Freedom Of Information Act was first in Indian Country

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
06/12/2014 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation enacted its Freedom of Information and Rights of Privacy Act in 2001, becoming the first Federally recognized tribe to allow citizens access to public records of a public body. Governmental bodies in the United States, including some tribes, have similar laws governing the availability of information contained in public records.

“Native Americans have as much right as anybody else to get information from their government,” Kevin R. Kemper, former journalist and University of Arizona assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences, said. “When a tribe doesn’t have a freedom of information law, it’s extremely tough for journalists and the public.”

Kemper, who also serves as a Native American Journalists Association Legal Hotline intake liaison, said he believes strongly in freedom of information and tribal sovereignty.

“Each tribe needs to have the opportunity to have a freedom of information act, incorporate freedom of information as a way of helping the people,” he said.

According to the CN FOIA, a public record includes all books, papers, maps, photographs, cards, tapes, recordings or other documentary materials regardless of physical form or characteristics prepared, owned, used, in the possession of, or retained by a public body.

“The requirements under FOIA are that (a request) be in writing to the department with a specific request for the document you are requesting,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The department will take it, the process is to have it reviewed by the Attorney General’s Office to see if it meets the requirements of FOIA, and we handle it according to process.”

However, Hembree said there are documents, such as meeting minutes of a public body, that don’t need a formal request.

Each department of the tribe’s executive and legislative branches, after receiving a records request, has 15 business days to fulfill the request. According to the act, if written notification of the response is neither mailed nor personally delivered to the person requesting the documents within the 15 days, the request must be considered denied and the requestor may appeal the denial.

After reviewing the CN FOIA, Joey Senat, Oklahoma State University School of Media & Strategic Communications associate professor, said if a record is obviously public information then the person handling it should know that.

“Anyone should be able to walk up and make a request right there,” Senat, who served on the Society of Professional Journalists Freedom of Information Committee, said. “If the law was written so it was effective, it would allow anyone in the tribe to walk up to a public agency and make a request for a record that’s with that agency or with that official.

“If the record is right there and it can be made a copy, it should be provided on the spot, under the ways our law is written,” he added. “Having a 15-day delay wouldn’t be acceptable under (Oklahoma) state law.”

Hembree said he hasn’t received any complaints about the current process so he assumes it’s working fine. However, he said his staff has been overwhelmed by an increase of requests that come from a select group of people.

“The purpose of the act ¬– and it’s a great purpose – is to make sure that citizens know how their government is run, know how their money is made, know how their money is spent and the system has worked greatly up until October 2011, at which time there had been a dramatic increase in the amount of FIOA (requests),” he said. “That’s always been my number one goal, people will have that right and I, for one, will never stand in the way of that right.”

But Senat said because the CN FOIA gives tribal citizens the right to know what their government does the costs and number of requests shouldn’t matter.

“God forbid that the citizens know what their government is doing and that they want to find out,” he said. “It costs too much and there’s an increase? Well God forbid that the public actually put into effect the statute that says they have a right to know. That’s the purpose of these statutes and people should put them into effect and make requests. That’s why they’re there.”

Senat added that a list of all record requests should also be a public record and anyone should be able to ask for it.

“It’s a way to provide a paper trail so that the public can judge how well their government is responding to records requests,” he said. “Every time they have gotten a request, that’s a record.”

What records are public?

Public records are documents or pieces of information that are not considered exempt or confidential. Under the CN FOIA, certain categories are specifically made public information, however the use of the information for commercial solicitation is prohibited.

Public information includes the names; sex; race; title and dates of employment of all employees of public bodies; administrative staff manuals and instructions to staff that affect a member of the public; final opinions; documents identifying persons confined in any jail, detention center or prison; statements and interpretations of policy; statute and the Constitution; written planning policies and goals and final planning decisions; final CN audits and of its subsidiaries; information in or taken from any account; voucher or contract dealing with the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds by public bodies; the minutes and votes of all proceedings of all public bodies; and reports that disclose the nature, substance and location of any crime or alleged crime reported as having been committed.

“Tribal people expect transparency and accountability from their leaders, and there are a lot of great leaders throughout Indian Country,” Kemper said. “The best leaders tend to recognize transparency.”

The Nation’s FOIA states that any person has a right to inspect and/or copy public records.

“That’s one of the problems with how it is written now,” Senat said of the tribal law. “It should say ‘have the right to inspect and copy.’ It shouldn’t say ‘or.’ You should have the right to inspect a record and make your own copy if it means with a pencil and paper, to write down what you’re reading. Even with technology today, with a cell phone, the simplest thing is to take a photograph of a document.”

Some record copying may require a fee

According to the act, a public body – which is any CN board, commission, agency, authority, any public or governmental body or political subdivision of the Nation, including any organization or agency supported in whole or in part by public funds – may establish and collect fees that do not exceed the actual cost of searching for or making copies of records.

However, records must be furnished at the lowest possible cost and be provided in a form that is both convenient and practical for use by the person requesting copies of the records concerned. Fees may not be charged for examination and review to determine if the documents are subject to disclosure.

Open meetings and their rules

According to Robert’s Rules of Order, an executive session is a meeting or portion of a meeting that is convened in private. Only members of the governing body are entitled to attend but they may invite others to stay at the pleasure of that board, council, committee or commission. A motion is required to go into executive session and a majority must approve it. Those present must maintain the confidentiality of the discussion.

The regular meeting minutes should indicate when the board went into an executive session, what the primary reason was, any formal decisions that were made in executive session and when the board, council, committee or commission came out of executive session.

Investments or other financial matters may be in executive session if disclosure of the deliberations or decisions would jeopardize the ability to implement a decision or to achieve investment objectives.

A record of the board or of its fiduciary agents that discloses deliberations about or a tentative or final decision on, investments or other financial matters is exempt from disclosure as long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement an investment decision or program or to achieve investment objectives.

The panel may discuss, deliberate on and make decisions on a portion of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters in executive session if disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

A record of the panel that discloses discussions, deliberations or decisions on portions of the annual investment plan or other related financial or investment matters is not a public record to the extent and so long as its disclosure would jeopardize the ability to implement that portion of the plan or achieve investment objectives.

Matters exempt from disclosure

A public body may, but is not required to, exempt from disclosure information of a personal nature that would constitute unreasonable invasion of personal privacy, trade secrets, records of law enforcement under investigation and documents to proposed contractual arrangements and proposed sales or purchase of property.

Specific, individual salaries are also exempt from disclosure but annual budgets contain position listings without names.

Senat said omitting salaries from the public eye is “fodder for corruption.”

“You can go down to OSU and you can ask to see what I get paid as a state employee,” he said. “There’s no way to figure out who’s getting paid what? The public is the employer. The tribal citizens are the employer. They’re the ones paying the bill. They should be entitled to know who’s being paid what specifically. It should be open because that’s one way to fight corruption. That opens it up to favoritism, political patronage, basic corruption.”

Information that would violate attorney-client relationships, the identity of the maker of a gift to a public body if the maker requests to be anonymous and the identity of an individual who makes a complaint, which alleges a violation or potential violation of law or regulation also may be exempt from disclosure.

Memoranda, correspondence and working papers in the possession of individual members of the executive and legislative branches or their immediate staff are exempt. However, nothing may be construed as limiting or restricting public access to source documents or records, factual data or summaries of factual data, papers, minutes or reports.

Other memoranda, correspondence, documents and working papers relative to efforts to attract business or industry to invest within the CN may be exempt from disclosure. However, any record that is requested and is exempt and not disclosed or is disclosed and marked confidential should have a statement explaining the reasons for that determination.

“It does has a lot of common exemptions,” Senat said. “This is a strength under the law where it says that if they’re going to deny it they have to explain why something is exempt. These statutes can be very strong, but if they’re not enforced they’re worthless.”

Photographs, signatures, addresses, race, weight, height, Social Security number and digitized images from a driver’s license or personal identification cards are also not considered public records.

“Some leaders keep things secret and that could violate the right of the people,” Kemper said. “You see a lot of that throughout Indian Country and the tribe will have to sort that out.”

Kemper added that he believes there are some understandable exceptions such as sacred knowledge.

“Every tribe’s culture is different, that’s why it’s important to create freedom of information that’s a cultural match,” he said.

Penalties for not providing records

Any CN citizen may look to the District Court for a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief in FOIA cases as long as the application is made not later than one year following the date on which the alleged violation occurs or one year after a public vote in public session.

The court may order equitable relief as it considers appropriate and a violation must be considered to be an irreparable injury for which no adequate remedy at law exists.

If a person or entity seeking such relief prevails, they may be awarded reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation. If they prevail in part, the court may award them reasonable attorney fees or an appropriate portion.

According to the act, any person or group of persons who willfully and maliciously violates the provisions of the FOIA may be found guilty of a crime and upon conviction shall be fine not more than $100 or imprisoned for not more than 30 days for the first offense. For the second offense, the fine shall not be more than $200 or imprisoned for not more than 60 days and shall not be fine more than $300 or imprisoned for not more than 90 days.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials will attend area Christmas parades with floats during the holiday season. At 6 p.m. on Dec. 9, the CN will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Lights in Tahlequah. The tribe will also have a float in Catoosa’s Christmas Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10. The tribe will also have a float in the Christmas Parade in Jay, which begins at 2 p.m. on Dec. 10, as well as the Christmas Parade in Hulbert, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10. Finishing out the holiday parade season, the CN officials will have a float in the Christmas Parade of Sallisaw, which begins at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
12/06/2016 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After several years of same-day lightings, the Cherokee Nation and Northeastern State University held their holidays “Lights On” ceremonies on separate days. On Dec. 2, CN officials turned on the tribe’s lights at approximatley 6:30 p.m. at the Cherokee Courthouse Square. “We’re preparing to actually begin our Christmas season here at the historic courthouse of the Cherokee Nation with a lighting ceremony that’s going to take place with all the Christmas lights and decorations.” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “We’re getting into the Christmas season. That time when we remember the birth of Christ and we celebrate his birthday.” The CN event included a live Nativity scene as well as corn shuck doll making, a mailbox for letters to Santa, the story of the first Christmas, refreshments and caroling from the Cherokee National Youth Choir. NSU held its lighting ceremony on Nov. 29 at Seminary Hall. NSU President Steve Turner said the tribe and university held the lighting ceremonies on different days to make it easier for people to see both events. He said in past years those attending the first lighting would have to rush off to see the second event. Turner said the separate events did not diminish the strong ties between NSU and CN. “Tonight we’re having the 24th annual ‘Lights On’ ceremony on campus here at Tahlequah in front of this iconic building, Seminary Hall. And you couldn’t ask for a more dynamic, panoramic place to host this event because of the contributions that were made some 127 and a half years ago by the Cherokee Nation,” he said. According to NSUOK.edu, work began on the original female and male seminaries after the passage of an 1849 act by the CN that created institutions for secondary education for young women and men. In 1887, a fire destroyed the Female Seminary, which was located where the Cherokee Heritage Center stands today in Park Hill. The seminary was rebuilt at the NSU’s current location in 1889 and is now one of several buildings on campus.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/05/2016 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The National Indian Gaming Commission on Nov. 30 announced its first Technology Leaders Fellowship opportunity to support tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal governments. According to a NIGC release, NIGC officials said they see the importance of leadership in Indian Country year-round and have created the fellowship to help cultivate future leaders in Indian gaming. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act mandates that the NIGC support tribal economic development, self-sufficiency and strong tribal governments. “In keeping with the mission of IGRA, as well as promoting our initiative of staying ahead of the technology curve, the NIGC is proud to offer this fellowship as a one-year apprenticeship-type opportunity for recent graduates in the fields of technology and who are interested in Indian gaming,” the release states. According to the release, the Technology Leaders Fellow will assist and collaborate with NIGC technology staff on a variety of special projects. It also states that the fellowship was developed based on conversations with tribal leaders about the important role technology plays, and will continue to play in the tribal gaming industry. From those conversations, the release states, the NIGC designed a program with the purpose of helping to foster technological expertise specific to tribal gaming. “In this growing industry it is necessary to train the best and brightest in gaming technology serving Indian gaming. This fellowship supports our initiative of staying ahead of the technology curve by giving hands on training to recent graduates that can be taken back into Indian Country and Indian gaming. NIGC Chairman Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri said. To learn more about the Technology Leaders Fellowship requirements, go to <a href="http://www.nigc.gov/utility/nigc-employment-opportunity-technology-leaders-fellowship" target="_blank">http://www.nigc.gov/utility/nigc-employment-opportunity-technology-leaders-fellowship</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/05/2016 10:30 AM
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) — Protesters celebrated a major victory in their push to reroute the Dakota Access oil pipeline away from a tribal water source but pledged to remain camped on federal land in North Dakota anyway, despite Monday's government deadline to leave. Hundreds of people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment cheered and chanted "mni wichoni" — "water is life" in Lakota Sioux — after the Army Corps of Engineers refused Sunday to grant the company permission to extend the pipeline beneath a Missouri River reservoir. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters argue that extending the project beneath Lake Oahe would threaten the tribe's water source and cultural sites. The segment is the last major sticking point for the four-state, $3.8 billion project. "The whole world is watching," said Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux. "I'm telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over." Despite the deadline, authorities say they won't forcibly remove the protesters. The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, released a statement Sunday night slamming the Army Corps' decision as politically motivated and alleging that President Barack Obama's administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. "The White House's directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. That uncertainty, Allard said, is part of the reason the protesters won't leave. "We don't know what Trump is going to do," Allard said. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to consider alternative routes for the pipeline's crossing. Her full decision doesn't rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck. "Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." North Dakota's leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the Department of Justice will "continue to monitor the situation" and stands "ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions." "The safety of everyone in the area — law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike — continues to be our foremost concern," she added. Carla Youngbear of the Meskwaki Potawatomi tribe made her third trip from central Kansas to be at the protest site. "I have grandchildren, and I'm going to have great grandchildren," she said. "They need water. Water is why I'm here." Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn't respond to messages seeking comment. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has done much of the policing for the protests, said that "local law enforcement does not have an opinion" on the easement and that his department will continue to "enforce the law." U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps' "thoughtful approach ... ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts." Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn't clear how many actually arrived. "We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action," Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: "If we come forward, they will attack us." Instead, he told the veterans, "If you see someone who needs help, help them out." Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they'll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans' presence "about right and wrong and peace and love." Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury. "That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they'll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will "will result in their arrest." Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who's a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters' main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. "This is not just a native issue," he said, "This is an issue for everyone.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
12/05/2016 09:30 AM
CANNON BALL, N.D. (AP) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Sunday that it won't grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota, handing a victory to the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and its supporters, who argued the project would threaten the tribe's water source and cultural sites. North Dakota's leaders criticized the decision, with Gov. Jack Dalrymple calling it a "serious mistake" that "prolongs the dangerous situation" of having several hundred protesters who are camped out on federal land during cold, wintry weather. U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer said it's a "very chilling signal" for the future of infrastructure in the United States. The four-state, $3.8 billion project is largely complete except for the now-blocked segment underneath Lake Oahe, a Missouri River reservoir. Assistant Secretary for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy said in a news release that her decision was based on the need to "explore alternate routes" for the pipeline's crossing. Her full decision doesn't rule out that it could cross under the reservoir or north of Bismarck. "Although we have had continuing discussion and exchanges of new information with the Standing Rock Sioux and Dakota Access, it's clear that there's more work to do," Darcy said. "The best way to complete that work responsibly and expeditiously is to explore alternate routes for the pipeline crossing." The company constructing the pipeline, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners, released a statement Sunday night slamming the decision as politically motivated and alleging that President Obama's administration was determined to delay the matter until he leaves office. "The White House's directive today to the Corps for further delay is just the latest in a series of overt and transparent political actions by an administration which has abandoned the rule of law in favor of currying favor with a narrow and extreme political constituency," the company said. President-elect Donald Trump, a pipeline supporter, will take office in January, although it wasn't immediately clear what steps his administration would be able to take to reverse the Army Corps' latest decision or how quickly that could happen. The decision came a day before the government's deadline for the several hundred people at the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires, encampment to leave the federal land. But demonstrators say they're prepared to stay, and authorities say they won't forcibly remove them. As the news spread Sunday, cheers and cheers and chants of "mni wichoni" â?? "water is life" in Lakota Sioux â?? broke out among the protesters. Some in the crowd banged drums. Miles Allard, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux, said he was pleased but remained cautious, saying, "We don't know what Trump is going to do." "The whole world is watching," Allard added. "I'm telling all our people to stand up and not to leave until this is over." Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Sunday that the Department of Justice will "continue to monitor the situation" and stands "ready to provide resources to help all those who can play a constructive role in easing tensions." "The safety of everyone in the area - law enforcement officers, residents and protesters alike - continues to be our foremost concern," she added. Carla Youngbear of the Meskwaki Potawatomi tribe made her third trip from central Kansas to be at the protest site. "I have grandchildren, and I'm going to have great grandchildren," she said. "They need water. Water is why I'm here." Standing Rock Sioux tribal chairman Dave Archambault didn't immediately respond to messages left seeking comment. Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier, whose department has done much of the policing for the protests, said that "local law enforcement does not have an opinion" on the easement and that his department will continue to "enforce the law." U.S. Secretary for the Interior Sally Jewell said in a statement that the Corps' "thoughtful approach ... ensures that there will be an in-depth evaluation of alternative routes for the pipeline and a closer look at potential impacts." Earlier Sunday, an organizer with Veterans Stand for Standing Rock said tribal elders had asked the military veterans not to have confrontations with law enforcement officials, adding the group is there to help out those who've dug in against the project. About 250 veterans gathered about a mile from the main camp for a meeting with organizer Wes Clark Jr., the son of former Democratic presidential candidate Gen. Wesley Clark. The group had said about 2,000 veterans were coming, but it wasn't clear how many actually arrived. "We have been asked by the elders not to do direct action," Wes Clark Jr. said. He added that the National Guard and law enforcement have armored vehicles and are armed, warning: "If we come forward, they will attack us." Instead, he told the veterans, "If you see someone who needs help, help them out." Authorities moved a blockade from the north end of the Backwater Bridge with the conditions that protesters stay south of it and come there only if there is a prearranged meeting. Authorities also asked protesters not to remove barriers on the bridge, which they have said was damaged in the late October conflict that led to several people being hurt, including a serious arm injury. "That heavy presence is gone now and I really hope in this de-escalation they'll see that, and in good faith . the leadership in those camps will start squashing the violent factions," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said in a statement, reiterating that any violation will "will result in their arrest." Veterans Stand for Standing Rock's GoFundMe.com page had raised more than $1 million of its $1.2 million goal by Sunday â?? money due to go toward food, transportation and supplies. Cars waiting to get into the camp Sunday afternoon were backed up for more than a half-mile. "People are fighting for something, and I thought they could use my help," said Navy veteran and Harvard graduate student Art Grayson. The 29-year-old from Cambridge, Massachusetts, flew the first leg of the journey, then rode from Bismarck in the back of a pickup truck. He has finals this week, but told professors, "I'll see you when I get back." Steven Perry, a 66-year-old Vietnam veteran who's a member of the Little Traverse Bay band of Odawa Indians in Michigan, spoke of one of the protesters' main concerns: that the pipeline could pollute drinking water. "This is not just a native issue," he said, "This is an issue for everyone." Art Woodson and two other veterans drove 17 hours straight from Flint, Michigan, a city whose lead-tainted water crisis parallels with the tribe's fight over water, he said. "We know in Flint that water is in dire need," the 49-year-old disabled Gulf War Army veteran said. "In North Dakota, they're trying to force pipes on people. We're trying to get pipes in Flint for safe water." Some veterans will take part in a prayer ceremony Monday, during which they'll apologize for historical detrimental conduct by the military toward Native Americans and ask for forgiveness, Clark said. He also called the veterans' presence "about right and wrong and peace and love.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/04/2016 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix is seeking citizens of the Cherokee Nation, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians to submit design ideas for its 2017 Cherokee National Holiday T-shirt. For its initial 2016 T-shirt design, the Cherokee Phoenix used CN citizen Buffalo Gouge’s design that Gouge said was inspired by the original Cherokee Phoenix logo with modern modifications. On the 2016 shirt, a phoenix rises from the fire and the seven Cherokee clans are featured behind the bird. The Cherokee Phoenix banner is between the bird’s wingspan, and above the banner are seven stars also representing the clans. The Cherokee Phoenix printed 200 T-shirts and sold them at its office and Cherokee National Holiday booths during the Labor Day weekend event. Shirts went on sale to the public on Sept. 2 and sold out on Sept. 3. Assistant Editor Travis Snell said the Cherokee Phoenix would like to choose a different Cherokee artist each year to design the news organization’s holiday T-shirt. Snell said he initially thought of Gouge and approached him to be the first artist to bring the idea to life. “I’m thankful to be the first artist to do this. I mean this, this will be here forever,” Gouge said. Snell said after contracting with Gouge, Cherokee Phoenix staff members gave Gouge an idea of what they wanted the design to represent as well as the freedom to create. After several meetings with staff members regarding the shirt’s look, Gouge’s design came to fruition. “I think Buffalo did an excellent job creating the design for our 2016 holiday shirt. It sparked a lot of buzz before they even went on sale during the Cherokee National Holiday,” Snell said. “Now we are looking for that next great design from a Cherokee artist. Hopefully we can expand the number of shirts we print next year for the holiday because Buffalo’s design sold quickly.” Former Miss Cherokee Kristen Thomas said she loved the artwork instantly when she saw online photos of the T-shirts before they went on sale. “It’s a beautiful design, and I really enjoy the colors,” she said. “The phoenix represents continuation and renewal, and for me that’s what the Cherokee National Holiday celebrates. I think I just found my new favorite T-shirt.” Those interested in submitting a design idea can email the idea and an estimated commission fee to <a href="mailto: travis-snell@cherokee.org">travis-snell@cherokee.org</a> by Jan. 1. The Cherokee Phoenix retains all rights to the design. For more information, call 918-453-5358.