The 64th annual Cherokee National Holiday, a celebration of Cherokee heritage, cultural awareness and reuniting families begins today as thousands of Cherokees and visitors from across the States and abroad make a pilgrimage to the historic Cherokee Nation capital in Tahlequah to renew friendships and celebrate the Cherokee spirit.
This year, they also celebrate freedom by utilizing it to question what some assert is massive corruption by Chief Bill John Baker’s Administration, demanding investigations and passage of stronger laws.
The Cherokee National Holiday has been observed annually since 1953 to commemorate the signing of the 1839 Cherokee Constitution and the Act of Union reuniting Cherokees both East and West after the Trail of Tears. It has grown into one of the largest festivals in Oklahoma, attracting more than 100,000 visitors from across the world.
A booklet has been produced to “Inform and Question [Chief Baker] Administration’s Actions” and is being distributed widely during the event. The booklet by members of the Nation notes:
With this booklet, we want to offer Cherokees information they may not know and encourage them to ask questions about our Nation’s government.
Is there wasteful spending in our government, money used for projects that don’t benefit our People and Nation? Are our leaders going off-track, concerned about themselves and their friends rather than the Cherokee people? Is there corruption in our administration and council? Should we look into the ways our government has been operating?
We want to ask so much more. Are Cherokee employees fearful of speaking out, afraid they or their relatives might lose their jobs if they do? Has our Nation’s integrity been compromised by the repeal of the ethics laws? Is our newspaper, once set up as an independent agency, now too biased to factually report the news of the Cherokee Nation?
This inquiry can direct us to stay strong as a Nation and guide us to move forward in a way that helps all Cherokees. We hope you can ask questions and be part of making our Nation fair to all, dependable and worthy of our ancestors.
Baker bought the Woodmark building for $5.5 million and it is vacant. In 2013 Baker bought the vacant Woodmark building in Tahlequah for $5.5 million without a plan or use for it. It is still vacant. Tommye Wright’s company, one of Baker’s cronies, got the sales commission.
Baker gave $500,000 to Macy’s in Owasso to build a distribution center. The first question is why does a rich, high-end department store need Cherokee money to build their distribution center? Baker bragged about Macy’s creating jobs, but he failed to negotiate a guarantee for even one Cherokee job. Now, Macy’s is closing its stores.
Why did Baker give $500,000 to Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC? He cut the Cherokee Historical Society Budget. What is the reason for this give away of Cherokee funds?
Baker gave $6,000,000 to promote gambling in Arkansas. Councilmember David Walkingstick said Cherokee Nation Businesses gave a lobby group in Arkansas $6,000,000 to promote gaming in Arkansas. The Arkansas Democrat reported CNB gave $1million. The Cherokee Nation cannot conduct Indian gaming in Arkansas, so why give away Cherokee money?
Baker spent $20 million in Tahlequah to fill in a swamp for “high end” dining and retail next to his furniture store.
According to two articles, the resort will be called “Cherokee Springs Plaza” and will be a sort of all-in-one casino, shopping, golfing, hotel and dining complex. The project will be built in three phases, will take about four years, and is estimated to cost 170 million dollars. In the articles, Baker says that the resort will reverse the flow of dollars because people from Tulsa and Muskogee will come here to play golf, shop and dine, rather than the other way around. He said, “It’s just going to be a destination of a mixture of fine dining, shopping, a casino resort, golfing.”
CNB Executive Vice President Chuck Garrett, said he was looking forward to helping create Baker’s vision. He said, “As chief said, I think that for the first time the citizens of Tahlequah and Cherokee County are going to have the entertainment and amenities that they deserve.”
Actually, all Baker did was move Sonic Drive-In from across town and a car lot from across the street, as well as bring in other fast food chains such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Taco Bueno. Is that fine dining?
Why did Baker give the State of Oklahoma $1.5 million to take away our hunting and fishing rights? The Cherokee Nation already has treaty rights to hunt and fish in the Cherokee Nation and central Oklahoma without any permission of the State of Oklahoma.The Compact gives up these rights. That is 34 Million Dollars of Waste!
At the same time, Baker ran out of money for:
• Contract Health Referrals, were stopped in May 2016 with six months remaining in the financial year
• Stopped Social Services in July 2106 because the Nation ran out of money
Some examples of major budget cuts during Baker’s administration:
• Directed Studies Program (College Scholarships) – cut $311,000
• Cherokee Charter School (Immersion School) – cut $435,222
• Cherokee Nation Historical Society – cut $250,000
• Public School Outreach – cut $158,000
• Methamphetamine Reduction Initiative – cut $195,193
• Cherokee Children’s Choir (Elementary School Pre-Choir) – cut $224,766
• Youth Leadership Program – cut $551,990
• Cherokee Phoenix – cut $250,000
• Cherokee Heritage Center – cut $250,000
The booklet urges Cherokee Nationals to contact their Council Member with questions, but from all indications to date, the Council has acted in majority as stooges for Chief Baker – useful idiots to the destruction of financial responsibility with massive cronyism and official corruption.
Clearly there is trouble within the Cherokee Nation so why is Tulsa media not covering this massive set of serious allegations? Because the Nation advertises with them. One of the most respected television broadcast stations in the market has a news package that was prepared prior to Chief Baker’s last election, but they never ran the news. They want advertising from the casino and the nation and they don’t give a damn about the Cherokee People. (Yes, we know which station.)
If other stations have more courage, they are welcome to call the Tulsa Today office at 918.851.2429 for background or anyone may simply review our previously posted material never challenged by Chief Baker’s Administration. Links follow:
Cherokee corruption revealed, oversight disinvited June 22, 2015
Residency dispute brewing in Cherokee Election May 27, 2015
Cherokee Election: Reader Responses May 21, 2015
Cherokee Election: The golf course questions May 15, 2015
Cherokee Election activity raises more questions April 28, 2015
Cherokee Deputy Chief eligibility dispute advances April 2, 2015
The stories above caused attacks on this publication, this writer/publisher and my family. Of course, Tulsa Today is unlikely to receive casino or Cherokee Nation advertising, but as the great parliamentarian Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
As best we can for as long as we can, Tulsa Today will oppose evil fearlessly and regardless of consequences.
So help me God.
David Arnett, Publisher, Tulsa Today (est. 1996)