Native Americans say grizzly bear decision violates religion

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/15/2017 02:00 PM
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Native American tribes, clans and leaders from seven states and Canada say the U.S. government's recent decision to lift protections for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone National Park area violates their religious freedom.

They are suing to block the government from removing Yellowstone grizzlies from the endangered and threatened species list, which would allow Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to hold grizzly bear hunts.

The Native American plaintiffs argue that trophy hunting for grizzly bears goes against their religious and spiritual beliefs. The lawsuit filed June 30 asks a federal judge to rule that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must consider the Native Americans' beliefs and consult adequately with them before removing grizzly protections that have been in place since 1975.

"He is our relative. For us Bear Clan members, he is our uncle," Ben Nuvamsa, a former chairman of the Hopi Tribe in Arizona, said Wednesday. "If that bear is removed, that does impact our ceremonies in that there would not be a being, a religious icon that we would know and recognize."

The three states have not planned any hunts for this year, but have agreed to quotas and to cease all hunting if the Yellowstone population falls below 600 bears. There are now about 700 in the region.

Basing a legal challenge of an Endangered Species Act decision on religious beliefs and inadequate tribal consultation has not been tried before, said the plaintiffs' attorney, Jeff Rasmussen. It's an argument that differs from those of the conservation and wildlife advocacy groups who have also filed intentions to sue over last month's U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision.

"They don't feel like they've been listened to, both with regard to their religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs, and with regard to some of the issues in this case," Rasmussen said. "They feel the U.S. is not listening to them, and we're hoping to change that."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and Department of Interior officials declined to comment on the lawsuit. U.S. Department of Justice officials did not return a call or email for comment.

The government began the process of delisting the bears in March 2016 under the Obama administration, and received 650,000 public comments. The Fish and Wildlife Service says on its website it offered an opportunity to government-to-government consultation to 53 tribal governments through letters, phone calls, emails and webinars during that time.

It is government policy to conduct direct consultations with tribes, which are sovereign nations, on Endangered Species Act issues.

The lawsuit alleges that government officials only contacted four tribes initially, and only contacted the others after the decision had been made.

"They promised us that they would consult with us before they made the decision," Nuvamsa said. "They reneged on it."

The plaintiffs are 17 tribes, clans and individuals from Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Canada. Rasmussen said two more tribes from Nebraska and South Dakota are being added.

News

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
07/24/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At a July 24 meeting, the Election Commission certified E.O. Smith as the Dist. 5 Tribal Council winner and Mike Shambaugh as the Dist. 9 Tribal Council winner from the July 22 runoff elections. <strong>Dist. 5</strong> Smith won his first term as Tribal Councilor by getting 52.26 percent of the vote with 347 votes. His opponent Uriah Grass received 317 votes for 47.74 percent. Smith said thanked his supporters and that it has been a “long campaign.” “I would just like to thank everybody. It’s been a very long campaign. Uriah is a good guy. I will ask his advice on some things, and I want him to know he can come to me anytime with a suggestion, and I will listen to him,” Smith said. “First thing I want to do is see our community pull together and be one. I’m going to work for everybody. I am going to be everybody’s councilman, and I am going to make the people glad they voted for me. I can’t wait to get started.” Smith will serve western Sequoyah County and part of eastern Muskogee County. <strong>Dist. 9</strong> Shambaugh earned his first term as the Dist. 9 representative after receiving 54.96 percent of the vote with 421 votes. His opponent Clifton Hughes received 345 votes for 45.04 percent. Shambaugh said he would like to thank his supporters and that he’s “fortunate” to serve Dist. 9. “I had great help on this election. I had people who stepped up and made it easy for me to mingle with the crowd. I think I’m very fortunate to serve District 9,” he said. Shambaugh will serve the southern portion of Delaware County south of Highway 20 and part of eastern Mayes County. According to results, 1,432 of the 4,517 registered voters in the two contested districts cast ballots. The more than 1,400 voters accounted for a 31.7 percent turnout. According to the EC’s calendar, candidates had until 5 p.m. on July 26 to request a recount and until 5 p.m. on July 31 to contest the election. The Tribal Council inauguration ceremony is set for 10 a.m. on Aug. 14 at the “Place Where They Play” gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/23/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is reducing services to children, senior citizens and residents with disabilities as it deals with what its director says is $30 million in budget cuts to the agency. DHS officials announced the cuts on July 11. Although the Legislature increased appropriations to the agency by $18 million over last year's spending level, Director Ed Lake says the cumulative effects of previous cuts and increasing fixed costs led to the $30 million shortfall. Lake says a freeze on child care subsidies will eliminate assistance to about 1,000 children and their families. Also, senior citizens and adults and children with disabilities will see a reduction in the number of hours of services that they receive each week. The agency also is reducing reimbursement rates to foster families.
BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
07/23/2017 01:45 AM
VIAN, Okla. – Candidates E.O. Smith and Uriah Grass vied for the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council’s Dist. 5 seat in a runoff election on July 22. Smith won the seat by receiving 52.26 percent of the vote or 347 votes out of 664 total votes, according to the unofficial results from the CN Election Commission. “I would just like to thank everybody. It’s been a very long campaign. Uriah is a good guy, I will ask his advice on some things, and I want him to know he can come to me anytime with a suggestion, and I will listen to him,” said Smith. “First thing I want to do is see our community pull together and be one. I going to work for everybody, I am going to be everybody’s councilman, and I am going to make the people glad they voted for me. I can’t wait to get started.” Smith said he has always been a “people person” so working for the people is his main goal as the district’s councilman. “I’m going to open an office in Vian from 9 a.m. to noon, five days a week so if you have a problem come see me and I will try to get you an answer and go to work on your problems right then,” he said. “If you can’t come during those times you can call me and we will make an appointment and I’ll meet with you. I am going to be with the people so they know that I am genuinely interested in their problems.” Grass came in close behind Smith by winning 47.74 percent of the vote or 317 votes. Grass could not be reached for a comment about the election results. As Dist. 5 councilman, Smith will be serving western Sequoyah County and part of eastern Muskogee County. The Tribal Council inauguration ceremony for elected officials will be held at 10 a.m., Aug. 14 at the “Place Where They Play” gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
BY CHANDLER KIDD
Intern
07/23/2017 01:30 AM
JAY, Okla. – A July 22 runoff election to fill the Dist. 9 Cherokee Nation council seat may be remembered for the winner as well as the low voter turn out. Candidate Mike Shambaugh defeated candidate Clifton Hughes with 54.96 percent of the vote or 421 votes. Hughes received 45.04 percent or 345 votes. In official results, only 766 voters participated in the runoff election. Voting took place at precincts in the towns of Jay, Kansas, Kenwood and Salina. Dist. 9 include the southern portion of Delaware County south of Hwy. 20 and part of eastern Mayes County. Shambaugh reacted to the win in an enthusiastic tone. He thanked his supporters and said he wanted to rest for a couple of days before working on his council agenda. “I had great help on this election. I had people who stepped up and made it easy for me to mingle with the crowd. I think I’m very fortunate to serve District 9,” Shambaugh said. “Personally I want to relax for a couple of days. Whenever you campaign every day until 11:30 at night or later it wears on you.” Although Hughes was not the winning candidate, he was still willing to comment about the runoff election. Hughes said he is proud of his hard work and campaign. “I just want to thank my supporters and (say) that I ran an honest campaign,” Hughes said. Shambaugh and the other council candidates who their races in June and in the runoff election will be sworn in to office at 10 a.m., Aug. 14 in the “Place Where They Play gymnasium at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/22/2017 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Officials say ancient artifacts discovered at an Oklahoma Department of Transportation construction site will be sent to the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. Oklahoma City television station KOKH reports that crews preparing for a bridge replacement project in east central Oklahoma found the artifacts several years ago. According to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation, workers found large fire pits and obsidian rock that isn't local to Oklahoma. Scott Sundermeyer is program director for ODOT's cultural resources program. He says the artifacts may be from Wichitan-affiliated tribes and are about 3,000 to 4,000 years old. He says the last of the artifacts was removed from the site late last year, and that the construction project won't be delayed.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/21/2017 01:30 PM
PARIS – Airman First Class and Cherokee Nation citizen Mason Turman was one of many United States service members who helped lead the parade down Champs Elysees on July 14 in honor of France’s Bastille Day. Turman, who is in the U.S. Air Force, marched with fellow members of the U.S. Air Forces Europe Force down the Champs-Elysees in the annual event. However, this year marked the first time the American military led the parade. This year’s theme was “Operational Together,” and it highlighted the close relationship among all the French security services and with the Americans. While France is America’s oldest ally, the United States would not have won the Revolution without French sailors winning the Battle of the Chesapeake against the English in 1783. The modern version of the alliance dates to World War I. The 2017 Bastille Day Parade was almost exactly 100 years from when 14,000 American soldiers arrived in France as part of the American Expeditionary Force. The American contingent leading the parade included troops from the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Marines from U.S. Marine Forces Europe.