Cherokees seek NCAI seats; vets honored

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
09/26/2019 08:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen and Vietnam veteran Tommy Rayburn is honored by the tribe Sept. 16 for his service. He served in the Army. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
James Locut, 78, of Sand Springs, is honored by Cherokee Nation leaders Sept. 16 for his service in the Air Force from 1961-65. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Army veteran John Locut, 75, of Pryor, receives the Cherokee Warrior Award on Sept. 16. He served from 1960-66. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Kristy McKie, 37, of Tahlequah, an Army veteran, is honored by the tribe Sept. 16 for her service. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Two Cherokee Nation leaders are running for seats on the National Congress of American Indians’ executive committee.

It was announced on Sept. 16 that Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd, who holds the top regional position as vice president of eastern Oklahoma, is seeking a spot on the four-person NCAI executive board as first vice president.

Deputy Chief Bryan Warner plans to run for the regional seat.

“The Cherokee Nation has held that for many, many years,” Diane Kelley, CN Career Services executive director, said. “The very first president of the national congress was a Cherokee (Judge Napoleon B. Johnson). The Cherokees were very instrumental in starting this organization back in the day. We’ve been one of the big supporters.”

Committee and board members are to be elected during the NCAI’s annual convention Oct. 20-25 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“There’s probably going to be around 3,000 out there for this year’s conference,” Kelley said. “It’s the 76th annual.”

The NCAI, founded in 1944, describes itself as the “oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.”

“NCAI, a nonprofit organization, advocates for a bright future for generations to come by taking the lead to gain consensus on a constructive and promising vision for Indian Country,” its website, ncai.org, states. “The organization’s policy issues and initiatives are driven by the consensus of our diverse membership, which consists of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments, tribal citizens, individuals and Native and non-Native organizations.”

Veterans honored

At the Sept. 16 Tribal Council meeting, four military veterans were given CN Medals of Patriotism and honored as “Cherokee Warriors.”

Among those recognized were brothers James and John Locut, who served in the Air Force and Army, respectively.

“I didn’t expect anything like this to come along,” said James Locut, 78, of Sand Springs, who served from 1961-65. “I’m proud of the United States, and I’m especially proud to be a Cherokee.”

Vietnam veteran John Locut, 75, of Pryor served from 1960-66.

“It’s a great honor,” he said. “I really appreciate it. I was proud to serve my country.”

Also honored was Kristy McKie, 37, of Tahlequah, an Army veteran who served from 2000-05.
“It’s an honor,” she said. “To our other veterans, thank you.”

Vietnam veteran and Purple Heart recipient Tommy Rayburn, 71, of Tahlequah, served in the Army from 1966-70, then in the Army Reserves from 1972-97. He retired as a lieutenant colonel.

“Thank you Cherokee Nation, and especially thank you for the veterans’ center,” he said.

Councilors, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and CN Veterans Affairs Secretary S. Joe Crittenden presented the awards.

Crop damage reported

Also on Sept. 16, the Resources Committee was informed of storm damage to crops that provide the tribe’s heirloom seeds.

Natural Resources Secretary Chad Harsha said storm activity in August damaged 90 percent of some crops, and as much as 50 percent of others. Harsha said the remaining plants would still meet the demand for heirloom seeds.

Harsha also told committee members that preliminary discussions were underway with the state officials concerning the renewal of the hunting and fishing compact, reporting that the “next step is to continue our conversation with the state.”

David Moore, of Management Resources, said the Nation’s bison herd now numbered 156, and that no more calves were expected this year after the births of more than two dozen in 2019.
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