UKB Chief Responds to CNO’s Public Statement01/18/2008
Tahlequah, Okla. -- “To protect any interest which the United Keetoowah Band orits members may have in treaties made with the Cherokee Nation,” appears in the charterof the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma (UKB), approved bythe Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Assistant Secretary of the Interior.Subsequently, the Constitution was ratified by Keetoowah Cherokee voters in 1950.
The Keetoowah Cherokee Constitution, which all Department of Interior officials andemployees are mandated to follow, also gives the Keetoowah Cherokee the power to“negotiate with the Federal, State, or local governments and to advise or consult with therepresentatives of the Interior Department on all activities of the Department that mayaffect the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma.”
“Recently, a spokesman for the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma stated that the UnitedKeetoowah Band has ‘no right or ability to run a hospital’, adding that it does not have‘the governmental authority to dispense aspirin, much less do surgery.’ On behalf of allpeople of Cherokee ancestry, I deeply regret the disrespectful comments made by thelocal CNO spokesman. The spokesman's blatant disrespect for the tribal membership ofthe United Keetoowah Band of Indians is unfortunate, at best. I take great comfort in theknowledge that tribal sovereignty is revered by the membership of the CNO and theUnited Keetoowah Band, and that the comments of people, like the CNO spokesperson,(who is a non-Indian) who poke fun at it are instantly disregarded by those who hearthem,” said UKB Chief George Wickliffe.
“Our constitutional authority to negotiate with the federal government and enter intobinding contracts regarding matters routinely dealt with by Tribal governments arebeyond question among people of good faith. Indeed, during a recent tour of some of ourlands with the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs, the strength of our government-togovernmentwith the United States was manifestly clear. Indeed, it may have been theimpetus for the childish remarks that have caused me to have to make my statementtoday,” continued the chief.
“Of course, the leadership of the United Keetoowah Band is dedicated to ensuring healthcare services to those who need them in Oklahoma through the Indian Health CareService. We are as committed to protecting our tribal members' rights to health care aswe are to ensuring that no Indian person is denied services for not being a member of theCNO. If getting into the business of administering hospital health care services at theHastings Hospital is the only way to assure that, then we shall work toward that end,”said Wickliffe.
“The Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma is not in a legal or official position to judge our levelof capabilities. This will be performed by qualified government program and contractingofficials,” stated Don Ade, a retired Indian Health Service (IHS) administrator. Ade is anexclusive Cherokee speaking UKB tribal member currently working for the KeetoowahCherokees.
Through an Act of Congress known as the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act, the UKB wasfederally-recognized in 1950. The governmental organic documents also establish ajurisdictional area.
“The fact that our jurisdictional area is termed the ‘nine districts of the old CherokeeNation’ substantiates the fact that Cherokee Nation does not exist, and Cherokee Nationof Oklahoma is a new entity,” Wickliffe said. The nine districts include all or portions of14 counties in Northeastern Oklahoma; Cherokee, Adair, Sequoyah, Muskogee,McIntosh, Wagoner, Mayes, Delaware, Ottawa, Craig, Rogers, Nowata, Tulsa andWashington.
Cherokee Nation was terminated through a legal agreement with the United States calledthe “Cherokee Agreement,” which was ratified by voters in 1902. The agreement clearlystates that the tribal government would be terminated on March 4, 1906. The onlylegislation which has been offered to recognize tribes is the Oklahoma Indian WelfareAct, under which the Keetoowah Cherokees as well as other tribes in the state have done.Cherokee Nation has not applied for reorganization under this provision.
Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma developed at a much later date, after Congress passed anact allowing the Five Civilized Tribes to ‘popularly select’ their own Chiefs solely tomanage remaining assets for the Dawes enrollees. After 1906 and until the enactment,the Principal Chief was appointed by the President of the United States. Under the RossSwimmer administration, a new Constitution was drafted without a convention beingcalled, as prescribed in the existing Constitution. This document titled the new entity,“Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.”
“The tired rhetoric of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma which continually attacks theUnited Keetoowah Band is not our concern. What is our concern is that our tribalmembers and all Native Americans receive quality healthcare that is non-discriminatoryand non-political and we are committed to that goal. Our organic documents ensure theprivilege of securing benefits, rights, and powers provided by law which are administeredby the United States. This includes health programs,” Wickliffe clarified.