http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgRep. Will Fourkiller
Rep. Will Fourkiller

UPDATE: Fourkiller accepts committee sanctions, denies wrongdoing

BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/17/2017 11:15 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Despite denying he did anything wrong, Cherokee Nation citizen and Dist. 86 Rep. Will Fourkiller said he would accept the recommendations from a House of Representatives committee that investigated him and another state representative for sexual harassment claims.

“I take this matter very seriously and want to take steps to avoid even an appearance of impropriety,” Fourkiller, D-Stilwell, stated in a letter delivered Feb. 13 to House Speaker Charles McCall.

The special House committee recommended on Feb. 2 that Fourkiller undergo sensitivity training and have no interaction with the legislative body’s page program for a year. He was accused of making inappropriate comments to a high school-age House page in 2015.

According to the program, high schools students from the state serve as pages for a week during regular legislative sessions and do interact with legislators.

The committee’s report states when the accusation was made in 2015 Fourkiller did not acknowledge or deny making the comments. Fourkiller has since denied any wrongdoing.

“I have made the decision to voluntarily agree to follow both recommendations of the Committee,” Fourkiller wrote in the letter to McCall.

On Jan. 17, Fourkiller declined to appear before the committee saying he would only speak the to the Special Investigation Committee if the proceeding was open to the public.

According to reports, the committee had heard from witnesses in only closed sessions.

“A confidential, closed-door proceeding does not provide the equitable forum to repair my character and reputation,” he told Rep. Josh Cockroft, who chaired the committee, in a letter.

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.
With his decision, Fourkiller avoids a vote in the Republican-controlled House on the committee’s recommendations.

The committee also recommended expelling Tulsa Republican Rep. Dan Kirby from the House. The committee’s report says Kirby took one of his legislative assistants to a strip club and received topless photos of her.

Kirby submitted his resignation on Feb. 4, which was to take effect March 1. He initially resigned in late December after reports of a publicly funded settlement with another woman surfaced, but later rescinded his resignation.

The committee also determined the House had the authority to spend money to settle the wrongful termination agreement paid to one of the accusers.

Officials said there was no financial settlement in the complaint against Fourkiller.

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.
About the Author
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties.

He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design.

Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper.

He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.
TRAVIS-SNELL@cherokee.org • 918-453-5358
Travis Snell has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2000. He began as a staff writer, a position that allowed him to win numerous writing awards from the Native American Journalists Association, including the Richard LaCourse Award for best investigative story in 2003. He was promoted to assistant editor in 2007, switching his focus from writing to story development, editing, design and other duties. He is a member of NAJA, as well as the Society of Professional Journalists, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and Society for News Design. Travis earned his journalism degree with a print emphasis in 1999 from Oklahoma City University. While at OCU, he served as editor, assistant editor and sports reporter for the school’s newspaper. He is married to Native Oklahoma publisher Lisa Snell. The couple has two children, Sadie and Swimmer. He is the grandson of original enrollee Swimmer Wesley Snell and Patricia Ann (Roberts) Snell.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/27/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a June 26 special meeting, the Election Commission amended the contract of Commissioner Carolyn Allen by adding $15,600. The commission also voted to give EC clerk Kendall Bishop its Employee Appreciation Award for Employee of the Year. She will receive it during the Cherokee Nation’s employee appreciation picnic on June 30. The EC also approved minutes from the June 13 regular and June 5 special meetings.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/26/2017 12:00 PM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. – According to a U.S. Attorney’s Office release, 12 people, including some Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens, were charged with marriage fraud conspiracy and related charges, for entering into sham marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws. Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina, said the indictments were unsealed on June 21 naming Ruth Marie Sequoyah McCoy, 54, of Cherokee; Timothy Ray Taylor, 41, of Cherokee; Golan Perez, 38, of Cherokee; Ofir Marsiano, 41, of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee; Kaila Nikelle Cucumber, 27, of Cherokee; Jessica Marie Gonzalez, 26, of Cherokee; Jordan Elizabeth Littlejohn, 28, of Cherokee; Kevin Dean Swayney, 36, of Cherokee; Ilya Dostanov, 28, of Panama City, Florida; Ievgenii Reint, 26, of St. Simons Island, Georgia; Shaul Levy, 26, of Norfolk, Virginia; and Yana Peltz, 30, of Israel. The release states all defendants are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud. Marsiano is also charged with four counts of marriage fraud, and McCoy and Perez are each charged with three counts of marriage fraud. Taylor, Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, Swayney, Dostanov, Levi and Peltz each face one additional count of marriage fraud. According to allegations in the indictment, beginning in or about June 2015, and continuing through December 2016, in Swain and Jackson counties, the defendants engaged in a fraudulent marriage scheme, in which foreign nationals paid to enter into fraudulent marriages with U.S. citizens to secure lawful permanent residence in the U.S. The indictment alleges McCoy, Perez and Marsiano arranged the marriages by connecting U.S. citizens, including Cucumber, Gonzalez, Littlejohn, and Swayney, with non-citizens, including Dostanov, Reint and Peltz. The non-U.S. citizens typically would pay $1,500 to $3,000 in exchange for the services. The indictment alleges once paired, the U.S. citizens and non-citizens would travel to Sevier County, Tennessee, and enter into fraudulent marriages with each other. The indictment states that, in most cases, after obtaining their marriage certificates, the non-citizens applied for adjustments to their immigration statuses based on their marriages to their U.S. spouses. The indictment further alleges that, at times, McCoy and Taylor also acted as “sponsors” for the non-citizens’ applications for adjustments to their immigration statuses, and in exchange, they received additional monetary compensation. Of the 12 defendants charged, seven were arrested on June 21 and appeared in federal court on the charges. Littlejohn, Dostanov, Reint, Levy and Peltz had not been arrested as of publication. The marriage fraud conspiracy and marriage fraud charges each carry a maximum prison term of five years, per count.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/25/2017 02:00 PM
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge won't decide until later this year whether to shut down the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline while federal officials conduct a more thorough environmental review. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg on Wednesday approved a schedule under which both sides in a lawsuit over the pipeline will submit written arguments on the matter in July and August. "We would expect a decision sometime after that, probably September," said Jan Hasselman, an attorney for the Standing Rock Sioux, which filed the lawsuit last summer that was later joined by three other Sioux tribes. The Standing Rock tribe sued because it believes the $3.8 billion pipeline built by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners threatens cultural sites and its water supply. The company disputes that and maintains the pipeline is safe. The long-delayed project was finished earlier this year after President Donald Trump took office and called for its completion. On June 1, the pipeline began moving North Dakota oil to a distribution point in Illinois, from which it's shipped to the Gulf Coast. But Boasberg last week ruled that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which permitted the pipeline, didn't adequately consider how an oil spill might affect the tribe. He ordered the agency to reconsider parts of its environmental analysis. About 50 anti-pipeline protesters rallied outside the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., during Wednesday's hearing. They sang, chanted, held signs with messages such as "water is life" and gave speeches in support of the tribe. "If that (pipeline) spills, it means game over," said the Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., president and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus activist group. "It means they can't wash, they can't clean, they can't feed their children. It means their way of life ends."
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/24/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State environmental officials say elevated mercury levels in fish have been found in 14 more lakes in Oklahoma than last year. The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality plans a public meeting for Tuesday to discuss the mercury levels. The agency says a total of 54 lakes have mercury advisories — which is up 14 since the last advisory in 2016. The advisories deal with mercury levels in fish and do not affect drinking water safety or lake recreational activities like swimming or boating. The 14 new lakes added to the advisory are: Arcadia Lake, Birch Reservoir, Boomer Lake, Copan Reservoir, El Reno Lake, Greenleaf Reservoir, Lone Chimney Lake, Lake McMurtry, Lake Murray, Pawnee Lake, Lake Ponca, Lake Raymond Gary, Shell Lake and Waurika Reservoir.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
06/24/2017 11:00 AM
HOPKINSVILLE, Ky. – While traveling the Trail of Tears’ northern route “Remember the Removal” cyclists visited sites where Cherokees stayed during their forced removal in the winter of 1838-39, with several sites housing graves of Cherokees who died along the trek. The Trail of Tears Commemorative Park in Hopkinsville acted as a camping spot and gravesite during the removal. Alice Murphree, Kentucky Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association president, said the site contains Chief Whitepath and Chief Fly Smith’s graves as well as a grave with unknown remains. She said Whitepath, an assistant conductor with the Elijah Hicks detachment, died about 10 days after arriving at the site. “He come sick coming out of Nashville, and as the trail proceeded he felt sicker and sicker. By the time they got to the spot at Hopkinsville he was so ill that the Elijah Hicks detachment had to leave him here and go on,” she said. Murphree said Smith was “sickly” for most of the journey before dying at the site. “Stephen Foreman (minister serving as assistant conductor of the Old Field detachment) and his wife stayed behind with him and that (Old Field) detachment moved on,” she said. “I guess it was just within a day or two. I don’t know exact dates, but they (chiefs) died within hours of one another. They (Foremans) went to the city and asked if they could bury him in the city. The city would not allow them to be buried there. The Latham family owned all of this property and agreed to let him be buried here.” It is said that Cherokees are buried in Union County, Illinois, at the Camp Ground Church and Cemetery. Sandra Boaz, Illinois Chapter of the TOTA president, said it was determined by ground penetrating radar that there are around 10 ground anomalies the sizes of graves at the site. “After 1834 a man by the name of Mr. Hileman took out a land patent and brought his family here. Sometime in the winter of 1837-38 he had two small preschool-aged children who passed away and he buried them, as family oral history says,” she said. “Then when the Cherokee came through…they had made arrangements for them to camp on this site. As they were stopped here due to the ice flows on the Mississippi River, naturally some of them passed away. So story says that Mr. Hileman had them buried out in the field by his little boys. So that was the basis for getting this site certified as a National Trail of Tears site with the National Park Service.” For more information, visit www.nationaltota.com.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/23/2017 04:00 PM
TAHELQUAH, Okla. – The American Indian Resource Center has received a $30,000 Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative grant from the Colorado-based First Nations Development Institute. According to First Nations, the funding will help build a sustainable food source (fruits/vegetables) for three tribal communities with the aim of increasing consumption of healthy foods. Families will be reintroduced to growing/gathering their own foods while making healthier lifestyle choices. The award was one of 15 program grants to Native American tribes and organizations under First Nations’ Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative. According to First Nations, each funded project aims to strengthen local food-system control; increase access to local, healthy and traditional foods; and/or decrease food insecurity and food deserts, all with an emphasis on serving Native American children and families. The release states it is hoped that the projects will noticeably improve a tribe or community’s effort to increase access to healthy and fresh foods for vulnerable children, families and communities. Additionally, the efforts will help increase awareness of and involvement with where the community’s food comes from, and expand knowledge of the linkages between foods, Native cultures and/or contribute to tribal economic growth and the development of entrepreneurially-related food ventures. First Nations serves Native American communities throughout the United States, according to the release. Its states that for more than 36 years, using a three-pronged strategy of educating grassroots practitioners, advocating for systemic change, and capitalizing Indian communities, First Nations has been working to restore Native American control and culturally-compatible stewardship of the assets they own – be they land, human potential, cultural heritage, or natural resources – and to establish new assets for ensuring the long-term vitality of Native American communities. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.firstnations.org" target="_blank">www.firstnations.org</a>.