Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Candy and Nuts

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts... 
and a big IF from a gaming commissioner.
Thanks to a tip from a reader, and some information that came up in the rules committee meeting, it looks like the guy who is singlehandedly responsible for keeping the UKB’s casino open (even though the state wants to shut it down), is now being appointed by Bill John Baker to be a gaming commissioner for the Cherokee Nation.  

For that, John Garrett was awarded a seat on the UKB’s Supreme Court, which is a pretty good gig, we guess.  He kept that job up until the time that something better came along: a chance to be gaming commissioner for Cherokee Nation.

When he was being questioned in committee, Garrett was part of this exchange (about 45 minutes into the December Rules committee meeting)

Cara Cowan Watts: “How do you feel about the UKB’s claims to land in our jurisdiction?”
Garrett: “If I’m approved as a gaming commissioner, my loyalty is of course to the Cherokee Nation.”
CCW: “So it just depends on who you work for?”
Garrett: “Well….” (awkward pause….)”

Later on, Garrett reiterated his “If’ statement, making it clear that, like any good lawyer, he would be happy to take the Cherokee Nation’s side as long as the council approved him, hired him and paid him.

Garrett admitted to helping the UKB back in the day when he was a judge and at one point acted like he didn’t have a choice but to give the UKB what they wanted in court, even though it was obviously a federal issue and today, more than half a decade later, the federal court is still weighing its options on a case Garrett decided in the UKB's favor in a single day.

In the end, six council members thought the UKB Casino’s best friend (who says he would switch his loyalty “If” the council approved him) was not the right guy to oversee the Cherokee Nation’s casinos.  10 council members, and of course, Chief Baker, thought he would be a good choice.  Oh yeah, one more thing: in the confirmation process, Garrett admitted he gave Baker’s campaign $2,000. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Bakers Dozen

Just as 13 is a little more than 12,
Baker is trying to cram 10 board members into 9 seats.

Last week, the Tribal Council approved all of Baker’s nominees for everything, including five new board members for CNB in full council on Monday night, and then five more for four more seats in committee on Friday.  

We’ve already discussed the first five, and their varying range of qualifications.

You can read about the new group online as well, and once again their range of qualifications is broad, from a Harvard educated investment guru to a funeral home director.

But a key line in the news releases, are these little lines: “If confirmed, four of the nominees will fill seats that were previously vacant.  The fifth nominee will be on hold and not start his term until later on in 2012.”  The new person will remain ‘on hold until the new term starts.’

Sooooo…. That’s awkward.  Which of the five draws the short straw and has to sit out?  Obviously Baker knew he was nominating more people than the board could hold, but why?  Did he overpromise board appointments to folks?  What’s the rush?  Is someone on the CNB board on the way out and doesn’t know it yet?  

Regardless, Baker is trying to put 5 into 4 and we’ll see how that pans out.  And we have to ask the council members who voted for these guys (and they are all guys), who they want off the board, or who they want to put in limbo.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Baker Chooses Head

Not Pictured: Charles Head.
Bill John Baker has made his nominee for Secretary of State and it’s a guy named Charles Head.  Head, the current BIA boss in Muskogee, is taking the place of Melanie Knight, who resigned.

Knight, on her way out the door, sent an all employee email saying “The Nation has all of the tools for success and the opportunities with what we have built are endless.  The most valuable resource is each of you; as individual employees and teams your work determine our success as a Nation.”

Baker, nominating Head, said: “With his experience working with the federal government and tribes across this area, Charles Head is a natural fit to be secretary of state…. His talents have served the Cherokee Nation well in the past and they will once again be a tremendous asset.”

Baker points out that Head has a lot of good experience working with tribes in this area, but what might trouble some is his experience with one tribe in particular.  The last we heard from Mr. Head, he was busy telling the Cherokee Nation that the BIA was going to put the UKB’s casino land into trust unless the Cherokee Nation objected. 

We’re sure he was just doing his job. But the Secretary of State for the Cherokee Nation is supposed to stand up for the Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty, and it’s a little scary that the guy Baker is nominating to do that is the guy who was attacking our sovereignty last month.

Head’s nomination is on the Rules Committee agenda for Tuesday. 

Another interesting thing is that Baker’s nomination includes a time frame, a four-year term for Head to serve, from January 2012 to January 2016.  The constitution says each chief gets to appoint his/her own Secretary of State, and Baker’s current term expires August 14, 2015.  If Baker’s re-elected, Head should be golden, but if not, then by the constitution he’ll be out unless the new chief asks him to stay.  It’s silly to try to write a law that says otherwise, but that’s what is before the council.

There are several other important agenda items on the Rules committee agenda for Tuesday.  Be sure and check it out if you can.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Joe Byrd and the Terminator

We talked a lil’ bit about Joe Byrd filing to run for a tribal council seat.  The Tulsa World pointed out that Byrd’s years in office were marked by controversy and scandal and that he was acquitted of charges of wiretapping.

He beat the rap, because, according to the World, Byrd pinned the blame on his own handpicked Housing Authority Director, Joel Thompson, who at the time of Byrd’s trial in 1997 was “serving time in prison on a conviction of embezzling federal funds.”

So, there’s that.

Diane Watson, aka the Cherokee Terminator
Byrd also has taken a very public pro-freedmen stance.  In 2007, when people in Congress were trying to kill off the Cherokee Nation, take our funding away, shut down Hastings and the clinics, what did Byrd do?  He sat down with the folks who were trying to shut us down, and, as former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation he… agreed completely with the folks who were trying to kill the Cherokee Nation.  Yep.  He sat down with the Congressional Black Caucus, Diane Watson and a whole group of people who think Cherokees are racist, and… agreed with them again.  Completely: “In this time where I thought that type of treatment was gone, we’re resurfacing some racism here,” Byrd said.

Just to be clear, Byrd spelled it out for the Tulsa World, too, saying “We can go home and leave the freedmen as they are, part of the Cherokee nation.”

Whether freedmen should be citizens or not is one thing.  Whether a former chief should side with the Congressmen who are trying to shut down the Cherokee Nation is another thing.  And whether Cherokees think that kind of behavior by a former chief is what they are looking for in a Tribal Council candidate is another thing as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

LL Cool J Edition

Ladies Love Cool Joe?
Don’t call it a comeback, he’s been here for years!  Joe Byrd is bringing his bad self out of political retirement and said he wants to be the guy who replaces Bill John Baker on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council.  

Byrd is one of five folks that are running.  He’ll be facing: Raymond Vann, who turned in a couple of all-star performances in Deputy Chief debates before finishing with 7 per cent of the vote; Pam Iron, who finished third in the June election; Brandon Girty who finished with 4% of the vote in June, and Geneva Reeves, who we don’t know a lot about (maybe you can help us).

The Tulsa World had a story with some of the highlights/lowlights of Byrd’s era as a Principal Chief back in the 1990s.They earned the understatement of the year award by summing up the Byrd years by saying they “consisted of arguments on many levels of tribal government.”

LL Cool J reminds us Joe Byrd has been here for years.

The election is set for January 14, with a runoff, if necessary, on February  18.  At that point, we would finally have a full tribal council but the winner shouldn’t get too comfortable.   
They’ll have about a year to decide if they want to run for re-election in 2013.    

Monday, December 5, 2011

Frankie Goes to Tahlequah

Cherokees just keep on voting, and they keep on electing folks from Adair County.  According to the Cherokee Nation’s web site, Stilwell’s Frankie Hargis (an internet enigma) won the runoff. 

We don’t know a whole lot about Frankie besides she’s female and likes to hug Joe Crittenden in victory celebrations.  

We’ve heard from reliable sources that she’s a good friend of Jodi F. Hawk and worked for the Cherokee Nation until she decided to run for council.  Tell us more about what you know, as the Cherokee Nation welcomes its newest council person. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

School House Rock Edition

In a lost edition of "School House Rock," 
n animated piece of paper explains Cherokee Blood Law
At the last council meeting, they went all School House Rock and showed us how a bill becomes a law.  Importantly, the council decided that, since APCSJC went to federal court and made a deal that was against Cherokee Nation law, the council needed be a little more involved in these sorts of decisions from now on.

So they passed a law that puts the council in the middle of any decision in which the Cherokee Nation lets another tribe put land into trust within our jurisdiction-- which, as we pointed out, is a big deal right now because the UKB is trying to put their illegal casino into trust status and the tribal council wasn’t informed.

As speaker of the council Meredith Frailey pointed out, “This is pretty serious stuff when another tribe comes within our jurisdiction and tries to put land in trust.”

Deputy Speaker Cara Cowan-Watts took it upon herself to send the BIA a letter herself, just to make sure they knew that we are “adamantly opposed to any other tribe putting land into trust within the legal and sovereign boundaries of the Cherokee Nation.”

While Baker hasn’t commented on how tough he will be on his buddy George Wickliffe who is trying to carve out a piece of Cherokee Nation for himself and the UKB, Baker's Choctaw aide Kayln Free told the Cherokee Phoenix, “Chief Baker will always protect and defend the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation and will aggressively defend the Nation’s boundaries and any encroachment within those boundaries.”

If so, the council’s vote might be unnecessary.  But it’s not guaranteed, and it’s not a bad idea to make sure that all branches of the Cherokee Nation government involved and someone can’t singlehandedly decide to give our land away.

As some council members pointed out in committee meetings, that kind of thing used to get people killed.  In this day and age, the least our elected officials should do is to follow the lead of Cowan-Watts  and send an angry letter.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Larry E. Hawk is From The Federal Government and He's Here to Help

Larry E. Hawk's motto.
The Cherokee Phoenix is writing a story that quite a few people have been slow to pick up on:  Larry E. Hawk from the BIA (Bossing Indians Around) is not a friend of the Cherokee Nation. 

Will Chavez writes a good story and it seems pretty clear:  The BIA wants to have its cake and eat it too.  Larry E. Hawk sent the Nation a letter a few weeks ago, saying the BIA doesn’t recognize our 1999 Constitution or our 2010 election laws.  Only he sent it to then acting principal chief S. Joe Crittenden (APCSJC), who was elected under the 2010 election laws.  If they didn’t recognize those laws, then why would they recognize APCSJC and send him a letter?  Turns out, they only want to not recognize the Cherokee Nation’s Constitution on days when they feel like it.  In this case, Mr. E. Hawk wanted to make sure non-Indians (freedmen) got to vote, so on that day, he decided the Cherokee Nation’s 1999 Constitution wasn’t in effect.

However, as Chavez pointed out, since the Constitution was implemented, the BIA has recognized us (almost) every single day of every single year.  They recognize our council members and our courts.  They give us buckets of money, which is pretty bad policy if, according to Mr. Larry E. Hawk, we are not operating under a valid Constitution.  So the Cherokee Nation is faced with two options:  Either the BIA is incompetent and has been giving the Cherokee a bunch of money when it shouldn’t, or the BIA is just trying to boss us around, even though they don’t have the right to tell us what our Constitution is or says, because, what the heck, it worked with APCSJC.

So what does Baker think? He tells the Cherokee Phoenix he’ll stand up for our sovereignty, as long as it doesn’t cost us federal funding.  “What I won’t do is risk $500 million dollars in federal funding for our 300-plus thousand Cherokee citizens.”  Which is right in line with what S. John Crittenbaker have done already, for only $30 million in HUD funds.

Baker says he’s ‘weighing the pros and cons of the BIA’s stance,’ though we’re not sure what the pros are, unless having someone telling the Cherokee Nation what to do is a pro because then we wouldn’t have to make any pesky decisions ourselves, we can just rely on the smart and trustworthy folks at the BIA to do it for us.  After all, having the federal government make decisions for us seems to have worked out really well so far. Weren't they the ones who arranged for us to relocate here in the first place?

In the meantime, Larry E. Hawk was at Baker’s inauguration and told us all this:  “I pledge to hold the Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty in high regard.”  We at the Cherokee Truth would hate to see what would happen to us if he started holding Cherokee Nation’s sovereignty in low regard. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Thanksgiving means a lot of things: turkey, football, parades, turkey, pie, tryptophan, family and turkey leftovers.

It’s also a time when some people say thanks, give thanks, or think generally nice thoughts about others and express them.

So, even knowing that some internet idiots will miss the point, we want to open the forum here for every to give thanks for or say thanks to a Cherokee who has helped them or helped the Cherokee Nation.  In short, let’s borrow a page from some wacky pseudo-ninjas and have a ‘wado-conference’ right here online.

Let’s be positive, nice and thankful this Thanksgiving.  


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Council Members Accuse Baker of Secrecy

The UKB is trying to put their casino land into trust, and at least one council member thinks new chief Bill John Baker knew about it and didn’t tell the council.  According to news reports, the BIA sent a letter to the Cherokee Nation saying the UKB wanted to put their casino in trust, and no one knew about it until Monday night.

That made Jodie Fishinghawk pretty mad, so mad she managed to insult both Smith and Baker in 15 seconds or less.  She said, according to the Tahlequah paper, “I expected this sort of secrecy from the Chad Smith administration…Bill John, I did not expect it from you.”

This came up during the debate about the bill that would make the Cherokee Nation fight against anyone, including Baker’s inauguration buddy, UKB Chief George Wickliffe. And that no one knew about it, even though the BIA supposedly sent Baker a letter about it on November 4, and we only have 30 days to say we don’t like it.  

The measure passed, and Baker now has to object to the UKB putting land into trust.  We wonder if that means the Baker/Wickliffe honeymoon is over. They are chiefs of different tribes, and sometimes what's good for one might be bad for another one. And no matter how Wickliffe slices it, the UKB isn't the Cherokee Nation, and Baker's job is to stick up for the Cherokee Nation, even if it makes Wickliffe and the UKB mad.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Accountability Watch, Part 2: When in Rome Edition

Thanks to the fine folks at the Native American Times, we can all read the text of Bill John Baker’s inauguration speech.  From reading it, we can see why some of the folks that went spoke highly of the event.  The speech was well written.  We’re sorry he didn’t take the opportunity to tell us what policy he was referring to that kept employees from talking to their council members, but instead told us that it existed and we should believe him.

He said he made five promises during the campaign that he planned on keeping, so we’ll take this as a challenge for all of us to keep him accountable.

#1: He’s selling Cherforce One and is currently taking bids.

#2: He’s going to have Cherokees build houses for other Cherokees by reactivating the Housing Authority to build hundreds of homes.

#3: He will ‘more fully audit the nation’s books to find more money to help our people,’ having Lacey Horn replace Callie Catcher.

#4: More money for contract health

#5:  A $200 elder stipend every six months for Cherokees ‘in need.’

We’re glad Baker is willing to be held accountable to these, and possibly other promises.  He, of course,  has to find money to pay for these new projects, and if Lacey Horn finds it all in her audits, she will definitely be earning her keep.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Baker’s First Council Meeting (kinda): A Matter of Trust

Tonight will be Bill John Baker’s first tribal council meeting as Principal Chief.  At the last council meeting, he voted on legislation as a member of the Tribal Council, then he ended up signing the legislation as Principal Chief.  Surely the first and hopefully the last time we have so few days between the election of a chief and the time he/she takes office.

Aside from his first state of the nation speech, addressing the council and the public, there are a couple of interesting agenda items.  One is a dividend increased proposed to specifically go towards health care, a measure Baker has been in favor of.  The other is a measure makes it illegal for the chief to allow any other tribe to use our trust land or put land into trust unless two-thirds of the council agree. 

George Wickliffe
Considering how often Baker is hugging George Wickliffe, bossman of the UKB, and how cozy Baker is with Larry E. Hawk, the assistant secretary of Bossing Indians Around (BIA), who is doing his level best to give the Cherokee Nation’s treaty rights to Wickliffe and company, who are already handing out bonuses to themselves for getting land into trust, even though they don’t actually have any, it’s probably a good thing the council is getting involved to make sure things don’t go too far.

Tonight’s tribal council meeting starts at 6 and is available online.

Watch it and tell us what you think. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

District 2 Pseudoresults

We're impatient.  We don't usually deal in rumors and speculation, but there haven't been any media reports yet on who won/lost or is in a runoff.  So we're just going to pass on what we've heard hopefully be able to confirm it pretty soon. 

What we've heard is that Joe Adair and Frankie Hargis are going to be in a runoff, which will be December 3.  

We don't have a whole lot more information than that at this point.  

There's good news and bad news on this: If you google Joe or Frankie, you'll find Cherokee Truth right there at the top of information about them.  That means people are paying attention to us.  The bad news is, there's not a lot out there on the interwebs for folks to learn about them. 

We've got a few weeks to learn more, and then one of them will be taking Joe Crittenden's place on the Tribal Council.

Frankie Hargis hugging S. Joe Crittenden-- Photo Courtesy Cherokee Phoenix

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Elections Continue: Vote Today in District 2

We let this sneak up on us, but there is an election today for Crittenden's vacated council seat in District 2, which is Adair, Delaware and Ottawa Counties.  

There are seven candidates for the seat:

If you live in that district, be sure to go vote.  Polling places can be found on the Cherokee Nation web site.  If none of the candidates get more than 50% of the vote tonight, there will be a runoff on December 3.

If you live in the tan part of this map, go vote today.

Friday, November 11, 2011

From Good to Great?

Baker has nominated a new treasurer.   In an all-employee email, since forwarded to Cherokee Truth, Baker said he wants Lacey Horn to replace Callie Catcher.  In the email, Baker tells us that she has a bachelors and masters degree from SMU and her previous experience includes a four-year stint as senior auditor with Chicago’s KPMG.  She is currently a CPA in Vian, her hometown. She graduated from Vian High School in 2000.  According to an online directory of businesses,
Lacey A Horn Cpa, Pllc in Vian, OK is a private company categorized under Accounting and Bookkeeping Services. Our records show it was established in and incorporated in Oklahoma. Current estimates show this company has an annual revenue of $35,000 and employs a staff of approximately 1.”
Callie Catcher has been the treasurer of the Cherokee Nation since 2004.  Prior to that, she was controller of Dover Resources, where she was responsible for all financial functions for the international manufacturing group.  Dover’s revenues last quarter were $2.2 billion dollars.  That’s just in one quarter.  That works out to almost $9 billion in revenue per year.  That’s basically NINE times bigger than the Cherokee Nation.

When Catcher was confirmed, Baker voted for her to become Treasurer.  Joe Crittenden said “I have every confidence in her as a professional.”  Crittenden’s Adair County council cohort Jackie Bob Martin said, “We’ve best Secretary/Treasurer of any Indian tribe.”

That means the Cherokee Nation has done really well since Catcher became Treasurer.

So to sum up, Baker wants to replace a Cherokee who wins awards for financial excellence and has overseen finances for a multi-billion dollar company... with quite possibly the best CPA in Vian. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

He Means Business!

Bill John Baker means business.  He told us so, and one of his first orders of business looks to be replacing the Cherokees who run our businesses.   

According to the Cherokee Phoenix, Baker is appointing five new board members, and giving the boot to four folks who are on the board of directors.

The people who Baker does NOT want to run our businesses are:  the former CEO of CITGO, the third largest independent oil refiner in America (David Tippeconic), the executive vice president for financial services for Bancfirst, a bank with $5 billion in assets (Jay Hannah), the top guy at one of the biggest, if not the biggest, commercial real estate company in Tulsa (Mitch Adwon of Adwon Properties) and a financial executive at one of Oklahoma’s only Fortune 500 companies, ONEOK (David Ballew).  All are Cherokee.  All have helped, in some degree, build businesses that now make $90 million a year.
The people Baker wants to replace them are: Tommye Sue Wright, Bob Berry and Michael Watkins, of Tahlequah, as well as Stilwell’s Rex Earl Starr and Brent Taylor from Pryor.  The Cherokee Phoenix sums up their experience:
“A real estate agent with Century 21, Wright manages more than 50 sales agents and support staffers and is responsible for more than $60 million in real estate sales annually...
A graduate of Harvard Business School, Berry is the founder of American Nursery Products and Tri-B Nurseries. His family owns two nurseries and Tahlequah’s Cherry Springs Golf Course... 
Starr is a private practice attorney whose clients include five school districts in Adair and Sequoyah counties...

A graduate of Northeastern State University, Taylor is an entrepreneur who has brokered lease agreements with Jackson Hewitt, Pizza Hut, Covington Finance and Pryor Creek Music Festivals...

Watkins retired earlier this year after eight years as chief financial officer and controller of Park Hill Plants. He is a former vice president of Cherokee Nation Enterprises, now Cherokee Nation Entertainment.”  
All of these people have had good careers.  The Phoenix doesn’t mention it, but we’ll give Baker the benefit of the doubt that they are all Cherokee until we're told otherwise.  And maybe it’s just us, but when you are replacing a guy who has run one of the biggest companies in the world with a guy who’s resume includes lines like ‘brokered lease agreements with Pryor Creek Music Fesitivals,’ or one of the top guys at a $5 billion bank with a guy who does a little legal work for “five schools in Adair and Sequoyah counties” that seems like a downgrade. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Say No to Rumors

We’ve had to delete a few comments in the last couple of days.  People are posting rumors about what certain people in Baker’s team supposedly make.  For a guy who campaigned on transparency, that shouldn’t be a problem, but at Cherokee Truth, we don’t deal in rumors.  If Baker is bringing in a bunch of people and paying them a ton of money, let’s prove it and let the Cherokee people know and they can decide.  If anyone has documented proof of any of this, let us know at  Heck, if someone wants to submit a fact-based guest blog on the subject, we’d probably run it.  Or if you send us documentation but want your identity hidden, of course we won’t reveal it.  But as is often the case, this might just be a stack of rumors 19 million miles tall.  If it is, and you want to spread those rumors, feel free to do it elsewhere.  Our lil’ blog is only for the truth, so if you want to bash Chief Baker, do it factually or do it elsewhere.  Tomorrow, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled Truth.  Until then, behave yourselves.