http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgTribal Councilors and Sequoyah High School Principal Jolyn Choate join Principal Chief Bill John Baker as he signs into law a $10,000 base pay increase for certified teachers on March 12 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The increase will go to 45 teachers at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and SHS. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilors and Sequoyah High School Principal Jolyn Choate join Principal Chief Bill John Baker as he signs into law a $10,000 base pay increase for certified teachers on March 12 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The increase will go to 45 teachers at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and SHS. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Nation OKs $10K raise for SHS, immersion teachers

Principal Chief Bill Baker proposed the teacher base pay increase legislation, which will give a $5,000 lump sump payment to certified teachers on March 29 for the current academic year and another $5,000 for teacher contracts on July 1 for the 2018-19 academic year. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Principal Chief Bill Baker proposed the teacher base pay increase legislation, which will give a $5,000 lump sump payment to certified teachers on March 29 for the current academic year and another $5,000 for teacher contracts on July 1 for the 2018-19 academic year. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
03/13/2018 05:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – At the March 12 Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed into law a $10,000 pay increase for 45 certified teachers at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and Sequoyah High School.

Teachers were expected to see a $5,000 lump sum for the current academic year with their March 29 checks, while another $5,000 is expected to appear in teacher contracts on July 1.

“Over the past decade the state of Oklahoma has made drastic budget cuts to public education,” Baker said. “Cherokee Nation is unwavering in its commitment to public schools, students and teachers. This pay increase reaffirms that commitment and, I hope, sends a message to state leaders that they should follow Cherokee Nation’s lead and raise pay for all certified teachers in the state.”

Jon Minor, a SHS teacher and assistant coach, said the raise was important. “The Cherokee Nation has been very supportive and proactive in the opportunities provided for our students, faculty, staff and administration at Sequoyah High School. We have multiple avenues and resources that Cherokee Nation brings into our school system, that allows us to teach and do our jobs more efficiently.”

Meda Nix, a fifth grade teacher at the immersion school, has taught at the school for seven years and was excited about the raise.

“People don’t realize how hard and mentally exhausting teaching can be and that it takes a special person to come in every day and put their heart and soul into it,” Nix said. “I want to thank the chief and Tribal Council for thinking of us and taking care of us.”

She said the increase is important for teacher retention and an incentive for others interested in teaching to obtain their certifications.

The raise was part of a budget modification that passed with a 14-1 vote. Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor voted against the legislation, and Tribal Councilors Rex Jordan and Wanda Hatfield were absent.

“As you know, that wasn’t the only thing in that budget modification, and so there were just some issues with it that I wasn’t real comfortable with, and that’s why I voted no,” Taylor said.

The raise will come from the Un-appropriated Reserves Fund, which Tribal Council Financial Oversight Executive Director Jody Reece called “General Fund carryover.” To cover the raise, the immersion school’s budget increased by $110,725, while Sequoyah’s increased by $371,591.

SHS Superintendent Leroy Qualls said earlier in the day that certified teachers are paid through a step program with the Bureau of Indian Education and do not receive an annual 3 percent raise that regular CN employees receive.

“That’s not true for the teachers because they are on contract,” he said. “They get a step each year, which is 300-something dollars.”

Oklahoma ranks 48th in the U.S. in terms of teacher salaries, according to a 2016 National Education Association study. In Oklahoma the average elementary teacher makes $41,150, while high school teachers make $42,460, according to a 2016 Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Before the increase the average salary for certified teachers at the two schools was $42,815, according to CN Communications.

Earlier this year Oklahoma legislators proposed legislation to fund a $5,000 teacher pay increase, but it failed to garner the needed approval. As of publication, teachers around the state were planning a walkout on April 2 if the Legislature did not agree on funding an increase.

“We hope the state of Oklahoma looks at the Cherokee Nation as leaders in education, which they do and they should,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said “The Legislature is in the midst of considering this at the moment, but we think the moment is now, and we think we can show some leadership. But first and foremost it’s because the teachers deserve the raise.”

Councilors also approved several trust-land projects, including approving 435 acres in Adair County and 160 acres in Sequoyah County. Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis said there were “no immediate plans” for how the lands would be used.

In other business, legislators:

• Announced the groundbreaking of a casino on March 26 at the Cherokee Springs Plaza site,

• Increased the fiscal year 2018 capital budget by $1 million to $252 million, and

• Increased the FY 2018 operating budget by $5.76 million to $667.1 million.
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/26/2018 04:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — American Indian tribes are welcoming an opportunity to offer sports betting in potentially hundreds of casinos across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize it. Tribal casinos generate more than $31 billion a year in gross revenue. While adding sports books isn’t expected to boost that number significantly, tribes say it’s another source to deliver services to tribal members. “The conversation is always, ‘Why don’t you do like Vegas?’“ said Sheila Morago, executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “Everybody always wants to give their customers things they have asked for.” Many tribes give a share of casino profits to states in exchange for exclusive rights to conduct gambling operations. In Arizona, the state’s share was about $100 million last year. Some tribes believe agreements with states already give them the right to control sports betting, while others will work out the details through negotiations in compacts that vary in wording state by state. “It’s going to be important for the tribes that their position as sovereigns and their existing compacts within their states are recognized,” said Valerie Spicer, a co-founder of the consulting firm Trilogy Group. “There’s still a lot of work left to do.” Nearly 240 tribes operate casinos in more than half of U.S. states under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or as commercial ventures. Some only have games like bingo or pull tabs that don’t need authorization from states. The majority of the roughly 475 tribal casinos have those games and others like slot machines, blackjack and other table games, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Sports wagering would fall in the latter category, the commission said. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on a challenge from New Jersey. The law limited sports betting to four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon. States now can adopt laws regulating sports betting, though some already have the legal framework in place. In California, voters would have to approve a change to the state constitution. As is, California tribes have exclusivity in casino-style gambling, and some believe that includes sports betting. Steve Stallings, the chairman of the California Indian Gaming Commission, said the group that represents 34 tribes wants specifics on what sports betting would encompass before the state moves to legalize it. For example, he said, would it occur at a physical sports book or could wagers be placed online? “Expansion of gaming is a slippery slope,” he said. “Tribes feel like they have somewhat an exclusivity to it. When the state or other interests violate that, then tribes are concerned.” In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey saw the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision as a way to modernize tribal gambling compacts and potentially boost revenue to the state. Most of the tribal compacts are up for renewal in 2022. Greg Jones was visiting a casino run by the Navajo Nation east of Flagstaff this week. He said he used to bet regularly on college football and being able to do it at a tribal casino less than an hour from his home beats traveling to Nevada. “It’s a big pot,” he said. “Everyone should be able to dip their foot in the pool.” Tribes in Oklahoma have been trying to get sports betting approved through the state legislature in the last two sessions but have been unsuccessful, Morago said. In Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribe said it’s looking forward to working with the state to legalize and regulate sports betting. “We have long felt that Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment was in a great position to offer this type of gaming at our properties,” spokeswoman Jennifer Harris Ballester wrote in a statement. Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, said the group has been preparing tribal governments for sports betting with listening sessions outlining internal regulations and negotiations of state gambling compacts. Location and competition would be major factors in tribes’ decisions to add sports betting, he said. “I don’t believe this is going to take the place of our slot machines, but it’s another amenity we can enjoy and people can have fun with,” he said. “And we want to be able to move forward with the overall industry.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/26/2018 12:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Experts are looking at how Oklahoma's seismic activity impacts critical infrastructure as frequent, low-level earthquake swarms continue to pop off throughout the state. The Tulsa World reports that Oklahoma has experienced 80 earthquakes of 3.0 or greater magnitudes this year through Thursday morning. The Oklahoma Geological Survey says that 2015 was the state's peak year, with just over 900 quakes of 3.0 or greater. A Society of Exploration Geophysicists article this month said that soil, concrete and steel structures are "susceptible to fatigue" under seismic conditions that weren't considered during design. Scientists worry long-term low-level shaking could affect storage tanks and pipelines in Cushing, an oil hub in Oklahoma. The Tulsa-based society is hosting an August forum to engage experts in discussions on the issues and write for publication.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2018 03:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation will host a send-off ceremony for its cyclists who leave Tahlequah on Tuesday for the annual “Remember the Removal” Bike Ride. This year’s cyclists range in age from 18 to 24. They will meet eight cyclists from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina for a ride that begins in New Echota, Georgia, on June 3, and concludes around 950 miles later on June 21 in Tahlequah. Cyclists follow the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears - spanning Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma – to retrace the path of their ancestors. Of the estimated 16,000 Cherokees forced to march to Indian Territory in the late 1830s, 4,000 died from exposure, starvation and disease, giving credence to the name Trail of Tears. During the ceremony, tribal leaders will wish the cyclists a successful trip and safe return. The CN riders are Daulton Cochran, Emilee Chavez, Lily Drywater, Dale Eagle, Parker Weavel, Sky Wildcat, Courtney Cowan, Autumn Lawless and Amari McCoy. Jennifer Johnson, a CN citizen and Oklahoma City lawyer, was chosen as this year’s mentor rider. Cherokee Nation Businesses Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett, an avid cyclist, is also expected to join the cyclists during the journey’s first week. Follow the riders at <a href="http://www.facebook.com/removal.ride" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/removal.ride</a> and on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtags #RTR2018 and #WeRemember.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Officials with the Oklahoma Senior Games said registration for the 2018 competition is open and will feature 20 events, including new ones such as a power walk, softball, corn hole and washer pitch. Local Senior Games events were held this spring in Yukon and will be held this fall in Ardmore from Sept. 7-14. Fall events will also be held in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa areas. All athletes must be 50 years old by Dec. 31, except for those who compete in badminton, cycling, tennis and table tennis. Those events are open to athletes who are 40 and older by Dec. 31. Participants will compete in one of the following age categories for both individual and/or doubles sports: 50-54, 55-59,60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89,90-94,95-99 and 100 and older. Team sports are divided into the following brackets: 50-plus, 55-plus, 60-plus, 65-plus, 70-plus, 75-plus, 80-plus and 85-plus. Partner and team age groups will be determined by the age of the youngest partner/team member. Athletes may enter as many events as their schedule allows. Participants finishing in the top places in their age category in each event qualify for National Senior Games set for June 14-25, 2019, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Early bird registration is $50 before 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 1. After Aug. 1, registration is $60 until two weeks before each event’s entry deadline. Fee includes up to 6 events. Additional events will be $5 each. A $10 fee will be added for paper registrations. For more information, visit <a href="http://okseniorgames.com/" target="_blank">http://okseniorgames.com/</a>.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
05/25/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court on May 16 dismissed a case by eight CN citizens asking the court to compel Attorney General Todd Hembree to appeal a federal ruling that gave Cherokee Freedmen tribal citizenship rights. “The (eight) movants are individual Cherokee citizens who disagree with the outcome of the federal case and disagree with the way the Nation and the attorney general’s office handled the case,” the ruling states. “The ruling of the federal court has no effect on the citizenship of the movants. They have failed to demonstrate any concrete injury in fact sufficient to establish standing to bring this suit.” On Aug. 30, in the case of Cherokee Nation v. Nash and Vann v. Zinke, Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan ruled the CN could define itself as it sees fit but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and Freedmen descendants. “In accordance with Article 9 of the 1866 Treaty, the Cherokee Freedmen have a present right to citizenship in the Cherokee Nation that is coextensive with the rights of Native Cherokees,” Hogan states. The following day, Hembree stated he would not appeal Hogan’s decision. On Sept. 1, the Supreme Court ordered the CN government and its offices, including Registration, to begin processing CN citizenship applications of eligible Freedmen descendants. In its May 16 ruling, the Supreme Court wrote that Hembree petitioned “this court to enter a preliminary order declaring that the memorandum opinion issued by the District Court for the District of Columbia…on August 30, 2017, to be valid and binding against the Cherokee Nation, its governmental branches, and its offices, including the Cherokee Nation Registrar until further order of the court.” Prior to Hembree’s petition, on March 16, 2009, the Tribal Council passed a resolution ratifying the litigation in Cherokee Nation v. Nash and acknowledged that it was “desired” that the federal court determine rights of the Freedmen and that the Cherokee Nation “would be bound by the decision of the federal court.” “Cherokee Nation voluntarily entered this litigation and agreed to be bound by the decision, therefore, this court granted the request of Attorney General and entered a preliminary order granted declaratory action and petition for write of mandamus,” the May 16 ruling states. A writ of mandamus is an order from a higher court to a lower court or to a government official, office or corporation commanding that a specified thing be done. On Dec. 11, the eight movants filed a motion to intervene and asked the Supreme Court to withdraw the order and direct Hembree to appeal Hogan’s ruling. On Dec. 29, the CN and Hembree filed a special limited entry of appearance and objection to the Dec. 11 motion to intervene. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on April 19. The eight movants were represented by Broken Arrow attorney Stephen Gray who called Hembree’s decision not to appeal an “attack on the Nation’s sovereignty.” “Citizens’ motions and petition have become necessary because Hembree argues that he has the sole authority to appeal or not appeal the D.C. case in his position as attorney general, without consultation with the council and is protected by sovereign immunity from citizens. His argument puts him not only above the law, but now he is the law,” states Gray’s court petition. In his petition Gray also argued that Hembree, without Tribal Council consent, “is negotiating away the Nation’s sovereignty and obligating the Nation to tens of millions of dollars in liability.” Some of that liability, Gray’s petition asserts, would be in the form of tribal services that would be provided to Freedmen, who are descendants of slaves once held by CN citizens. Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo responded that the Tribal Council doesn’t have a right to question Hembree’s decisions. Two legislators, Harley Buzzard and David Walkingstick, were among the eight movants. In court, Nimmo said Buzzard and Walkingstick filed the case against the CN and Hembree as citizens but then changed their standing to their official capacity as legislators. She said Tribal Councilors don’t have the right to sue Hembree and force him to appeal the Freedmen decision. Also, Nimmo reminded the court that on Dec. 11, the Tribal Council indefinitely tabled Walkingstick’s legislation to appeal the federal court ruling on Freedmen receiving tribal citizenship. Nimmo said that vote “killed” the issue of appealing Hogan’s decision. Gray argued that the Tribal Council has a right to be involved in all “settlements” involving the CN. However, Nimmo disagreed with calling the federal ruling a settlement. “This is an order of the court after years of litigation that the AG chose not to appeal,” she said. “The Council is not a client of the AG. The Cherokee Nation is his client.”
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
05/24/2018 04:00 PM
RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. – A video by a 20-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen has gone viral after a security guard took his tribal identification card on May 6 at Marymount California University. Nicolas Rojas, an El Camino Community College student, said he went to MCU to study with a friend who attends the university when a security guard checking IDs took his CN photo ID card and became “hostile.” “He then told me I had to leave, yelled at me and threatened to have me arrested. He became very hostile with me, started harassing me and put his hands inside my car, during which I started to record him,” Rojas said. “He told me I had to leave, but he had taken my ID with him and refused to give it back until I left and parked at a different school nearby. The whole interrogation took over a half an hour and I had a project due that Monday. I just wanted to study with my friend, but instead was threatened to be arrested several times without reasoning.” The ID card the security guard took is a CN photo ID card that contains a tribal citizen’s photo and citizenship information one side and Cherokee blood quantum on the other. According to CN Communications, the cards are federally recognized. And TSA.gov states the cards are Transportation Security Administration-approved for domestic travel. Rojas said he’s used his CN ID card to apply for jobs, board domestic flights and at banks to withdraw money. He added that the security guard spoke unprofessionally to him and refused to give back the ID. “I want this…to bring awareness about the issues indigenous people of North America face and the constant humiliation we have to endure by just existing,” Rojas said. “Campuses should be places of sanctuary for all attempting to further themselves through education. I don’t understand why he held onto my ID considering that he already at that point had told me that I would not be allowed to enter the campus. He took my ID with him as he was threatening to have me arrested.” Rojas said he eventually got his ID back from the security guard after his friend, who is a resident advisor at MCU, showed and asked the guard for the ID back. “I find it pitiful that I have to have a communicator within a place of power just to get my ID back,” he said. Rojas said he contacted university officials about the incident who told him they needed to fully investigate the incident from both perspectives. He said officials said if they found the guard liable then they would retrain him. “Ideally I would want campus-wide diversity talks, and all guards to have a day of retraining. I personally feel that many institutions are not a welcoming places for minorities, and this demonstrates the hostility many of us face just trying to even enter a campus,” Rojas said. According to the AJ+ video of the incident, MCU President Brian Marcotte said he watched the video and was “confident there was no discrimination” and that “it didn’t seem threatening.” According to the video, the school said it would train security on different IDs. To view the video, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/1197973477010824/" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/1197973477010824/</a>.