February 3, 2010

Letter to the Editor: ‘Pay attention to the whispers lest ye shall attend to the shouts,’

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 4:51 pm

‚ÄòPay attention to the whispers lest ye shall attend to the shouts,‚Äô is a tiny message with a powerful meaning.          

How long has Kamakahonu whispered its nature and identity yet humans continue NOT to hear?  This is the ‚ÄòEye-of-the-Turtle‚Äô, Heart of all Hawaii (a home of God).  This hallowed ground was held in sacredness by ancestors of our distant past.           

When H.T. Hayashi corporation purchased the tract of land that is the King Kamehameha‚Äôs Kona Beach Hotel, they inherited a business commitment formed by American Factors with the state to PROTECT the VAST sacred, historic meaning of Kamakahonu.  

The PEOPLE never left the commitment of love declared by Ahu‚Äôena‚Äôs restorer, and Kahu David Kahelemauna Roy, Jr..  More than 500 rallied to pray at the Hoowehewehe vigil for the well-being of Kamakahonu, Hawaii and the world in 2007.  The temple was re-dedicated at that time in a manner acceptable to the Ancestors.  Kulana Huli Honua faced an unkind eviction from their office in service paving the way for what happened next.

Breaking the spiritual protocol of this temple, agents of Ahu‚Äôena Heiau, Inc. (AHI) began to tread the sacred paehumu ‚Äì where they do not belong.  This area is reserved for the spiritually chosen; the Kahu or those of dedicated service in worship at the Hale O Lono O Kamehameha ‚ÄòAkahi. According to the U.S. constitution, separation of church and state is clear ‚Äì a business cannot be a spiritual practitioner.     

In December of 2009, the Hale Mana was disassembled in days with absolutely NO RESPECT ‚Äì no seeking of counsel of the Kahu, permission from the ‚ÄòAumakua and the gods of Hawaii and NO protection from the landholder or the state.  What was torn apart took years of meticulous planning and work followed by hours of devoted preparation by MANY people with spiritual ceremony occurring at each creative level. 

Reported to SHPD in 2008, AHI agents began by tampering with the Ki‚Äôi of the temple.  They broke the Lana Nuu Mamao, (Oracle) then removed two Lele (altars).  These actions would have prompted their arrest had this happened at the Sistine Chapel of the Vatican.  NO enforcement to protect the national historic landmark.  NO arrests here – for the state of Hawaii regards sacred sites as artifacts ‚Äì not living places of spiritual power that they are.    

Ahu‚Äôena Heiau was newly restored in the year 1978 when the Congress of America passed the freedom of religions Act.  We see at Kamakahonu that freedom to practice and protect the faith of our motherland is denied to Kanaka Maoli in Hawaii. 

Kamakahonu includes the former Thurston Estate (now occupied by Paul Allen) extends throughout the whole pier area, Kailua Bay and Kaiakeakua Beach (now covered by a sea wall).  The government covered in cement the heart of Kamakahonu ‚Äì the pahoehoe islets where images of ‚Äúturtles‚Äù appeared.  Teachers of the Kailua School brought students to SEE the turtle stone(s) when the pier yet sat upon stilts.  They were sharing the area‚Äôs great significance.  There are ‚Äúturtles‚Äù in the stones in Ra‚Äôiatea and they occur again in Fiji.  In building the pier, there was controversy.  Ranchers of mauka and other businessmen were for it – Kailua families were NOT.  Although the law called for protection, there was NO advocacy for the vestiges of sacred lands and heritage except by the families themselves. 

2010 marks the dawn of a new and unprecedented year.  It‚Äôs the bicentennial of the birth of the Nation of Hawaii formed by Kamehameha the Great.  Ahu‚Äôena Heiau was recognized as his State Temple and Kamakahonu, the first capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii.  What truth and future faces us here!   

There‚Äôs no shame in standing battered in significant challenges.  Here, Kamehameha dwelled, the leader who championed an ultimate battle ‚Äì a unified Hawaii, in service to ‚Äòthe-supreme-One-without-branches‚Äô.  Here, we now dwell, kanaka maoli and all the people in obedience and love for our Ancestors and our Highest Authority. 

‚ÄúE ‚Äòoni wale no kuu pono, ‚Äòa‚Äôole e pau‚Äù ‚Äì go on in the righteousness I have followed, it is not finished,‚Äù Kamehameha‚Äôs words are guidance enough for me.  I call for a meeting of the human beings representing businesses here, H.T. Hayashi, IWF-KKH, representatives of Paul Allen‚Äôs estate, the state and county with all concerned parties to seek PEACE in the SPIRIT of Kamakahonu.  Care to assist?  Kamakahonu@gmail.com.

The state desires to build a parking facility on the pier.  We need new, better plans for this Mecca of incredible importance to Hawaii and the world. 


Mikahala Roy




Mikahala Roy


P O Box ###

Kailua-Kona, HI  #####-####

(808) ###-####

February 4, 2010

Rapper comes to speak about ‘building bridges’

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 4:59 pm

February 3, 2010

Describing Litefoot as a rapper is a bit like calling Oprah Winfrey just a talk-show host.

Indeed, the Cherokee-born actor and musician, familiar to many students as “Little Bear” from the film “The Indian in the Cupboard,” has released 12 albums over the past two decades in his award-winning “tribalistic-funk” style. What his discography doesn’t reveal, however, is the dozens of directions his career has taken ‚Äî everything from motivational speaking tours across American reservations to creating his own clothing company.

Litefoot will be at Virginia Tech’s Haymarket Theater at 8 p.m. on Feb. 5 to deliver a speech titled, “Building Bridges Between Native Americans and African Americans.” The event is free of charge and will be followed by an autograph session.

The Collegiate Times spoke to Litefoot over the phone from his home in Seattle about Friday’s presentation and modern challenges facing Native American communities.

COLLEGIATE TIMES: Why do you think it’s important to build these bridges and what are you going to talk about in your speech?

LITEFOOT: It’s going to focus on the fact that together we can accomplish much more than remaining separate communities, that there’s much that we need to learn to understand each other, and that much of our plight mirrors the circumstances that we experience every single day and in some instances the history of our people. I think that there’s a lot that can come from uniting and looking at a lot of the same issues that we uniquely have in our own communities and understanding that they’re shared.

CT: Do you feel that both communities feel connection in a history of struggles in achieving success in America?

LITEFOOT: Between African American communities and Native American communities, I think maybe uniquely there are some struggles we both share. My community, the Cherokee nation of Oklahoma, did much in the way of trying to unite the African American folks into our own communities. … We didn’t really subscribe to the fact that because you’re of a different skin color we have no need for you, which is something I think a lot of folks coming from there experience (on) a daily basis.

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Sam Bradford Might Have Problems Playing for the Redskins…Being a Native American

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:01 pm

Sam Bradford did a radio interview with Kevin Sheehan’s Sports Fix on ESPN 980 radio today.

On the shoulder:

Sam Bradford: Shoulder feels great. I throw several days a week. Dr. Andrews said I’m ahead of schedule. He said no doubt I’ll be 100% by my pro-day.”

OK great…now for the juicy stuff:

Kevin Sheehan: You are of Native American descent, correct?

Sam Bradford: Correct.

Kevin Sheehan: So, out of curiosity, do you have any sort of feelings about the Redskins name?

Sam Bradford: “You know,obviously in Oklahoma there’s a large Native American population. There are a lot of opinions on that name….but…I really don’t feel like, you know, I need to be, you know, voicing my opinion. You know. If it’s something I have to do down the line, you know, then I will, but I just don’t feel like I need to address that issue right now.”    

Uh oh. That doesn’t sound good. Obviously the kid is being careful not to say the wrong thing for any question, but I can’t help but think he’d say “Nah…it doesn’t other me” if it actually didn’t. 

You can listen to the clip here.


CSU students drop plan for Indian costumes at Wyoming game following protests

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:05 pm

February 3, 2010

Tiffani Kelly, a CSU junior and president of the university's American Indian Science and Engineering Society, speaks at the Lory Student Center plaza. 

A student-created effort to get CSU students to dress up as American Indians for the weekend’s Wyoming-CSU basketball game has sparked a campus protest and a nasty discussion on Facebook.

Organizers of the event have already decided to change the dress to “Orange Out” to honor CSU’s history as the Aggies. But the damage appears to have been done. 

 In a letter to the campus community, CSU administrators said they can understand why some students think dressing up might be fun. However, they said, such events perpetuate “cartoonish cultural stereotypes.”

CSU administrators noted that students have a First Amendment right to free expression, so they took no official action to stop the planned event. But they did reach out to the organizers in an effort to persuade them to change their focus.

Native American students and supporters organized a protest and open mic at the Lory Student Center plaza this morning.

“We’re just trying to raise awareness. That’s all you can do in cases like this. You aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion,” said.Tiffani Kelly, a CSU junior and president of the university’s American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

Blanche Hughes, CSU’s vice president for student affairs, told students she was glad they were discussing the issue.

“This is why we’re here, to have the conversations we are having,” Hughes said. “That’s how we all learn. That’s how we grow. That’s how we’ll change the world.”

As the speakers addressed the crowd, a group of fraternity students trying to recruit new members complained loudly about the “negative chi” or energy, and joked they should begin “blasting rap music.”

The rally drew about 50 people, including CSU-Fort Collins campus Chief of Staff Mark Gill.


A Modern, Native Family

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:11 pm
Robin Flint Ballenger stands as the third-generation chair of Flintco

Very few expectations came about for women. Housewives, teachers, nurses and journalists comprised some of the roles that women of the time could fit. No little girl really dreamed of working in a male-dominated industry such as construction.

Well, it’s true that Robin Flint Ballenger didn’t dream of being a chairwoman of one of the top construction companies in the nation, but that’s where she sits today.

“It is wonderful to be able to be a part of something that can change the skyline of the city, to be able to watch and be a part of a project that starts at nothing and takes shape and becomes filled with people whose lives are enriched by the buildings we’ve built,” Ballenger said. “It’s a thrill.”

As it turns out, Ballenger sits as the third generation chairperson of Flintco, and the first woman to hold the position.

Her grandfather, Charles W. Flint, helped found the company in 1908, originally named Tulsa Rig, Reel and Manufacturing Company. He led the company for more than 40 years with a great deal of company expansion plus a name change.

In the 1950s, Ballenger’s father, C.W. Flint, Jr., took over following his father’s death. Under his leadership, the company blossomed to the newly named Flintco, Inc. and constructed a number of familiar locations around town, such as the Bank of Oklahoma Tower, the First National Bank and Trust Tower and Woodland Hills Mall. Flint also took on the first Native American project for the company.

While the company continued to grow under her father’s leadership, Robin Flint Ballenger pursued her own interests. Maybe we should venture a little bit before then, though.

In Like Flint

Robin Flint was the oldest of four children born to Charles W. Flint Jr. and Joan Flint in St. Louis, Mo. Her mother moved to the Show-Me State briefly, while her father served in World War II. She met her father when she was eight months old, and the family headed to Tulsa.

Even as a child, Robin got quite acquainted with the company often going with her father to sites.

“I loved visiting those jobsites,” she said. “I loved listening to (my dad) talk, and I loved the ice cream afterwards.”

Although she went with him to the sites, her father’s ideas for the company’s future were geared toward other means.

“It was my brother that he was focusing on mostly, not me,” Ballenger said. At the age of 7, Robin’s brother Charles Flint III was cutting the ribbon at the unveiling of the then-Flint Steel Corporation plant’s opening. Robin didn’t mind her father not leaning on her to become a part of the company, though.

“It was clear that Flintco was what was putting the bacon on the table, but I never saw myself as having a role or lifetime involvement (in the company) as a young person,” she said.

After graduating from high school, Ballenger headed off to Vermont to attend Middlebury College, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy.

Ballenger then went to California where she would “sow her wild oats.” While there, she earned a master’s degree in urban studies and would later earn a second master’s degree in gerontology from the University of Southern California. She also had her daughter, Tobey, there, too. She loved her California lifestyle.

She was working for the University of Southern California in gerontology, when she was asked to come back to Tulsa through a series of family circumstances. She accepted and packed up her and her daughter to head back to Tulsa.

In the early 1980s, Ballenger returned to Tulsa to help her family, but she didn’t immediately transition into a takeover role.

She worked upstairs in Flintco to help with the family finances but did not have an active company role. On the other hand, she did have a very active role in the parent board of the company. Her ear was never far from the world going on around her.

In February 2001, a difficult time arose for the company when C.W. Flint Jr. passed away, and the company needed a new chairman to step forward.

Through a unified family decision, Robin Flint Ballenger became the new chairwoman. It now fell to her to continue her family’s legacy.

“I think I’m the oldest, and I knew I couldn’t let the generations of work that my father and my grandfather had put in be washed away. I decided that I would do my very best at this.”

Rocky Entrance

In 2001, Robin Flint Ballenger stepped into the shoes of a company that her grandfather and father created.

“I stand on the shoulders of my grandfather and my father, and this company is over 100 years old, she said. “They did the hard work of starting the company, of building it through the tough times, and I see my job as preserving that tradition.”

The transition from her father to her was not the simplest of situations, though. This is something that Ballenger freely admits.

“I was pretty unprepared, and I knew I was unprepared,” she said.

While she may have spent a good portion of her childhood around her father and the company’s sites, none of her degrees or educational background had prepared her to run a multimillion-dollar construction company.

That didn’t stop her from doing her best and learning as much as she could on the job. Plus, she had a few ideas and plans of how to go about doing it.

“I took classes at Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee (today’s Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology) and threw myself on the mercy of the guys on our job sites,” she said. “I took classes in general construction, blue prints, and concrete and concrete pouring.

“You still wouldn’t want me estimating dry wall prices, for example, but I have definite ideas about where the company should be going and the style of which we should be getting there.”

Ballenger expressed a great sense of gratitude for the men on the job sites who helped her, especially when they didn’t have to help a woman that was non-technically skilled.

Flintco’s CEO Tom Maxwell has known Robin for 26 years and worked alongside her father during his time as chair. He’s also worked alongside her since her entry as chairwoman. He remembers the transition being pretty smooth, with a great credit to Ballenger.

“Her dad was a person that allowed us to run the company,” Maxwell said. “He allowed us to go and do our jobs.

“This carried over with Robin, but even more on the people side of business.”

As smooth as the transition could have been, though, Ballenger did have a bit of hesitancy about entering into a mostly male industry.

“When I first came to the company, I think I tried to not be a woman; I tried to be a man,” Ballenger said in a gruff, male voice. “Of course it didn’t work very well.”

Instead, she adjusted and found ways to incorporate her experience and being a woman into the construction industry.

“I think there’s the feeling that construction is a man’s business with big machinery,” she said. “But to be a general contractor, to be a contractor, to be a project manager, the skills that are required are quintessentially female skills.

“Contractors need the ability to organize, have the ability to plan, schedule a job, shop for bargains in effect and to coalesce people into a working whole and probably most importantly to be able to inspire hope. Isn’t that traditionally women’s work? I think it is.”

This isn’t to say she hasn’t had her fair share of comments or thoughts in the past from people regarding her gender.

“The missy people,” as she describes them, would tell her, “There, there missy, don’t you worry about your pretty head about that.” With those words, she doesn’t pay much attention, but she does recognize that people would not jump on her bandwagon all at the same time.

“You have to earn respect,” she said. “It’s not just given to you. Because you sit at a fancy desk doesn’t mean that you deserve anything other than just general politeness.”

That attitude, combined with maintaining the tradition of fostering a particular company environment, rather culture, has allowed Flintco to still be successful.

“This is the only company that you can go into, and we hug each other when we see each other,” said Dana Birkes, vice president of business development and marketing for Flintco, Inc. “There’s just a genuine sense of family and enjoyment.”

CEO Maxwell concurs with that notion. “(The) culture of the company is critical to how we operate,” he said. “Family culture is what we work hard to preserve. (Robin’s) done nothing but enhance that.

“She’s really interested in people. “She’s always asking the question, ‘Are we taking care of (our) people?'”

That comes to be very true when Robin often thinks about making sure they afford their employees a livelihood.

“When I go to the company picnic, and I see all of the children, and I think ‘Oh, my gosh. Think of all of the college educations that you’re responsible for,” she said.

That’s not to say that her employees haven’t proven their worth in earning those college education’s for their children.

“We’ve had four ‘longevity’ parties for people who’ve worked here for 35-40 years,” Ballenger said. “To me, it’s wonderful that these people have given their lives to the company, and that we’ve been able to afford them a livelihood.”

As it turns out, Flintco has proven to do so well with their employees that it branches out to the family tree.

“We’re talking about people whose sons and grandsons now work here because they know that it’s just a great place to work,” said Birkes, a Flintco employee.

Thinking of other people is a trait that translates a great deal from Ballenger’s professional life into her personal one.

Beyond the Boulders

As involved as Ballenger is in her family-owned company, she also works and participates actively in Tulsa.

Ballenger sits on a number of non-profit boards throughout the community. For example, she sits on the board of trustees for the Philbrook Museum as well as for the Tulsa City-County Library.

As a part of the library, she serves in a couple of roles, such as board member of the Tulsa Library Trust and member of the American Indian Resource Center’s American Indian Author Award Selection Committee.

“Like her mother Joan Flint, Robin has continued her family’s interest in and support of the Tulsa City-County Library,” said Larry Bartley, the library trust and development director. “In spite of her many responsibilities with Flintco, she is an active member of the Tulsa Library Trust Board, the foundation supporting the library system, and an enthusiastic supporter of American Indian programs provided by the library’s American Indian Resource Center.”

The close binds of her family to the Tulsa community have kept her busy in the public service sector, too.

The Flint Family Foundation, which Robin, her siblings and her mother are a great part of, has continually donated and funded local organizations around Tulsa.

The foundation itself might not have come under the best circumstances (it started on the deathbed of her grandmother), but it always provides the best intentions.

Since 1961, the foundation has focused on providing annual grants to groups and organizations in areas of social services, health and education that carry a 501(c)(3) status. This year, grants went out to 30 organizations and groups, including Child Abuse Network, Clarehouse and New Hope.

“It’s a thrill to be able to give out those grants every year,” Ballenger said.

Ballenger crosses lines to make a great stake in her Native American roots both personally and professionally, too.

Her Native American heritage was embedded into her early in her life.

“An important part of my identity is my Cherokee citizenship,” she said. “It was my grandmother, my father’s mother, that took me to stomp dances at White Oak, where we have our original Cherokee allotment. She taught me about the prairie grasses and the medicine plants up there. She gave me a very deep love for that tradition.”

Her love shows deeply throughout her office as it’s decorated with several Native American contemporary pieces that she’s collected while visiting various job sites throughout the country. She was also recently appointed to the Cherokee Nation Education Corporation.

While she shows her support personally, Flintco has proven to play a large role in the support of Native American tribes.

In establishing the company’s strategic plans for Native Americans, Maxwell said that Ballenger was a great instigator in its progress. Now, Flintco Inc. has seven people assigned to help develop and maintain relationships with Native American tribes on a daily basis.

Some of the relationships that the company has developed consist of the Cherokee Casino and Hotel in Catoosa (now, known as the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel) and the Institute of American Arts in New Mexico. Their commitment to Native Americans stems much further than growing relationships, though.

“(Flintco stays committed) by doing an excellent job on any Native project, by hiring Native Americans whenever we can and by supporting the projects (in the) communities by offering personal donations to their youth and elder programs,” Ballenger said.

Currently, Flintco employs approximately 10 percent of Native Americans, which isn’t good enough for Ballenger.

“Our strategic goal is to increase Native employment–to hire Native subcontractors and Natives in management,” she said. “Our percentage of Indian employees should correspond to the number of native work that we do, which is 30 percent.”

Although the employment numbers may not be up to par, a number of Flintco’s projects have allowed for the building of schools, health clinics, casinos, community centers, daycares and more for Native American tribes and pueblos.

Robin truly believes through the more than 65 tribes, pueblos and rancheros that Flintco serves, she’s just giving back to a heritage that has given her a lot.

“Our first Indian project (under my leadership) was for Redbirth Smith Health Clinic in Tulsa,” Ballenger said. “That was a wonderful project to complete because it was so clear to me the help it was going to give and the good it was going to do.”

As Long As There Is A Spark

Since Ballenger took over the company in 2001, the company has been ranked as one of the largest commercial contractors in the nation, earning more than $1.25 billion annually. It was also recently ranked No.1 on the top 100 Native American companies by Diversity Business.

With a continually expanding company and hopeful future, Ballenger doesn’t look to retire anytime soon.

“I’m probably not going to retire because I had my retirement early,” Ballenger said. “That early time after I moved to Tulsa, when (my daughter) Tobey was in 3rd grade until the time I had came here, I was not (at Flintco). I had a lot of time to do other things. I regard that as my retirement. I just had it in a different phasing than other people.”

That doesn’t mean that she hasn’t given retirement a thought.

“I don’t have a retirement date, and I’m confident that a family member will pick up where I leave off and that person will have his or her own vision and ideas. And I’m confident that Flintco will be as open to that person as they have been to me.”

Also, while she might be putting a heel mark into the company where her grandfather and father started and maintained for so long, their thoughts and memory are never too far from her thoughts, either.

“I hear my father’s voice once every couple of months down (in the company offices),” Ballenger said. “Just in my head. The last one (in mid-September) honestly was, he used to say, when you fall off a horse, you got to get right back on the horse that threw you.”

She explained that this was her father’s way of telling her when the times get tough, the tough get going. So far, neither the times nor the horse have caused her to fall to pieces.


A long journey home

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:16 pm

The Cherokee Advocate printing press has returned to the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court building.

February 03, 2010 

Staffers from Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism unloaded and began disassembling the press from the Cherokee Advocate Tuesday.

The Cherokee Nation reclaimed yet another piece of its history Tuesday, when the printing press from the Cherokee Advocate newspaper returned to Tahlequah after a 100-year absence.

The press will be the centerpiece of the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum, which has recently undergone extensive restoration and is scheduled to open in late March.

Travis Owens, senior project manager for Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism, said the return of the press holds special significance for the Cherokee people. “The press has made quite a long journey over the past 100 years, when the tribe was dissolved due to the Curtis Act,” said Owens. “It signifies the suppression of government during that time and now that we have it back, it shows the strength of the Cherokee Nation.”

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chad Smith agrees the return of the press is symbolic of the strength of the tribe.

“The Cherokee People have two great passions, governance and education,” said Smith “This printing press is a magnificent symbol of both. We couldn’t ask for a more stirring image – our free press. We have used it to inform our people and educate our people.”

According to historical information provided by the tribe, the 3,100-pound press was the last of four presses used to print the Cherokee Advocate, the first newspaper in Indian Territory, and, at the time, the only tribally owned and published paper in the United States.

The first edition was printed on Sept. 26, 1844, under the editorship of William Potter Ross. Editors were chosen every two years. The newspaper was provided free of charge to tribal members, and other subscribers paid an annual fee.

Much like the Cherokee Phoenix before it, the Cherokee Advocate was printed weekly in both English and Cherokee. The goal of the newspaper was to spread useful knowledge to all Cherokees and their friends abroad. It contained laws, agent reports, council news, foreign news, anecdotal matter, inspirational stories and general articles.

The paper thrived until Sept. 28, 1853, when it ceased printing due to a lack of funding. When the Civil War reached the Cherokee Nation, the printing press was moved to nearby Fort Gibson for protection. The Cherokee Advocate did not start printing again until 1870. At that time, stories turned more to internal matters as issues of court jurisdiction, intrusion, and land allotment began to loom on the horizon.

The newspaper met with adversity again in December 1874, when the printing office and materials were partially destroyed in a fire. By March, 1876, the Cherokee Advocate boasted a new printing press, and was once again spreading the news of the nation to its citizens. Many of the articles and editorials focused on fighting the proposed assimilation of the tribe by the federal government.

The last issue was published on March 3, 1906. At this time, the federal government was dismantling the Cherokee Nation, and its citizens were being forced to enroll for land allotments. The printing office, press, and other equipment were sold to the publisher of the New Era newspaper in Fort Gibson for $151. The Cherokee syllabary typeset was sent to the Smithsonian Institute for preservation.

Cherokee Nation District 1 Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker was thrilled about the return of the press to its original home.

“I think it’s neat as it can be,” said Baker. “We brought a piece of history back that separated us from other native people: a written language, our value of education, an open government and method for keeping people informed. Bringing it back to it’s rightful home is a blessing.”

Baker said he’d visited New Echota, home to the Eastern Band of Cherokees.

I’ve been back to New Echota, where they had the press before removal, where they printed out the last edition,” said Baker. “And for school children, elders and everyone, it’s a very emotional time to know that Cherokee hands were printing Cherokee news for Cherokees in that time, and I’ll think we’ll have the same reception now that our press has been returned.”

The history of the press is murky from 1911 to the 1940s, when Thomas Gilcrease purchased it for his collection.

The press has been on display at the Cherokee Heritage Center, the Gilcrease Museum and possibly the Five Civilized Tribes Museum at various points since the `40s, and is now on long-term loan to the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum from Gilcrease.

Over the next two days, the press will be disassembled piece-by-piece, and re-assembled in its new – or rather old – home in the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum.

The museum will feature pieces in three historic areas, including the Cherokee national judicial system, the Cherokee Advocate and Phoenix newspapers, and the Cherokee language, with a variety of historical items.


Contractor’s direct route to Wine Train project

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:18 pm
The corporate shareholders live in tribal villages in the outback of western Alaska. But the main action today is in Napa, where, without competitive bidding, this unusual construction company won a $54 million federal contract to build a new railroad bridge and other structures for the famed Napa Valley Wine Train tourist attraction.

This is the world of Suulutaaq Inc. of Anchorage. Because the company was founded by Alaska Natives, it enjoys special access to federal contracts.

That’s how it obtained one of the biggest federal stimulus contracts in California – a key segment of a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ flood-control project on the Napa River.

Corps and Napa city officials say they’re pleased with Suulutaaq’s work on what they describe as an environmentally friendly project to curtail devastating winter flooding. It’s an ideal stimulus project, says Napa Mayor Jill Techel – “shovel-ready, green, and it provides jobs.”

But in December, Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., issued a report listing the Wine Train among 100 stimulus projects that they derided as “silly and shortsighted” and a waste of money.

$4.5 million per job

The lawmakers also suggested the Wine Train project wasn’t doing much for the economy. According to a report submitted by Suulutaaq late last year, the $54 million project had created 12 new jobs. That works out to $4.5 million for every job created.

Officials involved with the project say that more recently there have been days when more than 40 workers have been on the scene, and they hope the project could ultimately create as many as 200 jobs when work ramps up.

A Walnut Creek construction executive whose firm built a previous phase of the flood-control project said the government probably overspent by millions when it negotiated a contract with Suulutaaq rather than seeking competitive bids.

Meanwhile, investors aggrieved over the bankruptcy of the South Carolina dot-com Sailnet said they were surprised to learn of former CEO Samuel Boyle’s new job as CEO of Suulutaaq. Boyle did not mention having construction experience or ties to Alaska tribes, they told California Watch. Some said Boyle’s involvement in Suulutaaq boded ill for the Alaska firm.

“My comment to anybody connected to this thing – if Sam Boyle is involved, watch out,” said Arizona venture capitalist Kent Mueller, who said he lost more than $1 million in Sailnet.

Company officials mum

Suulutaaq officials declined to be interviewed. In response to written questions, the company issued a statement saying that taxpayers were getting a “fair and reasonable” price on the Wine Train project. The statement said that although Boyle lacked “specific construction experience,” he had “invaluable business experience” to make the Napa project a success.

But the company declined to answer most questions about the project, saying the information was confidential. It rebuffed a query about whether Suulutaaq employed lobbyists by asserting that the question “has potential undertones of a race-based presumption.”

Boyle also declined to be interviewed. In a statement, he wrote that the dot-com’s bankruptcy was “a tragedy” for which he was not responsible because he had left the company by the time it occurred.

Suulutaaq is one of dozens of Alaska Native corporations that have emerged as players in federal contracting via measures crafted in the 1980s and 1990s by former Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, a powerful lawmaker whose career ended with a contracting scandal.

For decades, the U.S. Small Business Administration has run a preferential contracting program to aid disadvantaged businesses. Qualifying firms can get federal contracts worth up to $5.5 million by negotiation, rather than competitive bidding.

Move to cap contracts

The Stevens measures gave corporations that were set up by Alaska Natives special access – with no cap on the size of contracts they can obtain. Alaska Native corporations’ share of federal contracts has grown rapidly. It was $508 million in 2000 and $5.2 billion in 2008, records show.

Advocates say the program has provided crucial economic development for impoverished Alaskan tribes. It’s a way of redressing centuries of grievous wrongs against them, they say.

But critics have complained that the no-bid contracts provide relatively few jobs and little investment income to the tribes while costing taxpayers a fortune.

“Alaska Native corporations don’t have to prove that they’re socially or economically disadvantaged,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said at a 2009 hearing. “They don’t have to be small businesses. And they can receive no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars.”

The companies employ few Alaska Natives and “rely heavily on non-native managers,” she said.

McCaskill also contended that some of the companies “may also be passing through work to their subcontractors.” In those cases, the companies were collecting a profit simply because they had special access to federal contracts, she said.

McCaskill proposed putting a cap on the no-bid contracts, but the measure stalled in the face of intense lobbying by tribal corporations.

Firm’s other deals

Suulutaaq is a subsidiary of the Kuskokwim Corp., also called TKC, which was formed in 1977 by Yupik Eskimos and Athabaskan Indians on the remote Kuskokwim River, 350 miles west of Anchorage.

Suulutaaq is a Yupik word for gold, and the company was initially formed to develop a nearby goldfield.

Soon, according to the company’s statement, it began competing for federal contracts. In April 2006, Suulutaaq negotiated its first federal contract: $68,000 to replace a sewage pump at McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento.

Four months later, it obtained a $14.1 million, no-bid contract to rebuild meat lockers in Honolulu for the U.S. Defense Commissary Agency, which runs supermarkets on military bases.

Before it won the Wine Train job in 2008, Suulutaaq had negotiated about $45 million in federal contracts, records show. Most of the projects were outside Alaska.

Two other TKC subsidiaries also have sought federal contracts. In 2007 and 2008, API Inc. won no-bid contracts for Army uniforms that totaled $94.7 million. The uniforms were sewn at plants in Puerto Rico, records show.

In 2007, a subsidiary called TKC Aerospace, with an office on Daniel Island, S.C., began obtaining no-bid contracts from the Air Force. Its CEO was Boyle, the former CEO of Sailnet.

In his statement to California Watch, Boyle described himself as a former consultant for government agencies and said he lived in Alaska for four years in the early 1980s. In a handout for potential dot-com investors, Boyle said he was a marketing expert with a background in Air Force logistics. He told investors he began selling sailing gear on the Internet when he lived in Detroit in the 1990s and moved the business to South Carolina to be near the sea.

Under Boyle, Sailnet burned through more than $13 million in venture capital, company documents show, but it never made a profit. Boyle was terminated in 2004, according to a former director and published reports.

The company went bankrupt the next year. After leaving Sailnet, Boyle was hired as a consultant at TKC Aerospace and became CEO in 2005.

In all, TKC Aerospace has obtained $117 million in contracts. In 2009, the State Department paid the company $9 million to retrofit light-wing aircraft for use in the war in Afghanistan.

By then, Boyle also was working as the CEO of Suulutaaq.

Napa County tax

For decades, the Napa River has been prone to disastrous flooding. In the 1980s, the Corps of Engineers proposed forcing the river into a concrete channel to control floods, but the idea met local resistance.

In 1998, environmentalists proposed what they called a “living river” project to manage floods. Floodwater would be absorbed and diverted through a system of wetlands and a bypass channel. Napa County voters agreed to tax themselves $6 million per year for 20 years to help pay for the project.

The rest is being paid with federal funds. The total price has ballooned from $250 million to more than $400 million.

The price tag might have been significantly lower but for the Wine Train, a private rail line established by the late Vincent DeDomenico, the wealthy creator of Rice-A-Roni pasta. Sixteen times each week, according to the Wine Train’s Web site, the train transports tourists from Napa to St. Helena aboard restored dining cars. A champagne dinner on the Vista Dome car costs $129 per person. About 125,000 people ride the Wine Train each year.

Replacing the bridge

The Wine Train’s rail bridge in downtown Napa was too narrow for the wider river channel proposed, so it’s being replaced. A new flood wall also will be built to protect the train’s Napa station. Tracks are being relocated as well.

The added expense of accommodating the Wine Train was politically necessary, said Chris Malan, manager of the Living Rivers Council environmental group and a proponent of the tax measure. Without the support of the politically influential DeDomenico, the tax measure would never have passed, she said.

“He came out right from the beginning, saying, ‘If you do not take care of me, I will campaign against you,’ ” she recalled.

The Corps of Engineers solicited bids for the early phases of the project. In 2005, a Walnut Creek engineering firm, R&L Brosamer Inc., won a $25 million contract to build flood walls and a promenade in Napa. Brosamer’s work was honored by the American Public Works Association as Northern California Project of the Year.

Project a ‘done deal’

President Robert G. Brosamer planned to bid on the Wine Train job as well. But in 2008, he said he learned that no bids were being sought. The project “was a done deal with an ANC,” as he put it, using contractors’ jargon for an Alaska Native corporation.

“It was very frustrating,” he said. “Particularly because the job we did was a tough thing and the community loved us – and then we didn’t even get a shot.”

In September 2008, the Corps of Engineers awarded a $6.2 million contract to Suulutaaq to begin work on the Wine Train segment. The flood control project was already years behind schedule, said Bert Brown, the corps’ project manager.

A few months after Suulutaaq got its contract, the federal stimulus program was announced. The corps recommended the Wine Train project, hoping to further speed its completion. With the support of U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, $54 million in stimulus funds also went to Suulutaaq. That puts the company among the 10 largest recipients of stimulus contracts in California, records show.

‘Suulutaaq isn’t doing much’

Brosamer, the Walnut Creek contractor, said the public was paying a premium for the Wine Train project, saying, “It would have been a hell of a lot cheaper if they had put it out to bid.”

But the quality of the construction is first rate, Brosamer said, because Suulutaaq subcontracted much of the job to the giant Peter Kiewit Sons Inc. engineering firm, which also is a contractor on the Bay Bridge.

“The reality is, Suulutaaq isn’t doing much,” Brosamer said.

Federal records show that Suulutaaq is paying Kiewit $28.1 million – 53 percent of the total stimulus contract. Suulutaaq is keeping about $20.4 million, or 38 percent of the total. The rest, about $4.7 million, goes to other subcontractors, all from the lower 48 states.

Search state stimulus data

To search a database of stimulus contracts, grants and loans awarded in California, go to links.sfgate.com/ZJET.

California Watch is a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting with offices in the Bay Area and Sacramento. California Watch reporter Agustin Armendariz contributed to this report.



Tribes get a hearing on wind farm opposition

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:24 pm

With decision looming, Salazar meets face to face

And with the wind barely blowing yesterday, the conditions were hardly ideal for talking about plopping a 130-turbine wind farm about 5 miles off Cape Cod.

Yet there was US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the man deciding the fate of the controversial wind farm, sitting on the bridge of a Coast Guard vessel and peering out across the Sound with binoculars a few hours after meeting with Native Americans opposed to the Cape Wind project.

“Very meaningful,” said Salazar about his visit that included a private sunrise meeting with the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe on a Cape Cod beach, and a later discussion with the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe on Martha’s Vineyard.

Standing on the deck of the Ida Lewis during a boat tour of the proposed wind farm’s footprint, he said he came to Cape Cod and the Islands as a sign of respect to the Wampanoag tribes’ deep reverence for the water body.

“We hear them loud and clear,” he said.

Salazar announced no conclusions yesterday about the advisability of locating the wind farm in the scenic Sound, but his visit to the Wampanoag and the area underscores just how high-stakes the Cape Wind farm has become to the Obama administration, which is hoping to accelerate renewable energy efforts and show the world it is serious about fighting manmade climate change. If completed, the project’s developers say it will supply, on average, the equivalent of 75 percent of the energy needs of Cape Cod and the Islands.

For opponents and supporters of the wind farm, the day appeared as a kind of last stand after a nine-year permitting saga. About 60 demonstrators waved signs for and against the project as Salazar’s boat docked an hour late in Woods Hole.

Salazar’s visit appeared to somewhat ease the Wampanoag tribes’ longstanding complaint that the federal government never took them seriously when they said the wind farm would interfere with their spiritual sun greetings and be built on ancestral grounds that were dry land thousands of years ago.

That complaint gained prominence last month after the National Park Service ruled that the 560-square mile Nantucket Sound was eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a traditional cultural property.

“For the first time, we believe that our concerns are being heard, and we look forward to continuing the process of consultation until an acceptable outcome has been achieved,” said Cedric Cromwell, chairman of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe in a statement. “This process is long overdue, and we thank Secretary Salazar and President Obama for their commitment to the rights of Native Americans.”

But Aquinnah Chairwoman Cheryl Andrews-Maltais said she was deeply concerned that Salazar spent more time with a large press corps – dozens strong – that accompanied him on the Nantucket Sound tour than with the Wampanoag tribes.

“The Mashpee and Aquinnah were given 90 minutes each to give 13,000 years of history,” she said, noting that the boat tour with the media lasted 3.5 hours.

Speaking to the reporters, Salazar reiterated that a final decision on Cape Wind would be made by April.

He said he was not “holding my breath for a consensus” among Native Americans and the project’s developer.

Native Americans have repeatedly said the only compromise they would accept was for the wind farm to be moved outside Nantucket Sound.

The developers have said that is not possible without starting the permitting process again.

“The worst thing we can do for the country is for [this project] to be in a state of indecision,” said Salazar as the Ida Lewis stopped near a 190-foot meteorological test tower to gather wind speed and temperature data. “And this application has been in a state of indecision” for years.

Salazar’s visit comes after he summoned parties involved in the Native American and Cape Wind dispute to Washington, D.C., last month and gave them until March 1 to hammer out an agreement.

There, the Wampanoag invited him to visit them on their sacred land to better understand how precious Nantucket Sound is to them.


House panel targets casino plan

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:26 pm

An Arizona House committee has approved a bill that could help Glendale prevent an American Indian tribe from building a casino near the city.

The measure comes in response to the Tohono O’Odham Nation’s application to convert 100 acres of unincorporated land into a reservation, which would allow the tribe to build a casino. The tribe’s application is still pending.

House Bill 2297, sponsored by Glendale Republican Rep. Jerry Weiers, would allow Glendale to annex the land, which would prevent the tribe from converting it to a reservation in order to allow gambling.

Weiers says the tribe is imposing gambling on his district without input from the community. The tribe says a decades-old federal law allows it to add land to its reservation.

The House Government Committee passed the bill, and it now heads to the Rules Committee.


WWII code talker brings message to Rocky Top

Filed under: Uncategorized — @ 5:29 pm

A Navajo code talker who served with the Marines during World War II was in Knoxville Tuesday evening to share his message at the University of Tennessee.


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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – A Navajo code talker who served with the Marines during World War II was in Knoxville Tuesday evening to share his message at the University of Tennessee.

Between October 1942 and October 1945, Bill Toledo, 85 was near the front lines of several famous battles of the Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Bougainville in the British Solomon Islands and the battles for Guam and Iwo Jima.

He narrowly escaped sniper bullets and was once mistaken for a Japanese soldier by his fellow servicemen and taken into custody at gunpoint.

Code talkers were first used by the military during World War I. They were used to send coded messages and intelligence from unit to unit. Members of a handful of Native American tribes were used because their tribal languages were considered complicated, rare and difficult to learn. Toledo was one of around 200 Navajo used to encrypt and transmit messages, and one of six considered integral to the United State triumph at Iwo Jima.

“On the battle field we would go with a commander,” Toledo told Volunteer TV News after his presentation at UT, “and when they checked on the troops on front line, if they needed Russian, he would write it down in English and I would use the code to translate the message to another code talker.”

Once the code was in English, each word was translated into a code word. Those words were then translated into Navajo and transmitted from one code talker to another who would convert it back into the encrypted code and then into English.

Toledo’s goes around the nation talking about his experiences, which he feels are important so that new generations can understand the cost of freedom and the sacrifices which were made on their behalf.

He also wants to keep the Navajo language alive, which today is spoken by an estimated 150,000.

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