http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgAndrew Luethje, Brad Wagnon and Shaelin Beaver fill and tie sandbags in Tahlequah. Cherokee Nation Emergency Management is providing 10,000 sandbags to communities and individuals within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. COURTESY
Andrew Luethje, Brad Wagnon and Shaelin Beaver fill and tie sandbags in Tahlequah. Cherokee Nation Emergency Management is providing 10,000 sandbags to communities and individuals within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. COURTESY

CN takes steps to help if floods arise

The entrance to Cherokee Nation citizens Al and Frankie Herrin’s home was impassable due to the flooding on Dec. 28, 2015. Their property is located just off the bank of the Illinois River near Welling Road in the Boudinot Community in Tahlequah. The tribe’s Emergency Management is taking a proactive initiative to prepare the area in case such flooding happens again. ARCHIVE
The entrance to Cherokee Nation citizens Al and Frankie Herrin’s home was impassable due to the flooding on Dec. 28, 2015. Their property is located just off the bank of the Illinois River near Welling Road in the Boudinot Community in Tahlequah. The tribe’s Emergency Management is taking a proactive initiative to prepare the area in case such flooding happens again. ARCHIVE
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
02/12/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – After the massive floods that impacted the greater Tahlequah area in 2015 and 2017, Cherokee Nation Emergency Management is taking a proactive initiative to prepare the community in case it happens again.

The CNEM worked to fill 10,000 sandbags for use by community members in the tribe’s 14 jurisdictional counties, with the goal reducing the chances of floodwater destruction.

“Every year I’ve been here, we have had a flood,” Jeremie Fisher, CNEM manager, said. “So we’re going to be putting them strategically at different locations for our citizens: in the community centers, any of our community partners in our 14 counties that might need them, municipalities and other people who may need some on hand, just in case. The goal is to be proactive and help mitigate things before it happens.”

During the past two large floods, homes were lost, families were displaced and businesses suffered serious damage to infrastructure. CNEM was just one of the local entities that witnessed the destruction.

While a similar flood would likely cause damage to the city of Tahlequah no matter what, Philip Manes said he hopes the sandbags will prevent him from having to see as many displaced families.

“When we were helping people, I don’t think it had sunk in for them, yet,” said Manes. “A lot of them still hadn’t realized what they had lost, and they lost a lot. We were actually pulling out some people in the creek.”

In 2017, once the Tahlequah community learned about the flood, emergency agencies all over the area were scrambling to prepare. This year, forward thinking, combined with a new sandbag machine, has made it easier for the CNEM to get ready.

“Last year, I took five people down to Sallisaw, and we filled sandbags one afternoon right before the flood came,” said Fisher. “That was all done by hand and it was quite a deal. This machine eliminates a lot of the back work and makes it a lot easier.”

The CNEM has already bagged around 1,000 bags after the tribe purchased 50 tons of sand. Fisher said 50 more tons of sand could be needed before all 10,000 bags are filled.

There will be no cost for the sandbags, which the tribe planned to begin distributing Jan. 30. There’s no limit to how many bags a person can get, but with each bag weighing approximately 40 pounds, they will be distributed within reason. Ability to receive sandbags is not dependent on a person’s location in the 14 counties. Recipients do not have to be CN citizens.

“It’s really a community thing,” said Fisher. “When the river floods, it really doesn’t matter; water runs through Cherokee and non-Cherokee homes the same way. So the idea is that we would just be an asset to our 14 counties and have a resource they may not be able to have.”

Services

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/26/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper. In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon 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.” Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. 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. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email justin-smith@cherokee.org or joy-rollice@cherokee.org. 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. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
05/24/2018 08:30 AM
STILWELL – The United Keetoowah Band Housing Department and tribal officials met with UKB citizens in the Flint and Goingsnake districts to distribute housing aid information and assessment surveys on May 11 at the Fairfield Community Building. “In the past, some things kept people from receiving services or they’ve gotten frustrated with the application process and gathering documents,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch said. “It’s really not that hard but sometimes you need guidance. We’ve got a great staff out there working.” The meeting followed the formation of a UKB Housing Committee, Councilor Frankie Still said. “When I first got in office there was no such thing as a housing committee, so a group of us got together to try and see what we could do to help,” he said. “We’ve come a long ways in about a year and four months to detangle all this mess. This information wasn’t getting out, it wasn’t being brought out.” Various assistance programs were discussed, including mortgage and rental, college student rental, storm shelter and rehabilitation and emergency repairs. According to distributed information, mortgage assistance for eligible citizens who are first-time homeowners is available for up to $10,000, while rental assistance is available for up to one month of rent or up to $750 towards deposit fees for new renters. Eligible full-time college students can also receive up to $1,200 per semester for housing costs. For eligible citizens who own homes but need assistance, the UKB offers a rehabilitation program that provides up to $35,000 and an emergency repairs program that grants up to $5,000. Weather-related assistance is also available. UKB is offering eligible citizens storm shelter assistance up to $2,500, as well as air conditioners and help with cooling bills through the Oklahoma Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. UKB Housing Director Nancy McCause said citizens should stop by her office for applications even if they’ve been previously denied help. “They need to come to our office and apply. It could be that they didn’t fit into one program, but we can help them decide which way they need to go.” McCause also said other programs the tribe will pursue in the upcoming year include Section 184 Indian Home Loan Guarantees through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as tiny homes for elders. “We’re really excited about the tiny homes for elders,” she said. “It kind of evolved over our housing meetings because names kept coming up of elders that were just living in travel trailers and things like that. So the more we looked into this, the more excited we got. We’ve already got about three applicants for it. We’re getting ready to pick a design and go with it. We’re very close.” Sean Nordwall, UKB Tribal Operations and Federal Programs executive director, said the UKB is also looking at buying land to build duplexes for tribal housing and offering lease-to-own options. “With the lease-to-own, you would work through the tribe, so people with not-so-spectacular credit should be able to make it work,” he said. “You just have to come by and it would be a case-by-case basis. We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for our members to get into a good place to live. We really want to help the people and do what we can to get the services out because we’re very much underserved.” In addition to discussing current and upcoming housing projects, officials distributed housing assessment surveys to citizens to better understand what services are most needed. “We will compare it with what we already have, and we’ll put it back into the next year’s budget and see which way we can go with it,” Bunch said. “Feel free to write in what you think your community needs.” UKB officials said more meetings are planned to get the surveys to citizens, but for those who can’t attend, surveys can be picked up and returned to the UKB Federal Programs Building. Data will be collected until June 29. For more information, call 918-871-2773 or visit the UKB Housing Department at 18263 W. Keetoowah Circle in Tahlequah.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/23/2018 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps thousands of eligible Native Americans yearly with their heating, and in some cases, cooling sources. Janet Ward, Family Assistance manager and LIHEAP coordinator, said “summer cooling” aid is eligible to those who are over 60 or disabled and received a winter heating payment. “Our summer cooling program is only for the elderly and disabled,” she said. “When we say disabled, disabled are those who are actually receiving a disability check. So if they received LIHEAP during the winter from us, like in October or November, then they would be eligible for the summer cooling and the supplemental payment that we done this year.” She added that payments would be sent to the clients’ electric providers. “Summer cooling usually goes to their electric,” she said. “The elders and disabled that received the winter heating, they will have gotten a letter in the mail for them to return a mail showing who their electric vender is. And then they get that information off there with their account number, and then it will be mailed directly to the vendor.” She said she hopes to see payments disbursed by the end of June or the first part of July. Ward said in some cases LIHEAP provides window air conditioner units for qualifying Native Americans who are 60 and older or disabled. “The AC units are apart of our LIHEAP program. It’s a small air conditioning unit that’s just for a one-room cooling station. They’re (for) the elderly and disabled, and they have to have a medical (statement) that stated that they have to have refrigerated air,” she said. “If they have a working window unit or central air already in their home they would not be eligible because we can’t supplement them.” To receive a window unit, Ward said clients would not had to have received LIHEAP in the winter but would have to be LIHEAP-eligible. She said clients should visit a field office to see if they qualify. Ward said during the winter LIHEAP helped 1,786 clients who were 60 and older or disabled and 232 who were under 60 and not disabled. She said numbers vary annually but tend to increase. “Every year, usually, our numbers increase because people, you know, word-of-mouth gets around and they tell their family members. Then DHS (Department of Human Services) also sends people our way so that they can use their funding to help others, too,” she said. Ward said she thinks the program is a “great” help to those needing the assistance it offers. “Our elders, sometimes during the wintertime and then in the summertime, they try to cut back because of the high cost of their utility bills, and they don’t keep their houses warm as what they could,” she said. “If this program was not there we would probably have some elders that would keep their air conditioners turned down to where they really weren’t keeping cool or even in a safe environment. But because we’re able to give a summer cooling to the elderly and disabled then it helps defray the cost that they would have to pay out.” Ward said new clients could apply for LIHEAP later this year. “We’ll open it back up to the elderly and disabled in October or November,” she said. “So if they received LIHEAP from us they will get a letter in the mail stating what time their appointment is and the location. Then the new ones, they will just need to call into the office, and then we can let them know which dates because we go to different field offices…so we have to schedule ahead of time so they will have to get with us to determine where they would need to go to make their application if they didn’t get it last year.” LIHEAP is available to citizens of federally recognized tribes living within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and qualify for the benefits. Benefits are calculated based on the number of people living in a household, the amount of income for those over 18 years old and the home’s energy source. Applicants who are 60 and older or disabled will be given top priority. To apply, a client must provide a Social Security card, Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card, residence verification, heating utility account verification, proof of income of all household members 18 and older and proof of disability if trying to participant in the program under that category. For more information, call 918-453-5327 or email <a href="mailto: janet-ward@cherokee.org">janet-ward@cherokee.org</a>.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
05/23/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Health & Engineering program is working on five projects to provide better water access to CN citizens living in Delaware and Muskogee counties. Environmental Health & Engineering Director Billy Hix said in Delaware County the program is working on a waterline extension for Rural Water Dist. 11, constructing a water treatment plan in the southern part of the county and working on a water loss project near Kenwood. <strong>RWD 11 waterline extension</strong> Hix said the project consists of constructing approximately 19 miles of 6-inch, 4-inch and 2-inch waterlines near Leach, Rocky Ford, Teresita and Kansas. He said the waterlines would be in communities that haven’t been previously served and would connect to approximately 125 homes, 75 of which are Cherokee households. “Homes in the area have a myriad of issues with water quality and quantity,” Hix said. “Many of the wells are positive for coliform and fecal coliform bacteria, and some wells are low-yielding and unable to provide sufficient water to support a home.” KSL Dirtworks, a Tribal Employment Rights Office-certified contractor, started the project in January. Construction is expected to be finished in October, Hix said. He added that the estimated cost is $1.8 million with $662,000 coming from the Indian Health Service, $458,000 from the CN, $207,000 from a Community Development Block Grant, $250,000 from local funds and $303,000 from a loan. <strong>Southern Delaware County Regional WTP</strong> Hix said this project is in the Flint Ridge community and consists of a new 2 million gallon per day water treatment plant, two water storage tanks, three pump stations and 3.6 miles of 12-inch waterline. He said the plant and other infrastructure would provide water to Flint Ridge, West Siloam Springs, Colcord, Kansas and the county’s RWD 11, serving approximately 2,500 homes with about 1,100 being Cherokee households. “All of the communities served by this project had various issues with water quality or quantity. We worked with them to prepare a feasibility study to see if a regional water treatment plant to serve them would work,” Hix said. “The feasibility study was very favorable to the idea, and so the communities formed a public trust authority under Delaware County. When completed the authority will provide water to the communities. Each of the communities has a position on the authority’s board of directors and as such has a seat at the table in making decisions for the water supply.” He said Huffman Construction is building the water treatment plant, while Circle P Welding is constructing the storage tanks and Cross-Bo Construction, a TERO contractor, is handling the water line and pump stations. Construction on the $15.7 million project began in May 2017, and its completion is expected in December, Hix said. He said its funds stem from a $6.7 million Rural Development Loan, a $1.9 million Rural Development Grant, a $2 million Rural Development Native American Grant, $3 million from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, $1.5 million from IHS, a $476,000 IHS/CN Planning Grant and $90,000 in local funds. <Strong>Kenwood Water Loss Project</strong> Hix said the project covers the Kenwood Water District distribution system in southwest Delaware County and east of the Mayes County line and consists of installing new valves, meters and hydrants to identify, isolate and repair leaking waterlines. He said the project would impact 174 homes, all of which are Cherokee. “The Kenwood Water District had problems with high amounts of water loss. Most months it was over 50 percent,” Hix said. “The project will help reduce the water loss to acceptable levels. This will save the district significant amounts in utility costs for pumping, as well as reducing the cost of chemicals used to disinfect the water. The district has already fixed several large leaks found by this project.” He said the Kenwood Water District staff is handling the $302,000 project with the CN lending technical assistance and engineering support. He added that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is giving $202,000 for the project, while IHS is supplying $100,000. The project began in November, and its expected completion is in October, Hix said. He said in Muskogee County the Environmental Health & Engineering program is rehabilitating a water treatment plant in Fort Gibson and extending a waterline east of Fort Gibson. <strong>Fort Gibson WTP Rehabilitation</strong> Hix said the rehab is on the west side of Fort Gibson adjacent to the Grand River and consists of rehabilitating and improving the water treatment plant that provides water to Fort Gibson and surrounding rural water districts. He said the contractor, HCCCo LLC, is installing water treatment process equipment, raw water intake structures, controls, buildings, piping and storage and that it would impact about 1,500 homes, with approximately 500 households being Cherokee. “The existing water treatment plant was under a consent order from the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality for violations of the safe drinking water act,” Hix said. “Specifically the existing plant was unable to meet the new standards for disinfection byproducts. The updated treatment plant will bring the system back into compliance.” Approximately $7.1 million from Rural Development and $857,000 from IHS is funding the project. Hix said the project should be done in June after nearly two years of work. <strong>Muskogee County RWD 7 waterline extension</strong> Hix said about 2 miles east of Fort Gibson and 1.5 north of Two Mile Road homes had issues with water quality and quantity that existing wells produced, so approximately 4,300 linear feet of waterline and a booster pump station are being added. He said about 20 homes will be impacted, with about 11 of them being Cherokee. The project is receiving $93,500 from IHS and $13,500 from CN and is expected to be done in July after about four months of construction.
BY GRANT D. CRAWFORD
Tahlequah Daily Press
05/21/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Under a new agreement signed May 3 between the Cherokee Nation and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, a new mobile pantry will be at the tribe’s Veterans Center. It is the Food Bank’s first tribal partnership, as the two entities hope to reach more hungry people that could use assistance. In particular, the program will serve veterans and widows of veterans. “The Cherokee Nation continues to look for ways to honor and serve our veteran warriors and this partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is another avenue to reach those in need,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Our Cherokee Veterans Center offers activities for veterans, a place to sign up for benefits and now adding a food pantry in another step in serving them.” The plan involves the Food Bank bringing about 10 pallets of food – approximately 10,000 pounds – to the Veterans Center on a quarterly basis, said Jim Lyall, veterans outreach coordinator for the Food Bank. Items will include an array of fresh produce, canned goods, non-perishable food items and baked goods. Through the Food Bank’s various programs to reach rural communities, 18 percent of household served include a military veteran. For the Food Bank, it’s a chance to help vets “thrive,” not just survive. “We are so excited about this new partnership with the Cherokee Nation,” said Eileen Bradshaw, executive director for the Food Bank. “The issue of food insecurity is important to both of us and we all want to make sure our veterans have what they need to thrive.” Many veterans live on limited funds and work within a budget. Allan Johnson, CN citizen and U.S. Army veteran, said he is tired of paying rent on his home, and the partnership could help bring an end to that. “I’m on a fixed income with disability,” said Johnson. “I would like to get in a home of my own, but that will make it much easier on me. Otherwise it would still be beneficial, but it might become imperative, if I want to live in my own home.” Johnson said providing veterans with food assistance could help those who have served overseas re-acclimate to life at home. The CN has already identified 125 families to receive food from the pantry. Once a recipient chooses to drop from the program or no longer participates, the tribe will identify other veterans to be included. But if all goes well, Barbara Foreman, director of the Veteran Affairs Office at the Veterans Center, said a lot more families could benefit from the partnership. “In the future, the plan is not to just have it here,” said Foreman. “If this is successful, we can do this for our veterans in the 14 counties and other spots. So this is our beginning pilot and if it becomes successful, then we will be able to branch out to the others.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/09/2018 05:00 PM
CATOOSA – Northeastern Oklahoma’s rural fire departments received a financial boost on May 7 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino as Cherokee Nation officials handed out checks totaling nearly $500,000 to 131 departments across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. According to a CN press release, volunteer fire departments rely on fundraisers, membership dues and other types of help to maintain their operations. So to help, CN officials gave each department a $3,500 check – totaling $458,500 – to help with equipment, fuel or other items needed, the release states. The funding is appropriated in the tribe’s budget annually, according to the release. “Every single day in communities throughout the Cherokee Nation, the men and women of volunteer fire departments are on call,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Volunteer firefighters are committed to the communities they serve, and they deserve the thanks and support of the Cherokee Nation. That’s why year after year the tribe invests in rural fire departments so they can be better equipped to protect our families, our homes and our property.” Langley Fire Department in Mayes County and Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Sequoyah County were recognized as 2018 Volunteer Fire Department of the Year. Firefighters in Langley near Grand Lake spent weekends going door to door installing smoke alarms for community residents. The effort saved a life when a home caught fire just months after the department installed a smoke detector, which alerted the residents to evacuate, the release states. The Langley department responded to 340 calls in its community in 2017, and firefighters have spent nights and weekends training to better themselves as first responders, according to the release. The release states the department plans to use the CN donation to update equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus. “We really appreciate what the Cherokee Nation does for us every year. The donation really helps the small departments like Langley, and it really means a lot to us,” Langley Fire Chief William Long said. “I’m really fortunate that we have 20 firefighters on our department who are all willing to do the training asked of them. We’re pretty fortunate.” Firefighters at Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department near Sallisaw have spent the past year working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Oklahoma Forestry Services battling wildfires that charred nearly 4,000 acres in one month, the release states. “Our firefighters never give up, and they work well with any agencies involved,” Brushy Mountain Fire Chief Bobby Caughman said. “They always watch out for each other. When we had a 500-acre fire, a 450-acre fire and a 3,000-acre fire in one month, they all showed up as soon as they could and they worked until the job was done.” The release also states the CN selected five recipients for Volunteer Firefighter of the Year: • Jerry Hammons, of Illinois River Area Fire Association, for his work in a senior leadership role as an active first responder. Hammons’ 30-year service to the department includes saving a number of lives as a skilled airboat pilot trained in water rescues. He dedicates hundreds of hours each year to training and fire department projects, and became trained in emergency medical response when a need for trained responders rose in the fire district. • Tonya Broyles, of Whitehorn Fire Department, for traveling to Houston after 2017’s devastating Hurricane Harvey and rescuing flood victims. Broyles, who is also a teacher at Porter Public Schools, volunteered to travel with a team to Houston, where they faced hazardous conditions while rescuing those impacted by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. • Gina Buzzard, of Marble City Volunteer Fire Association, for her dedication and work ethic. Buzzard is a certified first responder and firefighter who has stepped up to serve her community. During Thanksgiving, when many volunteer firefighters were out of state, the department received more than a dozen calls for help, and Buzzard responded to every call and worked the entire week. • Chuck McConnell, of Chance Volunteer Fire Department, for saving the life of a gunshot victim. McConnell, a co-founder of the department and a captain to the firefighters, arrived at the scene when a woman was shot and found in critical condition. He used the skills he learned in a tactical combat casualty care course to quickly treat the woman’s nine gunshot wounds and keep the victim awake until an ambulance arrived. The actions of McConnell and other firefighters are credited with saving the woman’s life. • Robert Long, of Ketchum Fire Department, for his 22 years of service as chief of the department and for his dedication to the community and fire department. Long recently stepped down as chief but has organized trainings for the fire department and responded to the vast majority of calls since joining the department in 1989. He’s known for helping farmers and ranchers by coordinating controlled burns of their pastures, and has donated his own time, equipment and food to areas impacted by natural disasters.