Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

Not a Cherokee

If Cher saying she's Cherokee and trying to prove it by wearing this outfit doesn’t rank pretty high on your list of things that give you nightmares, then you’ve got nerves of steel.  Happy Halloween and be safe everybody.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Price of Sovereignty

Mt. Rushmore, Black Hills of South Dakota
Depending on your point of view, Friday was either a really good day for the Cherokee Nation, or a really bad day for the Cherokee Nation.

They didn’t decide we were right, though.  They decided to dole out the money because we had caved in.  Specifically, they decided that as long as we ignore our own Supreme Court ruling, we can have housing money, no questions asked.

The bad news?  We now know the price of our sovereignty, and it’s about $40 million depending on which news story you believe.

Why?  Well, our Constitution says that you have to be Indian to be in our Indian tribe.  We voted for it to be that way, our Supreme Court said the Constitution was right, and that’s it.  If we are a sovereign Nation, we decide our own citizenship.  You don’t have to like the citizenship policy, but we voted on it.  If it is against a treaty, we should have a court tell us that it is (which is what the whole Cherokee Nation v. Nash case is about).  If it isn’t against a treaty, and we are ignoring our own law for cash, should we be happy about that?

Well, let’s put it in perspective.  The Sioux tribes in South Dakota say that they own the Black Hills.  And did you know that the federal government is willing to give it back to them--on certain terms.  As of last year, there was more than $1BILLION (with a B) in a settlement account.  

That account has been growing every year since the 80s, and the Sioux haven’t touched a penny.  Not one.  Why? Because they are fighting for their treaty rights.  And their tribal sovereignty is more important to them than a billion dollars.
It’s okay to want housing funding for our people.  It’s also okay to fight the federal government for it.  We can fight the feds and win.  We just did, in fact, on this very issue (Vann v. Kempthorne).  It is possible to set our own citizenship criteria AND have housing funding, but to do that we have to actually follow our own laws AND fight for our own Constitution.

Or we could just take the $40 million.  For us, it appears our sovereignty is worth $40 million or less.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Permission to Speak Freely

This has already gotten some attention elsewhere, but hey, we’re busy and it is important enough to make sure there’s some Cherokee Truth on this.

Earlier this week, Baker sent out a news release, all employee email and executive order talking about how he was making it safe for employees to talk to their council members.

Thanks to Baker, employees can now “speak openly about their job duties, responsibilities and concerns as both employees and citizens of the Nation with their duly elected Council Representative or any member of the Council.”
He says that executive order replaces all ‘directives that censored the Nation’s employees from speaking openly with any Tribal Council Representative.’

That’s great news, if it is true.  Baker took a proactive, positive step to encourage employees to talk to their council members.  But he also took a shot at Smith, especially in the news release, saying such conversations had been “prohibited in recent years.”

The news release said that “for at least the last six years, Cherokee Nation employees were forbidden to speak with any council member, including their own, about issues related to their employment with the Nation.”

If employees haven’t been able to talk to council members for at least the past six years, how is this the first we’ve heard about it?  If there really was a policy against it, then Baker should show the Cherokee people what policy he is repealing.  If there isn’t a policy (and it seems unlikely that there was), he shouldn’t put out a news release that says there was one.

Baker told us he wanted to move on from the election, but now that he’s in office, he still can’t resist taking a shot at Smith.  Even if it’s a warranted shot, it’s still unnecessary.  But Baker hasn’t presented any evidence that such a policy ever existed!

Baker promised additional executive orders.  We’re wondering if his next one is going to allow Cherokees to turn right on red, further freeing us from Smith’s oppression.  Or maybe Baker is going to let employees have Christmas Day off, unlike that ol’ Scrooge Smith.  Regardless, the Truth is still the Truth, and if Cherokee people deserve to know if their Chief is still in campaign mode and looking backwards or if he’s looking forward and ready to back up his words with facts.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Your Constitutional (and Toenail) Rights

There have been lots of reader comments about the Baker transition and who should be fired and who shouldn’t be.  The opinions range from (paraphrasing) “If you didn’t vote for Baker why would you want to work for him, anyone who voted for Smith should be fired or resign” to “Baker shouldn’t get rid of anyone, it’s illegal for him to fire people-- who does he think he is Donald Trump?”

So we thought we’d get to the bottom of the Cherokee Truth, as much as we can.  First, let’s start with the Cherokee Nation Constitution. 

No employee, who having served in a position at least one (1) year, shall be removed from the employment of the Cherokee Nation except for cause, and only after being afforded pre-termination due process. Provided, the right of such employee to seek redress in the Cherokee Nation courts shall not be abridged.

So that pretty much says Baker can’t fire whoever he wants, just because he doesn’t like them.  The people he has let go, from what we can tell, were all Smith supporters and he let them go immediately.  He also said they were under contract, which means maybe the rules above don’t apply.  Okay, so what about anyone else?  Going by the Constitution, if the Chief or someone’s boss wants to get rid of a Cherokee Nation employee because the employee is cross-eyed, or because the employee’s toenails are too long, or because the employee supported the wrong candidate, the chief or boss can do that as much as they want, as long as the employee has worked there 364 days or less.

Any employee who has worked there a whole year has something that former APCSJC (now DCSJC) would understand from his career going postal over in Stilwell:  civil service rights.  Those employees can grow their toenails as long as they want.  They can vote for whomever they want, and they can’t be legally fired or it.

This is very, very important.  The Cherokee Nation has thousands of Cherokee employees.  One of the freedoms of being a part of a great nation is having the right to express your political opinion without having to worry about getting fired if you do.  For instance, there are probably plenty of Democrats who voted against Mary Fallin who work for the state of Oklahoma.  And there are probably plenty of Republicans who voted against Obama who work for the federal government. 

Baker has a right to bring in people he trusts to lead his team.  He earned that right when he took his oath of office.  But his supporters need to slow down a little and realize that by bringing in his own people, he doesn’t HAVE to violate the constitutional rights of employees who DIDN’T support him.  Baker can find jobs for Cherokees who have served the Cherokee people for decades if he wants to truly start the process of healing the Cherokee Nation.  Political firings really don’t make him look good and they don’t heal the Cherokee Nation either.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wado & Donadagohvi

Photo courtesy: Tulsa World  (2011)
The fine folks at the Tulsa World did a nice thing today, something we should do here as well--- they looked back on the Chad Smith era at Cherokee Nation.   

We’re steaming into Baker’s term at full speed, but we think it probably is right and fair to do what the World did, which is to look back at the full 12 years and give credit where credit is due.

Photo Courtesy: Tulsa World (1999)
There is a certain respect that should be accorded former Chiefs.  There is a reason it is called public service, and its best illustrated in the comparison of the two photos of Smith at his inauguration and Smith today.  Smith certainly gave of himself.  

There is a time and a place for political disagreement, even anger if that’s your choice.  But as part of Baker’s idea of reconciliation, let’s try something here.  We challenge every reader to say something respectful and nice to or about our former Chief.  It’s a chance for Baker supporters to show they are good winners.  For Smith supporters, a chance to honor the candidate you rallied around.  We’ll have almost four more years (at least) to tout the accomplishments of Baker, so let’s let Smith have his day.   
If you want to say something rude or mean about our former Chief, feel free to scroll down to another blog post (or another page entirely) and do it there.  On this post, follow Mama's advice: if you can’t say anything nice don’t say anything at all.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

From "One Fire" to Several Fired

Thanks to a reader, we now know a little bit more about who is out and who is in with the new Baker administration.

Baker sent a memo to Cherokee Nation employees late Friday, letting people know who was in charge of health, human services, human resources, community services, communications, and something called management resources.  We’re not sure if these are people filling in for the six people Baker let go permanently, or some of the ones put on "administrative leave."
So here is how it looks to shape up:

Health: Melissa Gower is out, Gloria Grim is in.
Human Services: Norma Merriman is out, Marsha Lamb is in.
Human Resources: Michael Botello is out, Bill Foster is in.
Community Services:  Charlie Soap is out, David Southerland is in.
Communications:  Sammye Rusco is out, Randy Gibson is in.
Management resources:  Angie Drewes out, Pat Gwin is in.

Interesting note-- the person stepping in to take over health is someone Baker has accused of violating federal law! We wrote about that way back in June. Maybe when the U.S. Attorney cleared Dr. Grim immediately, Baker realized he was wrong.   

Anyway, most of the other folks are Cherokees whose jobs don’t really have much to do with political policy, but they are gone anyway, mostly replaced, from what we can tell, with internal temporary folks.

Baker says he’s got a lot more changes to make.  He told Channel 6: "I want to put together the best of the best, and that have the same vision of the Cherokee nation that I have and the people who voted for me have… Other people have to go or they shift to a different position and we're looking at that as well. We've asked people to put resumes together and we'll put people where they'll be best for the Cherokee Nation."

Remember, it wasn’t that long ago that Baker talking about how the Cherokee Nation was “good”  but needed to be “great.” So it looks like he’s getting rid of the people who were doing a good job (and some might argue that they were, in fact, doing  a great job) and either replacing them with subordinates or bringing in folks from the outside whose resumes are unknown.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Remembering John Ketcher

John Ketcher---Photo Courtesy Tulsa World
Today is a good day to pause and reflect.  The Cherokee Nation buried John Ketcher today, our former Deputy Chief.  After all the turmoil, it’s probably a good time to remember Chief Ketcher and what he stood for.  The Cherokee Phoenix had a story about Ketcher and quoted Cara Cowan Watts as saying: “John was a patriot of the Cherokee Nation and truly gave his heart and soul to the Tribe and our communities throughout his lifetime… I am honored to have worked with him on community issues and shared issues to advance the Tribe as a Nation. John Ketcher will be greatly missed.”

Baker also had nice things to say: “John Ketcher gave tirelessly to the Cherokee Nation and our people.  He is a role model for all those that followed him in this life.  His kindness and unselfishness will be dearly missed by all that knew him.”

If you don’t have a subscription, here’s a quote that gives you a sense of the man we lost:  “When I was growing up, certain people didn’t feel good about themselves; some of them wouldn’t even talk Cherokee in mixed groups, as if they were ashamed of being Indian,” Ketcher said, before saying that his goal was “Putting pride back into being Cherokee.”  Consider that a mission accomplished, Chief Ketcher.