Mary Beth Williams, a Gallogly Family Foundation Public Interest fellow, left, and Yvonne Galey, Oklahoma Indian Legal Services law staff attorney, assist Cherokee Nation citizen William Deerinwater in applying for a “transfer on death” deed on March 14 during a wills clinic hosted by OILS and Oklahoma City University law students in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
OILS, OCU law students partner to serve CN citizens
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Oklahoma Indian Legal Services, in partnership with Oklahoma City University law students, held a wills clinic March 14 in the Cherokee Nation’s Tsa La Gi Room to help CN citizens write wills and provide other services for free.
OILS Executive Director Stephanie Hudson said OILS attorneys not only help individuals with wills but also with advance directives, power of attorney and with anything to do with assets.
“At OILS we try to make an effort to reach out to every tribe in the state of Oklahoma. We’re not associated with any tribe. We’re funded by the Legal Services Corporation, and we’re nonprofit. We provide services to individual tribal members all over the state of Oklahoma who are having legal issues related to their status as an Indian,” Hudson said.
OILS also assists individual tribal citizens with Indian Child Welfare issues, probates on restricted lands, tribal housing issues and tribal court issues.
“The services are free. They’re based upon a person’s income, and we do an interview with them to make sure they meet the income guidelines,” Hudson said.
Kace Rodwell, a CN citizen and second-year OCU law student, said she contacted CN officials to set up the clinic.
Hudson said the law students are members of the Native American Law Student Association and Public Interest Law. She said it was “wonderful” they chose to participate in an alternative spring break and give their time to serve others.
Rodwell said this is the second year the wills clinic has been held but the first time at CN.
Originally from Tahlequah, she said she knows the need for these types of services in the area.
“I know there’s so many people in this direction that doesn’t have access to legal services,” Rodwell said. “I’m…hoping that we can reach out and provide services that we don’t really have access to, especially my own family who talk about how they wouldn’t even know how they would go about getting a will done and how much it cost, and that was a big issue. I know different tribal nations, it’s really costly to get legal services and so for us to provide it for free, I think really (we’re) doing something to help.”
CN citizen William Deerinwater attended the clinic to get a “transfer on death” deed. He said upon his death, the deed would allow for smooth transition of his property to a beneficiary without the need for legal action.
“This is the first time I’ve tried it. Me and my daughter was talking about it. So I told her I might check into it,” he said.
Deerinwater said he knew he had to get a deed but was not sure about how to obtain one. He said OILS staff attorneys helped him by explaining the process in a way he understood.
Rodwell said OILS is located in Oklahoma City, and most tribal citizens are not able to travel there. She said OCU law students and OILS hoped to reach as many tribal citizens as they could with the clinic and to come back next year.
“I went to law school so I could help my tribe. I planned to hopefully get my law degree and come back one day to help serve the Nation, and this is kind of part of it, I think. That was the reason I wanted to come here because I was like ‘well, I’m there getting my education so I can help, but this also an opportunity and a program that I could be helping right now before I get that law degree,’” Rodwell said.
For more information about the wills clinic, call OILS at 1-800-658-1497.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – As the season of giving approaches, the Cherokee Nation provides ways for children and elders to receive much-needed items or gifts they may not receive without the help of others.
The Angel Tree Project helps provide gifts for children 16 years old and younger and will be accepting applications until Oct. 27.
Rachel Fore, Indian Child Welfare administrative operations manager, said in 2016 the program helped 1,739 children receive gifts and needed items for the holiday season.
For children to qualify they must live within the tribe’s jurisdiction and their parents or legal guardians must meet income guidelines. Income guidelines change annually.
According to a CN press release, applicants must provide proof of income for all household members over the age of 18. For example, a family of three must not exceed $2,127 net income per month, and a family of four must not exceed $2,562 per month.
When filling out an application for the child’s needs and wants, it asks for one or two reasonably priced gift ideas and clothing sizes for each child.
Applications for the Angel Tree Project can be submitted online at <a href="https://secure.cherokee.org/angeltree" target="_blank">https://secure.cherokee.org/angeltree</a> or in person from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 24 at Indian Child Welfare at 750 S. Cherokee, Suite O in Catoosa; from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 25-26 at CN Human Services at 1501 Industrial Park in Jay; and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Oct. 25-27 at the Tsa-La-Gi Ballroom behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees on the Tribal Complex.
Elders or those who would like to submit an elder for the Elder Angel Tree have until Oct. 31 to do so.
“The Elder Angel Tree is a program for low-income elders, 60 and over, that live within the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction and are citizens, and their spouses, to receive a gift or gifts from a donor that picks their name and gets them Christmas gifts,” Crystal Thomas, Elder Angel Tree coordinator, said.
Thomas said the program is in its sixth year and in 2016 year provided gifts for 172 elders. She said she believes this year that number will be surpassed because 150 applications have already been submitted.
On the application there is a “needs” and “wants” area that can be completed.
“A lot of them want socks and underwear. Some have hobbies that they want gifts for,” she said. “If on the needs list it’s something that we can fix with one of the programs, then of course we refer them.”
Thomas said offering the Elder Angel Tree is important because not all elders have family or receive something special during the holiday season.
“If it wasn’t for the Elder Angel Tree they wouldn’t get a gift, and we feel like everybody needs a gift at Christmas,” she said.
To apply for the Elder Angel Tree, an elder must be a CN citizen, or a spouse or widow of a citizen, and live within the tribe’s jurisdiction. He or she must also be 60 years old or over. Thomas said elders can apply for themselves or someone else can apply for them.
To apply, call Thomas at 918-453-5627, Rachelle Singleterry at 918-453-5694 or Juanita Bark at 918-253-4219 or visit Elder Services in Tahlequah or the sub-offices in Jay, Stilwell, Sallisaw, Locust Grove or Catoosa.
SALLISAW, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Sequoyah County officials gathered on Oct. 16 near Sallisaw to dedicate a newly paved 6-mile stretch of Dwight Mission Road in rural Sequoyah County.
The $1.13 million project includes an asphalt overlay covering nearly 6 miles of road, along with the placement of gravel shoulders, new striping and the installation of new signs.
“Dwight Mission Road is an important route traveled by many of the residents and visitors in Sequoyah County each and every day, and it also leads into the scenic Cherokee National Park,” Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden said. “This is another example of our tribal government’s commitment to building strong and positive partnerships with county and city governments in northeast Oklahoma. Collaborations like the one we completed on Dwight Mission Road improve the lives not only of Cherokees, but of non-Cherokees, as well.”
The CN used Federal Highway Administration Tribal Transportation Program funds to cover the costs. The tribe chose JOB Construction of Poteau as the contractor for the project.
“I’m not only a county commissioner, but I’m also a Cherokee Nation citizen, and it means so much to me to be able to say to the citizens in Sequoyah County, ‘It’s my chief, my tribe and my councilmembers who made this project happen,’” Sequoyah County Dist. 2 Commissioner Steve Carter said. “I get to live the best of both worlds on a project like this, and I can’t say enough good things about this partnership.”
The road project stretches between Interstate 40 south to the Cherokee National Park and its camping areas adjacent to the Robert S. Kerr Reservoir. The park includes about 800 acres of tribal land open to the public for picnicking, primitive camping, fishing, hiking, trail-riding and hunting during specified dates.
“The response by area residents to the Cherokee Nation's development of the park has been really positive,” Tribal Councilor E.O. Smith said. “Everyone talks about how beautiful it is, and the possibilities for additions are endless. Hopefully, we'll add another riding trail, and there's been talk of building cabins and adding more RV hookups, and possibly an archery range. Regardless of what is built, our folks will love it. I've heard nothing but good things from the folks who use the park.”
In fiscal year 2017, the CN used $7.7 million in federal and tribal funds to replace 61 miles of roadway and two bridges in the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Commerce Services helps Cherokees whose homes are undergoing rehabilitation pay for the work with its Individual Development Account program known as iSave.
iSave teaches individuals to budget their incomes and how to save money. After saving money, the program matches those individuals’ savings.
“We were actually the very first Indian tribe to start a Individual Development Account program in 1998,” Commerce Services Executive Director Anna Knight said.
The program went through changes after Knight said she discovered Cherokees were mostly using funds for housing rehab.
“Now we focus specifically on housing rehab. And when we talk about rehab, we’re talking about improvements that are made to the home that increase the value of the home,” she said.
Improvements include adding storm windows, fencing the yard or enclosing a garage.
Another change is that participants are allowed to save money for up to six months before utilizing matched funds. Previously, participants were required to save for 24 months.
“We learned through our own clients that 24 months was sometimes just too long. If people don’t get gratification a little bit sooner in the process, then it makes them lose interest in the process,” Knight said.
Funded by the Native American Housing and Self Determination Act, Knight said iSave matches $3 for every $1 saved up to $1,000 and the match could be up to $3,000.
“Say in the first six months they save $500 and then they wanted to put in new air conditioning, they wanted to redo the floors in their house, something like that. We would match them $3 for every $1 that they saved. That would be $1,500,” Knight said.
The money saving program works with participating local banks helping people open accounts for as little as $30 to begin saving and have account fees waived.
“The philosophy behind that is that the bank is building a future customer, so later when this person needs to borrow money or needs to open another account, they’ll become a customer for that bank,” Knight said.
She said an important component is financial education. Through financial education, a participant is provided with a one-on-one financial coach, provided copies of his or her credit report, taught how to improve his or her credit, given lessons on how to pay off debt and taught how to look at his or her budget and find where he or she can save money.
“Once they go through the financial education then overwhelmingly they come back and tell how much they’ve learned from the classes, how much they’ve learned from the business coaches and didn’t really realize how much they did not know that was actually out there,” Knight said. “At every opportunity that we can we try to teach people to save.”
iSave has helped more than 550 participants so far. Participants are allowed to stay in the program up to 36 months.
CN citizen Callie Chunestudy is a participant who’s been in the program for nearly a year and half. Her home rehab includes purchasing a hot water heater and she’s in the process of having drainage work on her property to help keep her home from flooding.
Chunestudy said the program is “wonderful” and helps her afford renovations she would otherwise not be able to afford.
“If you can take the initiative to save a little bit of the money yourself, which they’re asking you do, which is kind of a self-help program, then they’ll also pitch in and increase that money exponentially so that you can get your project finished,” Chunestudy said.
Chunestudy said she’s learned to outline a plan and budget her funds for the types of projects she wants done.
“You’ve got to budget your projects and figure out what you want to work on and get finished. You can’t just sit on it forever and wait for something to happen to the house. You kind of have to have a plan for what you want to use it for,” she said.
A participant must meet the National Median Income guidelines, be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe and own a home.
For more information, call 918-453-5536 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix recently made a change to its Elder Fund to make U.S. military veterans eligible for free yearlong subscriptions to the Cherokee Phoenix.
Thanks in part to a donation from Cherokee Nation Businesses, as well as donations from Cherokee Phoenix individual subscribers, it was possible to expand the fund to include Cherokee veterans of any age.
“The Elder Fund was created to provide free subscriptions to Cherokee elders 65 and older,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Due to an influx of recent donations, we had the ability to extend the Elder Fund to include Cherokee veterans. We will continue to give free subscriptions to our elders and veterans as long as we have money in our Elder & Veteran Fund.”
Using the newly renamed Elder & Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older and Cherokee veterans of any age can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription.
The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the Elder & Veteran Fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
No income guidelines have been specified for the Elder & Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last.
Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Elder & Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder & Veteran Fund donations.
The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, www.cherokeephoenix.org, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Career Services’ Day Training program helps Cherokees with temporary job placement and training that could potentially result in permanent employment. And because of an influx of applicants during the holiday season, the program will not take applications until the autumn of each year, with the exception of special circumstances.
“We realized that we have a need for people more in the late fall during the holiday season, so that they can get that money to get over that hump. So a lot of them are without jobs, they’re without training. So we decided that we would start actually start working on the Day Training program after the Labor Day holiday,” Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said.
Jonathan Crittenden, Day Training coordinator, said the program has slowed because of participants utilizing newer programs throughout the year such as the Dislocated Worker Program and the Summer Youth Employment Program.
Since it’s inception in 2009, Day Training has helped more than 2,000 participants who have attained employment within the CN or its entities.
The majority of temporary jobs placements take place within the CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses.
The program helps people with little or no job experience, as well as people who have received college degrees or vocational training, to gain work experience through training on the job.
To qualify, one must be a CN citizen, live within the CN jurisdiction, have no income, be at least 18 years old and out of high school.
The program allows participants to train up to 12 weeks and equal a training payment of up to $1,000. The training payment was recently changed from $3,000 per fiscal year to $1,000 per fiscal year to service more clients.
Payouts include $50 per day for 8-hour workdays, $25 for four hours of work or payouts of $100 to $200 for days worked per week.
“Day Training affords them that opportunity to get their foot in the door so that either Health (Services) or Education (Services) or (the) department they land in can actually see whether or not they are somebody that would make a good employee. We’ve been very fortunate here at the Cherokee Nation to have the Day Training program so that it affords those directors the opportunity to see what’s out there, and in a lot of cases those people got picked up,” Kelley said.
Crittenden said the program is a “day-to-day” program of temporary employment but also services higher education students who are looking to complete internships within the CN.
A participant is able to utilize any Career Services program if they qualify. For example, a college graduate who meets the criteria for the SYEP can work at a job in his or her field of study and then shift to the Day Training program to continue gaining work experience until a job opportunity opens.
CN citizen Courtney Cowan is a participant who utilized Day Training and the SYEP and is now a special assistant in Career Services. After graduating college and obtaining a degree in health and human performance, she had trouble attaining employment.
“With all the connections and stuff I’ve made, it’s been amazing. It’s been a blessing for me because I think just around this area it’s really, really hard for people to find jobs. Even with a degree right now people are struggling,” she said.
Kelley said she believes in hiring participants “who make something” of themselves. “If we can’t hire our own people, people that have come through the program that we’ve trained, then what are we even here for? That’s they way we look at it.”
For more information, call 918-453-5555 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The first of two meetings for the Cherokee Nation Elders Summit was held Sept. 26 at the Northeastern State University Ballroom.
Elder Summit coordinator Kamisha Hair-Daniels said this year’s events marked the third year the tribe has hosted summits specifically created to benefit Cherokee elders.
“We feed them, we have a resource fair and we also have presenters who come in and give them useful information regarding identity theft, Medicaid fraud, healthy living and other topics like that,” she said.
Daniels said she’s glad that Cherokee Nation officials decided to hold summits for elders.
“It’s a day to let them know that there’s help out there,” she said.
Daniels said elders are often targeted by scams and can be vulnerable to criminal activity.
“Our elders need the information available to them here,” she said.
CN citizen Russell Feeling, who attended the event in Tahlequah, said he came for several reasons. “I wanted to pick up information here and see what’s available to seniors, but it’s also a chance to see old friends. Fellowship becomes more important the older we get.”
The second meeting of the 2017 Elder Summit was held two days later at the Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs in Claremore. Organizers said holding the summit in Cherokee and Rogers counties cut down the distances elders had to travel to the meetings.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the knowledge available at Elder Summits are crucial to the well-being of aging CN citizens.
“Cherokees have always honored and revered our elders. Bringing them here to let them know what services are available, how we can help, what we’re doing, giving them updates along with feeding them a good meal is extremely important,” Baker said.