DOJ files appeal in UKB trust land case

Former Reporter
12/19/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – U.S. Department of Justice attorneys on Dec. 1 filed an appeal for the Interior Department asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit Court to overturn a ruling preventing trust land for the United Keetoowah Band.

The appeal states the U.S. Eastern District of Oklahoma Court “failed to defer to the BIA’s (Bureau of Indian Affairs) controlling analysis of the regulatory criteria that it considers when evaluating trust-acquisition applications.” It also states the lower court “inserted itself” into the BIA internal administrative process, and as such, its judgment “should be reversed.”

“We are extremely excited DOJ has appealed Judge (Ronald) White’s decision, in that, they are defending the UKB right to land in trust and former Assistant Secretary of Interior Larry Echo Hawk’s decision to take land in trust for the United Keetoowah (Band) of Cherokee Indians,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch said.

In 2000, the UKB purchased 76 acres in Tahlequah that were later developed with a community services building, cultural grounds and wellness center. In 2011, the BIA, which operates within the Interior Department, granted the UKB’s application to take that land into trust.

In response, the Cherokee Nation filed a lawsuit against the BIA in 2014 in the Northern District Court of Oklahoma in Tulsa. It argued the Interior’s actions violated jurisdictional treaties between the U.S. and CN and that land could not be taken into trust for the UKB without the CN’s consent.

White ruled in the CN’s favor on May 31, 2017, stating the Interior’s decision was “not in accordance with the law” and enjoined the Interior secretary from putting the UKB land into trust “without the Cherokee Nation’s written consent and full consideration of the jurisdictional conflicts and the resulting administrative burdens the acquisition would place on the (Interior’s Eastern Oklahoma) Region.”

White’s ruling adds that before taking “any land into trust for the UKB or the UKB Corporation, the Region shall consider the effect of Carcieri (v. Salazar) on such acquisition.”

In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled in Carcieri v. Salazar that the Interior’s secretary ability to take land into trust through the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act only applies to “persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under federal jurisdiction.”

The UKB was formally recognized as a band of Indians through a congressional statue in 1946 via Section 3 of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936.

The Interior’s appeal asks the Appeals Court to review “whether the definition of ‘Indian’ under the IRA applies to land-into-trust acquisitions under the OIWA.”

The appeal argues that Section 3 of the OIWA grants the UKB Corp. the right to a charter of incorporation that conveys the “rights or privileges secured to an organized Indian tribe under the (IRA),” which includes the right of trust land.

“Regardless of what some might argue, UKB’s government-to-government relationship with the U.S. is equal to all other federally-recognized tribes,” Bunch said. “A positive decision for Keetoowah would allow Keetoowahs to have land in trust, separating our tribe from CNO (Cherokee Nation) and breaking the public service area barrier set by CNO self-determination policy, thus allowing Keetoowah’s to determine what is best for their tribal people.”

The appeal also argues that CN consent was not needed for UKB to take land into trust, as the CN argued under the 1866 Treaty. Instead, the appeal references a rider of the 1999 Appropriations Act by Congress that states “no funds shall be used to take land into trust within the boundaries of the original Cherokee territory in Oklahoma without consultation with the Cherokee Nation.”

“Congress acted clearly to allow UKB to take land in trust without Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma consent. I hope the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals recognizes that and reverses the lower court’s decision requiring CNO consent,” UKB Attorney General Klint Cowen said.

CN Communications officials said the Nation had no comment regarding the appeal because it doesn’t comment on pending litigation.


07/23/2018 10:15 AM
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – According to Arkansas Ethics Commission records, Cherokee Nation Businesses has again donated to a group that’s attempting to get casinos in Arkansas by placing it on the ballot. AEC records show that on June 25 CNB gave $525,300 to the group Driving Arkansas Forward, which is attempting to get on the November ballot a proposal to put four casinos in the state. Driving Arkansas Forward Chairman Don Tilton said if the proposal makes the ballot and passes then Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs (Garland County) and Southland Park Gaming in West Memphis (Crittenden County) would be grandfathered in as full-fledged casinos. Both are currently limited on what gaming they offer, Tilton said. He added that the group would also have casinos in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) and Russellville (Pope County) authorized. Garland County is in central Arkansas, and Crittenden County is in northeastern Arkansas. Jefferson County is in south central Arkansas, and Pope County is in north central Arkansas. CNB CEO Shawn Slaton said CNB contributed the money to help “protect Cherokee jobs.” “A significant portion of our market originates in northwest Arkansas, and if an operator other than Cherokee Nation were to gain a foothold, that would threaten jobs at Cherokee Casinos West Siloam Springs and Roland. It could also decrease, for the first time ever, revenue that ultimately funds health care, housing, education and other tribal services. CNB will always go to whatever lengths necessary to protect Cherokee jobs and not only preserve, but continue to increase the dividend paid to the Cherokee Nation, which funds critical services for Cherokee Nation citizens,” Slaton said. CNB officials said the donation was to help with expenditures such as campaigning and advertising to get the proposal placed on the ballot. With the help of CNB and the Quapaw Tribe, Driving Arkansas Forward has raised more than $1.2 million, according to its July 16 AEC filing. However, Driving Arkansas Forward isn’t the only group trying to get casinos in Arkansas. On March 27, Arkansas Wins in 2018 filed with the AEC its ballot question statement seeking authorization to build casinos in Benton, Boone, Miller and Pulaski counties. Benton and Boone counties are in northwest Arkansas. Miller County is in southwestern Arkansas, and Pulaski County sits in the middle of the state. Benton County also sits across the state line from Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs in Delaware County, Oklahoma. Less than two ago, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down a ballot initiative to build three casinos in Boone, Miller and Washington counties because of language containing references to sports wagering, which is illegal in Arkansas under federal law. CNB contributed more than $6 million for advertising campaigns for the 2016 initiative. After the measure was struck down, CNB was given back approximately $1.5 million. If the ballot had passed, Cherokee Nation Entertainment would have operated a casino, hotel and entertainment venue in Washington County. At that time, Slaton said the decision to support the 2016 ballot was based on what was best for the Cherokee Nation, CNE employees and the revenue stream that funds vital CN social services and programs.
07/22/2018 10:00 AM
ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina car dealership has taken down a 23-foot fiberglass statue of a Native American that has drawn complaints over its 50-year history. The Asheville Citizen Times reports that Harry's On the Hill was prompted to take down the statue known as "Chief Pontiac" partly because of a bad experience by a female customer who's a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. The newspaper said an employee was fired after sending an offensive text message to the customer in June. Even before that, some Native Americans had complained about the statue. The statue was removed Friday with a crane. It's being donated to the Pontiac-Oakland Transportation Museum in Michigan. Pat Grimes, owner of Harry's, said he received offers to buy the statue but felt that the museum was best for it.
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
07/21/2018 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix has selected Cherokee artist Nathalie Standingcloud’s design for its 2018 holiday T-shirt, which goes on sale July 1 at the Cherokee Phoenix’s office and Cherokee Nation Gift Shop. In 2016, the Cherokee Phoenix commissioned Cherokee artist Buffalo Gouge to design its initial T-shirt, one that differed from the tribe’s Cherokee National Holiday shirts. For the 2017 T-shirt, the Cherokee Phoenix sought entries from Cherokee artists and chose Daniel HorseChief’s concept. This year, the Cherokee Phoenix selected Standingcloud’s design, which she said features a southeastern-style phoenix shield with a seven-pointed star surrounded by seven gourd masks that represent the tribe’s clans. Above the design in the Cherokee syllabary are the words “Cherokee Phoenix.” Below the image in English are the words “CHEROKEE HOMECOMING” as well as “2018” and Standingcloud’s signature. Also, the Cherokee Phoenix logo will be on a sleeve. “I hope when someone looks at this, whether they’re Cherokee or not, that they acknowledge the symmetry and symbolism that makes up the entire design. And if they are Cherokee they can find their clan and feel like they are being represented,” Standingcloud said. “When I started this design I had to draw a phoenix to represent our strong Cherokee people overcoming all that they went through during colonization. I also kept in mind the sacred numbers and symbolism that we use in our culture like the masks and seven-pointed star. I chose simple colors so I could use others to bring out the uniqueness of each clan.” She said the fact her submission was chosen made her feel “accomplished” and brings “honor” to her family. She added that she plans to submit another concept for the 2019 T-shirt and encourages up-and-coming Cherokee artists to do the same. “I urge young artist to doodle every day, and just because you don’t finish some amazing, elaborate or perfect piece doesn’t make you any less of an artist,” Standingcloud said. “So I want to tell all the Cherokees out there to have courage and get creative for next year’s T-shirt submission.” The black shirts are short-sleeved with adult sizes ranging from small to 3XL. The Cherokee Phoenix is also offering a youth medium size this year. The shirts are priced at $20 plus tax each. To order online, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. The Cherokee Phoenix office is in the Annex Building (Old Motel) on the Tribal Complex. The gift shop is also on the complex. Staff members will have shirts available at the Cherokee Phoenix booths at the Capital Square and Tribal Complex during the Cherokee National Holiday. The Cherokee Phoenix will also have T-shirts featuring the previous two designs at discounted prices at the booths. The Cherokee Phoenix plans to continue contracting with Cherokee artists to create the annual holiday T-shirts. CN, United Keetoowah Band and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens who are interested in submitting T-shirt concepts can email them to The deadline for submissions is midnight on Jan. 1. For more information, call 918-207-4975 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Tulsa World
07/20/2018 08:30 AM
OAKS – The future of a historic parcel of land appears secure as the Cherokee Nation closed on the purchase of the Delaware County property, where clearing had already begun for construction of a chicken farm. The effort not only saved the property from development but helped galvanize a community that is concerned about poultry operation expansion in the area. The 60.81-acre parcel, adjacent to the Oaks Indian Mission at Oaks, was purchased to help preserve and protect the area, which also abuts a historic cemetery known as God’s Acre. The CN closed on the purchase July 2. The tribe said there are no immediate plans for what will be done on the property. “The tribe believes in protecting sites that are historically significant as well as preserving it for the betterment of our tribal citizens and environment,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The Cherokee Nation is also stronger for the future when we add land within the jurisdiction of the tribe to our land base.” Members of the Spring Creek Coalition first raised concerns about potential impacts of the planned poultry operation, which would have housed 300,000 chickens at the headwaters of one of Oklahoma’s most pristine streams. The community effort soon intensified as people connected with the Oaks Mission and learned more about the historic significance of the site, a recognized arrival location on the Trail of Tears in the 1830s. Poultry farm operators Tran Tran LLC had cleared land in preparation for building the houses for production for Simmons Foods before many area residents realized what was happening. After environmental attorney David Page of Barber & Bartz in Tulsa contacted Simmons, the operators agreed to halt construction and offer the land for sale. Spring Creek Coalition member Emily Oakley spearheaded the effort and created a GoFundMe page to raise money for possible down payment on the land if a single buyer had not come forward. The page notes that if a buyer did come forward, the money would go to the nonprofit coalition for preservation efforts. The page was closed this week with just over $9,100 raised. “It’s super, unbelievably exciting that this worked out the way it did,” Oakley said. “I am grateful that (the Cherokee Nation) got it, incredibly appreciative and relieved. I’m sure whatever they decide to do with it, it will be the perfect thing for that property.” The history of the site near the Oaks Mission begins with Moravians, a pietistic German sect who settled in North Carolina in the mid-1700s and were the first to do Christian missionary work with the Cherokees. Since 2008 the CN has been supporting work in the Moravian Archives in North Carolina for creation of a book series translation of Moravian diaries, hand-written in old German, that are said to be the earliest and longest-running written account of daily life among the Cherokees. During the Cherokees’ forced relocation in the 1830s, the Moravian missionaries established a new mission in eastern Oklahoma. Remnants of the Spring House still stand near the present-day Oaks Mission at the headwaters of Spring Creek. The Moravians ultimately closed the mission, but it was reopened as a Lutheran mission in 1902. Today the Oaks Indian Mission is a residential school for children. The nearby cemetery contains grave sites, many unmarked, of the early missionaries as well as Cherokees who endured the forced relocation. Oaks Mission Executive Director Don Marshall said he was “almost giddy” at hearing news of the land sale to the Cherokee Nation. “It’s really incredible, given where things stood just a month ago,” he said. “Our heads are spinning with the turn of events here. We are incredibly happy and grateful.” Both Oakley and Pam Kingfisher, who created the Facebook group Spring Creek Guardians, said the experience at Oaks has ignited a new awareness about poultry house construction in Delaware County. Kingfisher said she was out of town when she learned about developments at the site and immediately sent messages about the poultry house plans to Facebook friends. “I got such a response that I immediately created the group,” she said. Within 24 hours it had 150 members and now has about 380, she said. People have noticed what seems like an uptick in poultry house construction in Delaware County, with a Simmons Foods poultry production plant expansion planned nearby in Arkansas. People have turned to the Facebook page to share concerns and organize, Kingfisher said. Both Kingfisher and Oakley recognized Tran Tran and Simmons Foods for being sensitive to the community’s concerns around the Oaks property. With more construction ahead, however, people now have learned that they are not alone in their concerns, Kingfisher said. “There has been a general uplifting of environmental awareness and awareness about the water and actual things to do and how to be active in positive way,” she said. “We’re not here to take away anyone’s livelihood, but they need to be aware and we need to be aware so we all can co-exist.”
07/17/2018 12:00 PM
ADA – For 70 years, campers representing more than 50 Indigenous tribal nations from across North America gather for Indian Falls Creek Baptist Assembly in Ada. This family camp provides Bible classes, training, a health fair, recreation, fellowship and worship services for all ages. The opportunity to attend with the entire family and people of all ages makes IFC an annual event for many churches. Some campers have attended IFC since childhood and now make it an annual tradition for their children and grandchildren. Prayer Walk Warriors start the morning early and join the daily sunrise service. Later in the week walkers and runners participate in the annual 5k Hot and Sweaty Run. More than 500 preschoolers and children attend classes and Vacation Bible School each day and campers 6 to 11 years old attend Children’s Church twice daily. Class sessions for youth, young adults and adults are also offered and vary in topics. A nursery is provided during morning youth and young adult services and evening family services. IFC officials said they want to meet the needs seen throughout Native American and First Nations communities by providing training that helps campers engage others in their communities. Suicide prevention, literacy training and health classes supplement the Biblical and leadership development training offered to campers. Other opportunities include blood donations and a bone marrow registry at the health fair. The Silver Fox Fellowship provides a time for senior campers to relax and meet in a cool place, if they are not watching or participating in recreational activities. Highlights during recreation are the watermelon eating contest, youth art contest, Bible drills, children’s Olympics, stickball games and the golden frybread/steaming meatpie contest. Each day, different Indian Nations are invited to sing traditional hymns in their tribal languages during the worship services. The 71st Indian Falls Creek meeting is July 29 through Aug. 2. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
07/17/2018 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band will distribute clothing vouchers and gift cards for exclusive UKB students beginning at 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on July 21 in the Education Building at 4547 S. Whitmore Lane. Students ages 4-12 will receive $100 vouchers and backpacks, while students ages 13-18 will receive $100 gift cards. Students must present their tribal ID card and proof of enrollment or last semester’s report card to receive funds, which can be used at Walmart to purchase items including clothing, shoes and school supplies. For students who cannot attend, vouchers and gift cards can be obtained by visiting the UKB offices beginning on July 23. Students ages 4-12 will need to visit the Henry Lee Doublehead Child Development Center at 18771 W. Keetoowah Circle. Students ages 13-18 will need to visit the Community Services building at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle. District representatives can also obtain cards for students if needed. Parents and guardians can pass along the required verification items and district representatives will sign before returning all items to them. Disbursement of funds is also not dependent upon income guidelines. “We don’t income guideline it because it’s a one-time thing. It’s not a monthly program. We don’t do income guidelines, and the only goal of that is to help our children,” UKB Tribal Secretary Joyce Hawk said. The event coincides with the Keetoowah Strong event that will take place at 8 a.m. on July 21. Free physicals and haircuts will also be available for children.