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

BY STAFF REPORTS
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.

News

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
11/28/2014 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Following the Tribal Council’s June amendment of the tribe’s Freedom of Information Act, the Attorney General’s Office has hired Cherokee Nation citizen Gwen Terrapin as the first information officer. The amendment created the position within the Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Todd Hembree selected his former paralegal to serve as the liaison for Cherokee Nation citizens seeking public records from the tribe. “I am pleased that the Tribal Council chose to create this position,” Hembree said. “Hiring an information officer whose primary job is to increase the free flow of information about the Cherokee Nation government to its people is a huge improvement. The hallmark of every free society is transparency. With this position, transparency is increased, information will be shard on a grander scale and the Cherokee Nation will be better off for it.” Hembree said the officer’s duties will be to process and be a clearinghouse for the Freedom of Information and Government Records acts requests. When requests are received, the officer will make sure it is a proper request, then forward the requests to the proper department/entities for their responses and documents. Once the information is received the officer will then send it to the requestor. A log will also be kept of each request received. According to the act, the officer is to be independent of political influence; can only be terminated for cause; and will be responsible for facilitating, gathering, tracking and responding to FOI and GRA requests, as well as providing monthly reports to the Tribal Council. “The act calls or the information officer to be independent, and in order to have that independence, and to be free of influence, it is best that the information officer has an office to itself,” Hembree said. Currently, all FOI or GRA requests go through the Attorney General’s Office. Hembree said that with the information officer, responses would not have to be approved by the attorney general before being released. Each request will continue to be updated on the attorney general’s website. “The information officer will serve as a direct point of contact for the Cherokee people to help them gather information about tribal government. It is a first position of its kind and will enhance transparency for all Cherokees,” he said. Hembree said the office went through the Human Resources process of posting the job and had more than 15 applicants. The officer’s start date was Nov. 17, is a full-time position and a pay range of $17.24 to $19 per hour. “She was the most qualified applicant with two and a half years experience of doing exactly this type of work,” Hembree said. “She has been a paralegal and clerk for over 10 years.” As of Nov. 20, Terrapin was located at the Attorney General’s Office, but a location for her office was under review. “I'm excited about working in this position, and I look forward to continuing to provide assistance to our council members and tribal citizens,” Terrapin said. CN citizens can call Terrapin at 918-772-4165 or email <a href="mailto: gwen-terrapin@cherokee.org">gwen-terrapin@cherokee.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/26/2014 11:09 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A new report shows the state of Oklahoma collected $122 million in gaming fees from Native American tribes during the last fiscal year. The report issued Nov. 19 by the Office of Management and Enterprise Services shows that for the first time ever, the fees paid to the state declined from the previous year. The report noted a drop of nearly $5.5 million – or about 4 percent – from previous year’s collections. The funds are used primarily for public education. Possible reasons cited for the decline include an increase in the number of Class II games such as electronic bingo for which tribes do not pay exclusivity fees and “possible market saturation.” The annual report was prepared by the state agency’s Gaming Compliance Unit.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/26/2014 08:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields wants the Tribal Council to raise the age from 14 years old to 16 years old in which someone can lawfully consent to sex under CN law. “The legislation is trying to change the age of consent within Cherokee Nation with its Cherokee citizens from 14 to 16 with plus two, minus two. So if it’s a 16-year-old that sleeps with a 14-year-old it doesn’t go as a sexual offense, but if it’s an 18-year-old who’s sleeping with a 14-year-old then because they’re under 16 and its over two years then it counts as a sexual crime,” Cierra said. The bulk of the amendment is changing the consent age from 14 to 16. “I still can’t decide what I want to eat for breakfast and I’m 15. Fourteen-year-olds mentally and physically are not ready for sex,” she said. Cierra said she’s always been passionate about advocating for those who have been sexually assaulted, having had family members assaulted. She said women she’s known in her life have said they’ve either been sexually assaulted or raped, and it’s always bothered her. “But whenever I was in Oregon (in June for a conference) I was sexually assaulted, and I wasn’t home. I was in a totally unfamiliar place and with only two or three people that I actually knew out of hundreds,” she said. Cierra was a guest speaker at a youth conference when she was assaulted in a hotel room. She had developed a migraine so she took medicine and chose to return to her room rather than go to dinner with friends. “It was probably one of the worse migraines I’ve ever had and they told me to go on up the elevator,” she said. Cierra’s mother, Terri, said her friends watched Cierra get on the elevator that contained the alleged perpetrator, who was attending the conference. “We thought you know, she’s in a 5-star hotel in Portland with people she knows,” Terri said. “This incident could have happened here. It could have happened with me in the hotel. I don’t know if I would have done anything differently. The people that she was with, they done everything that I would have done. It was a crime of opportunity, and he took full advantage of the fact that she was sick. He took advantage that she was dizzy from her medication she had just taken.” Cierra said some sexual offenders probably think ‘well I’m not 18 yet so I can’t go for a sex crime.’ She said the consent law change would give CN officials more leverage in filing first-degree rape charges and make it more difficult to plea down to statutory rape. Attorney General Todd Hembree said there are circumstances between 14 years of age where consent could be allowed under CN law, depending on the age of the other person involved. “Our law right now is very common to a lot of other states. They have what is commonly known as a ‘Romeo and Juliet’ provision where as two individuals that are very close in age both being minors – there are instances where the court can find where consent is allowed during sexual intercourse,” he said. “That’s just something that the Tribal Council will have to weigh of whether we take that…distinction away. Because there can be instances where that should be considered. Here, this amendment is going to be a straight bright line decision, age 16 is consent, no exceptions.” Currently, the age of blanket consent in Oklahoma is 16. However, a 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person who is 15 to 18 years old. No person 14 or younger can consent to sex, CN Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Ross Nimmo said. “Currently, in Cherokee Nation, the age of blanket consent is 16, but a 14- or 15-year-old can consent to sex with any person 14 to 18,” she said. “No person 13 or younger can ever consent to sex. The only difference under current Oklahoma law and current Cherokee Nation law is whether a 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone between the ages of 14 and 18.” Oklahoma’s law states no one under 16 can consent to sex. So the tribe’s possible amendment would mirror what the state deems an age in which one can consent to having sex. It’s not like other states where parents can consent to their 14-year-old child having sex, Cierra said. Terri said the law also doesn’t distinguish if one’s significant other is in high school. “That means that a 30- or 40-year-old can have sex in Cherokee Nation with a 14-year-old with the current law. I consider that a pedophile. So this will at least make the person 16 before they can consent.” she said. Cierra said one reason she thinks raising the consent age has been “shot down” previously is that families can state that he or she didn’t consent now that the boyfriend or girlfriend just turned 18. “Oh, her daddy didn’t like me, and because she is over the age or he just turned 18 even though they’ve been dating for say four years, he still gets charged as a sexual offender. So we’re hoping with the plus two (years) and everything that can help regulate that,” she said. The plus two years and minus two years will attempt to keep people from abusing the age gap, Terri said. (If an 18-year-old) Is dating a 16 year old, it’s not a sexual offense unless it truly is a case of rape. It’s where a parent just can’t come and press charges for like statutory rape,” she said. “‘They don’t like Johnny and he’s 18.’ We definitely don’t want, you know, young men caught in that situation. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all dated people where your parents are like ‘oh my god, you are to never see that person again.’ And then they are able to use that law to me has been used to their advantage. “Yeah, we understand that, that can happen, but we have to start teaching our students that under 16 you are not legally able to make that choice. Your parents cannot make that choice for you,” Terri added. Both Cierra and Terri hoped the law would state no child under 16 can consent to sex, with or without parental consent, and were waiting on Legislative Act 09-12 to go before the Rules Committee. <strong>Current laws for the Cherokee Nation and Oklahoma Cherokee Nation:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 14, 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 13-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex. <strong>Oklahoma:</strong> A 16-year-old can consent to sex with any aged adult. A 15-year-old can consent to sex with someone who is 15, 16, 17 or 18. A 14-year-old (or younger) can never consent to sex.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 04:04 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – On Jan. 29, Loretta Lynn will perform at the The Joint inside Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. After being encouraged to learn to play the guitar and write songs by her husband, Doo, who she married at 13, Lynn quickly became a natural and began playing at area nightclubs. She caught the attention of Zero Records and recorded her debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl.” Lynn made herself a fringed cowgirl outfit, and she and Doo drove across the country promoting her single. By fall 1961, Lynn was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry stage and in 1962 her Decca Record debut came out with the smash hit “Success.” It was the first of her 51 Top 10 hits. Among Lynn’s other songs are “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “I Wanna Be Free,” “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby,” “Love Is the Foundation” and “One’s on the Way.” In 1967, she began picking up various Female Vocalist of the Year trophies. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Lynn dominated the charts with hits such as “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “Somebody Somewhere,” “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed,” “I’ve Got a Picture of Us on My Mind” and her 1982 smash hits “I Lie” and “Making Love from Memory,” which brought her into the new decade. In 1971, Lynn and fellow country musician Conway Twitty won several Duet of the Year awards. In 1972, Lynn made history as the first woman to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year trophy. The country star continued renewing her creativity after being inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1983 with the hit “Heart Don’t Do This to Me.” In 1988, Lynn entered the Country Music Hall of Fame. She earned a gold record in 1994 with “Honky Tonk Angels,” a trio CD with Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette. In 2000, she was back again with the CD titled “Still Country.” She also returned to the concert trail. In 2002, Lynn published a second memoir, “Still Woman Enough,” and was honored at the Kennedy Center in 2003. The following year she won two Grammy Awards for “Van Lear Rose,” a collaboration with rocker Jack White. Lynn added to her collection of awards in 2008, when she was inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2010, when she won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. Tickets start at $40 and go on sale Nov. 28. Tickets are available online in The Joint section of <a href="http://www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com" target="_blank">www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com</a> or by calling 918-384-ROCK.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/25/2014 03:27 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will hold its annual “Light Up” event at 5 p.m. on Dec. 6 at the Cherokee National Capitol Square. The event will feature the Cherokee National Youth Choir, holiday lights as well as cookies and hot cocoa for guests. Following the event will be the Tahlequah Christmas Parade of Lights at 6 p.m. in downtown Tahlequah.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
11/25/2014 08:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – More than 150 people attended the Cherokee Cultural Day event on Nov. 22 at the Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center. The Vinita Indian Territory Coalition and Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez sponsored the second annual event. “This is the second year that I have helped host. We call it ‘Cherokee Culture Day’ at the Vinita health clinic. Last year I came up the idea right before I got elected to council, but I wanted to honor the National Treasures in Vinita because we rarely get a lot of culture activities in Vinita,” Vazquez said. The event had several cultural activities for the community to take part in, including cornhusk dolls, handprint making, basket weaving, story telling and flute playing. Vazquez said she invited two National Treasures to the event as well. “I brought two National Treasures. I try to focus on different ones each year because there are 40-something still living,” she said. Some members of the VITC also volunteered to make Indian tacos and sell them to raise funds for the local Special Olympics team. CN citizen and VITC President Paula Butcher said the VITC raised nearly $700. The money raised will be used to send about 10 kids to the Special Olympics winter games in Oklahoma City. Vazquez said even with the rain the day was a success. “Even though it was cold and rainy people were looking for something to do, and all the artists sold well, and everyone loved it. In fact, I had people come up to me that said ‘how can I participate next year as an artist?” she said. “We were amazed at how busy it was, and I had a door prize drawing every hour.” She added that seeing people of all ages enjoying the many activities was a great sight. “But I think what was just the cutest thing was that different ages of people learning to make baskets…one elderly man standing there working on a basket and an elderly woman was sitting there making the cornhusk dolls. She’d never got to do that before, and then we had lots of kids. So it was fun for everybody,” Vazquez said. Vazquez said she’s thankful for all the help from the volunteers as well as the donation of the location by the CN Vinita Health Center. Vazquez said they plan to continue to have this event each year and eventually grow the VITC and make it into a CN community organization. Cherokees interested in getting in touch with Vazquez can email victoria-vazquez@cherokee.org or call her at 918-323-2980.