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 STAFF REPORTS
05/22/2015 01:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A measure by state Rep. Chuck Hoskin that’s intended to provide a degree of protection for highway maintenance vehicles and workers encountered little resistance in the legislature and was signed recently by the governor. House Bill 1113 by Hoskin, D-Vinita, establishes a safety zone around state highway and turnpike maintenance vehicles and employees. Transportation Department records indicate that 57 of their highway maintenance employees have been killed in work zones, while numerous others have been involved in accidents and close calls due to unsafe speed, proximity or inattention. Also, the Turnpike Authority recorded 50 injuries among its toll and maintenance personnel over the past three years, agency spokesman Jack Damrill reported. HB 1113 “may actually enable some hardworking Oklahoma man or woman to return home to his or her family after a tough day on the job,” Hoskin said. The bill sailed through the House unopposed, 96-0, and passed the Senate, 41-3. The bill was co-authored by Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, and was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada. With the signature of Governor Fallin, HB 1113 goes into effect Nov. 1. The new law will require any driver approaching a parked maintenance vehicle assigned to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation or the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to move over into another lane, if possible. “If the driver is not able to change lanes, or if to do so would be unsafe,” the motorist should proceed with “due caution” and slow to “a safe speed for the existing road, weather, and traffic conditions.” Such precautions already are mandated by state law when approaching any stationary emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or wrecker that is “displaying a flashing combination” of red and/or blue lights. Similar precautions are required when approaching a location where an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper or other law enforcement officer is writing a traffic ticket or working an accident. “For far too long we’ve inadvertently overlooked the real safety concerns of these public servants who put their lives on the line to keep our roadways safe,” Sherrer said. “This measure sends a message that we value their service and want them to be safe while performing their jobs.” A violation of the law will be a misdemeanor offense. For an initial violation, the penalty will be a fine of $5 to $500 or by a 10-day jail sentence. For a second conviction within a year, the penalty will be a 20-day jail term. For a third or subsequent violation within a year, punishment will be a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $500. Hoskin said HB 1113 was prompted by a discussion he had with some highway maintenance workers from his legislative district.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 02:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, June 2, 2015. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9284_150602_EBAgenda.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 11:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tulsa Veterans Center is partnering with the Cherokee Nation to create three new combat support groups at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Service Center. To enroll, veterans need to bring a copy of their DD214 or discharge papers that show their combat service. According to a release, the VSC staff understands the issues combat veterans go through and wish to give a safe and private place for these veterans to be around other veterans who can relate to their experiences. The Combat Support Group meets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays each month. The Vietnam Combat Support Group meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays each month. The Women’s Combat Support Group meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays each month. This group is open to any female who has served in a combat zone. Female combat veterans are encouraged to join other female combat veterans to talk about their experiences and to find others who can relate to your experiences. For more information, call Matthew Tiger at 918-453-5693.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/20/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A wreath ceremony to honor Cherokee veterans will be held at 2 p.m. on May 22 in recognition of Memorial Day at the Cherokee Nation’s Veterans Center and Warrior Memorial located on the Tribal Complex. Those expected to attend include Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, veterans and their families. According to a CN press release, the program includes the raising of the flags and a solo performance by a Cherokee National Youth Choir member. “Cherokees have always honored and revered our warriors,” Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran, said. “We invite the public to join us and pay tribute to all the men and women who bravely fought and died for our freedoms.” The release states that there will be a reception and Code Talkers exhibit following the program. The exhibit includes 12 panels of World War I and II memorabilia to recognize soldiers from the Cherokee Nation and other tribes who used their Native languages to relay important military messages in unbreakable codes, the release states. It also features the 2013 Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the tribe in recognition of the dedication and valor of Native American code talkers during WWII, the release states. For more information, call 918-772-4166.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/19/2015 04:00 PM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation recently renovated a park in Locust Grove for children of all ages to enjoy. The $30,000 renovation project helped provide new picnic tables, slides and a swing set for the park located on the corner of Delaware Street and Ross Avenue. “The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is constantly looking for project opportunities that not only benefit Cherokee children, but all children in our communities, and taking advantage of this opportunity at Locust Grove was a no-brainer for our group,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “This newly restored playground gives the children of the community a safe and fun place to come and just enjoy time in the sun.” The HACN used money from Housing and Urban Development funds for the renovation project. “The Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority are doing so much to promote healthy families. This play structure will be a place for children to come and have fun while they stay healthy,” Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said. “I appreciate Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the Housing Authority’s enthusiasm for this project for the Locust Grove community.” CN citizen and Locust Grove resident Amber Buckskin Swarer said the addition is exciting for the community, including her two boys. “We are just so excited to have somewhere we can take our kids,” said Swarer. “Before this, there was not really anything. Now we have something and can get our children outdoors and active, and we don’t have to drive to another town to take advantage of it.” Locust Grove resident Ema Parker said she is thankful the new playground equipment is age-appropriate for toddlers, such as her 13-month-old, Chett. “It’s nice to have somewhere with safe, clean equipment that I can bring my son to so that we can play outside, and I’m so glad they put in the baby swings because there wasn’t much catering to babies before,” said Parker. “I appreciate everything the Cherokee Nation and Housing Authority have done to help out and give the kids a good place to play here in Locust Grove.” For more information on the HACN, visit <a href="http://www.hacn.org" target="_blank">www.hacn.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/19/2015 01:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – People can support the “Remember the Removal” bike ride by purchasing T-shirts that support the ride and the cyclists taking part. Proceeds from the sales of the shirts will help support the riders as they travel 950 miles retracing the Trail of Tears in June. The shirts (adult S-XXXL) cost $15 and are available at the Cherokee Nation Gift Shop Tahlequah and online at CherokeeGiftShop.com. Youth sizes small through large are $10. “Remember the Removal” staff members will be selling the shirts at local events such as the upcoming Strawberry Festival. Currently, 12 CN citizens are training to retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas before returning to Oklahoma. They will put their bodies to the test as they travel an average of 60 miles a day, mirroring in part the hardships of their Cherokee ancestors who made the same trek on foot 176 years ago. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees who were forced to make the journey to Indian Territory from eastern Tennessee and other sites in the old CN, 4,000 died due to exposure, starvation and disease. On the journey, the “Remember the Removal” cyclists visit various gravesites and historic landmarks along the trail, including Blythe Ferry in Tennessee, which was the last piece of Cherokee homeland the ancestors stood on before beginning the trek to Indian Territory, and Mantle Rock in Kentucky, which provided shelter to their ancestors as they waited for the Ohio River to thaw in order to cross safely. The cyclists and staff will leave on June 3 for Cherokee, North Carolina, where they will join up with seven cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The EBCI has been participating in the ride since 2011. The cyclists will begin making their way back from New Echota, Georgia, on June 7 along the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears and arrive in Tahlequah on June 25. For more information, visit RememberTheRemoval.Cherokee.org. The public may follow this year’s journey on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/removal.ride" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/removal.ride</a>.