EC considers new voter lists, candidate financials request forms
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During an Oct. 5 meeting, the Cherokee Nation’s Election Commission tabled an item regarding its Information Request Form so commissioners can consider creating separate documents for voter list and candidate financial requests.
EC attorney Harvey Chaffin requested that commissioners table the item and suggested creating two forms by clarifying that subsections 25 and 46D of the Election Law fall under different categories.
Subsection 25 deals with obtaining voter lists. It states the most “recent voter list shall be made available to all citizens of Cherokee Nation, subject to the provisions of the Cherokee Nation Freedom of Information Act” and that the “list shall be made available on paper, computer diskette, gummed labels, electronically, or any other method available.” It also states the EC “may charge a nominal fee to cover the costs of duplication of the voter list, provided that the voter list shall be subject to inspection free of charge during the business hours of the Election Commission.”
Subsection 46D deals with corrections, revisions and retention of candidates’ financial disclosure reports. It states the EC “shall give the candidate an opportunity to correct any deficiency or error in his or her reports” and that any “contributions received during the six-month period following said election date shall be recorded on a revised final report to be filed no later than the first of the month following the expiration date of said six-month period.” It also states the “reports shall be maintained by the Election Services Office, which shall preserve the reports in a secure location for at least five years, during which time they shall be a public record available for inspection and copying.”
Chaffin said there should be separate request forms because the law states that only CN citizens can obtain voter lists whereas anyone can request candidate financials.
“There’s several different issues I see after I researched the statute. One is that the voter list is available only to Cherokee citizens and pursuant to that (CN Election Law) Section 25. So I don’t think financial reports and voter lists should be on the same form,” Chaffin said. “I actually think probably the form…we’re using now, would apply more to the public, to the candidate financial reports, and the one we revise would apply more to the (voter) list. My recommendation is let me do a little more work on that, and let’s put it on our next agenda.”
Chaffin also said it would be beneficial for the voter list form to state the subsection under which it falls in the Election Law.
“I think it would be a good idea also to have, maybe on the back of this form or maybe down here somewhere, have a copy of the statute,” he said.
In other business, commissioners approved the 2018 Maxim Consulting contract at $40,000, which covers system upgrades, and the 2018 Hart Intercivic contract at $25,000 that covers all licensing for software that runs the programs used for tribal elections.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen David Cornsilk on Feb. 19 petitioned the District Court to overturn Attorney General Todd Hembree’s opinion regarding four-year administrative term limits and block two current officials from another possible candidacy in 2019.
The petition asks the court to declare Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden ineligible for candidacy in the next general election because they have served after winning “two consecutive” elections in 2011 and 2015.
“I served on the Constitution Convention in 1999, and one of the main things that the Cherokee people had stated that they wanted at that time is term limits,” Cornsilk said. “I really believe in constitutional government and that the Constitution should be interpreted the way the common man understands it, not the way an attorney might twist the language to achieve an end.”
Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said the office has reviewed the petition and stands behind Hembree’s opinion. “We obviously believe that the AG’s opinion that we issued is correct on the law and the facts, and we plan to defend it.”
Article VII, Section 1 of the Constitution states the principal chief “shall hold office for a term of four years. No person having been elected to the office of Principal Chief in two (2) consecutive elections shall be eligible to file for the office of Principal Chief in the election next following his or her second term of office.”
The 2016 opinion defined terms as “four years” and that “any candidate for elected office having served less than two consecutive, four-year terms of office is eligible to stand for re-election in the next general election.”
The opinion states Baker and Crittenden could run again in 2019 if they chose because neither served a full four-year term after being elected in 2011 because of an appeal of the principal chief’s election. According to CN law, an attorney general’s opinion has the rule of law until overturned by a court or another attorney general’s opinion.
Crittenden won the deputy chief’s race and was sworn in on Aug. 14, 2011, but had to assume principal chief duties until Baker won the election. Baker was sworn in on Oct. 19, 2011.
Cornsilk’s petition argues that regardless of who is in the position of principal chief, the term Baker won was from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 14, 2015, and “the fact that he didn’t step into the office until nine weeks after it began is not pertinent to the term.”
The petition also states that regardless of Crittenden stepping in while the principal chief race was decided, “it is not pertinent to the term” as deputy chief. As such, it argues his first term was completed from Aug. 14, 2011 to Aug. 15, 2015.
“I started investigating the opinion that (Hembree) had written and compared it to the Constitution, and it seemed to me that the chief and deputy chief, and of course I’m a supporter of both of them, but the circumstances that he was saying allowed them to run for a third term didn’t seem to match what I was reading in the Constitution,” Cornsilk said.
Cornsilk said he filed the petition ahead of the 2019 general election to give the courts time to decide on the matter.
“Our elections are so controversial anyway, that it’s better to get this over with early, get it out of the way that way we don’t even have to think about if they’re eligible to run and the court says they are, I’m fine with that. But if I’m right and the court says they are not eligible to run, I think it’s best for the people overall to know that as early as possible,” he said.
To view the petition, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeecourts.org/cv18122cornsilkvhembree" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeecourts.org/cv18122cornsilkvhembree</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – This year marks the 190th anniversary of when the Cherokee Phoenix was first published on Feb. 21, 1828, in New Echota, Georgia, a former Cherokee Nation capital.
It was the first bilingual newspaper in North America, printed in Cherokee, using Sequoyah’s syllabary, and English.
Since 1828, the Phoenix has only been printed a total of 25 years – from 1828 to 1834 in the old CN and from October 2000 to present day. The Cherokee Advocate newspaper followed the Phoenix and was printed from September 1844 until March 1906 and then from January 1977 until September 2000.
“As a tribal citizen I’m thankful that the Cherokee Nation has always been a leader when it comes to documenting and telling its own story. There isn’t anything more important than having Native voices to represent our communities and people and to tell the stories about tribal issues, said CN citizen Jennifer Bell, editor of the Hownikan, the Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s newspaper. “As a Cherokee, I’m proud to have the Cherokee Phoenix as an example of how this has been done for 190 years.”
Its creation in 1825 by the Cherokee National Council was part of an assimilation process by Cherokee leadership. Officials thought if they lived like their white neighbors – building schools, opening businesses and government offices and having a newspaper – that perhaps Georgians would accept them and let them stay on their lands.
The newspaper’s first editor, Elias Boudinot, learned about the Phoenix bird of Egyptian mythology, which consumes itself in fire every 500 years and is reborn from the ashes, at school in Cornwall, Connecticut. Boudinot was part of a prominent Cherokee family, the brother of Stand Watie, nephew of Major Ridge and cousin of John Ridge. Boudinot, the Ridges, Principal Chief John Ross, Charles R. Hicks, and his son, Elijah Hicks, formed the CN’s ruling elite that believed acculturation into white society was critical to Cherokee survival.
Boudinot, Stand Watie, John Ridge and Elijah Hicks, raised money to start the newspaper, and Boudinot went on a fundraising tour in Philadelphia and New York to find financing for it. He also used the tour to inform people of the Cherokee’s progress and acculturation. Along with gaining support from Americans, he raised enough money to purchase a printing press, which was set up in the tribe’s new capital in New Echota.
Boudinot and Chief Ross used the Phoenix to write against the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the growing encroachment and harassment of Georgia settlers. It also contained news, features, accounts about Cherokees living in Arkansas and other area tribes, as well as social and religious activities. Two U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Cherokee Nation v. Georgia and Worcester v. Georgia), which affected Cherokee rights, were also written about extensively.
As pressure for the Cherokee to leave Georgia increased, Boudinot changed his mind and began advocating for the Cherokee’s removal west. At first Chief Ross did not suppress Boudinot’s opposing view, but in early 1832 the two’s differences caused Boudinot to resign as editor.
Elijah Hicks, a brother-in-law of Chief Ross, was appointed editor in August 1832, but the Phoenix was silenced on May 31, 1834, when the government ran out of money for it.
After the Cherokee’s removal to Indian Territory, Cherokee leaders reorganized the government after three major factions reunited in 1839. It was Chief Ross who envisioned reviving a Cherokee newspaper. In October 1843, when the Cherokee National Council met for its regular session, he made the proposal for funding a newspaper. Legislators approved the act establishing the Advocate on Oct. 25, 1843, “to inform and encourage the Cherokees in agriculture, education and religion and to enlighten the world with correct Indian news.”
On Sept. 26, 1844, the Advocate’s first issue was printed, in Cherokee and English, in the Supreme Court building (still located south of the Cherokee Capitol Building in Tahlequah) under the guidance of William Potter Ross, a Princeton graduate.
Production of the Advocate stopped and started between 1853 and 1906. The paper ceased printing in March 1906 when the CN was dissolved by the U.S. government in preparation for Oklahoma statehood.
Today’s Phoenix is one of only a handful of tribal newspapers in the United States that is a free press newspaper, which was made possible by the Cherokee Independent Press Act of 2000. The act protects the newspaper from undue influence from the tribe’s government.
Along with a monthly newspaper, the Phoenix has a website and uses social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as a daily email newsletter.
“Aside from its historical importance as being the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix played a crucial role in distributing information to Cherokee citizens during troublesome times while we were in the east and facing removal,” CN History and Preservation Officer Catherine Foreman Gray said. “Today, the Phoenix continues to operate as a free press that informs and educates Cherokee citizens on local, state and national issues that impact our tribe and Indian Country.”
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – Bassmaster has officially announced the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops will take place in Tahlequah.
Tour Tahlequah, more formally known as the Tahlequah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the local sponsor and will partner with Northeastern State University, the Cherokee Nation and local businesses to bring the college fishing tournament July 19-21 to Lake Tenkiller and the city.
“What an honor it is to have the city of Tahlequah chosen for the 2018 Bassmaster Collegiate Fishing Tournament,” said Aubrey Valdez, Tour Tahlequah assistant director. “We are gearing up for this event and are excited to show our Oklahoma hospitality to fishermen and spectators. We already have an enormous amount of support from Northeastern State University, Cherokee Nation, city officials and many others, and know July will be here in a flash. We hope to make this a memorable occasion for everyone involved.”
Presented by Bass Pro Shops, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship provides the opportunity for college anglers from across the country to compete at a national level. Anglers participating in the championship tournament must first qualify by competing in qualifying tournaments during the 2017-2018 season. At the national championship, one college angler will earn a berth in the biggest tournament in bass fishing: the Bassmaster Classic.
“Competing in a national championship tournament is the ultimate goal,” said Tyler Winn, Tahlequah sophomore and NSU fishing team member. “To think this tournament will be here in Tahlequah is unreal. Anglers from all over the country will fish on the lake I’ve grown up on.”
The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship is a weeklong event. Anglers arrive on Sunday of tournament week, practicing the mornings of Monday through Wednesday, and competing Thursday through Saturday. While the anglers are on the water, tournament sponsors and staff collaborate to present a series of events for the anglers, fans and community.
Event attendance averages 1,000 to 1,500 spectators each day with weigh-in attendance reaching more than 3,000. Weigh-ins are broadcasted live on Bassmaster.com each day. The tournament week is captured and aired at a later date on ESPNU.
Tahlequah offers visitors the opportunity to engage in outdoor recreational activities while also being able to learn about Cherokee culture and shop and dine at locally owned businesses.
Jon James, NSU alumnus, is the field promotions manager for Dynamic Sponsorships. He played a key role in making Tahlequah a location to be considered for the national tournament. During James’ time as a student, the staff at NSU instilled confidence in him and pushed him to succeed.
“NSU played a vital role in helping me grow as a person and bringing the tournament to Tahlequah is a way to say thank you,” said James. “Tahlequah is a wonderful tourist destination and has beautiful fishery in Lake Tenkiller. This is a great place to take a family, and there aren’t many places that have a small town feel but still have the accommodations and resources to support an event like this.”
During the tournament, anglers will fish on Lake Tenkiller. However, the key events of the week will primarily take place at NSU. Events including the angler kick-off banquet, angler speaker seminar, sponsor outdoor expo and weigh-ins will occur on the university campus with Seminary Hall as an iconic backdrop. NSU will also be home to the estimated 90 teams of college anglers during their time in Tahlequah.
For more information, call 918-456-3742.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizens and members of the Tahlequah Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers on Feb. 8 dedicated a memorial stone honoring military veterans at the Cherokee Warrior Memorial adjacent to the Tribal Complex.
The stone reads: “Honoring our Military Sons and Daughters, Blue Star Mother’s OK21, Tahlequah, OK.”
BSMOK21 President Billie Walker and Founder Melody Parker dedicated the stone before a small group consisting of Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief and U.S. Navy veteran S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd and CN Veterans Center Director Barbara Foreman.
“It took a year to make this memorial a reality,” Walker said. “There are sons and daughters deployed now. This stone will be here long after they get home.”
The stone was Parker’s idea. “Each month our chapter sends boxes of items to our soldiers. Items like gloves, socks, anything we can afford that make their time away easier. It let’s them know we’re thinking of them. One hundred percent of the Blue Star Mother’s funding comes from donations.”
Crittenden said he was thrilled to see the addition to the Cherokee Warriors Memorial and is grateful from where it came.
“I served in the Navy in the 1960s. It meant the world to us when we received items from home. What the Blue Star Mothers did today and every day is important because the soldiers they help are out there for us. They deserve to know they aren’t forgotten,” he said.
For information on the Blue Star Mothers in Tahlequah, visit their Facebook page.
GLENPOOL – Native artists from Oklahoma and out-of-state tribes gathered to show their works and educate the public about their crafts Feb. 9-11 at the 31st Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival.
The festival, the largest inter-tribal fine art show in the Tulsa area, also ranks among the best fine art shows for genuine Native art in the country. Chairman Robert Trepp said the event began in 1987 and was inspired by the cast of the 1984 American Indian Theater Company production “Black Elk Speaks.”
“It was really inspired by a lot of the cast from ‘Black Elk Speaks’ that was put on here in Tulsa, and it’s just grown through the years,” Trepp said. “It’s nationally known. It’s got a big emphasis on Eastern Woodlands cultures, which most shows do not have.”
Volunteers largely run the festival as it draws various artists including painters, potters and jewelers.
“We have artists from all over the country,” Trepp said. “I think for local artists it’s an opportunity for them especially to see each other again and to have that fellowship to share ideas, compare notes as to what they’ve been up to. And for our people out of state, it’s an opportunity for them to come and meet with our local artists.”
Trepp said the festival especially emphasizes citizens of local tribes, including Cherokees.
“The Cherokee are one of the largest tribes in the country, and they sit right here. Their territory wraps all the way around the Tulsa metropolitan area,” he said. “They have a huge influence on Native people and relationships with Native people here in Tulsa.”
The GTIAF 2018 Featured Artist was Jane Osti, a Cherokee National Treasure whose pottery piece “Woodland Song” was chosen for this year’s festival poster.
“This is one of the first shows that I did when I started doing art and selling art,” Osti said. “This is a good nurturing ground and you don’t get too big for it either. You can still do the show even though it might have been one of your starting shows.”
Osti said she’s been doing pottery for more than 30 years and makes her Woodland pieces “the traditional way.”
“I make pottery the old way, the traditional way of hand coiling and they are usually kiln-fired first and then wood-fired,” she said. “The designs and the shapes, a lot of them are from our very old pottery, but sort of moved around in a contemporary way. My teacher was Anna Mitchell, master Cherokee potter and that was the way she did pottery. Just about any Cherokee making pottery has either learned from Anna, or learned from one of us that has learned from her…”
Osti said most people only recognize Southwest pottery, but that she’s seeing a shift.
“A few people are noticing the Woodland Pottery and the Woodland works in general,” she said. “I make pottery and teach it. It’s the way I make a living, but it’s also to ensure that we keep doing our traditional work and passing it on, educating the general public and our customers about our Woodland pottery.”
Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Lee Smith conducted painting demonstrations to give the public a peek into his creative process.
“It’s hard for me to engage, and that’s what I want to do. I want to show it to people. That’s the reason I do it,” he said. “It gives them insight to the process I’m going through. It might make no sense to them on site, but it allows me to relax and get in my comfort zone.”
Smith said much of his work is influenced by nature, as well as from stories his grandmother passed down to him.
“My grandmother taught me little things like what bird makes this sound and how to grow tomatoes and all these core things that I didn’t know were important until I got older,” he said. “These birds and all these animals, all these things, they were like characters in a story to me, all of them throughout growing up. They seem to be the most honest depiction of things.”
He describes his work as “simple” and “a little tongue-in-cheek,” but hopes that it’s humorous to the public and inspires a “good” feeling.
Smith said he doesn’t worry about rules when it comes to medium or his vibrant color choices.
“As far as the rules, the technical training that I’ve had in grad school and undergrad where they tell you what paint to use on what surface and what type of brush and all that, I feel like it’s almost like they taught me what not to do,” he said. “It just is a little more liberating to break tradition.
The things just sort of find their place, and I’m just kind of like a landlord. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t do this.”
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s judicial branch has moved from its downtown location inside the CN Capitol Building to space in the recently built second story of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
The Capitol Building was built after the Civil War, completed in 1869 and occupies the center of Tahlequah’s town square. In 1991, the Tribal Council re-established the District Court to utilize the Capitol Building to hear civil, juvenile and adoption cases.
After 27 years and several attempts at a new facility, the CN court system has moved to a new and more modern location.
“We’ve been in the Capitol Building since 1991, whenever the council passed legislation allowing us to continue doing our District Court. We started out there and we pretty much outgrew this building as our caseload started growing,” Court Administrator Lisa Fields said.
The new location encompasses 15,385 square feet of more space and “state-of-the-art” equipment.
“It’s beautiful. It’s state of the art and it’s a really nice courtroom. It’s going to be large enough to hold our court customers or people that come to court,” Fields said.
The new location contains large and small courtrooms, offices for attorneys to meet with clients, new offices for all court staff members, District and Supreme Court filings counters and a separate location from the general public to allow CN marshals to bring in prisoners to have their cases heard. District Court judges and Supreme Court justices will also have their own chambers, which was not available at the Capitol Building.
Fields said everyone in the court system, including justices and other judiciary officials, were in agreement with the move.
“To say the least that we, meaning the justices and the district judges, are very excited and looking forward to the new courtroom. The facilities are very nice. I think it’s just a great move for the court system,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John C. Garret said.
Fields said the court system had a target date of Feb. 26 to begin filings at the new location with the first court docket scheduled for March 2.
The last docket in the previous location was Feb. 16.
Cherokee Nation Businesses officials said they plan to restore and refurbish the Capitol Building for future use as a museum for the public.
“We’re moving into the modern era I guess you could say. We’ve been in this old building, which we absolutely love, but we want to see it go back to its original state and for the public to enjoy it,” Fields said.