Tahlequah Daily Press

Letters to editor

January 31, 2014

UKB chief disappointed in CN

TAHLEQUAH — Editor, Daily Press

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker has been quoted as saying that the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma are “our brothers and sisters.”

UKB Chief George Wickliffe asks, “Is this the way you treat your brothers and sisters?”

While campaigning in 2011, Baker made a promise to work with the UKB for their support in his bid for office.

The UKB administration believed Baker on his promise to work with the UKB tribe. While the UKB tribal members are unable to vote in Cherokee Nation elections, our members have brothers and sisters who are citizens of CN. Because of their support for Bill John Baker, we feel the UKB had a lot of influence in Baker being elected and were very delighted he achieved the office.

Unfortunately with his win, Baker’s promise to discontinue CN’s efforts to prevent the UKB in acquiring land in trust for 2.03 acres where the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino was located was broken when CN filed for an injunction to stop the land from being placed in trust by the United States, who was willing and prepared to acquire the property in trust and would have done so were it not for CN’s actions.

This injunction filed in the Northern District court to halt the Bureau of Indian Affairs from signing the 2.03 acres into land in trust for the UKB, caused closure of Keetoowah Cherokee Casino by an agreement with the State of Oklahoma resulting in the loss of approximately 200 jobs for the UKB.

In order to keep the Keetoowah Cherokee Casino from closure, Baker offered the UKB two options publicly. The UKB administration was ready to negotiate. The majority of the UKB council voted in its council session to negotiate some terms with CN, however negotiations failed within a week because CN actually wanted the UKB to promise to give up all its jurisdiction and successor-in-interest, which we would not and will never do.

At every turn since becoming chief, the Baker administration has blocked efforts by the UKB to achieve fairness for the Keetoowah people and has acted to prevent us from achieving land into trust status.

However, we have successfully scored other victories in the process to gain trust status on our land.

One such victory has been the decision from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals to continue our housing program.

I, Chief George Wickliffe, speaking for our Keetoowah Cherokee people, who I believe have been hurt through cruel treatment will not in any way endorse Baker’s campaign again.

Following the recent IBIA decision, the BIA was once again ready, willing and able to carry out a decision by the AS-IA by acquiring the 76-acre Community Services parcel in trust, but this has once again been slowed by continued actions from CN to stop UKB from getting land put into trust.

We will continue with court action to accomplish resolving the issues of our 76 acre “Community Services Parcel” and the 2.03 acres where our casino is located.

Chief George Wickliffe

United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma

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