Cherokee Nation citizen Keith Harper will be the first Native American to serve as an ambassador for the United States after being confirmed by the Senate as the country’s representative to the United Nations Human Rights Council. COURTESY
Harper confirmed as U.N. Human Rights Council ambassador
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate today confirmed Cherokee Nation citizen Keith Harper as the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Nominated by President Barack Obama in 2013, Harper will be the first Native American to serve as an ambassador for the United States.
“Native peoples have conducted nation to nation diplomacy throughout the Americas for thousands of years. Upon confirmation, Keith Harper will join a small number of Native peoples who have been called upon to serve the United States as Ambassador,” said the National Congress of American Indians in a statement. “Mr. Harper’s extensive legal experience, both in Indian law and beyond, will be an invaluable resource to the UN Human Rights Council. As a tribal citizen, Mr. Harper will serve the United States with a sense of both the terrible history of human rights abuses against Native peoples and the strength of Indigenous cultures that always seek justice for all peoples.”
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, said Harper has had an “exemplary” career as a lawyer and a judge after confirming him.
“I’m pleased that my colleagues have voted to appoint another historic first in Indian Country,” he said. “As a longtime advocate for the civil rights of Native Americans, Keith will be a great Ambassador for our country.”
According to Civil Rights org., which endorsed Harper’s nomination, the U.N. General Assembly is slated to hold a World Conference on Indigenous Peoples in September, and “Mr. Harper’s presence there on behalf of the United States will send a strong message about the United States’ commitment to the rights of indigenous peoples.”
Harper served as a member on the president’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Prior to that, Harper was senior staff attorney for the Native American Rights Fund from 1995 to 2006. From 2007-08, he served as a Supreme Court justice on the Supreme Court of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians and from 2001-07 he served as an appellate justice on the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Court.
From 1998 to 2001, he was an adjunct professor at the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and from 1999 to 2001 he was a professorial lecturer at the American University Washington College of Law.
Harper was a law clerk to the Honorable Lawrence W. Pierce on the Second Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. He began his career as a Litigation Associate with Davis, Polk & Wardwell in New York. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley and a juris doctorate from New York University School of Law.
The Senate approved Harper with a 52-42 vote, with 6 senators not voting. Both of Oklahoma’s Republican senators, Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, voted against Harper. The CN is located within Oklahoma.
Republicans stated that Harper is a fundraiser for Obama who has exhibited poor judgment on the issue of human rights. All those opposing Harper’s nomination were Republicans.
Both of Maryland’s Democratic senators, Benjamin Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, voted for him. Harper resides in Maryland. All those voting to confirm were Democrats, along with independent Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.
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."
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.
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. – While traveling the Trail of Tears’ northern route “Remember the Removal” cyclists visited sites where Cherokees stayed during their forced removal in the winter of 1838-39, with several sites housing graves of Cherokees who died along the trek.
The Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville acted as a camping spot and gravesite during the removal.
Alice Murphree, Kentucky Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association president, said the site contains Chief Whitepath and Chief Fly Smith’s graves as well as a grave with unknown remains.
She said Whitepath, an assistant conductor with the Elijah Hicks detachment, died about 10 days after arriving at the site.
“He come sick coming out of Nashville, and as the trail proceeded he felt sicker and sicker. By the time they got to the spot at Hopkinsville he was so ill that the Elijah Hicks detachment had to leave him here and go on,” she said.
Murphree said Smith was “sickly” for most of the journey before dying at the site.
“Stephen Foreman (minister serving as assistant conductor of the Old Field detachment) and his wife stayed behind with him and that (Old Field) detachment moved on,” she said. “I guess it was just within a day or two. I don’t know exact dates, but they (chiefs) died within hours of one another. They (Foremans) went to the city and asked if they could bury him in the city. The city would not allow them to be buried there. The Latham family owned all of this property and agreed to let him be buried here.”
It is said that Cherokees are buried in Union County, Illinois, at the Camp Ground Church and Cemetery. Sandra Boaz, Illinois Chapter of the TOTA president, said it was determined by ground penetrating radar that there are around 10 ground anomalies the sizes of graves at the site.
“After 1834 a man by the name of Mr. Hileman took out a land patent and brought his family here. Sometime in the winter of 1837-38 he had two small preschool-aged children who passed away and he buried them, as family oral history says,” she said. “Then when the Cherokee came through…they had made arrangements for them to camp on this site. As they were stopped here due to the ice flows on the Mississippi River, naturally some of them passed away. So story says that Mr. Hileman had them buried out in the field by his little boys. So that was the basis for getting this site certified as a National Trail of Tears site with the National Park Service.”
For more information, visit www.nationaltota.com.
TAHELQUAH, Okla. – The American Indian Resource Center has received a $30,000 Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative grant from the Colorado-based First Nations Development Institute.
According to First Nations, the funding will help build a sustainable food source (fruits/vegetables) for three tribal communities with the aim of increasing consumption of healthy foods. Families will be reintroduced to growing/gathering their own foods while making healthier lifestyle choices.
The award was one of 15 program grants to Native American tribes and organizations under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative.
According to First Nations, each funded project aims to strengthen local food-system control; increase access to local, healthy and traditional foods; and/or decrease food insecurity and food deserts, all with an emphasis on serving Native American children and families.
The release states it is hoped that the projects will noticeably improve a tribe or community’s effort to increase access to healthy and fresh foods for vulnerable children, families and communities. Additionally, the efforts will help increase awareness of and involvement with where the community’s food comes from, and expand knowledge of the linkages between foods, Native cultures and/or contribute to tribal economic growth and the development of entrepreneurially-related food ventures.
First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States, according to the release. Its states that for more than 36 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage, or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org" target="_blank">www.firstnations.org</a>.
ROLAND, Okla. – A SWAT team sniper with the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service shot and killed a 57-year-old man on June 8 during a standoff in Roland, according to the Sequoyah County Sheriff's Office.
According to a sheriff’s office statement on Facebook, the sheriff’s office received a call around 4 p.m. about a possible suicidal man who had barricaded himself inside an area residence.
The post states that when county deputies and Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers arrived at the residence they found 57-year-old Paul Eugene Mashburn. It also states that as deputies approached the residence Mashburn yelled out the window that he had guns and gasoline and would shoot any officers that came near the house.
The statement reads that Mashburn was sending texts messages to family members stating he had gasoline and guns, and that he had poured the gasoline on the carpet and would throw a torch on it if officers tried to enter the home.
Mashburn was wanted on an outstanding felony warrant for a kidnapping case in Sequoyah County, the post states. It also states because of Mashburn’s threats and his prior criminal history, Sequoyah County Sheriff Larry Lane contacted the CNMS requesting assistance from its SWAT team.
The statement reads that county deputies and OHP troopers maintained perimeter security at the residence as well as constant communication with Mashburn until the SWAT team arrived around 7 p.m.
According to the post, the SWAT team negotiator communicated with Mashburn for several hours, trying to get him to exit the residence before Mashburn began breaking windows and threatening officers.
“Mr. Mashburn then started a fire inside the residence and continued breaking out windows and eventually opened a window on the east side of the house, yelled again and pointed a pistol out the window at officers,” the statement reads.
It was then, according to the statement, that a SWAT team sniper fired a shot that killed Mashburn. The Roland Fire Department then extinguished the fire before the home was completely destroyed.
According to the statement, Mashburn was a convicted sex offender and had previous criminal history of robbery, domestic violence and sexual battery. He also had an outstanding warrant from Van Buren (Arkansas) Police Department for domestic battery.
“I would like to recognize and thank Detective Christian Goode for staying calm and truly trying to end the standoff peacefully, by staying in constant communication with Mr. Mashburn for several hours,” Sheriff Lane stated. “This was a very stressful situation for everyone involved, and unfortunately ended with a man losing his life.”
CNMS Capt. Danny Tanner said the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is investigating the officer-related shooting and would not release the officer’s name.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After approximately three weeks and 950 miles, the 2017 “Remember the Removal” cyclists formed bonds that will last a lifetime. After seeing sites such as New Echota and Red Clay in Georgia, Mantle Rock in Kentucky and other locations where Cherokees traveled the Trail of Tears’ northern route, they ended their journey on June 22 at the Cherokee Nation Courthouse Square.
The ride began June 4 in New Echota and took cyclists through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma.
Mentor cyclist and CN citizen Will Chavez, who participated in the first “RTR” ride in 1984, said coming into Tahlequah and seeing familiar sites and family was “emotional.”
“It’s really emotional coming in today, seeing all of the familiar streets and roads, knowing finally I was almost home. Went through a lot of unfamiliar territory for three weeks, so it’s good to be home,” the Cherokee Phoenix assistant editor said.
In 1984 he was 17. Now at age 50, he saw the journey with “different eyes” and “new perspective.”
“It really was something else. I wanted to learn more, and this time I wasn’t a kid, so I really paid attention more and took in more of the sights and the stories that we heard,” he said.
As for those Chavez rode with, he said he watched them “grow” and is “proud” of their accomplishment.
“I watched them grow during the weeks and especially the days we’ve endured some tough terrain and heat. They didn’t complain. Everybody stayed together and helped each other, and it was just like quiet resolve,” he said. “I’m proud of them because they really showed a lot of grit and determination.”
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclist Chavella Taylor said she considers the cyclists “family.”
“I feel like they are my family now, especially with my EBCI riders. I spent more time with them than my own family,” she said. “It probably took us a week to get close with Cherokee Nation, but they’re my family now. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them.”
Taylor said being separated from her children was tough, but knowing why she took the journey kept her going.
“There were times where I just wanted to quit. I just wanted to go home, and I had the ability to go home. I had every means to go home and quit, but I’m on this ride for a reason,” she said. “I just feel like it was something that I had to do, and everyday I got through it. I’m just glad to be home, and I’m glad that my ancestors sacrificed what they did so that I’m able to be here with my kids.”
Taylor said she wants to tell her children that Cherokees have a purpose. “Something that I want to take back is to let my kids know that we have a purpose, that we’re still here, that there have been things that have been done to erase everything about us, but we’re still here.”
During the return ceremony, EBCI cyclist Renissa McLaughlin reminded the riders that they are from “one blood.”
“’Remember the Removal’ riders, I said this to you once before. We came from the same place, Kituwah. We existed together for thousands of years prior to the removal, and although we are miles apart, we are the same people – one blood,” she said.
She said for her “RTR” is “everyone who actively contributes either by work or words.”
“If not for the compassion of non-Natives, much of our history would have been lost to us. These past three weeks I’ve felt more love coming from complete strangers than I see among our own people, and we need to fix that,” McLaughlin said. “Without all of these compassionate people across the seven states we visited, there would be no trails marked for us to see. They are all out there telling our story when we cannot, and for that we owe them our deepest gratitude.”