- Lani Hansen
UKB visits Washington D.C. to discuss land, services
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
WASHINGTON – Representatives for the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians traveled to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 7 to meet with White House and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials to discuss issues related to land and federal services.
The meeting was made possible after UKB Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson and UKB Housing Consultant Sean Nordwall coordinated their individual efforts.
“Assistant Chief Thompson had some issues he wanted to address with the president of the United States,” said Nordwall. “He made a point to write up a letter about the issues we face accessing federal programs and the illegitimate road blocks that are repeatedly placed in front of Keetoowahs from accessing those programs through the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Jamie wrote his letter, and I was able to reach out to my contacts in D.C.”
The letter would eventually fall into the hands of Special Assistant to President Trump and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at The White House, William F. Crozier.
What followed was a meeting between Crozier, Thompson, Nordwall and Flint District Representative Frankie Still in which the men discussed several topics.
On the agenda were discussions related to the tribe’s perceived denial of federal service programs for Keetoowahs under CNO, jurisdictional and land issues with other tribes and constitutional issues within CNO as it relates to the UKB’s status.
“Mr. Crozier wanted to make sure that we are meeting the right people in the Trump administration to get things moving and wants to be kept up to date on our progress,” said Nordwall.
Crozier also put the men in contact with Acting Director for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Darryl LaCounte and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Tara Sweeney to further share those concerns and others.
Sweeney was particularly interested in issues the men brought up surrounding how land in Oklahoma was conveyed under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936 and with the presentation of historical documents from the Bill Glory administration on the historical Cherokee Nation dissolution.
The men also discussed several potential Indian Child Welfare Act violations, including UKB Indian Child Welfare not being notified of cases involving children eligible for UKB membership and cases of automatic enrollment of Cherokee children born at W.W. Hastings Hospital into CNO without parental consent.
“Ms. Sweeney looked as though she was very shocked about what she was hearing and the abuse of UKB members by the CNO,” said Nordwall. “She indicated that she like to investigate what we brought to her and would like to see all the evidence available. She was very encouraging and told us that we have a commitment from their administration to work with us and help resolve these issues.”
Thompson personally thanked President Trump and those under his counsel for lending their ears during the trip.
“I would like to thank President Trump for having his special assistant reach out to me for a meeting, along with AS-IA Sweeney,” he said. “They both listened and are committed to work with us to remedy and address those concerns. At the follow up meeting I am hoping to be able to start some actionable items to begin peeling back, toe-by-toe, CNO’s foot off of our throat. I made that commitment at my inauguration. This meeting and those that will follow are an example of my commitment to my people and the office I have been blessed to hold.”
Nordwall said he is also looking forward to a follow-up meeting.
“We are anxious to see what remedies are available to finally bring some relief to our Keetoowah people trying to access federal programs they’ve been denied simply for being Keetoowah,” he said.