http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgThe historic Saline Courthouse near Rose, Okla., is the last remaining district courthouse built by the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. In 2003, the Saline Preservation Association was formed to restore the courthouse and the grounds around it. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The historic Saline Courthouse near Rose, Okla., is the last remaining district courthouse built by the Cherokee Nation in the 1800s. In 2003, the Saline Preservation Association was formed to restore the courthouse and the grounds around it. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Saline Courthouse: A Place of Beauty and Mystery

03/02/2016 12:00 PM
ROSE, Okla. (AP) – On the border between Mayes and Delaware counties sits a property that is one of the best-kept secrets in Oklahoma. The Saline Courthouse site is a magical natural wonderland in the middle of nowhere. Surrounded by empty meadows, a chicken farm or two, pasture and woods, the courthouse is a spring creek-fed idyll full of beauty and mystery and…death.

People in the know visit this place to take photos along the rock-lined creek and watch tadpoles and crawdads scoot around. In the summer, it is a great place to sit on the grassy bank and dip your feet in the cold water. The courthouse doors have been closed for many years, but the old white building serves as a good backdrop while lounging.

In 2003, the Saline Preservation Association was formed to restore the courthouse and the grounds around it. The courthouse is the only remaining one of nine that were built in the 1880s by the Cherokee Nation. Though it only operated as a courthouse for 14 years, it has a rich history.

Mayes County Assessor and SPA President Lisa Melchior said, “The first time I visited Saline was with my mother in 2002. The door was locked but the windows were busted out, and you could just step right in. It was in a dilapidated state with rotten wood, paint peeling, etc.”

Melchior was intrigued and went home and began searching for information about it. She discovered it was on Preservation Oklahoma’s Most Endangered List.

“Here was the last remaining structure of nine rural courthouses in the Cherokee Nation from the 1800s and it seemed to be forgotten,” said Melchior.

After she and others worked to form the SPA, they began working with the CN on a master plan to restore, renovate and renew the property, which is now designated as the Saline National Park.

When the courthouse closed in 1898, it passed through a succession of private ownerships, including being the property and residence of John Teehee, John and Poca Phillips, Coon Phillips, Stanley Perkins and finally Lee and Florine Ransom. The Ransoms sold the house in 1970 to the Oklahoma parks department. The CN eventually took ownership of the property in the 1980s.

The springhouse was the first building to be restored, and the courthouse has had major improvements made, and a plan for the original 14 acres around it is being carried out, piece by piece.

In addition, said Melchior, “The Teehee Cemetery had the stones repaired and a fence placed around it. A split-rail fence was put along the roadway. The courthouse structure has been stabilized with the lead paint abated, porch, chimneys, fireplace and foundation restored.”

“Broken windows have been replaced, rotten siding replaced and a new roof put on. It has come a long way and is now one of Preservation Oklahoma’s success stories,” said Melchior.

Travis Owens, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism manager, said the organization is continuing to work on a master plan for the property.

“We hope to have the plan complete by fall and will consider site access, walking trails, parking, public restrooms and options for the permanent use of the courthouse,” Owens told the Pryor Daily Times.

“The master plan focuses on exterior grounds and our first priority was preserving the building’s structural integrity,” said Owens. “We have successfully completed an exterior restoration, which included the stabilization of the building and a new roof.

“At this time a future use for the property has not been determined but we look forward to developing plans for the interior restoration,” he added.

Melchior noted that the CN had bought 50 additional acres for a Memorial Trail and other trails around the courthouse.

“I envision hiking trails and historical markers telling the story of the Saline District and the Cherokee Nation, a place that families can spend time visiting nature at its best and learning the history of the Cherokee Nation,” said Melchior. “The Cherokee Nation has not determined the future use of the courthouse structure, but I personally would like to see it used in a way to tell the judicial story of the Cherokee Nation.”

Melchior envisions the site being an interpretive one that “brings the past to life though pictures and stories.”

“People are drawn to the site and have been for hundreds of years. It’s a special place with a unique and special story,” she said.

Stories of the courthouse abound, many of which involve some not-so-savory characters and happenings.

In the cemetery located on the grounds is a gravestone for A.J. Colvard. The thing about this stone was it read “Born April 12, 1958, Murdered . . . “ The date is illegible. It’s not many gravestones one sees that have “murdered” on them.

Colvard was a store owner who was apparently killed by Stand Rowe, with John Hicks as an accomplice, in February 1892. Rowe was killed running from the law, and Hicks was tried and convicted but acquitted in a second trial.

Five years after Colvard’s murder, “The Saline Courthouse Massacre” occurred. Omer Morgan describes this incident in a 1955 article in the Chronicles of Oklahoma. According to Morgan, on Sept. 20, 1897, three people were shot and killed at the courthouse, one of them the outgoing sheriff Jesse Sunday and the other the current sheriff Dave Ridge. Also killed was Saline community store owner Thomas Baggett.

Stories conflict surrounding the murders, but what is known is that Dave Ridge showed up at Baggett’s store after it closed and stood on the porch trying to get in. Baggett appeared at an upstairs window and talked to him, and as he did, he was shot.

Most reports blame the murder on Sampson Rogers, who was hiding out nearby with a friend of his. Rogers apparently had a feud with Baggett and supposedly was going to pin the murder on Ridge. Rogers then allegedly killed Ridge.

The outgoing sheriff Jesse Sunday deputized some men and then came to the Saline Courthouse to see what anyone knew about the murders. Martin Rowe, who lived there, and John Colvard, his friend, were sitting on the porch. Sunday apparently took a shotgun from Colvard and then began searching the area around the courthouse. During his search he was shot and murdered.

Rowe was convicted of Sunday’s death, but the sentence was commuted to 10 years in prison, since the evidence was not strong. Rowe, however, escaped three months later, fled to Texas, joined the army, was discharged and eventually ended up in Stilwell, where he lived the rest of a long life.

Rogers was tried and found not guilty of Ridge’s murder.

Despite some unsavory stories involving it, the Saline Courthouse continues to be a place where people can learn about the past and soak in the beauty of the natural scenery.

For more information about the SPA, visit


02/18/2018 02:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – A new First Nations Development Institute report highlights that community foundations often fall short when it comes to philanthropic giving to Native American organizations and causes. In its report titled “Community Foundation Giving to Native American Causes,” First Nations researchers find that on average only 15/100ths of 1 percent of community foundation funding goes to Native American organizations and causes annually. The report looks at giving by 163 community foundations in 10 states. In all of the states studied, except Alaska, which was an outlier, the dollar amount of grants given to Native American organizations and causes was lower than might be expected given Native American population size and levels of need. “Our data suggest that there is very little funding interaction between Native communities and local community foundations,” First Nations Vice President Raymond Foxworth, who was the lead researcher on the project, said. “Obviously we think that’s a problem that can be addressed, so we conclude the report by highlighting strategies and practices we think can expand collaboration between community foundations and Native nonprofits. Overall, we hope that community foundation giving can, in the long term, become more reflective of the rich diversity within states, and this includes supporting Native American organizations.”?? The states studied were Alaska, Arizona, California, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota. The full findings and recommendations can be downloaded at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a free online account to download the report.
02/18/2018 10:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY – February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month and the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a nonprofit clinic providing services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, wants people to know that there’s a lot parents can do to prevent teen dating violence and abuse. About one in 10 teens were physically, sexually, emotionally or verbally abused on a date by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. One of the most important things parents can do is keep the lines of communication open with their children, OKCIC officials said. Officials said parents can be a role model and treat their kids and others with respect. They can start talking to their kids about healthy relationships early before they start dating, and they can get involved with efforts to prevent dating violence at their teen’s school, officials said. If parents are worried about their teen, they can call the National Dating Abuse Helpline at 1-866-331-9474 or text “loveis” to 22522. “Conversations about healthy relationships and teen dating violence and abuse need to happen early, before teens are experiencing it,” Robyn Sunday-Allen, CEO of OKCIC, said. “Although there aren’t many current studies that identify the rate of dating violence in Native communities, we do know that Native women in the United States experience some of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country. Because of this, OKCIC offers a variety of cultural activities and after-school educational events to prevent domestic violence and promote healthy relationships for American Indians in central Oklahoma.” The clinic offers a monthly “Clinic Culture Night.” This is a relaxed evening together where people enjoy learning to create a Native American craft, and listen to a speaker talk about domestic violence and how it can be prevented. The next “Clinic Culture Night” is March 21. For more information about OKCIC’s domestic violence prevention program or to register for a “Clinic Culture Night” class, call 405-948-4900, ext. 604.
02/17/2018 02:00 PM
A lawyer representing two American Indian tribes urged a federal appeals court Tuesday to keep in place the changes a judge ordered for a South Dakota county's system of removing children from homes in endangerment cases. Stephen Pevar, a tribal law specialist with the American Civil Liberties Union, told the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that before those protections were imposed, the system was stacked against tribal families. From 2010 through 2013, the state was granted custody of all 823 Indian children it sought to remove from homes in Pennington County. "The state won 100 percent of the proceedings," said Pevar, who is representing the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes in the case. "It would have been a miracle if these parents had prevailed because they were denied elementary due process." The tribes sued the county in 2013, saying its procedures for conducting initial hearings in such cases violated the federal Indian Child Welfare Act. The tribes argued parents were denied basic due process protections in these informal hearings, including the right to a court-appointed attorney and to see and challenge the allegations against them. The chief U.S. district judge for South Dakota, Jeffrey Viken, sided with the tribes in three rulings in 2015 and 2016. He ordered changes to give parents more rights at those initial hearings, which are required to be held within 48 hours of a child's removal from the home to decide whether the child should be returned to the home or be placed in the custody of the state Department of Social Services. Parents previously weren't guaranteed legal protections until a later stage in the process. The county, which includes Rapid City, is now abiding by the judge's orders. While the case applies most directly to Pennington County, the case has attracted attention elsewhere in Indian Country. The Cherokee Nation and Navajo Nation, the two largest tribes in the U.S., and other tribal groups filed a friend-of-the-court brief that said this lawsuit is vital to ensuring that courts follow the Indian Child Welfare Act, which was enacted in 1978 in response to widespread abuses by state child welfare systems against Indian children and families. The law sets standards for removing Indian children from their families, terminating parental rights and placing them in foster or adoptive homes. The brief says other states in the 8th Circuit have statutes or procedures in place to ensure those standards are met. Lawyers for Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo and other officials named in the case argued that the lower court did not follow proper legal procedures, so its decisions should be overturned. Much of their appeal turns on complex legal arguments over whether the state's attorney or the presiding judge in the southwest corner of the state counted as policy-makers responsible for the old procedures who could legally be sued over them. Parents did get full legal protections later in the process well before their parental rights could be terminated, said attorney Jeff Hurd, who represents Craig Pfeifle the presiding judge for the South Dakota judicial circuit that includes Pennington County. The appeals court took the case under advisement. Chief Judge Lavenski Smith called it "a very difficult case" and said the panel would rule as soon as possible, but didn't specify when.
02/16/2018 03:00 PM
TULSA — Cherokee Services Group has secured a contract to aid the federal government in its effort to analyze, measure and manage tribal forest lands located in Indian Country and the United States. CSG, a Cherokee Nation Businesses consulting company, is supporting the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Branch of Forest Resources Planning with assisting the Forest Service in restructuring and improving its Continual Forest Inventory software, which is used to monitor and quantify forest composition and conditions. “The Forest Management Service Center is working with Cherokee Services Group on the development of a new CFI processing and analysis software tool for the BOFRP,” Mike Van Dyk, forest vegetation simulator group leader for FMSC, said. “We are pleased to be part of such an important collaboration with the BIA in providing essential tools for the assessment and management of tribal forest lands.” CNB officials said the five-year contract currently has a value of $810,000 but they expect that amount to increase of the contract’s life because of the amount of work and resources necessary for the project. The tribally owned company is refactoring the software to best practice and tested-development standards that leverage modern object-oriented practices. The updated software will assist service center representatives with long-term forest plans for tribal entities. “The Forest Service Management Center’s Forest Vegetation Simulator model and the National Volume Library, both of which are heavily integrated into the CFI application, use scientifically validated, merchantable volume estimates to project future forest conditions,” CSG Manager Bob Freeman said. “Our placement of resources at the center allows for direct, unimpeded communication with the developers of this nationally recognized and industry standard software.” The FMSC provides products and technical support for the Forest Service and is solely responsible for development and maintenance of the Forest Vegetation Simulator, a nationally supported framework ensuring consistency among forests in vegetation dynamics modeling. For more than a decade, CSG has been providing federal and commercial clients with IT solutions and business support services. Wholly owned by the Cherokee Nation, CSG specializes in software and application services, network infrastructure services and business process services. Headquartered in Tulsa, it has a regional office in Fort Collins, Colorado, and 22 additional offices nationwide. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
02/15/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – Within the past 10 years, technology has advanced so rapidly that Americans are racing to stay abreast of the latest computer software, cellular devices and the ever-expanding reach of the Internet. The Cherokee Nation Community and Cultural Outreach Program is helping citizens stay up to date with the newest and most efficient technology, so nonprofit organizations and individuals can excel in a more connected world. “Most of the folks that we work with are in their 60s or retirees, so they’re definitely digital immigrants,” said Chris Welch, technical assistance specialist. “Sometimes they’re scared of the process of technology. We want to bring it to light to them and show them it’s not as scary as it seems.” The CCO hosts the Technology Webinar Series the second Thursday of every month. The group has been offering the seminars for two years now, and the lessons have become more intensive. “We started with very basic computer tips and tricks, even to the point of navigating the desktop - how to copy and paste, just simple things,” said Brad Wagnon, technical assistance specialist. “Then we’ve gone through a lot of Microsoft programs, like Powerpoint, and just have gotten more advanced as it goes.” After working with the CCO and watching webinars, nonprofits have taken steps to improve their method of getting their message to the public. One nonprofit organization “gave a new meaning to cut and paste,” said Welch. “They literally typed their grant out on a typewriter, cut it out and then pasted it into the space with glue,” he said. “That’s what we were dealing with to begin. That same organization now has built its own website and they do a digital newsletter every month, so they’ve gone from that to the other end of the spectrum within a three-year period.” In the past, the CCO has offered training on self-improvement topics, like how to manage stress. The department has since tried to help citizens build skills that will transfer into a successful nonprofit organization. This year, the group’s technology webinars have focused on social media. “With the social media stuff we’re focusing on this year, it’s going to help them market and tell the story of their nonprofit organization to everybody,” said Welch. “Most of them don’t realize this, but most of their viewers these days are millennials. By 2025, 75 percent of the workforce is going to be millennials, so they definitely are going to have to learn to tell their story in a different way, so we want to try and help them with that.” The CCO helps nonprofit groups through the help of another nonprofit organization. The webinars are based on trainings from, which was created to help nonprofits grow. The most recent webinar spotlighted how to use Google Hangouts and Skype. Each webinar airs at 6 p.m. the second Thursday of the month, and is available on the CN YouTube page. All of the videos are archived, so anyone who misses one can still watch it. The next Technology Thursday Series is March 8 and will focus on Instagram. For more information, call 918-207-4953.
02/15/2018 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Local veterans gathered on Feb. 13 at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center for the center’s first Valentine’s Day dance and social event. The Veterans Center was transformed into a Valentine’s wonderland with paper hearts leading attendees into the building and holiday décor placed throughout. The event featured a live band, a photo booth, food, desserts and fellowship. “We always enjoy hosting our veterans, and tonight is a special opportunity for them to fellowship and create some lasting memories at our Cherokee Nation Veterans Center,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. Couples, as well as singles, young and old, listened and danced to the music of the Three F’s. The band transported attendees back in time with songs from genres such as country and western and sweetheart songs from the 1950s and 1960s. Loretta Reed and her husband Terry Reed, both served in the U.S. Army during Vietnam. Loretta said they were “thrilled” to have a place to celebrate Valentine’s Days. “We are so thankful and so blessed to have an event offered like this. So thank you so much Cherokee Nation and everyone who had a helping hand in this. The food was delicious and so very well-prepared and beautifully placed,” Loretta said. “We are just so thrilled that they would take the time and energy to provide us a place to have a party and have a happy Valentine’s Day.” Barbara Foreman, CN Veteran Affairs director, said the dance is one of many new events the center is trying. “We have been looking at some new ideas and we thought the only way we are going to know if they work or not is to try them. The veterans were excited when we mentioned it and their spouses were really excited, so we thought we would go ahead and try it. This is just a fun social event for them to come together at,” Foreman said. “We just want to get the word out and to let our veterans know that our facility is here, so that’s why we are doing these activities.” She said veterans could expect to see more social events on the Veterans Center calendar this year. For more information, call 1-800-256-0671 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.