http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgPatrons play electronic gaming machines at the Cherokee Nation’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. In 2016, Oklahoma collected a record $132 million in total tribal gaming exclusivity fees, a 3-percent increase from 2015. When the fees were first collected in 2006, only $14.2 million came into the state. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Patrons play electronic gaming machines at the Cherokee Nation’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. In 2016, Oklahoma collected a record $132 million in total tribal gaming exclusivity fees, a 3-percent increase from 2015. When the fees were first collected in 2006, only $14.2 million came into the state. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribes economically thriving 30 years after Cabazon decision

03/22/2017 08:15 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Lindsay Robertson started his law career working on business development. He was familiar with laws regarding tribal sovereignty, but he was asked to combine the two areas starting in 1987.

On Feb. 25, 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in its lawsuit with the state of California. The decision ultimately allowed tribes to have gaming operations, even where states were given criminal jurisdiction over Indian tribes, The Journal Record reported.

California was a Public Law 280 state, which gave the state criminal jurisdiction over Indian lands. In the mid-1980s, the Cabazon and Morango Bands of Mission Indians operated bingo parlors on their lands. In 1986, the state tried to shut down the games, claiming they violated state regulations.

The Cabazon Band’s argument and the Supreme Court’s decision rested on the state not prohibiting gambling as a criminal act. The state did not have jurisdiction over the operations.

Robertson was working in Washington, D.C., at the time the decision was announced. He was one of the few attorneys familiar with Indian law. When the calls started coming in from tribes that wanted to open gambling operations, they were directed to him.

Eventually, he was asked to teach Indian law at the University of Virginia. He is now the Chickasaw Nation endowed chair in Native America Law at the University of Oklahoma’s College of Law.

“I’m a kid of the Cabazon case,” he said.

The case not only changed Native American operations, it also changed law as a profession. Crowe & Dunlevy attorney Jimmy Goodman said he worked with the tribes before 1987, when he helped them on tribal sovereignty, constitutions, federal land and trust issues, among other situations.

He said most people who worked with the tribes did it because they had a connection. For him, it’s his wife and children who are Native American.

“Most tribes were relatively limited economically,” he said. “It wasn’t a lucrative practice. You might do some work with the tribe and then the administration would change and you might not get paid.”

That’s not how it is today. In 2016, Oklahoma collected a record $132 million in total tribal gaming exclusivity fees, a 3-percent increase from 2015. When the fees were first collected in 2006, only $14.2 million came into the state.

Under a compact, the tribes pay fees based on a sliding scale for Class III electronic games. Tribes pay 10 percent of the monthly net win from table games.

The tribes are able to use that money for citizen services, infrastructure, community development, and even political campaigns, among other financial endeavors. Attorneys are needed for a lot of that work, Goodman said.

“I think it would be fair to say that working for an Indian nation is a lot more economically rewarding today than it was in 1987,” he said. “The tribes are more sophisticated. The lawyers are more sophisticated. It has attracted more people to the law. The field has expanded enormously, easily by 20-fold.”

But the ruling in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians was only the beginning of Native American-related changes in gambling. In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act laid out the rules for how tribes could run their gaming facilities. It limited how the income could be used. It also allowed states to enter into compacts with the tribes.

Crowe & Dunlevy Indian law and gaming practice chair Michael McBride III graduated from law school in 1993. He said he focused on tribal law and started working in Indian gaming law almost immediately.

“I saw there was a need for lawyers in Indian gaming law,” he said.

He said the Cabazon decision was the most important case in the modern era for federal Indian law. He called the IGRA the most successful economic development law in the history of the United States.

“(Cabazon) really stabilized the tribes’ economies,” he said. “That’s one of the legacies of Cabazon.”

GableGotwals attorney Dean Luthey Jr. said not only did Cabazon affect the tribes’ economies, in Oklahoma, those gambling operations provided jobs, especially in rural Oklahoma.

In 2015, the tribes reported they spent a total of $363 million on capital improvements, creating an estimated 2,768 jobs and earnings of nearly $124 million in the construction industry. The construction positions were part of a total employment impact of 48,942 jobs, which included gambling operations, according to the study.

Cabazon gave the tribes a boost like they had never seen before, Luthey said.

“The tribes that had always been political entities were now political entities with a revenue stream,” he said. “This resulted in significant advancement of health care facilities, education, economic development, and the growing of non-gaming, tribally owned facilities. This strengthened tribal infrastructure and allowed the growth of tribal self-sufficiency such as government, tribal courts, legislators and executive branches.”

As Goodman pointed out, the tribes have used the revenue increase for keeping their culture alive as well. The Choctaw Nation, the Chickasaw Nation and the Cherokee Nation all have programs where people can learn their language. Chickasaw is now available on Rosetta Stone as well.

Tribes have built museums and restored buildings important to their history.

“It was a sea change of what ultimately occurred in terms of opportunities for tribes and opportunities for lawyers to help them do those things,” Goodman said.


01/18/2018 04:00 PM
TULSA – Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions is one of six companies awarded a $249 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract supporting research activities at four Army medical agencies during the next 10 years. “We are proud to support the Army and to serve an integral role in maintaining and promoting the health and well-being of our service members and their families,” John Hansen, CNTS operations general manager, said. “This award builds on our existing relationship with the Department of Defense and our growing reputation as a premier provider in the field of medical research.” Officials said CNTS will work to preserve and advance the health and well-being of soldiers and military retirees, their families and Army civilian employees. The four participating agencies — the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, the U.S. Army Public Health Center and the Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence — can award task orders through the contract. CNTS will have an opportunity to provide biomedical research and surveillance, information management, and business operations and information technology activities in support of burn, trauma and combat casualty care and rehabilitation, chemical warfare mitigation and public health services. For more information on CNTS’ medical research support, email <a href="mailto:"></a>. CNTS, formed in 2008, provides technical support services and project support personnel to its defense and civilian agency partners. The company provides a tailored management approach for complex government programs and disciplines, including information technology, science, engineering, construction, research and development, facilities management, program management, and mission support. CNTS is headquartered in Tulsa and is part of the Cherokee Nation Businesses family of companies. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
01/12/2018 08:15 AM
STILWELL – January 2018 marked one year in business for two brothers with a dream to start a clothing brand that expresses their love for the outdoors and represents their roots. Cody Killer, 26, and Dakota St. Pierre, 19, named their brand Baron Fork Outfitters. The Cherokee Nation citizens and brothers grew up in Stilwell and appreciate being outdoors and engaging in outdoor activities. But it was spending time on Baron Fork Creek that inspired the brand’s name. “It brings back memories of summers from our childhood we spent with family fishing and swimming in the Baron Fork Creek. It was a big part of our childhood to go and spend family time at there,” Killer said. “And when Dakota presented the name to me I thought this was a pretty sweet name, a name that people from around here would recognize. And for the people that don’t, it sounds like a pretty cool name.” The idea of starting a T-shirt brand developed more than a year before they launched the company in 2017. Killer said getting the name really got the “ball rolling.” The goal was to create a brand that captures northeast Oklahoma’s beauty as well as the area’s significance to which locals could identify. “A lot of this is about local recognition. Obviously starting out we aren’t expecting to go big, so we weren’t worrying about other people buying it out of (Adair) county. We really wanted to build it up for the locals,” St. Pierre said. They designed their first T-shirt after the place that inspired the brand, with a hint of “humor.” “We wanted our first design to be our signature design, which has the Baron Fork Creek with the old railroad bridge above it. But we also added mountains in the background. A lot of people kind of pointed it out, but we did it as a joke because almost everyone around this area either lives on or near a mountain like Rocky Mountain, Spade Mountain, Killer Mountain, Jackson Mountain. So the mountains represent that,” Killer said. With name and design in place, printing the shirts was next. But buying equipment and materials to print their shirts wasn’t feasible for the young entrepreneurs, so after saving money they used a relative’s printing business in Tulsa. However, the brand didn’t take off until its public debut at Stilwell’s annual Strawberry Festival in May. The brothers offered one design in four colors as a test run and sold about 140 shirts. In a short time, Baron Fork Outfitters went from offering one design to offering 10. The most popular is the “yona” design, which means bear in Cherokee. St. Pierre said adding Cherokee elements to designs is another way they represent their background. “We wanted to be able to express our Cherokee heritage through the business because that’s a big part of who we are and the area we grew up in.” In addition to offering T-shirt designs, Baron Fork Outfitters offers beanies, hats, tank tops, long- and short-sleeve shirts and items such as campfire mugs and cups. “Realistically everything we make from this we turn right around and put it back into new stuff because it hasn’t been about making a profit but more about expanding and making the best products possibly and more affordable for everyone,” Killer said. Along with receiving positive feedback from locals, Baron Fork Outfitters is grabbing attention beyond the area. “I go to school at OU (University of Oklahoma) and people are like ‘whoa what’s that shirt? I want to buy it.’ And even through our Etsy page we have received orders from other states. So with the popularity we are gaining we can expand into other markets and offer more outdoor designs as a whole, but still be under the same name that started it all,” St. Pierre said. Killer said they are going to introduce more clothing items and designs this year, some featuring collaborations with local artists Hilary Hume and Daylon Diver. “A big part of what we are trying to do is support other locals, too. So coming up with a design and asking artists to draw the artwork for our shirts is a way to promote them and get their name out there too,” he said. “Hilary has been working on two designs. She completed one and is going to represent an area of Oklahoma (where) a lot of people will know what it means. So we are really excited.” Although Baron Fork Outfitters doesn’t have an official store the brothers sell their products from a Stilwell tax office, but want to offer products to local stores. Eventually they hope to own a Baron Fork Outfitters store equipped with their clothing and supplies. “It was everything we hoped for and more. As with any business, we, of course, are looking to expand, but we could not be happier with where we are today,” Killer said.
01/04/2018 08:15 AM
PRYOR, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Red Wing recently earned Nadcap accreditation and Supplier Merit Status by demonstrating an ongoing commitment to aerospace quality, as well as satisfying customer requirements and industry specifications. “This marks Cherokee Nation Red Wing’s third consecutive year earning the Nadcap Electronics accreditation, and this year we achieved the added recognition of Supplier Merit status,” Adam Due, Cherokee Nation Businesses’ engineering and manufacturing division director of quality assurance, said. “The CNRW team is committed to exceeding customer expectations, and these well-earned accomplishments are proof of that continued commitment and hard work.” Nadcap is an industry-managed assessment approach that brings together technical experts from both industry and government to establish requirements for accreditation, to accredit suppliers and to define operational program requirements. “Achieving Nadcap accreditation is not easy; it is one of the ways in which the aerospace industry identifies those who excel at manufacturing quality product through superior special processes. Companies such as Cherokee Nation Red Wing work hard to obtain this status, and they should be justifiably proud of it,” Joe Pinto, Performance Review Institute executive vice president and chief operating officer, said. “PRI is proud to support continual improvement in the aerospace industry by helping companies such as Cherokee Nation Red Wing be successful, and we look forward to continuing to assist the industry moving forward.” More than 5,000 Nadcap audits are conducted annually around the world. Industry experts, whose role is also to evaluate each audit for compliance, determine the audit. Red Wing was formed in 2009 to provide quality employment opportunities for CN citizens within an organization that supports today’s warfighter through innovative and quality solutions with a focus on aviation and weapon systems life cycle support management, critical sustainment, reset and repair services. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
12/19/2017 08:30 AM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Chuck Dixon found a way to turn his passion for vertical flight into a helicopter tour business called Tulsa County Helicopters. Born in Wichita, Kansas, Dixon was introduced to flying when his father worked as an accountant for the Cessna Aircraft Company. “From a young age I’ve always had a fascination with aviation. It started out with airplanes. I thought I wanted to be an airplane pilot. What little boy doesn’t think about being an airplane pilot?” Dixon said. When he got older, Dixon took flying lessons in a Cessna 150 airplane, but it didn’t give him the satisfaction of flying he wanted. By happenstance, he saw a helicopter land and take off from a convenience store parking lot, and it caught his interest. He began taking lessons in vertical aviation in 2006 at Silver State Helicopters, which operated at the Tulsa International Airport. “So I went and signed up there and decided to go to school. I basically took out a $70,000 student loan to go from zero hours in a helicopter all the way to a certified flight instructor,” he said. From there, he and a pilot friend looked for ways to increase their flight times and potentially create a business. “We actually started out as two friends that were just renting helicopters and trying to find a way to make some money with it so that we could further our flight career. We were young pilots and we didn’t have a whole lot of flight time. Flight time is very expensive in helicopters, so the best option for us was just try to find a way that paid for it rather than us taking money out our pocket to buy our own flight time,” Dixon said. They began by renting a helicopter, setting up at different events and offering rides for $35 a person. From there, they sought more and more avenues for business. Operating Robinson R44 helicopters, they began offering utilitarian tours such as birthday/anniversary/marriage proposal flights, Tulsa metro tours, sweetheart tours for Valentine’s Day, Christmas Light tours. They also work events such as Easter egg drops, balloon festivals, Fourth of July events and the Tulsa State Fair. Dixon said they also added Federal Aviation Administration 135 flights, known as air charter flights or taking people from airport to airport or other locations. “Now we can take people out to the Hard Rock Casino and drop them off there, or out to Molly’s Landing in Catoosa and let them eat dinner. We can take them to Kansas City or Dallas or wherever they want to go,” he said. Aside from tours, Dixon’s business offers helicopter flight instruction and conducts power line and pipeline inspections for companies such as Oklahoma Gas and Electric. Tulsa County Helicopters operates out of the Christiansen Jet Center where Dixon leases hangar and office space. He said his business is unique in that there was no business model for him to follow. “I’ve owned some other businesses in the past (such as) a car auction and a landscape company, and nothing compares to this as far as the business model for it because a lot of it we’ve had to make up as we go as we saw what would work and what avenues wouldn’t work.” Dixon said he’s seen great reviews about his business on social media and other websites. He said his primary goal is safety and to give the customer “the best possible aviation experience they’ve ever had in their life.” “When they get off that helicopter we want to see them smiling,” he said. “Ninety percent of the people that go for a flight have never been on a helicopter before in their life. So you’re the person that gets to introduce them to vertical flight. That was what gave us good feeling about what we did. So that’s why we like to go out and do those things,” he said. Tulsa County Helicopters is located at 200 Lear Jet Lane. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, Tulsa County Helicopters on Facebook or call 918-948-3579.
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
12/18/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It’s 2018, and the new year means tax season. And the Cherokee Nation will once again help individuals within its 14-county jurisdiction with tax preparation through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service. Cora Lathrop, CN mortgage loan officer and VITA coordinator, said each year the tribe works with the Internal Revenue Service to train volunteers how to provide free, basic, income tax return preparation for low-to-moderate income taxpayers. She said the tribe generally offers aid to all people, not just its citizens, who annually make $60,000 or less and need assistance preparing tax returns. “This is an IRS program. Cherokee Nation partners with IRS to offer free assistance because we want to help community members save the exorbitant fees charged by businesses,” Lathrop said. “Many (businesses) charge between $50 and $400 for simple forms that VITA sites can prepare. This program is designed to help lower-income people save tax preparation fees.” The tribe’s VITA service is expected to run from Feb. 5 to April 12. No appointments will be made before Jan. 15. The VITA locations will be in Tahlequah, Stilwell, Claremore, Sallisaw, Salina, Westville, Catoosa, Jay, Muskogee, Vinita, Ochelata, Nowata and Pryor. “VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries and other convenient locations,” Lathrop said. All locations are by appointment only excluding the Tahlequah and Westville locations, which takes walk-in filers. When filing this year, Lathrop said the Affordable Care Act, known as ObamaCare, would play a part in people’s 2017 tax returns. “You will need to answer if everyone in your household had insurance during 2017. Each individual has to have insurance, adult and child or be eligible for an exemption,” Lathrop said. She said volunteers not only prepare and file tax returns but they also inform taxpayers about special tax credits for which they may qualify such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. According to, the 2017 EITC’s maximum adjusted gross income with three or more qualifying children is $48,340 ($53,930 if married filing joint) with the maximum credit at $6,318. Lathrop also said tax returns are filed electronically, which allows refunds to be deposited into taxpayers’ accounts within 10 days if using direct deposits. “The IRS has announced that any return claiming Earned Income Credit will not receive tax refunds before Feb. 15. The IRS is working hard to reduce tax fraud. Some refunds can take up to 21 days while the IRS is double-checking returns. Returns claiming Earned Income Credit and the additional Child Tax Credit will be affected,” she added. “You can use the Where’s My Refund? tool and the IRS2Go phone app to check the status of your refund.” Individuals can also prepare and file their own federal and state taxes for free online if their respective incomes are under $64,000 at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For more information, call 918-453-5536. To find a VITA site anywhere in the United States, call toll free 1-800-906-9887 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. <strong>What You Need To Bring</strong> Proof of Identification (photo ID) Social Security Cards for you, spouse and dependents Wage and earning statements (form W2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc) from all employers Interest and dividend statements from banks (form 1099) All Forms 1095, Health Insurance Statements (forms 1095A, 1095B, 1095C) Copy of previous year tax return Proof of bank account routing and account numbers for direct deposit such as blank check If Married Filing Jointly, both spouses need to be present Total paid to Daycare Provider with Tax ID number If itemize on Schedule A, statements of expense from Charities, Mortgage Lenders, Property Tax, Medical expenses. <strong>VITA Locations and Information</strong> Tahlequah: O-Si-Yo Room, 17695 S. Muskogee Ave., 918-453-5536 Open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday and Tuesday by appointment and walk-in Pryor: Career Services, 2945 Hwy 69A, 918-453-5000, ext. 5972 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Thursday Westville: Westville Public Library, 116 N. Williams Open for walk-in only from 9 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 and March 8 and 29 Stilwell: Wilma Mankiller Clinic, Hwy 51 East, 918-453-5536 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Sallisaw: Housing Authority, 2260 W. Cherokee, 918-774-0770, ext. 221 and 222 Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Catoosa: Housing Authority, 310 Chief Stand Watie, 918-342-2607 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday Claremore: Housing Authority, 23205 S. Highway 66, 918-342-6807 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Jay: Housing Authority, 1300 W. Cherokee, 918-253-4078 Open from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday Salina: CN Food Distribution Site, 904 Owen Walters Blvd., 918-207-3939 Open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday Muskogee: Three Rivers Health Clinic, 1001 S. 41 St. E., 918-453-5536 Open from 9:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday Vinita: Vinita Health Center, 27371 S. 4410 Road, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 8, March 1, 15 and 29 Ochelata: Cooweescoowee Health Clinic, 39500 W. 2900 Road, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 15, March 8 and April 5 Nowata: Will Rogers Health Clinic, 1020 Lenape Drive, 918-342-2607 Open from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Feb. 22, March 22 and April 12 <strong>Earned Income Tax Credit and Adjusted Gross Income Limits</strong> The tax year 2017 earned income and adjusted gross income must be less than: <strong>If filing… Qualifying Children Claimed 0, 1, 2, 3 or more</strong> Single, Head of $15,010, $39,617, $45,007, $48,340 Household or Widowed Married Filing Jointly $20,600, $45,207, $50,597, $53,930 Maximum Credits $510, $3,400, $5,616, $6,318 <strong>History of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program</strong> More than 30 years ago, the Cherokee Nation’s Career Services Learning Center helped CN citizens by preparing simple tax returns. The program has been moved through several departments and is now administered by the Commerce Department’s Mortgage Assistance Program. The program was originally founded 1971 by Gary Iskowitz at California State University Northridge. The concept was to provide local taxpayers with free tax return preparation by accounting students, in effort to provide both a valuable community service and a powerful hands-on learning experience for the accounting students. The program grew from a small group of dedicated accounting students to what is now a nationwide program that serves thousands of taxpayers and provides a valuable learning experience for accounting students. Iskowitz (now a prominent CPA, and former IRS agent) recently was commended on the 40th anniversary of the program.
11/29/2017 08:15 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Tyler Choate grew up learning the construction business from his father. He eventually parlayed those lessons into a successful business called TTA Construction. Choate’s construction venture, however, didn’t have an easy start. After the recent economic recession took a toll on his father’s business, he started doing pipeline work. When that didn’t work out, Choate’s first business venture was selling portable buildings, which didn’t last. Being out of business and work, Choate built his way back into the construction world in 2012. He collected tools and equipment to start a business, and the CN’s Tribal Employment Rights Office certified him as a vendor. One of his first jobs was helping construct the South Ridge apartments in Tahlequah. “I literally drove down, walked into the job trailer and ask the guy ‘do you have anyone that’s hanging you all’s dry wall?’” Choate said. While working at the apartment complex, Choate discovered he won a CN contract to hang dry wall in 30 tribal homes. From there, Choate’s business grew. He spent days working jobs and driving to job sites handing out business cards. When he came home, he caught up on paperwork. In the first year, Choate’s business made approximately $50,000. However, it’s doubled in revenue each year since. “The first year I made $50,000 and I’d have to pay people out of that and buy tools. I barely just survived. But I managed to pay my credit card bills that I had taken out to buy tools,” Choate said. “Every year since then we’ve doubled our revenue. So hopefully we can keep doing that.” In 2016, TTA Construction was named the Construction Company of the Year at the tribe’s annual TERO awards banquet. “We’re 100 percent Native American-owned, and I’m pretty proud of being Native American-owned,” he said. “I feel like in this part of the country there’s actually more doors open to me because Cherokee Nation has such a great influence.” Choate said his company in 2016 built 50 CN homes and that it’s built more than 100 homes in the past few years. His business also constructs custom homes. As a construction management business, TTA Construction provides services such as general contracting, design build, pre-construction, sustainable and green construction, facility maintenance, emergency services and repairs and specialty projects. Choate said he wants to grow TTA into a multi-million dollar business and take on entire construction projects. For more information, call 918-773-7127 or visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.