Remember the Removal participant Keeley Godwin leads riders and staff during a May 25 training ride near Tahlequah, Okla. Godwin and 12 other cyclists from the Cherokee Nation were expected to leave New Echota, Ga., on June 1 and travel nearly 1,000 miles along the northern route of the Trail of Tears and arrive on June 19 in Tahlequah. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Remember the Removal riders get special send off

The 2014 Remember the Removal cyclists who will retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears are, from left to right, Chance Rudolph, Zane Scullawl, Charli Barnoskie, Madison Taylor, Noah Collins, Adriana Collins, Elizabeth Burns, Keeley Godwin, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes, Cassie Moore, Jamekah Rios, Jordan McLaren and Jacob Chavez. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The 2014 Remember the Removal cyclists who will retrace the northern route of the Trail of Tears are, from left to right, Chance Rudolph, Zane Scullawl, Charli Barnoskie, Madison Taylor, Noah Collins, Adriana Collins, Elizabeth Burns, Keeley Godwin, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes, Cassie Moore, Jamekah Rios, Jordan McLaren and Jacob Chavez. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
06/04/2014 08:33 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On May 28, 13 Remember the Removal bike riders and staff departed Tahlequah, officially beginning a three-week journey to retrace their ancestors’ path along the Trail of Tears.

Family and friends joined tribal leaders for a send-off ceremony at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex to wish the riders a prosperous journey and safe return.

The ride, which originated 30 years ago, is a leadership program allowing Cherokee students to get a glimpse of the hardships their Cherokee ancestors faced while making the same trek on foot in 1838-39.

Keeley Godwin, 21, of Welling, said she was inspired to take the challenge of riding nearly 1,000 miles along the northern route of the Trail of Tears because some of her friends had done it.

“I wanted to see as close as possible what it was like for them (ancestors) and what they went through, how they got here, and why I’m here,” she said.

The recent college graduate said she wants to complete something major in her life and the bike ride is it for her. She added that she wants to complete the ride to add to her successes and make her family proud.

“The first thing I’m excited about is actually getting to Cherokee (N.C.) and just having that moment to take in and realize this is where we came from and to travel and say ‘this is where they traveled, this is where they stayed.’ When I think about I get goose bumps,” she said.

The ride’s coordinator Joseph Erb, said education has been more of a focus for this year’s trip. On weekends, the participants attended a Cherokee history course before taking their training rides. And during the actual trip, the riders will have more contact with historians at stops along the route.

“So when they go to see these places, not only will they have been educated beforehand, but when they get there they will have another lesson about it,” he said. “We are also doing journals to talk about what they have learned. We also did their genealogy to actually tie the riders to the different locations so that’ll know their family history.”

Erb explored the northern route this past winter to see if it could be improved. He said the bicyclists were expected to travel 98 percent of the route Cherokee people used during the winter of 1838-39.

The 13 CN riders will meet six riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in Cherokee, N.C., to train together. The 19 riders are then expected to travel to the capital of the old Cherokee Nation at New Echota, Ga., and leave there on June 1. During the ride, cyclists will have traveled seven states before ending the journey on June 19 in Tahlequah.

“A comprehensive genealogy was completed for every rider and staff making the trip. As they learn more about their own family, the universal Cherokee experience becomes much more personal for them,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “These riders will live out an exceptional experience over the next three weeks that will bond them forever. It is physically demanding and can be emotionally draining, but completing the trip will be a spiritual reward in and of itself. Just as our ancestors were 175 years ago, these young Cherokee people will be responsible for each other on this journey.”

This year marks the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the final group of Cherokees forced from their homes in Georgia and Tennessee and other southeastern states to what is now northeastern Oklahoma. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to make the journey to Indian Territory, an estimated 4,000 died from exposure, starvation and disease.

“The Remember the Removal ride not only commemorates this important event in our people’s history, but it is an opportunity for our youth to learn more about our history,” EBCI Principal Chief Michell Hicks said. “Our riders are a true cross-section of our tribal community, and this experience offers a means for them to connect across generations and to learn from one another about our history.”

Rider Adriana Collins said Oklahoma history is “deficient” in informing students about the Trail of Tears, and her goal is learn more about the forced removal firsthand.

“I want to be able to have an opinion. I don’t think you should really be allowed to have an opinion if you don’t understand what happened or you don’t study what happened. So, to be able to have an educated opinion, I think I need to do this ride,” Collins said.

Along with Godwin and Collins, the CN riders are Charli Barnoskie, Cassie Moore, Noah Collins, Chance Rudolph, Jordan McLaren, Elizabeth Burns, Zane Scullawl, Madison Taylor, Jamekah Rios, Kassidy “Tye” Carnes and Jacob Chavez. The EBCI riders are Patricia Watkins, Richard Sneed, Ty Bushyhead, Kelsey Owl, Russell Bigmeat and Katrina Sneed.

Follow the riders at www.facebook.com/removal.ride or with the Twitter hash tag #RememberTheRemoval.
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/19/2017 10:00 AM
SHAWNEE, Okla. (AP) — A Shawnee casino security guard who shot himself after fatally shooting a fellow officer has died. The Oklahoman reports 28-year-old Justin Wells entered the Grand Casino on Jan. 10, shot and killed 22-year-old Matt Palmer and then turned the gun on himself. An online obituary says Wells was hospitalized and died Wednesday. FBI spokesman Terry Weber says that Wells had not yet been arrested. The agency is handling the case because the casino sits on trust land for the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, which also owns and operates the casino. Potawatomi spokeswoman Jennifer Bell says Palmer and Wells were both security guards at the casino, who are not allowed to carry guns. Bell declined to comment on the shooting. The tribe says Palmer was hired in August, and Wells in 2012.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
01/18/2017 04:15 PM
GROVE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses and Grove officials on Jan. 17 dedicated the Cherokee Casino Grove with a ribbon-cutting and grand opening. The tribe’s 10th casino is expected to bring 175 jobs to northern Delaware County. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the jobs means employees would be able to take advantage of health insurance, retirement plans and other benefits to better their lives. He added that the casino would also bring more sales tax revenue to Grove. Most importantly, he said, the casino means there would be more funding to provide health care in northeastern Oklahoma. “You don’t have to drive very far to the south to see where we took $100 million dollars and used part of it to build a new clinic in Jay, Oklahoma. So each and every one of these employees that work here can come to work each and every day knowing they are making the lives of their parents, their grandparents and their children better because these dollars...go back into services, scholarships for our kids, builds houses for our people and provides better health care,” he said. The facility offers 400 electronic games, a full-service bar, live music venue, dance floor and restaurant serving lunch and dinner. The rustic, lodge-style venue features an outdoor patio and event space for hosting private and community events. CNB CEO Shawn Slaton told casino employees the fruits of their labor are helping Cherokee people. Along with thanking CNB employees, he thanked Grove’s leaders, Delaware County officials, CN administration officials, Tribal Councilors, CNB management and the construction company for their efforts in helping finish the casino in eight months. “We always had our eye on Grove. We felt with the lake here and the population that comes in the summer it was a good area to take a look at. We did our market surveys and market studies and that supported the decision to go forward with an investment in a property like this,” Slaton said. “We worked on this quite a while and finally made it happen. We’re happy to be here, and we hope that this is just the start for what we do with this facility.” He acknowledged the casino does have “a lot of competition” from area tribal casinos, but he expects people from Missouri and Arkansas to frequent the casino. “The one thing we have that they (competition) don’t is the lake right next door, and we know Grove blossoms in the spring and summer and the early fall, and we’re positioned well to take part in that,” Slaton said. The Red Stone Construction Company started work on the 39,000-square-foot casino in March and finished in December. The casino is located near Highway 59 and E. 250 Road, northwest of Grove. “It’s beautiful. Eight months ago...we were here looking to the future to see what this was going to be, and now here it is. What’s more exciting is what we have to look forward to in 10 years or five years or three years,” said Grove Mayor Marty Follis. “I can’t wait for them to knock out a wall in this place and start expanding. We’ve got a big future ahead of us.” Follis said the casino coupled with the popular 64-mile long Grand Lake o' the Cherokees about 200 yards from the casino should be a winning combination. “It’s a great advantage that we have. We are super excited. It’s a great partnership between the city and the Cherokee Nation,” Follis said. Based on what happened in Rogers County when the tribe expanded the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, the intersection of Hwy. 59 and E. 250 Road in Grove is bound to see tremendous growth, Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said. Buzzard, whose district includes Grove, said he is glad casino profits would go toward health care and other services and that the facility created jobs. “We just recently opened a clinic in Jay (about 10 miles south of Grove), which brought over 100 jobs to Jay, so Delaware County is on the move,” he said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
01/18/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – More than 30 members of “The Association of Mary,” a Brazilian Christian organization, visited the Cherokee Nation on Jan. 3 to offer prayers for unity and peace in 2017. The group held a cultural and informational exchange with tribal officials. A representative from the association said prayers are offered daily for Indigenous populations in North and South America. Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. addressed the group and thanked them for traveling to learn firsthand about issues facing tribal citizens in America, including the protection of natural resources. “Now more than ever we should embrace an opportunity to bond with people of goodwill all over the world, people who are praying for our wellness and success,” Hoskin said. “They traveled thousands of miles to learn more about Indian issues, history and spirituality. Seeing this global support reinforces just how important and powerful unity can be.”
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
01/18/2017 01:15 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – On Jan. 17, Cherokee Nation citizen and Dist. 86 Rep. Will Fourkiller refused to appear before the House of Representative’s committee that is investigating him and another state representative for sexual harassment claims. The Stilwell native said he would only speak to the Special Investigation Committee if the proceeding was open to the public. According to reports, the committee has been hearing from witnesses in only closed sessions. “Though uncertain of the precise allegation, I am certain I have nothing to hide,” Fourkiller told Rep. Josh Cockroft, R-Wanette, in a letter. Cockroft chairs the committee. “A confidential, closed-door proceeding does not provide the equitable forum to repair my character and reputation.” Fourkiller is under investigation for a sexual complaint lodged against him in April 2015 by a female high school page. “That was the extent of what I was told,” Fourkiller said on Jan. 17 of his 2015 meeting with a House attorney and an employee of the House chief clerk. “The page was not identified and I did not inquire. I denied anything improper but immediately shied away from my normal interaction and role with the page program for that week out of an abundance of caution.” According to the program, high schools students from the state server as pages for a week during regular legislative sessions and do interact with legislators. Fourkiller on Jan. 11 said he was made aware in 2015 that a page had indicated he had said something that made her uncomfortable and he had apologized. “I do not know what I did or said, but whatever it was I certainly didn’t mean to do it, and I apologized,” he said. He added that the 2015 incident is the only one that he was made aware of by House staff. The House has declined to release the complaint, citing personnel reasons. Cockroft on Jan. 17 defended the investigation and said making the committee meetings public would discourage wronged employees from coming forward. “The sole reason for holding these meetings in private is to protect the confidential information of victims and unelected witnesses — not to protect lawmakers,” he said. “In order to have a workplace where employees feel protected and valued, it is vital that we guard the privacy of those who make claims of harassment and discrimination.” Cockroft said the committee would make its findings public and that it could recommend the House take disciplinary action against a member, including up to expulsion. According to reports six Republicans and three Democrats comprise the committee. However, Democrats – Rep. David Perryman, Rep. Steve Kouplen and Rep. Meloyde Blancett – have refused to be involved because of the committee’s secrecy rules. The committee was formed in response to public outrage over a settlement paid to a fired legislative assistant who had accused Rep. Dan Kirby, R-Tulsa, of sexual harassment. The former assistant, Hollie Anne Bishop, complained the House fired her in November 2015 in retaliation for reporting Kirby had sexually harassed her. Former House Speaker Jeff Hickman approved the $44,500 settlement of her wrongful termination claim shortly before he left office. Officials said there was no financial settlement in the complaint against Fourkiller. Fourkiller said he and his family were leaning on God through the ordeal. “We have not lost faith. In fact, it is growing stronger. We know that God is good and at the end of all this there is something great waiting for us.” Fourkiller was first elected to the Dist. 86 seat in 2011. He was re-elected in 2013 and 2015. He also ran for principal chief of the CN in 2015, finishing third at 10.58 percent with 2,040 votes.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
01/16/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission continues to prepare for the 2017 Tribal Council elections with less than a month before people begin filing for candidacy. At the commission’s Jan. 10 meeting, records showed that 40 people had picked up or requested candidate packets from the commission. According to records, three people who picked up packets but do not intend to file are Lisa Trice, who got a packet for education purposes; Commissioner Martha Calico, who got one for reference; and Cherokee Phoenix Senior Reporter Jami Murphy, who got a packet for the news organization. The candidacy filing period is scheduled for Feb. 6-9. At the Jan. 10 meeting, EC Administrator Brooke Tillison reported that there were 66,433 CN citizens registered to vote, which is more than 200 less than the previous month after removing voters who had died but were still registered. Also during the meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Allen asked to be recognized and requested to speak on her own behalf. “There were some comments that were made last month in the December meeting that I consider to be a direct attack on my character. And I thought long and hard about how to address this issue, but I have chosen and I’m going to take the high road on this issue,” Allen said. At the December meeting, Commissioner Teresa Hart read a statement regarding her motion to accept new resumes for the fifth commissioner’s spot that is in holdover after the expiration of Allen’s term. At that meeting, Hart said “we need to vote whether to cast a vote to keep seat No. 5 as is or move to open it up for replacement.” She also read a statement regarding Allen and her actions while on the commission. <a href="http://cnmediav1.cherokee.org/vod/Phoenix/News/2017/vid_170111_CNECregMtg_rjg_wc.mp4" target="_blank">Click here to watch</a>the January meeting <a href="http://cnmediav1.cherokee.org/vod/Phoenix/News/2016/vid_161213_CNECregularMeeting_rjg_wc.mp4" target="_blank">Click here to watch</a>the December meeting.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/15/2017 10:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma's tax on gasoline and diesel, untouched since 1987 and among the lowest in the nation, is becoming a tempting target for state lawmakers desperate for revenue amid a third straight year of budget declines. Several Republican legislators said last week they expect proposals will be unveiled once the session begins in February to increase the state's gasoline and diesel taxes of 17 cents and 14 cents, respectively. "I would not be surprised to see a fuel tax, tobacco tax or a tax on services being filed just so there is a vehicle out there, a placeholder for that discussion," said new House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka. "But actually getting that accomplished is a totally separate issue." Oklahoma ranks 49th among the 50 states for its tax on diesel and 48th for its tax on gasoline, according to a November report from the American Petroleum Institute. During last year's session, as lawmakers looked to close a $1.3 billion hole in the budget, Rep. Earl Sears introduced a bill to increase the tax by 3 cents per gallon. The measure would have generated about $41 million annually, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill by House researchers, but it failed on a 14-9 vote against it. "It was an election year," said Sears, R-Bartlesville. "We had members who were very reluctant to raise taxes." This year, lawmakers are again facing another massive budget hole of about $870 million, or 12 percent of state spending, and many of the one-time sources of revenue that the Legislature tapped last year to balance the budget are no longer available. While there is a lot of chatter this year among Republican leaders about the prospect of raising revenue through increased taxes, it's unclear how much political will there is to do so. The approval of any tax increase requires a three-fourths vote in the House and Senate, and nearly a third of the members in each chamber are brand-new, and many of them campaigned on a platform of lower taxes. "That's a very high threshold," McCall said, noting a 76-vote requirement in the House. "The size of our caucus (75 members) ... we don't even have 76 members if you could get them all together. And there's going to be a division in the caucus on that issue. While McCall said he expects to have a good working relationship with House Democratic Leader Rep. Scott Inman, the minority party likely won't be too eager to vote for tax increases that disproportionately affect the middle-class and working poor. Democrats in both chambers have been particularly vocal about Republicans' recently enacted tax cuts on both income and oil and gas production, both of which favor high-income earners. Jason Dunnington, D-Oklahoma City, said that while he's open to looking at a fuel tax increase, it likely will generate a diminishing amount of revenue because of greater fuel efficiency and an increase in electric vehicles. Dunnington said it makes more sense to look at increasing income taxes for the wealthiest Oklahomans. "Are we thinking ahead far enough about technology and are we appropriately assessing taxation that is going to work for our future?" Dunnington said. "Or are we just being short-sighted and scrambling because we're broke and making bad decisions."