Tahlequah Daily Press

November 14, 2012

Tribal council approves lawsuit against BIA

By TEDDYE SNELL
Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council on Tuesday night gave its seal of approval to the tribe’s attorney general for pursuing a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Interior.

Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree filed a complaint Aug. 29 in the Northern District U.S. Court against members of the U.S. Department of Interior, claiming that allowing the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma to place land into trust within the CN’s 14-county jurisdiction “is unsupported by statutory or regulatory authority.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, Hembree pointed out the council must approve any lawsuit brought forth on behalf of the tribe.

“We have brought suit in Northern District Federal Court, and believe it’s imperative for the sovereignty of the Cherokee Nation that the suit go forward,” said Hembree.

Councilors Cara Cowan-Watts and Lee Keener asked to be added as sponsors of the legislation, which was unanimously approved.

“I wanted to be added as sponsor to show solidarity with the attorney general,” said Keener.

The council also approved legislation that will provide a $1,000-per-month subsidy to tribal smokeshop owner/operators. According to the legislation text, the act is separate from the 75 percent Smoke Shop Retailers Subsidy Act passed in September, and the Cherokee Nation Tax Commission will facilitate the subsidy. Funding will be drawn from the tribe’s general fund.

Councilor Dick Lay said if tobacco compacts with the state of Oklahoma hadn’t been weakened, the subsidy would not be necessary.

“I hope we never have to do this again,” said Lay. “I’m hoping we get another compact so we don’t have to do it again, because the state has seemingly waged war against [tribal tobacco sellers]. I don’t know who can bring all the tribes together, but we need to work on compacts to try to get the state to try to listen to our side of the story.”

In other business, the council approved an act that will exempt veterans from sales tax collected on Cherokee Nation land. The measure will be implemented within six months, and exempts all 100-percent disabled veterans, both Cherokee and non-Cherokee, as well as all veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens.

The current sales tax for businesses on tribal land is 6 percent.

“I think it’s very fitting we should consider this the day after Veterans Day,” said Speaker of Council Tina Glory-Jordan. “I’m proud we were able to implement an act that will honor our veterans.”