Airport agents to get training after Native church's lawsuit
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A wooden box carried an eagle feather and bone whistle, a gourd rattle and a feather fan — items that carry spiritual energy and are used in Native American religious ceremonies.
The man holding the box asked security agents at the San Antonio International Airport to allow him to display the items so their energy wouldn't be polluted. The agents declined, roughly handling the items and shoving them back in the box, former Native American Church of North America President Sandor Iron Rope alleged.
His lawsuit against the Transportation Security Administration recently was settled, with neither side acknowledging fault and the agency agreeing to better educate its employees about Native American religious items at more than a dozen airports nationwide.
"There was a policy in place designed to provide some protection for us, but they don't have training," Iron Rope said Wednesday. "Not everybody is familiar with the policies."
The TSA did not respond to messages seeking comment this week.
The Native American Church has multiple chapters around the country and an estimated 250,000 members. The church that formed in 1918 blends Native American beliefs and Christianity but doesn't have formal buildings. Instead, its members meet in teepees for lengthy ceremonies and use peyote as a sacrament.
Its most visible legal battles have been over peyote, a hallucinogenic that only grows naturally in the United States in southern Texas. States had varied laws on Native Americans' use of the cactus until the early 1990s, when a federal law allowed Native Americans who are part of the church to possess peyote.
For anyone else, it's illegal, in the same category as heroin and cocaine. Membership cards cite the federal law and another that allows Native Americans to possess migratory birds.
One of Iron Rope's attorneys, Forrest Tahdooahnippah, said church members have had enough bad experiences to discourage them from air travel. He said Iron Rope had no indication agents believed his ceremonial items were dangerous.
"That's part of the reason we felt there should have been a lawsuit in the first place," he said. "Screening of items should be reserved for things TSA has a legitimate suspicion are going to be a danger to traveler safety."
Passengers can do their part by alerting the TSA at least 72 hours in advance to carry-on items that need additional screening and by clearly communicating beliefs, said Richard Bloom, director of terrorism, intelligence, and security studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott, Arizona.
Security agents cannot be trained in all religions, but he said they can improve on dealing with the unknown.
"A little bit of sensitivity and respect and really being open to the unique needs of a religious individual can go a long way toward negotiating something that works for the individual and for the TSA," Bloom said.
Not all religious items would be allowed on planes with passengers, however.
The TSA prohibits religious knives like the kirpan. Sikhs who carry them do not view them as weapons or accessories but as extensions of their being and their belief that they are protectors of the weak.
The Sikh Coalition, a civil rights organization, has issued travel guidelines alerting the community that kirpans can be in checked baggage only, and the faithful generally adhere. But the coalition has represented at least one Sikh man in a case where he was charged for carry kirpans through airport security. The case eventually was dropped.
As part of the settlement with the Native American Church of North America, the TSA and the plaintiffs will collaborate on a webinar that will be available to agents who work with passengers well ahead of their flights to move items through security.
Those webinars will be shown to TSA employees in Albuquerque and Farmington, New Mexico; Durango, Colorado; Great Falls, Montana; Minot, North Dakota; Rapid City and Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and San Antonio, Laredo and McAllen, Texas.
Certain TSA employees in Saint Paul, Minnesota; Omaha, Nebraska; Oklahoma City; Phoenix; and Denver will have to review guidelines for screening Native American religious items.
A fact sheet for travelers with Native American religious items will be published in the next three months, and the church will be able to advise and make recommendations to the TSA.
"We're hopeful we'll have a place at the table now so that any future concerns will be addressed quicker and more efficiently than through a lawsuit," Tahdooahnippah said.
<strong>CORRECTION:</strong> In the April 23 story “CN Supreme Court hears Freedmen ruling case” that we published on www.cherokeephoenix.org, as well as our Facebook and Twitter pages, we erroneously named Tribal Councilor Dick Lay as one of the two Tribal Councilors mentioned as a party to the ongoing Freedmen case, when in fact it was meant to state Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard. After the error came to our attention, we pulled the story from any and all social media, as well as the Cherokee Phoenix website. We apologize on behalf of the Cherokee Phoenix and the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board to all parties affected, especially Tribal Councilor Lay. We regret the error.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Supreme Court on April 20 heard arguments regarding Attorney General Todd Hembree’s decision not to appeal the federal case of Cherokee Nation v. Nash and Vann v. Zinke, which allows Freedmen tribal citizenship and rights.
CN citizens represented by attorney Stephen Gray objected to Hembree not appealing the Aug. 30, 2017, ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, saying it’s an “attack on the Nation’s sovereignty” comparable to the Five Civilized Tribes Act of 1906, which removed land and assets from the CN.
“Citizens’ motions and petition have become necessary because Hembree argues that he has the sole authority to appeal or not appeal the (Washington) 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 submitted petition.
In August, Hogan ruled, “the Cherokee Nation can continue to define itself as it sees fit but must do so equally and evenhandedly with respect to native Cherokees and the descendants of Cherokee Freedmen.”
“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.
On Aug. 31, Hembree stated he wouldn’t appeal Hogan’s decision. “The issues in this case first arose nearly 40 years ago, and I am grateful to finally have a ruling on the core legal issues that we presented to Judge Hogan in 2014. It was always my goal to present these arguments before the Court and get a final decision that was binding on all parties. I do not intend to file an appeal.”
He said the CN “respects the rule of law” and has begun processing Freedmen citizenship applications.
Gray’s petition states that without Tribal Council consent Hembree is “negotiating away the Nation’s sovereignty and obligating the Nation to tens of millions of dollars in liability.”
Some of that liability, Gray states, 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 argued in court that the Council doesn’t have a right to question Hembree’s decision. She said Tribal Councilors Harley Buzzard and David Walkingstick filed the case as citizens but changed their standing to their official capacity as legislators. In the original petition it states they filed as citizens. In an amended petition it states they filed as citizens and Tribal Councilors.
She said legislators don’t have the right to sue Hembree to force an appeal of Hogan’s decision. She also told the court that on Dec. 11, 2017, the Tribal Council indefinitely tabled Walkingstick’s legislation to appeal the ruling. Nimmo said that vote, in effect, “killed” the issue of appealing Hogan’s decision.
Gray argued legislators have a right to be involved in all “settlements” involving the CN. However, Nimmo said the federal court’s ruling isn’t a settlement.
“This is an order of the court after years of litigation that the AG (attorney general) chose not to appeal,” she said. “The Council is not a client of the AG. The Cherokee Nation is his client.”
In his petition, Gray asserts a 2007 constitutional amendment requiring CN citizens to have Indian blood and that it binds the principal chief and attorney general to the people’s wishes.
Hogan’s ruling addresses the 2007 amendment.
“The Cherokee Nation is mistaken to treat freedmen’s right to citizenship as being tethered to the Cherokee Nation Constitution when, in fact, that right is tethered to the rights of native Cherokees. Furthermore, the freedmen’s right to citizenship does not exist solely under the Cherokee Nation Constitution and therefore cannot be extinguished solely by amending that Constitution,” states Hogan’s ruling.
Nimmo informed the court that the last day for the CN to appeal Hogan’s ruling was April 23. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Garrett said the court would “expedite” a decision.
CLAREMORE – Donkeys and dribbling were highlighted March 29 at the Rogers County Adult Day Care Center’s Donkey Basketball fundraiser sponsored by the Cherokee Nation.
The annual event held at the Claremore High School gymnasium is the center’s biggest fundraiser and crucial to the center providing its services to clients, some of which are CN citizens.
RCADC Executive Director Wanda Inman said the night consisted of three games.
“The first game will be between Rogers State College and Claremore High School students. The second will be between Claremore Fire Department and Claremore Police Department. The winner of those two games will then play for the championship,” she said.
Inman added that CN citizens were part of all four teams. In the end, the Claremore PD won the championship.
Inman said the CN and Cherokees play an important part for the RCADC.
“We have Cherokee employees as well as Cherokee clients. Cherokee Nation sponsoring this allowed us to stop worrying about paying for the event and get on with turning that into raising more funds through ticket and T-shirt sales, additional sponsorships and concessions,” she said.
“I’m Cherokee, and a lot of our clients are Cherokee.” Jacque Koskie, Rogers County Adult Day Care Center accountant, said.
Tribal Councilor Keith Austin was contacted by the RCADC to ask for help with its fundraising efforts. “I’ve been friends with this organization for the last three years, and I’ve watched the good work that they do.”
Austin said he received a phone call from Inman asking if he would support the RCADC. “When I found out the amount, I called the (principal) chief’s office and told them $3,500 was needed. They said, ‘let’s do the whole thing and help them out.’”
According to its website, the RCADC provides intergenerational fun, consisting of socialization and companionship between older and younger adults. It also provides respite for the caregiver while participants are in a safe and caring environment.
The center is at 2680 OK-88 in Claremore. For more information, call 918-341-7588 or visit <a href="http://www.rogerscountyadultdaycarecenter.org" target="_blank">rogerscountyadultdaycarecenter.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – The Attorney General’s Office filed an appeal on April 13 asking the Supreme Court to reverse a District Court ruling declaring Deputy Principal Chief S. Joe Crittenden ineligible for re-election in 2019.
Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo submitted the appeal that states District Court Judge Luke Barteaux “erred” in his decision.
“The deputy chief has only served one four-year term and should be able to run for re-election in 2019. This court should reverse the District Court’s decision as to Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden’s eligibility to run for the same office as he now holds in 2019,” the appeal states.
Cherokee Nation officials declined to comment further on the proceedings.
Barteaux’s April 6 ruling, which also declared Principal Chief Bill John Baker eligible for re-election, cited the CN Constitution in ruling Crittenden ineligible. He wrote that Crittenden had “assumed the office of Principal Chief pursuant to Article VII, Section 4, in faithful discharge of his duties as Deputy Principal Chief” while Baker had to await the results of an appeal of the 2011 principal chief’s race.
Article VII, Section 4 states: “In case of the absence of the Principal Chief from office due to death, resignation, removal or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the office, the same shall devolve upon the Deputy Principal Chief for the remaining portion of the four (4) year term to which the Principal Chief had been elected.”
Barteaux ruled that by Crittenden stepping into the role on Aug. 14, 2011, as dictated by the Constitution, he “completed his first four (4) year term of office four (4) years later without any loss of time from his term, and is now in his second consecutive four (4) year term.”
The ruling stemmed from a Feb. 19 petition by CN citizen David Cornsilk, who asked the court to overturn Hembree’s opinion that states Baker and Crittenden were eligible for re-election.
Hembree’s opinion states both officials were eligible despite winning elections in 2011 and 2015 because the appeal of the principal chief’s election delayed Baker taking office until October. As such, both Baker and Crittenden were denied full four-year terms.
Cornsilk said he’s aware of Hembree’s appeal and plans to file an appeal so that the Supreme Court can decide.
“I feel like the decision that was made by Judge Barteaux is incorrect, so I’ll leave it up to the Supreme Court to make a final decision,” he said. “I think in the interest of the health of our election process and for the health of our nation, we need our courts to make to make the decision at the final level, that way nobody can say, ‘well, it could have been different if you had just appealed.’ I really think that a final decision by our tribal court, the Supreme Court, is a good thing.”
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Michael Moore has filed a motion asking the District Court to reconsider its April 6 ruling regarding the election eligibility of Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, as well as dismiss the petition that led to the ruling.
Moore, an attorney from San Diego, filed the April 13 motion asking the court to allow him to “intervene” and for it to “dismiss” a Feb. 19 petition by CN citizen David Cornsilk.
Cornsilk’s petition asked the court to overturn Attorney General Todd Hembree’s 2016 opinion declaring Baker and Crittenden eligible for candidacy in 2019 because neither had served a full four-year term after being elected in 2011.
Crittenden took office on Aug. 14, 2011, and assumed principal chief duties until Baker was sworn in on Oct. 19, 2011, following a disputed principal chief’s race.
Hembree on March 1 motioned to dismiss Cornsilk’s petition, but on March 26 filed a motion in favor of the court handing down a ruling. District Court Judge Luke Barteaux on April 6 ruled that Baker was eligible for re-election but Crittenden was not.
Moore’s filing asks Barteaux to reconsider and rule on Hembree’s original dismissal motion while rebuking Hembree’s March 26 motion to withdraw.
By withdrawing, Moore states Hembree essentially “attempted to waive sovereign immunity” that he “lacks authority” to do unless given permission by Tribal Council. Moore argues the burden of proof to show the CN waived its sovereign immunity to be sued is on Cornsilk, who “has not shown” any evidence of a waiver.
Moore also argues because “there is no issue or controversy,” the case is not “ripe” for a ruling, as “none of the parties in Cornsilk’s petition have filed to run for office.”
Moore asks that Cornsilk’s petition be declared “premature” because Hembree and Cornsilk are asking for an “advisory opinion” in regards to an interpretation of election law provisions in advance of an actual election.
“They shouldn’t be ruling on matters of speculation,” Moore said. “When it comes to Attorney General Hembree’s pleadings, he withdrew the issue that the court should have been deciding on in order to move his agenda forward, which was to have his opinion deemed legal...It was clever luring by the attorney general, but I hope that the district judge will reconsider the issue of ripeness and recognize that the issue is not ripe and dismiss the case for everyone.”
As of publication, neither Baker nor Crittenden had indicated they planned to run in 2019.
Moore states Cornsilk’s petition also “lacks subject matter jurisdiction” because it is without a “case or controversy” as required by the Supreme Court. Instead, it recommends Cornsilk should challenge Baker and Crittenden’s eligibility “when they actually file for a third term.”
Moore states the CN Constitution provides an “exclusive remedy” for challenging a candidate’s eligibility in Title 26, Section 37(A) or Section 37(B).
Section 37(A) allows any CN citizen who is registered to vote “the right to contest the eligibility of any candidate to run for office” at a hearing with the Election Commission, while Section 37(B) gives the right to appeal decisions concerning a candidate’s eligibility to the Supreme Court.
“In regards to Mr. Cornsilk’s pleadings, it’s all based on speculation,” Moore said. “There was no controversy at the time that he filed, and so people applauded him for filing it and moving forward and trying to have this resolved, but on this kind of issue when there is no controversy, for a non-lawyer to go in and try to have this matter decided, it creates problems.”
Cornsilk said he’s read Moore’s filing. “Basically what it looks like is he reiterated all of the motions to dismiss, the attorney general had filed and withdrew,” he said. “I think his timing is off because if he wanted to join the case he should have done it before the judge ruled or after we appealed. I don’t know why he’s trying to jump into mine, but the more the merrier and I’ll just leave it to the judges to decide whether or not to let him join the case.”
Attempts to contact the attorney general’s office were unsuccessful, though it did file an appeal in the Supreme Court on April 13 concerning Crittenden’s eligibility.
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – A judge has rejected the request by two American Indian tribes to be more involved in a court-ordered environmental review of the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg last June ordered the Army Corps of Engineers to further review the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, though he allowed oil to begin flowing.
In December, he ordered Texas-based developer Energy Transfer Partners to produce an oil spill response plan for Lake Oahe, the Missouri River reservoir in the Dakotas from which the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux draw water. Boasberg also ordered a review by an independent engineering company on whether the pipeline complies with federal regulations.
The two tribes have said they were being left out of the process and they asked Boasberg to order that they be given more involvement. Corps and company attorneys accused the tribes of being difficult to work with.
Boasberg wrote in an order dated Monday that “the parties engage in a lengthy dispute over who is refusing to talk to whom.”
“The court does not believe that further inserting itself into the minutiae of this disagreement is either permissible or wise,” he wrote.
Boasberg also noted that ETP submitted the spill response plan and the independent review on April 2, making any request for additional tribal involvement in that work moot. The Standing Rock tribe has started raising money for its own spill response program.
As for the Corps’ additional review of the pipeline’s impact on tribal interests, Boasberg said the tribes can continue to press their argument that the study is flawed when that work is completed and presented to him.
The Corps had anticipated an April 2 completion date, but that has been delayed by what the agency maintains is difficulties obtaining needed information from the tribes.
Standing Rock attorney Jan Hasselman in a statement to The Associated Press said the Corps “is missing the opportunity to engage with the Standing Rock tribe meaningfully on its legitimate concerns about the safety of this pipeline, and continuing to accept without question Energy Transfer’s shoddy technical work.”
The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River tribes are leading the four-tribe lawsuit against the $3.8 billion pipeline that is moving oil from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois. They fear environmental and cultural harm. ETP says the pipeline is safe.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix needs your help in determining what type of content we should focus on to better please you, the reader. You can help us by completing and mailing back the survey you received with this month’s issue.
If you don’t want to complete the form and mail it in, or if you got this issue at one of our many distribution sites, then you can complete the survey online at <a href="https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PHOENIXSURVEY2018" target="_blank">https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PHOENIXSURVEY2018</a> until April 30.
“Ultimately this survey helps us serve the Cherokee people better,” Brandon Scott, Cherokee Phoenix executive editor said. “Any method we use to gather information is used to improve and give our readers what they want and need in a newspaper. I hope everyone will take a few minutes of their day to answer a few questions. Thank you in advance.”
Readers who complete the survey will have a chance to win a $100 gift card as well as one of several Cherokee Phoenix prize packages, which consist of Cherokee Phoenix tote bags, shirts, fleece jackets and office supplies.
The Cherokee Phoenix is also still taking names of Cherokee elders and military veterans to provide them free newspaper subscriptions.
In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund, which provides free subscriptions to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens.
“The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.”
To request a subscription using this fund, or to nominate an elder or veteran, visit, write, call or email the Cherokee Phoenix. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. You can call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a> or <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last.
Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations.
For anyone who donates to the fund, you will be entered into our quarterly drawings as well. For every $10 donated, you will receive one entry. The prize for the second quarterly giveaway is a custom 12-foot, two-piece fishing pole by Larry Fulton of Larry’s Bait and Tackle in Fort Gibson.
We’ve also heard that some communities in the tribe’s jurisdiction have no Cherokee Phoenix distribution sites. Most of our paid distribution sites center around CN offices, health facilities and Cherokee casinos. However, if you want to sponsor a distribution site, call 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>. A bundle of 50 newspapers costs $15 a month.