Donnie Bird, a Cherokee Nation citizen and Greasy Community Building board member, picks up debris the morning of March 7, the day after an EF1 tornado touched down in the Greasy area destroying structures on the Greasy Community Building property. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tornado causes damage in Greasy community
A building on the site of the Greasy Community Building property lays destroyed after an EF1 tornado touched down on March 6. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
GREASY, Okla. – Residents, Cherokee Nation officials and others gathered at the Greasy Community Building on March 7 to clean and pick up debris after an EF1 tornado struck the area the night before, destroying a building and damaging other property.
According to the National Weather Service, the tornado touched down at approximately 9:45 p.m.
“We just got the new building (at the community building site) finished and refurnished, but that got hit. It didn’t do too much damage to the big building, but it tore up other buildings like the concession stand, the ball field and our overhead. They perform a lot of weddings underneath there. That got hit,” Donnie Bird, CN citizen and Greasy Community board member, said.
Bird said cleanup and surveying was ongoing at the community building property.
“We estimated it (tornado) was just a touchdown for a few minutes then it was gone, I guess, because there ain’t nothing else that’s been damaged, not the nearest homes except for trees and stuff,” he said.
Bird said the structure destroyed at the community building site wasn’t in use yet, but he and other board members were tying to determine what they would use it for.
“We weren’t really in the process of using it yet. We just got it fixed here before winter so we was discussing how to use it,” he said. “We could have used it for like indoor yard sales, kids activities and stuff like that. That was our plan anyway.”
Hannah Roberts, who was in the community from Grand Valley State University for an alternative spring break, said she and others from her university in Michigan helped with the cleanup.
“We’re helping with the Cherokee Nation, and we’re volunteering with them for our spring break this week. We had kind of just gotten put on the spot to help with this tornado that touched down. So we’re just out here helping out, picking up some trash, debris and things like that,” she said.
Roberts said seeing everyone come together to help “says a lot.”
“It says a lot about this community that everyone works together when something happens, and it doesn’t matter whether it was you or maybe a friend that it affected,” she said.
Jeremie Fisher, CN emergency manager, said he and his team, as well as others, were working to capture data, damages and other aspects of what happened.
“We’re out here and we’re capturing data. We’re trying to capture man-hours. We’re trying to capture the damage assessment so that we can provide a good number for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency),” he said. “We plan on trying to seek reimbursement for the damaged structures and all of the things that have gone on here. So we’re going to try and go directly to FEMA because we think we’ve meet the individual threshold for the tribal nations.”
Fisher said the CN departments of Facilities and Natural Resources were also involved in the cleanup. “We’re working hard together, and it’s a really cool thing to see the resiliency of the Cherokee people.”
Bird said it’s “heartwarming” seeing people coming together to help with the cleanup.
“It’s heartwarming to see when a community comes together when something like this happens, and we got a pretty good community,” he said. “It’s just something you have to appreciate how the community and Cherokee Nation stepped up and came out quickly. We can rebuild and just keep moving.”
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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>.