynn@cherokee.org or Mary Owl at mary-owl@cherokee.org. Oct. 13 6 to 8 p.m. – A Cherokee County community meeting hosted by Tribal Councilors Rex Jordan, Joe Byrd and David Walkingstick will be held at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds in Tahlequah. 6 p.m. - Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach will host a traditional Cherokee foods presentation by Cherokee National Treasure Edith Night at the Osiyo Training Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee in Tahlequah. This cultural event will be a guide to hunting, gathering and preparing traditional Cherokee foods such as kanuchi, wishi mushrooms and wild onions. For more information, contact Dawnena Mackey at 918-525-2041 or dawnena-mackey@cherokee.org. Oct. 20 6 to 7:30 p.m. – The Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center will host Bingo Night at the health facility in Vinita as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition to bingo, a pumpkin contest will also be held. Oct. 23 8:30 a.m. – Cherokee Nation Sam Hider Health Center will host the second annual Chili Cook-Off at the Jay Community Center. Registration is $10 and proceeds go to the Women’s Health Committee fund for Breast Cancer Awareness. Oct. 27 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. - Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach will host a Leading Great Meetings class as part of the Community Leadership Series at the Osiyo Training Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee in Tahlequah. This capacity and community leadership training will give you the understanding of facilitation styles, participation and creating the perfect agenda. For more information, contact Chris Welch at 918-207-4953 or chris-welch@cherokee.org. 5 p.m. – A community meeting hosted by Tribal Councilor Don Garvin for Cherokee Nation citizens of District 4 at Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee. Principal Chief Bill John Baker will also be in attendance as well as the Cherokee National Youth Choir. Oct. 30 7 p.m. – “Thriller” takes the field as the Sequoyah High School Drama Department will be performing Michael Jackson’s hit song at half time of the football game against Lincoln Christian. For more information, contact Amanda Ray at amanda-ray@cheorkee.org. Oct. 31 7:45 a.m. – Cherokee Nation Wings Program will be hosting the “Nowata Halloween BOO-YAH 5K & Fun Run.” Registration will be at the First Baptist Church in Nowata. For more information, contact Amy DeVore at 918-915-0464 or amy-devore@cherokee.org. Cherokee community language classes for fall 2015 also begin in October: • Lost City Community Center on Tuesdays, Oct. 6 – Dec. 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Webbers Falls Museum on Mondays, Oct. 5 – Dec. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Tri-County Vo-Tech in Bartlesville on Mondays and Thursday, Oct. 5 – Nov. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Elm Tree Baptist Church in Tahlequah on Mondays and Tuesdays, Oct. 6 – Nov. 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Fairfield Community Building in Stilwell on Tuesday and Thursdays, Oct. 6 – Nov. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Lyon Switch Community Building in Bunch on Mondays, Oct. 5 – Dec. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Elm Tree Baptist Church in Tahlequah on Thursdays, Oct. 8 – Dec. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Salina Early Learning Academy on Thursdays, Oct. 8 – Dec. 17, from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. • Country Baptist Church in Locust Grove on Mondays, Oct. 5 – Dec. 7, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Indian Capital Technology Center in Stilwell on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Oct. 20 – Nov. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Housing Authority in Sallisaw on Thursdays, Oct. 8 – Dec. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw on Tuesdays and Wednesday, Oct. 6 – Nov. 10, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. • Rocky Mountain School in Stilwell on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Oct. 7 – Nov. 5, from 4 to 6 p.m. • Briggs Community Building in Tahlequah on Sundays, Oct. 4 – Dec. 6, from 2 to 4 p.m.
10/07/2015 04:00 PM
VONORE, Tenn. – The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is inviting the public to visit the museum on Oct. 17-18 for a half price admission weekend with children 12 and under admitted for free. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Dawn Arneach will be on hand all weekend to help with Cherokee genealogy. Stop by and listen to Lloyd Arneach tell Cherokee stories. The museum will also have a vendor on hand selling Cherokee crafts and books. The museum is named for Sequoyah, a Cherokee who could not read or write in any language but perfected a syllabary system for reading and writing the Cherokee language for his people. Sequoyah was born near the museum site in 1776. The mission of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a property of the EBCI, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of the Cherokee Indians in Eastern Tennessee, particularly the life and contributions of Sequoyah. The museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits objects and data that support this mission. For more information, call 423-884-6246.