During the Feb. 21 Tribal Council meeting, Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, center, reads legislation that asks for acceptance of an apology from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region for damages to a Trail of Tears site in the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek, Tennessee. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Council accepts U.S. Forest Service apology
John Paul Atkinson receives a medal from Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden after being honored with the Cherokee Medal of Freedom for his service in the U.S. Army. His friend and fellow soldier, Jesse James Collins, was also honored but was in the hospital due to service-connected injuries. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Feb. 21 unanimously voted to accept an apology from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region for damages to a Trail of Tears site in the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek, Tennessee.
In July 2015, U.S. Forest Service cultural resource managers notified higher-ranked Forest Service officials that they had discovered damage made in 2014 to a site on a Trail of Tears section. The damage consisted of holes dug by a bulldozer and other heavy equipment.
“At that site, 35 large holes were dug into the historic Trail of Tears to create large, earthen berms,” Sheila Bird, Cherokee Nation special projects officer, told the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. “They used bulldozer and other heavy equipment, and this earthmoving resulted clear and extensive damage to the historic national trail.”
She added that Forest Service employees did the work and claimed that it was done for erosion control and to prevent areas of the Trail of Tears from washing out.
“This is a well-known and mapped Trail of Tears path, but it was not marked because it was privately owned. This land was purchased by Conservation Fund and held for the U.S. Forest Service,” she said. “The District Ranger failed to follow federal laws requiring consultation with Indian tribes. The Forest Service has acknowledged fault and committed to restoring the site.”
According to a Feb 21 resolution, the U.S. Forest Service-Southern Region “recognizes the cultural and historic significance held by the Cherokee Nation regarding the Trail of Tears historic site and extends an apology for the unfortunate and adverse effects that have occurred.”
It also states the “Cherokee Nation agrees to consult on a government to government basis with the U.S. Forest Service-Southern Region regarding the restoration and mitigation of these adverse effects to this Trail of Tears sacred site.”
It adds that as a “Good Faith Effort” and to commit to jointly pursue meaningful mitigation the Tribal Council accepts the apology.
Also during the meeting, Tribal Council voted 17-0 to support the nominations of Michael Doublehead and Steven Wilson as commissioners to the Tax Commission. They also voted Ceciley Thomason-Murphy onto the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
Tribal Councilors voted to donate three surplus vehicles from the Cherokee Nation Marshal Service to the Nowata Police Department and Muskogee and Delaware counties sheriff’s offices.
Three CN citizens were also honored with the Cherokee Medal of Freedom – John Thomas Cripps III, who served in the U.S. Army, and John Paul Atkinson and Jesse James Collins, who served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard and were activated in 2011 to the RECON 1-279th 45th Infantry to Afghanistan.
Two budget modifications were also passed. The comprehensive capital budget was increased by $1.8 million for a total capital budget authority of $279.6 million. The tribe’s operating budget was also increased by $2.1 million for a total budget authority of $666.6 million. The changes consisted of a decrease in the general fund by $92,000 and increases in the indirect cost pool, motor vehicle tax, Department of Interior Self Governance and IHS Self Governance and budgets.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At the April 10 Tribal Council meeting, legislators unanimously passed an act to protect Cherokee Nation-owned lands against ingress, egress and encroachment.
‘The Principal Chief will direct appropriate offices and staff within the executive branch to not allow any individual, company or any other entity to restrict ingress/egress access to any Cherokee Nation property, to not allow any encroachment on any Cherokee properties whatsoever and if any entity has restricted ingress/egress or encroached on Cherokee Nation property to begin negotiations or legal proceedings to resolve ingress/egress problems, or remove encroachments on Cherokee Nation property,” the legislation states.
During the March 21 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said he’s thought about the “protection” of tribal property since the tribe began purchasing more land.
“I’ve been thinking about this for years now, since we’ve started purchasing more property in the Cherokee Nation…the protection of our property and our lands, whether it be trust…or anything else,” he said. “I’ve checked with our legal counsel and with the assistant AG (attorney general) to make sure that this act does not interfere with any previous acts or resolutions or any other work that we’ve done previously in granting easements and that sort of thing.”
The bill follows the legislators rejecting a resolution in January to lease 190 acres of trust land in Adair County to Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch. The ranch is a hunting resort, and its owner wanted to lease the acreage to resolve a trespassing issue with the tribe. After purchasing approximately 5,000 acres nearly a decade ago, the ranch owner fenced in his property as well as CN trust land.
Legislators also unanimously authorized a right-of-way easement to Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company for the W.W. Hasting’s Hospital expansion. Ground was broken for a 469,000-square-foot addition in February.
During the April 10 Resource Committee meeting, Lay said he had concerns about a waiver in the right-of-way bill.
“We need power and gas and so forth, but I keep seeing, in fact, I see them on all three of these resolutions that are coming through Resources. Mr. Speaker and I, we’ve talked about these waivers of evaluation and waivers of bonds, waivers of compensation. Whenever I see a waiver, a red flag goes up, and forgive me for being so independent, but that’s just the way I am,” Lay said.
Joel Bean, of the CN Realty Department, said the waiver in place because the tribe wasn’t requesting any “compensation” for the land.
“For a project that we’re not requesting any compensation for, that’s the reason we’re asking for the wavier evaluation because there’s not really a reason for the tribe to spend three or $4,000 getting an appraisal done for the easement and the substation itself that we’re not going to be charging that company the money for,” he said. “The tribe itself isn’t going to charge for that easement itself, you know. If we’re charging for a pipeline going across our property or something like that we wouldn’t include the wavier unless it was for something that was supplying Cherokee Nation’s property or the business or the buildings or houses. Everything’s going to be supplied to the Nation.”
Lay said he didn’t “like” waivers but voted for the resolution “under protest.”
“What we’re doing here is a good thing. We need it. We gotta have it. But I’m going to vote for it under protest of all these waivers. I just don’t like these waivers because some of these things were built up and sent up for the protection of tribes at one time or another,” he said.
During the Tribal Council meeting, legislators also unanimously passed a resolution to allow the building of seven storm shelters for Head Start facilities in the tribe’s jurisdiction.
During the April 10 Education Committee meeting, Christina Carroll, of CN Grant Services, said the facilities were chosen because they are “Cherokee-owned facilities.”
“We can’t place them on state land or non-tribal facilities. So the seven facilities will be all various communities, and they’ll get shelters that fit their needs for each building,” she said. “They will be attached to the facilities. It’s not a under the ground or anything like that. It’s a additional room on the building and they will be FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)-rated buildings.”
Legislators also unanimously passed a resolution to sponsor a CN Scout Award for the Boy Scouts of America.
During the March 21 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said by sponsoring the award “every Cherokee boy in scouting throughout the United States, or throughout the world, can achieve a Cherokee Scout Knot for their uniform.”
In other business, legislators:
• Increased the fiscal year 2017 capital budget by $375,000 to $279.9 million,
• Increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $2.02 million to $669.9 million,
• Approved Dewayne Marshall as a Sequoyah High School board of education member,
• Authorized CN to lease approximately 25 acres of tribal trust land on which a gym and ball field are located to the CC Camp Community Organization in Adair County,
• Authorized the BIA to update the tribe’s inventory of tribal transportation facilities,
• Authorized an application to the Federal Highway Administration for two bridges over Wickliffe Creek in Mayes County,
• Approved CN warehouse donations to Maryetta School, Boys & Girls Club in Delaware County, Disney Assembly of God Church, Spavinaw Community Building, Cedar Tree Baptist Church, Calvary Indian Baptist Church, Stilwell Public Library and the Neighborhood Association of Chewey, and
• Approved CN Education Service donations to Bluejacket Public School.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to Tribal Council records, nine of the 17 Tribal Councilors showed up for at least 95 percent of the meetings they were required to attend from Aug. 14, 2015, to March 21, 2017.
Within that timeframe, Buel Anglen led all legislators in attendance of Tribal Council and committee meetings at 99.3 percent. Anglen attended 147 of 148 meetings.
According to Tribal Council records, Tribal Council meetings consist of regular monthly meetings, which are scheduled for the first Monday after the second Saturday, and any special meetings. Committee meetings are a combination of meetings of all seven standing legislative committees: Community Service, Culture, Education, Executive & Finance, Health, Resources and Rules.
Tribal Council records also state that all legislators serve on all committee except for Bryan Warner and David Walkingstick. They are not members of the Culture Committee. Also, Frankie Hargis joined the Culture Committee during its second meeting, records state.
Joe Byrd and Keith Austin reached 98.6 percent in attendance while Jack Baker garnered 97.2 percent.
Janees Tayler attended 96.6 percent of the required time, while Warner went 96.4 percent of the time. Shawn Crittenden, Curtis Snell and Victoria Vazquez all attended 95.9 percent of their required meetings.
Rex Jordan and Dick Lay each attended 93.9 percent of the time, while Don Garvin went to 91.8 percent of his required meetings. Walkingstick rounded out the 90-percent councilors at 91.5 percent.
Harley Buzzard attended 86.4 percent of his required meetings, while Hargis went 86.3 percent of the time to hers.
Wanda Hatfield went to 80.4 percent of her required meetings, while David Thornton attended 71.6 percent of the time to his required meetings.
Those councilors not seeking re-election because of term limits are Garvin, Thornton, Snell and Baker.
Tribal Councilors are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Fifteen legislators are elected to represent the districts within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional boundaries while two are elected to represent CN citizens living outside the boundaries.
The Tribal Council has the power to establish laws, which it shall deem necessary and proper for the good of the Nation. According to the CN Constitution, the legislative body shall establish its rules for credentials, decorum and procedure. However, there are no policies regarding absences.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 16 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2017 capital and operating budgets, increasing both funds.
With Tribal Councilors Curtis Snell and Wanda Hatfield absent, legislators added $76,837 to the capital budget for a total budget authority of $277.8 million. Officials said the increase came from a carryover environmental review for roads projects.
Legislators also increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $132,762 for a total budget authority of $664.5 million. Officials said the increase stems from grants received and authorized carryover reconciliation, new funding awards and an ending grant.
In other business, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Warrior Awards for their military service.
Dale Leon Johnson was drafted in 1967 and sworn into the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1968 he was transferred to Fulda, Germany, serving with Company C 19th Maintenance Battalion USAUR as a tank mechanic. He was honorably discharged as Specialist 4 in 1973. He and his wife Patricia have been married for 51 years and he recently retired from AEP/PSO after 37 years working as a lineman.
Shad Nicholas Taylor enlisted in the Oklahoma Army Guard in 1983 while still in high school. After basic and advanced training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he spent almost 10 years working at Camp Gruber near Muskogee. His duty included tours to Panama and Jamaica for hurricane relief. In 2003 he was deployed for 12 months to Fallujah, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Days before being sent home from Fallujah, he was wounded, sent to Bagdad, Kuwait, and Germany before finally going Fort Sill in Lawton to heal. He said he takes pride in all the commendations he has received and was honored to receive the awards and medals for his 20-plus years of service.
Jimmy Donald Quetone is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He served as a teacher and basketball coach for East Central High School in Tulsa before being drafted by the Army in 1954. He was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Sam Houston in Texas. He served in the 97th Machine Record Unit where he was responsible for keeping records for personnel and equipment in the 4th Army Area. He was honorably discharged in 1956 and returned to the education field. He retired working as the CN director of Education in 2001. Quetone is also an inductee of the NSU Athletic Hall of Fame and continues to serve others by volunteering at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens center.
In reports, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton recognized the CNB and CN Entertainment Community Impact Teams for raising $21,406.67 for the “Heart of a Nation” campaign, which will be used to help buy needed medical equipment for tribal citizens.
A check was presented to Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Crittenden for the campaign.
“All across the board we’ve got a very giving company both in terms of time and money,” Slaton said. “What it’s intended to do is impact in a positive way, helping Cherokee people.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Nov. 14 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously reconfirmed Todd Hembree as the Cherokee Nation’s attorney general.
Hembree was reappointed for a period of five years from January 2017 to January 2021 after being re-nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker.
Hembree was first appointed to serve as attorney general in January 2012. Previous to that he served as the attorney for the Tribal Council for 12 years.
“I am very honored to be afforded the opportunity to serve the Cherokee Nation for another term as attorney general. However, the many successes that this office has had over the last several years has only been made possible due to the dedication and hard work of the staff,” Hembree said. “The Cherokee people are very fortunate to have such a group working for them.”
Legislators also unanimously approved Sheryl Rountree, of Tahlequah, to serve a five-year term on the Sequoyah High School board of education. Tribal Council approval is needed because the tribe operates the school. Rountree will serve from December 2016 to December 2021.
Her resume states she has 31 years of experience as a professional educator that includes five years as school counselor. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 1980, a master’s degree in school counseling in 1995, graduate certification as a secondary and elementary principal in 2000 and a graduate certification as a superintendent in 2002. All of her degrees and certificates were earned at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah.
She has taught or counseled students at Westville, Woodall, Tahlequah, Briggs, Grandview and Tenkiller schools.
“I appreciate the nomination, and I hope to do a good job. I’m eager,” Rountree said.
The Tribal Council also unanimously approved Dr. James Stallcup to serve on the Cherokee Nation Health Partners board.
In 2004, the CN partnered with Tahlequah City Hospital, now called Northeastern Health System, to form Cherokee Health Partners “to assure there is alternative health services in certain specialty areas and for the Cherokee Nation to work together with TCH for the best health services for its citizens.”
Stallcup, a non-Native American, is serving as the tribe’s interim executive medical director until the position is permanently filled. Stallcup has worked for the CN for about six years, with two years as medical director for the Bartlesville Health Center and Will Rogers Health Center in Nowata.
He did not attend the Nov. 14 meeting but said previously that the CN health system is “incredible” in the care that it provides and the system has “an exceptional group of providers and nursing staff.”
He also previously said he is looking forward to the opportunities the tribe will have with the new Indian Health Service Joint Venture building that will be built adjacent to W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.
In other business, legislators unanimously approved a resolution to honor CN Security Officer Joe Polecat who “saw a large amount of smoke in the vicinity of (CN) cultural grounds” on Sept. 29 and took action. After arriving at the fire, Polecat radioed for assistance and then “took immediate action,” using fire extinguishers to try to contain the fire.
In his report, Security Manager John Paden writes Polecat used his experience as a volunteer firefighter to take control of the situation. Polecat asked Paden to locate a water hose at a nearby residence and to start watering down the property near the residence. Later, Security Officer Richard Acorn arrived on the scene when the fire was within 15 feet of the residence. Acorn and Paden watered around the property while Polecat was at the front of the fire using extinguishers.
“With Polecat’s experience as a volunteer fire fighter and quick thinking along with his concern for others, Polecat saved both homes that were in the path of the grass fire,” states the resolution. “The Council of the Cherokee Nation hereby recognizes Cherokee Citizen Joe Polecat for his service to citizens of the Cherokee Nation as a security officer and volunteer firefighter, which protects and saves people of fire danger.”
The council also modified the tribe’s operating budget for fiscal year 2017 by adding $5.4 million for a total budget authority of $661.8 million.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved a resolution on Oct. 17 authorizing the Cherokee Nation to execute a lease agreement with Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC, a company owned by PNE Wind USA, Inc.
According to the resolution, the tribe “since time immemorial has exercised the sovereign right of self-government on behalf of the Cherokee people…” and “the Cherokee Nation encourages economic development and acknowledges renewable energy resources are necessary to prevent land and air pollution as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels and is part of our long-term solution toward energy sustainability.”
“Be it resolved by the Cherokee Nation that the Council recognizes that Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC will obtain debt financing and equity investments to fund the wind resource infrastructure project and that it is necessary to grant a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for the sole purpose of allowing Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC to initiate causes of action against the Cherokee Nation in the event of default under the terms of the Wind Resource Lease Agreement,” the legislation states.
Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors Dick Lay and Buel Anglen both discussed openly why they would vote against the legislation.
“I think it’s going to essentially destroy our Chilocco property. It’s our trust property the only trust and only property we have left of the old Cherokee Outlet,” said Lay. “It’s impossible for me to vote for a waiver of sovereign immunity so that some foreign controlled windmill company can get a bank loan. I just can’t bring myself to do that.”
Councilor Anglen agreed with Lay saying that the need for the company to have the waiver of sovereign immunity to borrow money without knowing background or anything about it is something he cannot do.
“My true reason for not supporting this Chilocco property – I have relatives that attended boarding school there and to me it’s just going to destroy that property and just in my heart I cannot support destroying that property. If it was private property, I’m all for windmills…but not on the Chilocco Indian property,” he added.
Councilor Harley Buzzard, who originally didn’t support this legislation, said he would be in support of it stating that after the earthquake around CN Holiday he was even more so interested in cleaner energy.
“Then I thought about the windmill farm and how clean energy that is and I thought about the injection wells that are up and down the northern part of Oklahoma which cause the earthquakes in my opinion,” he said. “I know we’ll always have to have oil for what we do, but this is a small part in getting away from those oil companies now that’s ruining part of our lands.”
Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said he also was very hesitant in the beginning.
“But I did speak with those tribes also. Visited with the leader of the Kaw Nation and they have a wind farm right there and they shared with me, this will be good. I think the money that we’ll be bringing in, but it’s not just about the money. It’s an alternative resource of energy that we’re looking into here,” he said. “We have to look at other sources of energy.”
The Cherokee Phoenix requested a copy of the Wind Resource Lease Agreement, but was denied due to “confidentiality obligations” and said that the start on construction is expected to be within the next two years.
“As this is an ongoing development the start of construction is depending on many factors. At this point full advancement of construction is anticipated for late 2017 or early 2018,” said Kenny Wheeler, project manager for PNE Wind USA, Inc. “Also the start of operation of the project is depending on many factors. Our best estimate at this point is late 2018.”
Wheeler added that the final decision on where the energy will be distributed has not been made, but the energy once determined will be marketed to another entity.
“Cherokee Nation will receive revenue in form of a lease payment. The lease payment is tied to the revenues of energy sales,” he added. “Due to confidentiality obligations we are not at liberty to share the revenue details. Please get in contact with the relevant authorities of Cherokee Nations government or Cherokee Nation Businesses.”
At this time, this is the only wind farm operated by PNE Wind USA, Inc. in the area of the Chilocco Indian School.
The resolution passed 10-6 with Councilors Lay, Anglen, Don Garvin, Baker, Crittenden, Walkingstick voting no. At Large Councilor Wanda Hatfield was absent.
Cherokee Nation Secretary of Natural Resources Sara Hill said this wind farm will bring in revenue in the form of land leases with PNE Wind USA, Inc., but not the actual wind energy produced.
“It really just is a ground lease. The money will come in through the lease process. We do benefit from the money that comes through there (the project) in the sense that it supports the ground leasing. The only time we would get additional payments beyond that off of the leasing would be if there was a real big spike in energy prices. If that energy was a lot more valuable that we expected it to be then Cherokee Nation, if they got a windfall, they could share in that. We don’t anticipate that being the case, but if it occurred the Cherokee Nation could make additional money off of that. We are doing the ground lease so that the development can occur,” Hill said.
She added that she appreciates this deal because it is helping to produce a more clean energy, which in the end will be a great help to the Cherokee people.
“I think that is a benefit that we can see as the wind farm moves forward,” she added.
Minimum payments expected from the lease are around $1,000,000 per year, although that amount can change year to year. According to officials, two other tribes have leases also with PNE Wind USA, Inc. the Kaw Nation and Otoe Missouria.
In addition, the Tribal Council confirmed the renomination of Shannon Buhl as Marshal for the CN. His term was set to expire in November. The new term will begin in November 2016 and end in November 2021.
The Tribal Council amended the agenda to add a resolution from committee authorizing the participation in a nationwide elder needs assessment.
According to the legislation, the CN has partnered with the “University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Services to provide a past Needs Assessment instrument, evaluation, and reporting with no cost to the Cherokee Nation.”