200 trees planted on Arbor Day
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - On Arbor Day, Cherokee Nation employees planted more than 200 trees and plants in a recreation area on the north side of the complex.
Principal Chief Chad Smith launched festivities by planting an apple tree at the tribe’s Memorial Garden. The tree, a Junaluska Apple, was a gift to the CN. It was grafted from a tree that was native to North Carolina and believed to be named after a former chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokees.
"This is one tree that really needs to be given special care when it is planted," said Wendell Cochran, special projects coordinator with the CN.
The tribe took nearly two years to decide on just the right spot and occasion to plant the tree, which was kept in cool storage. In addition to planting trees, the CN also gave trees to employees and community members. The CN has given away free trees on Arbor Day since 1981 and has given away around 50,000 saplings.
Arbor Day, first celebrated in Nebraska in 1872, began when homesteaders planted more than 1 million trees to provide shade, shelter, fruit, fuel and beauty for their land. Wayne Isaacs, environmental specialist with the tribe, said that concept is still used.
"These plants will help provide habitat for wildlife and help filter the impurities out of the groundwater," Isaacs said.
The CN’s long-term goal is to restore habitat on tribal lands using native plants and to incorporate Cherokee language into interpretive signs for various plants traditionally used by Cherokees. The signs will be placed along trails or other areas to further environmental education, encourage healthy exercise, promote use of the Cherokee language and provide tourists with a glimpse of Cherokee culture.
TAHELQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation on June 3 honored 30 community organizations formed and run by CN citizens who do volunteer work, promote Cherokee culture and make other contributions.
About 500 organization members attended the tribe’s Community Impact Awards banquet held at Northeastern State University. Most of the organizations honored are located within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and range from organizations that run shelters to those building playgrounds.
“These Cherokee Nation citizens deserve our praise for doing extremely important work to improve the lives of others in their cities and communities,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “That work includes mentoring Cherokee youth with their homework after school to running nutrition centers as volunteers for our elders, which is why it’s fitting that we honor these groups each year.”
Breanna Potter, 21, a CN citizen from Sallisaw, started the Brushy Youth Dream Team after she noticed there were not many places for teens to hang out in the Brushy community.
The tribe honored her with the Community Inspiration Award.
“We’ve had two youth lock-ins with about 50 students, and we train on leadership, healthy lifestyles and teambuilding,” she said. “It’s providing them a place to go that is positive.”
The teens also go through leadership training and work on community service projects together.
The Spavinaw Community Building Board Inc., of Mayes County, received the Elder Care Award.
Three days a week they cook meals for about 60 seniors and hold sessions on elder care, blood pressure checks, signs of dementia and other topics. They also deliver food to homebound seniors.
“We have to check on our elders to make sure they are OK in our community,” board member Susan Winn said. “It’s important these elders see someone or have someone to talk to, since in many cases most are in a one-resident home.”
Winn said she was honored by the Nation’s recognition. “I was almost in tears, I was so proud. It’s the first award for us and a milestone.”
The following organizations received the following Community Impact Awards:
• Newcomer of the Year Award: P.O.T.L.U.C.K. Society of Claremore
• Mary Mead Volunteerism Award: Brushy Cherokee Action Association, Sequoyah County
• Most Improved Award: C.C. Camp Community Organization of Adair County
• Best in Technology Award: Tahlequah Men’s Shelter and Cherokees of Orange County, Calif.
• Continuing Education Award: #4Hope Inc. of Locust Grove
• Elder Care Award: Spavinaw Community Building Board Inc. and Colorado Cherokee Circle of Denver
• Evaluations and Outcomes Measurements Award: Encore! Performing Society of Tahlequah
• Best-In-Reporting Award: Stilwell Public Library Friends Society of Adair County and Cherokee Community of Central California
• Technical Assistance Award: Tri-Community W.E.B. Association in Briggs
• Grant Writer of the Year Award: Cherokee Elders Council of Locust Grove
• Strong Hands Award: Orchard Road Community Outreach of Stilwell
• Cultural Perpetuation Award: Cherokee National Treasures Association and Valley of the Sun Cherokees of Phoenix
• Historical Preservation Award: Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association and San Diego Cherokee Community
• Lifetime Achievement Award: George and Linda Miller of Webbers Falls
• Community Partnership Award: Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation in Tahlequah and Capital City Cherokees of Washington, D.C.
• Outstanding Communication Award: Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club of Claremore and Cherokee Community of North Texas of Dallas
• Above and Beyond Award: Neighborhood Association of Chewey
• Youth Participation Award: Encore! Performing Society of Tahlequah and Kansas City Cherokee Community
• Mission Accomplished Award: Native American Association of Ketchum
• Community Inspiration Award: Breanna Potter of Sequoyah County and Roger Vann of Adair County (posthumously)
• Organization of the Year Award: Neighborhood Association of Chewey in Adair County and Mount Hood Cherokees of Eugene, Oregon.
TULSA, Okla. – The Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office is getting some new equipment courtesy of the Cherokee Nation.
On June 15, Tribal Councilor Buel Anglen presented a $5,000 check to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office on behalf of the Nation.
The funds, generated by the tribe’s motor vehicle tag compact with the state, will go towards replacing some of the department’s bulletproof vests, which last about five years. With each vest priced at about $700 each, the contribution will cover seven vests.
Officials with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office said they expect to replace about 40 full-time deputies’ vests this year. That figure does not include participants in the department’s currently suspended reserve deputy program.
With most of his constituents living in Tulsa County, Anglen said the contribution was overdue. His district includes the city of Tulsa north of Admiral Boulevard, Sperry and portions of Collinsville, Skiatook and Owasso.
“I’ve always really wanted to contribute to Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office because I’ve regularly contributed to law enforcement agencies in Rogers County,” Anglen said. “So I found a connection and made it happen. Tulsa County is a big county and while I don’t have it all in my district, I do have a huge amount of it that’s served by Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office’s protection. They deserve some of that money just like any other law enforcement agency.”
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will meet at 9 a.m. CST, July 12, 2016, via conference call. It is an open meeting and the public is welcome to attend by using the conference call information to join the meeting. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2016/6/10415_7.12.16CherokeePhoenixEditorialBoardMeetingAgenda.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the agenda.
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WASHINGTON – National retailer Dollar General will have to go before a tribal court judge thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
On June 23, the Supreme Court announced it had deadlocked 4-4 in Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians vs. Dollar General, which raised the question of whether tribes have the authority to pursue civil litigation over the activities of non-Natives on tribal trust land. By virtue of the tie, the court upheld a ruling from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that sided with the tribe.
In 2003, a non-Native Dollar General manager allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old Mississippi Choctaw boy who was working at the Dollar General store on the reservation through the tribe’s summer youth program. When the federal government declined to pursue criminal charges against the manager or company, the victim’s parents sued both the manager and the retailer in tribal court.
Despite signing a lease that required it to give the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians’ court system legal authority over it, Dollar General balked, claimed the tribe did not have jurisdiction and pursued litigation that was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2015.
More than 100 tribes and Indigenous organizations filed amicus briefs with the Supreme Court in support of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, with many noting the potential implications for Indian Country’s domestic violence cases if the court sided with Dollar General. According to a recent study released by the National Institute of Justice, a supermajority of violent crimes against Native Americans – both male and female – are committed by non-Native assailants.
“Today’s decision reaffirms tribal sovereignty and the inherent civil authority of tribal courts to protect our citizens when non-Indians assault them,” Jana Walker, a senior attorney at the Indian Law Resource Center, said. “This is critical considering that a National Institute of Justice research report issued last month found that more than four in five Native women have experienced violence in their lifetimes, and more than one in two have experienced sexual violence.”
With the tie, the possibility remains for the Supreme Court to revisit the issue of tribal jurisdiction in the future, as the decision does not create a binding nationwide precedent.
“It is a reminder that more work is needed to educate lawyers, judges, and lawmakers about tribal sovereignty and the authority of tribal courts,” Walker said.
The case will now go back to tribal court. The family of the victim is seeking $2.5 million in damages.
In a statement released June 24, Principal Chief Bill John Baker praised the Supreme Court’s decision.
“As tribal sovereign governments, we applaud the Supreme Court’s preservation of our right to protect tribal citizens on tribal land,” he said. “The Cherokee Nation is taking critical steps to strengthen its ability to arrest, convict and prosecute people who commit crime in our jurisdiction and against our citizens.
“We also continue to strengthen our civil code to allow us to increase our exercise of civil jurisdiction over non-Indian people and companies who commit wrongs within the Cherokee Nation. This will better protect all of our citizens, including our most vulnerable, like the elderly, women, and children.”
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he set a fire five years ago that burned 142 acres of land belonging to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that Raymond Neal Swayney was indicted last month after being accused of setting the May 21, 2011 fire.
Swayney pleaded not guilty to the two arson-related charges Monday in U.S. District Court in Asheville.
If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in prison, in addition to a fine.
Swayney has been released from custody on a $25,000 bond.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Cherokee Casinos’ footprint may be going beyond Oklahoma’s borders in the near future.
On June 23, Arkansas Wins in 2016, an advocacy group trying to expand commercial gaming into the Natural State, announced that it had reached an agreement with Cherokee Nation Entertainment to own a casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County, Arkansas.
“It’s been an interest of ours for many years to leverage our nearly 30 years’ experience in gaming, hospitality and entertainment into markets outside of Oklahoma,” Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton said. “This commercial gaming venture is a natural evolution of our business model that will be good for the state, northwest Arkansas and the Cherokee Nation. We employ thousands of people, and are good community partners, and we look forward to extending that into Arkansas.”
The agreement is contingent upon the passage of a potential ballot measure. On June 1, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge approved the form for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow gaming in three specific counties: Washington, Boone and Miller.
Boone County is in north-central Arkansas near Branson, Missouri. With its county seat at Texarkana, Miller County is in the southwestern corner of the state.
The state’s third-most populous county, Washington County is home to the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus in Fayetteville.
Robert Coon, a spokesman for Arkansas Wins in 2016, said the group’s decision to target specific counties rather than seek approval for gaming statewide was a conscious one to not over-saturate Arkansas’ gaming market. In addition to a statewide lottery, there is a horse race facility with video poker in Hot Springs and a dog racing track in West Memphis. State law currently only allows casinos at facilities with pari-mutuel betting.
“We don’t want to overwhelm the market,” Coon said. “We wanted to look at where would be opportunities where there’s already specific tourism draws where people are going and taking their money outside the state’s boundaries.”
According to the ballot measure’s text, an Arkansas-based limited liability company would operate each of the three sites, which would be subject to state law. The commercial casinos would also be governed by regulations enacted by the Arkansas Gaming Commission, established by the same ballot measure.
“The Cherokee Nation, just like any other operator, would be subject to the requirements of the amendments, including laws enacted by the General Assembly,” Coon said. “They would be an operator just like any other business venture operator would be treated here.”
Repeating language from the proposed ballot measure, Amanda Clinton, Vice President of communications for CNB, said the casino would be subject to the laws enacted by the Arkansas General Assembly, regulations promulgated by the Arkansas Gaming Commission.
Several of the specifics about the project, including the site, size, number of new jobs and available amenities, have not yet been determined. Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs is about 30 minutes away from Washington County’s two largest communities: Fayetteville and Springdale.
For the measure to get on the November ballot, organizers must collect signatures from 84,859 registered Arkansas voters by July 8. Coon was unable to provide the number of signatures collected as of June 24, but said the group was “on track” to meet the minimum requirement by the Arkansas secretary of state’s deadline.
Two similar referenda were slated to go before Arkansas voters in 2012, but both were stricken from the ballot at the last minute due to litigation. In an interview with the Tulsa World, Slaton confirmed that ties between CNB and the Arkansas pro-casino group were established during that failed 2012 campaign.
“We’ve watched closely as Arkansas has moved to legalize casino gaming in recent years,” Clinton said. “Now that this initiative seems poised to be on the ballot this fall, it was the perfect time for this strategic business decision.”