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

06/03/2014 01:30 PM
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.


10/07/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston said of the approximately 172,000 letters regarding the tribe’s hunting and fishing compact that were recently mailed to CN citizens, about 32,000 were returned because of bad addresses. “About 19 percent were bad addresses, about 32,000 letters,” Swepston said during a Sept. 24 CN Rules Committee meeting. She added that officials also received responses from tribal citizens at good addresses. “We’ve received back about 27,000 (letters), about 16 percent of the actually updated forms that are coming back in.” The letters described the “historic compact expanding hunting and fishing treaty rights” and a response card for a deer and turkey license that was to be mailed back to the CNTC upon completion. The response card lists needed information for the citizen to receive the license. Swepston said her department hopes to do more outreach to get the word out about the licenses and how to apply for it. “We are going to do some more communications-type stuff to get it out there, to tell people if you haven’t received this you know that you can go to the website to do this, to get the information,” she said. Swepston said her staff is working “diligently” to input all of the license information into their system. “We’re averaging about 974 a day putting them in, actually the updated information into the system so we’re making a dent in it and we’re trying very hard to get there,” she said. CN citizens can visit to fill out a hunting and fishing license application. The tribe is expected to issue the licenses on Jan 1. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to get the cost of the letters that were mailed, but did not receive a response from CN Communications. In other news, the CNTC unanimously approved a new organizational chart for the department. “We eliminated two salaried positions and that enabled us to put four agent positions in, which we needed in our imaging department and our audit department,” she said. “The organizational chart, all that does is show the deletion of those two positions and the addition of the agents. That’s all that is.” Swepston also said tobacco sales showed a decline in the year-to-date revenue of approximately 19.9 percent and in the month-to-month revenue comparison of July 2014 to July 2015 of approximately 12.2 percent. “I’ve talked to some of the owners and stuff, and they all just say business is down, but with all of the marketing and the pushing for quitting smoking and all of that, it’s going to be down,” she said. Swepston said the sale of motor vehicle tags has increased in both year-to-date and in the month-to-month comparison. “For motor vehicle year-to-date through July we have an overall increase of 24.17 percent over what we were this time July last year,” she said. “For the month of July, compared to July of 2014 we had an increase of 18.08 percent.” She said in July, within the CN’s expanded jurisdictional boundary, there were 2,016 tags sold. The expanded jurisdictional boundary is Mayes, Muskogee, Rogers, Tulsa and Wagoner counties that are partially outside of the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. Swepston said her department has had “no major issues” since the implementation of the online tag renewal system for the renewal of car, truck, motorcycle and personalized tags. “I mean we had a couple little hiccups, but those were easily worked out,” she said. “It seems to be going really well.”
Senior Reporter
10/07/2015 08:30 AM
GREENVILLE, Mo. – In the bitter cold of December 1838 more than 1,100 Cherokees passed through Old Greenville on their way to Indian Territory. Led by John Benge, they were one of 13 groups of Cherokees forced from their homelands in the southeast by the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Numerous families from Wills Valley in northeastern Alabama, some of them black slave owners, traveled with the Benge Detachment, as well as a few Muscogee (Creek) people who had been living with the Cherokees at the time of removal. The detachment reached Old Greenville with 60 wagons and 600 horses after traveling nine weeks. They waded across the St. Francis River at Bettis Ford and continued west for another six weeks before reaching what is now Stilwell, Oklahoma, on Jan. 11, 1839. Three births and 33 deaths were recorded during the 103-day, 770-mile journey. [BLOCKQUOTE]Trail of Tears Association members, National Park Service representatives and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers representatives came together Oct. 5 at the Bettis Ford site to dedicate a historic marker that tells the story of the Benge Detachment. TOTA Executive Director Troy Wayne Poteete said TOTA members take the time to commemorate a “sad chapter” in Cherokee history so they know exactly where Cherokees traveled to Indian Territory. “It’s our partners in the state chapters that really get down to the nitty gritty and find out where this road (trail) goes so that we can mark it, so that we can talk about, so that we can have a sense of place,” he said. Poteete said the stories told by the interpretive markers and by the TOTA speak of the forced removals but also the perseverance of the Cherokee people. “So when we talk about this, we’re not doing this because we want to perpetuate the memory of our ancestors who had to cross this river in December as victims, and certainly they were victimized by greed, primarily. We certainly don’t do it because we somehow want to appropriate that victimization to ourselves. We didn’t come on the trail, and nobody alive today was responsible for what happened,” he said. “We do this because it’s an opportunity for us to talk about the tenacity, the resilience and the perseverance of that generation of Cherokees who would not give up. They wouldn’t give up the Cherokee Nation and become citizens of some state,” he said. The 2-foot-by-3-foot interpretive marker includes the story of the Benge Detachment, where it began, where it traveled, birth and death numbers and when it reached its destination. Two maps on the marker also show the route taken by the Benge Detachment from Alabama to Indian Territory and the route taken by the detachment through Missouri. NPS Superintendent Aaron Mahr thanked the Corps of Engineers for developing the Bettis Ford site, the U.S. Forestry Service for helping mark the original Benge Detachment route, the Missouri Department of Transportation, Cherokee Nation, TOTA and Greenville citizens who recognize the Trail of Tears site’s significance. He said interpretive markers along the route help Americans understand what it was like for Cherokee people to move across the landscape in 1838 and the feeling of “dispossession.” “Hopefully everybody in the audience that tries to find the trail will find something in their own history when they come to a site like this when they stand where the Cherokee actually came to the banks of the St. Francis River and confronted that challenge, during their journey, of crossing a river and understanding the pain and hopefulness of reaching a new land where they might be able to re-establish themselves,” Mahr said. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with Native American removals from the southeast. The organization is also committed to educating the public about this period in history. The association consists of nine state chapters representing the nine states the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their ways to present-day Arkansas and Oklahoma.
10/05/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At its Sept. 18 meeting, the Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission approved two upgrades for Cherokee Nation Entertainment’s system software. Tracy Christie, CNGC gaming systems analyst, said he reviewed all of the information provided and saw a need for an upgrade. “The issue was that there were a couple of key boxes, it was retaining the data in the actual box and whenever you logged into the web server you weren’t able to see that data, but with these two upgrades and it being tested, it resolved that issue,” he said.
10/05/2015 02:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization will host its monthly meeting at 6 p.m. on Oct. 6 at the Tulsa United Indian Methodist Church located at 1901 North College. The meeting will feature Cherokee Nation citizen Regina Gayle (Martin) Thompson, of Locust Grove, who will bring her traditional basket weaving skills. According to TCCO officials, meeting attendees will be able to weave their own Cherokee basket. “As a certified Cherokee Nation TERO artist, Thompson is uniquely qualified to teach Cherokee basket weaving. Thompson’s award-winning Cherokee baskets are on display in public collections across the Cherokee Nation throughout northeastern Oklahoma and as far away as Washington, D.C., in the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum. Private collectors have taken her Cherokee baskets abroad to Australia, Switzerland, India, France, England,” a TCCO release states. “My mentor is the incredible Cherokee National Treasure, Bessie Russell. I am blessed and humbled by the art and skill of Cherokee double wall basket weaving. My grandmother, a full-blood Cherokee, weaved baskets to put food on the table while my grandfather served in France during World War II,” she said. “My grandmother would create mid-size baskets for the market to trade for eggs, flour, chickens, and sometimes sewing material.” All materials will be provided by TCCO through Tribal Council General Assistance grant funds provided by Dist. 13 Tribal Councilman Buel Anglen. There is no cost for the class, the release states. To contact TCCO, email <a href="mailto:"></a> or call TCCO President Brandon Caruso at(805) 551-6445. You can also visit TCCO’s Facebook page at Tulsa Cherokee Community Organization.
10/05/2015 10:04 AM
MURPHY, N.C. – After nearly two years of construction and $100 million Harrah’s Cherokee Valley River Casino & Hotel opened its doors on Sept. 28, according to The facility is owned by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and will be managed by Caesars Entertainment LLC. It’s expected to create approximately 900 to 1,000 jobs, features a 50,000-square-foot gaming floor with 70 table games and 1,050 slot machines and a full-service 300-room hotel. While the casino does not have any formal dining or restaurants, visitors will be able to choose from the Panda Express, Starbucks, Papa John’s, Earl of Sandwich and Nathan’s Famous located in the casino’s Food Market. Regional General Manager and Harrah’s Senior Vice President Brooks Robinson said the casino would positively affect the tribe and area. “For the area, we know we’re going to have around 1,000 jobs. It will put around $40 million into the local economy through payroll that will be here. For the tribe, it will just be another way to build the revenue stream and through tribal distribution. All of the projections look like it should be very successful for the tribe,” Robinson said. Estimated by officials to draw in excess of 1 million visitors annually, the Valley River Casino is the tribe’s second Harrah’s casino. The first and larger Harrah’s Cherokee Casino also located in Jackson County, sits at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It recently underwent a $650 million expansion and now boasts 150,000-square-feet of gaming space.
10/02/2015 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Oct. 22, the Beatles tribute band, The Fab Four, will perform at The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The Fab Four’s stage performances include three costume changes representing every era of the Beatles ever-changing career, from the moptop early days in London to the shaggy-haired final public performance on the Apple headquarters’ rooftop. Formed in 1997, this loving tribute to the Beatles has amazed audiences in countries around the world, including Japan, Australia, France, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and Brazil. In 2013, The Fab Four received an Emmy for their PBS special “The Fab Four: The Ultimate Tribute.” For more information about the tribute band, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Tickets go on sale Oct. 1 and start at $40. For more information, call The Joint box office at 918-384-ROCK or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.