Archive for the ‘Tribal News’ Category

Podcast: enate Recognizes Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith at State Capitol

April 7, 2008

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A day after Cherokee Principle Chief Chad Smith was gaveled down during a House committee hearing on legislation to make English the “official” language of Oklahoma, The Oklahoma State Senate recognized Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith and his wife Bobbi on Thursday with a standing ovation. Smith, along with several other members of the Cherokee Nation were there as part of the 8th annual Cherokee Nation Legislative Day at the State Capitol.

Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah, introduced Smith and credited him and the Cherokee Nation for partnering with the state on a variety of projects including education, healthcare and transportation.

The Cherokee Nation is the largest employer in the northeastern part of the state with over 6,000 employees. They have partnered with the state and other counties on projects that are helping to improve the lives of all Oklahomans. Chief Smith and the rest of the Cherokee Nation leadership should be congratulated for their accomplishments and continued hard work.

The Cherokee Nation is the second largest tribe in the United States and the largest tribe in Oklahoma with over 160,000 tribal members living in the state. The tribe has annual expenditures in excess of $450 million.

Wilson said the Cherokee Nation has continued to make contributions through its partnerships with the state. A portion of the Cherokee Nation’s gaming revenue goes to the state to help fund educational and compulsive gambling programs. In 2007, Oklahoma received $11.5 million in gaming proceeds from the tribe. Wilson added that in 2006, the Cherokee Nation partnered with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation to repair eight bridges in six counties throughout northeastern Oklahoma.

Smith told the Senate that education plays a key role in the success of the Cherokee Nation. He said Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah is home to 12 Gates Scholars and offers college prep courses as well as concurrent enrollment with Northeastern Oklahoma State University. In 2006, Sequoyah students earned more than $500,000 in scholarships. Since 2002, the tribe has funded over 10,000 scholarships.

In 2007, the Cherokee Nation donated $1.5 million to the University Of Oklahoma College Of Medicine to help address cancer and diabetes. It currently has four health care facilities under construction located in Muskogee, Sequoyah, Nowata and Cherokee Counties, representing a $35.5 million commitment to the people and local economies. Smith:

We believe in coming together and working together for the benefit of our communities. That’s why we have developed partnerships with our counties and cities in the state. We now serve 126,000 Indians with healthcare. We have helped build with county commissioners 500 miles of roads in rural areas and we have helped with education, healthcare and social services.

Wilson added that in addition to the Cherokee Nation’s financial commitment to the state of Oklahoma, “The tribe has made innumerable contributions to the state’s culture, heritage and pride. Oklahoma is identified nationwide as Native America. That wouldn’t be possible without the contributions of the Cherokee Nation.

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$58B sought for Indian trust beneficiaries

March 24, 2008

In papers filed on Wednesday, the Cobell plaintiffs asked a federal judge to put $58 billion in the Indian trust.

Citing more than a hundred years of mismanagement, attorneys said hundreds of thousands of Indian beneficiaries are owed the money for misuse of their land and assets. The 80-page filing accused the federal government of enriching itself by failing to disburse trust payments to tribal members across the country.

“What rightfully belongs to plaintiffs includes the value of the government’s unjust enrichment and all advantages or benefits obtained in connection with its breaches of trust,” attorneys wrote.

Based on data provided by the Interior Department and the Osage Nation of Oklahoma, the plaintiffs added up the money they say should have been in the Individual Indian Money (IIM) from 1887 to 2007. The numbers show IIM beneficiaries and Osage “headright” owners are owed $58 billion for the 120-year period.

The figure is more than twice the amount that the Cobell plaintiffs and other Indian organizations said they would accept to resolve the case. In June 2005, the plaintiffs proposed a $27.5 billion settlement for the historical accounting of the IIM trust.

Key members of Congress responded with an $8 billion proposal, which the plaintiffs gave serious consideration. But the Bush administration waited until March 2007 to offer $3.5 billion to resolve the accounting, pay for future damages claims and terminate its liability for the trust.

Despite the diverging views, lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, said $58 billion was low. Prior calculations by her lawyers put the accounting as high as $176 billion, but that figure included interest, which the plaintiffs are not seeking as part of the litigation.

“We believe that our numbers are very conservative and represent the minimum harm that Indians have suffered under our broken trust system,” Cobell said.

The Bush administration has vehemently disputed the idea that money is owed to IIM beneficiaries. Attorneys for Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, who has not taken an active role in Indian trust matters, have said the only resolution to the Cobell case is the historical accounting and nothing more.

But Judge James Robertson, who was assigned to the case in December 2006, has ruled that an accounting is impossible due to budget restraints imposed by Congress and limits placed on the effort by the Interior Department. At a hearing earlier this month, he rejected the government’s notion that the Cobell plaintiffs have to go to another court to find justice.

“When you tell me that the law of the case says the only relief is an historical accounting … that doesn’t mean very much if an historical accounting is impossible,” Robertson told a Department of Justice attorney. “Then what, is there no relief? Is that the government’s position?”

Robertson will hold a trial starting on June 9 to finally put an end to the case. He hopes to issue a ruling by the end of the summer.

The Bush administration has until April 9 to respond to the plaintiffs’ filing.

For more information, see Indianz.com

Tribes to the Feds: Yeah, we know you’re ‘sorry’…

March 17, 2008

The Indian Healthcare Bill, called “morally bankrupt” by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), because of what he views as more empty promises to Native Americans, has passed the Senate, and is now in the House. It includes an official apology to the Native Americans, authored by Sam Brownback (R-KS) and supported by Representative Dan Boren (D-OK).

Tribal members wonder if it, too, will be full of empty promises, according to News from Indian Country:

Jim Gray, Osage Nation principal chief, said he was surprised but glad Boren championed the effort.

“After the broken treaties and broken promises over all these years, I certainly didn’t expect to see that in my lifetime,” Gray said.

A Tulsa attorney who specializes in Indian law, Michael McBride, agreed the measure was overdue, but he wondered about current factors that may have prompted the official apology.

“I just hope that the United States would do more to rectify prior injustices, like appropriations to address the mismanagement of trust funds, that would go a long way towards making the apology have real substance,” he said.

Kaw, Otoe-Missouria Tribes Sue Brad Henry

March 11, 2008

KSWO in Lawton is reporting that the Kaw and Otoe-Missouria tribes are suing Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry for improperly terminated their tobacco compacts, and are alleging that the governor’s office wants a higher cut from the sales.

The Tulsa World writes,

Filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, the suits say the tribes received notice of the compact termination a few days later than required. The 10-year compacts were signed in 1998 and require either side to give at least six months’ notice of termination.

Each tribe’s compact gave the state 25 percent of all applicable taxes, but Gerald Adams, Henry’s chief of staff, terminated the contracts in order to renegotiate a higher percentage.

Brad Henry is waiting until an audit can be completed to comment.

Federal Land: $1000/acre to the Boy Scouts

March 10, 2008

PhotobucketU.S. Congressman Dan Boren (D-OK)is sponsoring legislation which would allow the Boy Scouts to purchase 480 acres of land currently owned by the U.S. Forest Service, according to a report by KTEN.com.

The land is next to Camp Tom Hale, currently owned by the Indian Nations Council of the Boy Scouts.

The Times Record in Arkansas writes:

The camp first opened in 1930 at what is now Robbers Cave State Park near Wilburton. In 1963, the Indian Nations Council acquired 480 acres of Ouachita National Forest land for Camp Tom Hale…Gregory Smith, director of lands for the U.S. Forest Service, said the agency does not oppose the bill.

Tribes Donating More than Ever Before to the State Government in the 21st Century

March 5, 2008

The Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes have dontated nearly a million dollars to the state of Oklahoma in the last couple of years, which is about five times the rate they were donating at the turn of the century, reports KSWO in Lawton.

(Coincidentally?) These tribes have also been busy negotiating big gaming contracts with the state.

The Tulsa World discusses the issue with Greg Pyle, Chief of the Choctaw Nation:

In no other state do tribes account for a bigger share of campaign cash, according to data from the Center for Responsible Politics, a campaign finance watchdog group.

Greg Pyle, the chief of the Choctaw Nation, said it is wise to give contributions to lawmakers.

Pyle said he asked a federal official a few years ago how a tribe could work successfully with state elected officials.

“The question he posed to me was, ‘Did you help get them elected?’ ” the chief said.

Pyle said that in his travels around the country, he has seen that the most successful tribes support political campaigns.

The chief said it is important that when issues come along, Indian leaders “have a seat at the table.”

“The lawmakers are busy people; everyone wants to see them, so it is important that they know you, and you can sit down and visit with them,” he said. Now if an issue comes up, a lawmaker sometimes will pick up the phone to get the Indian tribe’s viewpoint, Pyle said.

Freedmen Want U.S. Government to Force Cherokees to Give them Tribal Rights

March 3, 2008

KSWO in Lawton reports that Friday about twenty “Freedmen,” who are descendents of freed slaves that lived with the Cherokees after the Civil War, demonstrated in front of U.S. Congressman Dan Boren’s (D-OK) office on Friday, in support of House Bill 2824, which would,

…cut federal funding to the tribe unless the descendants’ citizenship are restored permanently.

[…]

Cherokee Nation spokesman Mike Miller said the descendants have no claim to citizenship based on the law or history.

According to the American Chronicle:

Oklahoma Cherokee Nation members have voted to exclude a group of African Americans going by the name of Freedmen and Intermarried Whites. Members of the Freedmen group claim to be descendents of runaway Black slaves, some claim Indian heritage. Some Eastern Indian Nations were forced by the federal government to give full tribal citizenship to the runaway Black slaves through the treaty of 1866 at the end of the U.S. Civil War 1861-1865.

Cherokee voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the Cherokee Nation Constitution in a special election Saturday, March 3, 2007 by a decisive vote of 6,693 (77%) for the measure to 2,040 (23%) against. The amendment limits citizenship in the Cherokee Nation to descendants of people who are listed on the Final Rolls of the Cherokee Nation as Cherokee, Delaware or Shawnee and excludes descendants of those listed on Intermarried White and Freedmen rolls taken at the same time.

The Oklahoman quotes Norman Hightower:

I was reading that treaty just the other day: it couldn’t have been any more clear. It said the people who came here with you are going to be citizens, and you will treat them like citizens.

The Oklahoman also explains, “As tribal members, the group would have access to a plethora of services such as free health care and education for dependent children, in addition to a share of the tribe’s gaming profits.”

The Muskogee Phoenix explaines Congressman Boren was not present, and quoted Verdie Triplett, founder of the Choctaw Chickasaw Freedmen Association:

I wanted to make sure this issue goes beyond the Cherokee freedmen.

Coburn: U.S. Indian Healthcare Bill "Morally Bankrupt"

February 29, 2008

The Albuquerque Journal is reporting that a bill designed to “boost programs at the federally funded Indian Health Service, prompt new construction and modernization of health clinics on reservations, and attempt to recruit more Indians into health professions…increase tribal access to Medicare and Medicaid….[and] authorize spending about $35 billion for Indian health care programs over the next 10 years” passed the Senate Tuesday, 83-10.

PhotobucketIt also, according to the Journal, “Contains a resolution sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) that would formally apologize to American Indians for centuries of government mistreatment. The resolution acknowledges a long history of government misconduct against Indians, including forced relocation from tribal lands, theft of tribal assets and the breaking of treaties and covenants.”

Indian Country writes:

The bill, at least eight years in the making and often a subject of exceptional controversy over issues that ranged from the narrowly medical and technical field to broad constitutional questions, provides up to $16 billion for Indian health care through the next five fiscal years. Just as importantly to its backers among tribes, the bill updates the responsiveness of tribes and the IHS in numerous priority areas, including cancer screening, diabetes treatment, disease prevention, youth suicide and mental health intervention, traditional approaches to healing and in-home health care, recruitment to the health profession as practiced in Indian country, and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.

Pro-Life Groups are celebrating the amendment to the bill which will prevent tribal women from receiving abortions at taxpayer expense. CitizenLink quotes Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council:

I applaud the Senate for voting to prevent Indian Health Service funds from being used to pay for abortions. The majority of the Senate has now shown they agree with most Americans that government funding of abortion is morally wrong.

Nonetheless, Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued that the legislation does not address any real issues, and that the money may not even be there to pay for benefits promised. He called the legislation “morally bankrupt” and added it was like:

…Taking out a new loan on a car when you can’t afford food for your family…Why are we putting off fixing the system? So we could tell everyone that we did something when in fact we did nothing.

To become law, Jerry Reynolds reports,

The bill, S. 1200 in the Senate, awaits action in the House of Representatives. An identical version of it has passed the House Resources Committee and is now before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

Tom Cole: Change to Indian Gaming – A Solution in Search of a Problem

February 21, 2008

On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee, led by Chairman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), held an oversight field hearing on “Oklahoma Indian Issues: Proposed Regulations Governing Economic Development.”

Links to Audio Clips of the hearing are available on Indianz.com.

The National and Oklahoma Indian Gaming Commissions were represented, as were the Choctaw, Quawpaw, Peoria, Cherokee, Osage, and Chickasaw tribes, as well as the city of Miami, Ottawa County, and the Miami Community and Economic Development Department.

Tony Thornton NewsOK.com gives some background:

The National Indian Gaming Commission, which regulates the industry, wants to clarify the difference between Class II, or bingo-based electronic machines, and Class III slot machines such as those found in Las Vegas. Technology developed over the last two decades has blurred that distinction, regulators say.

Most experts agree the proposed changes would make existing Class II games illegal, forcing tribes to pay states a share of profits in return for the right to offer Class III games.

That’s already happening in Oklahoma, thanks to voters’ approval of tribal gaming compacts in late 2004.

Dan Boren (D-OK)and Tom Cole (R-OK), a Chickasaw, also attended, and supported the tribal chiefs in their opposition to the changes, according to the Tulsa World:

“The (proposed) regulations are a solution in search of a problem,” Cole said. “It will cripple economic development in Indian Country, not promote it.”

[…]

“We don’t want the equilibrium disturbed,” said Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith. “I find it quite interesting that the state and state officials have not complained about these changes.”

The changes being discussed would require bingo machines to be classified as slot machines and bring in extra revenue to the state governemnts, at the expense of the tribes.

Indianz.com explains:

In the case of Oklahoma, tribes have to share revenues with the state for Class III machines. Though tribes make less money on Class II machines, they depend on them to generate revenues at their casinos.

If enacted, the NIGC’s regulations would turn some Class II machines into Class III ones. A study predicted a loss of $1 billion across the nation.

Tribes Want to Charter Schools, Facing Challenges

February 14, 2008

The Cherokees and Chickasaws would like to be able to charter schools, to be able to teach in their language, and around their traditional culture.

NewsOK.com is reporting:

Charter schools could expand again if a bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee on Monday survives this legislative session.

Sen. Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City and co-president pro tempore, proposed a bill that would allow federally recognized American Indian tribes to sponsor charter schools.

Last session, legislators approved a measure allowing universities to do the same. But attempts to encourage more charters are taking place under the weight of a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the original law.

KSWO in Lawton quotes Sen. Coffee:

…[E]xpanding the number of groups that can set up charter schools will give parents more educational choices for their children.

To be effective for the Cherokee nation, the legislation would need to be expanded to include Tahleqhah, becuase the Cherokees do not have the resources to work with the Tulsa Public Schools on this at this time.

(Also see: Indianz.com)