The annual Tribal Christmas dinner will be held Thursday, December 11, 2014 at the Wewoka Civic Center. The event, which is open to all tribal members, will begin at 4:00 p.m. and last until 7:00 p.m.
Chief Harjo delivers State of the Nation address
The following is Chief Harjo's 2014 State of the Nation address, delivered Saturday, September 20 during the Seminole Nation Days Festival.
"I want to thank all of you for being with us today on this beautiful day that The Creator has blessed us with. When we began the week, we thought that our Lord would bless us with much needed rain. He has chosen, instead, to give us a beautiful day with which to enjoy the festivities in the company of our friends and relatives.
We’ve had the opportunity today to welcome and honor the contributions of the families of the Seminole Nation in a particular era of service, and I want you to acknowledge those families again for coming forward and sharing with us and allowing us to continue to honor the legacy of Mr. Tony Palmer and Mr. Edmond Harjo. Please join with me again in thanking those individuals.
To the people of the Seminole Nation and our honored guests who chose to be with us here today, welcome to the 46th Annual Seminole Nation Days. Over the years, Seminole Nation Days has grown into a multi-day festival where we honor the legacy of our past, renew old acquaintances, and make new friends. So thank you again for coming out to enjoy this beautiful day.
The state of the Nation for the Seminole Nation in 2014: 2014 was a difficult year for us financially. We began fiscal year 2014 with high hopes for another year of steady growth. In fact, the General Council had appropriated over $26 million for governmental operations. Fifty-two per cent of those dollars came, for the first time in many years, from tribal sources. Forty-eight percent of the amount came from federal sources. One of our goals here at the Nation for many, many years has been to reach the point where we are not as dependent on federal dollars as we once were. We are beginning to reach that stage.
In March, the executive office and the General Council were notified that gaming revenues distributed to the Nation would be at least $2 million less than projected. This meant that only 85 per cent of $13.4 million in tribal funds originally appropriated to FY 2014 would be available. Federally funded services and programs were not affected by this reduction in revenue.
At the Seminole Nation, we are not at a place where we can spend more than we earn. These budgets are based on anticipated revenue, and when those revenues fail to meet our expectations, we have to reduce our expenditures accordingly.
Today, I am pleased to announce that thanks to the patience of the General Council, and they have been patient with us, the dedication and hard work of the finance committee, treasurer, fiscal department staff and department directors whose budgets were affected by the reduction in revenue, actual expenditures in 2014 will be in line with actual revenues in 2014 when we close the fiscal year in a couple of weeks. I appreciate the hard work and dedicated efforts of those individuals mentioned. Further, we have accomplished this feat while fully-funding our tribal-match requirements for programs such as Head Start, Early Head Start and Food Distribution. We also did not have to reduce our federal funds commitment to vital programs such as Emergency Tribal Assistance and Older Americans. Most of our members felt little or no impact from the loss of revenue.
In spite of the reduction of funds and the changes that were brought within the function of government, we still have significant accomplishments to report to you on this day.
As we have said for many years, land is critical to the exercise of tribal government, and, therefore, one of the pillars on which our future will be built. Last year, on this stage, I urged the Nation to commit to reacquiring 10,000 acres of our former land here in the Seminole Nation by 2020. I am pleased to announce that we recently completed the acquisition process for a 918-acre tract of land approximately two miles south of where we stand. We are in the process of closing on another 384-acres adjacent to the southeastern portion of that 918-acre tract. When these purchases are completed, we will have increased our previous tribal land base of 550-acres by more than 300 per cent, and we will be well on the way of accomplishing the goal of acquiring 10,000 acres by 2020. I thank the General Council for their support and leadership in accomplishing this task.
The Tribal Wellness Center that you see being built just to our west is scheduled to be completed by the end of October. The facility will provide space for our Diabetes and Community Health Representatives programs and will give each program the opportunity to expand their services.
Final touches are being put on the Seminole Nation Veterans Cemetery and Memorial. This facility should also be completed toward the end of October.
In May, the General Council approved a master plan process for the cemetery area. Under this plan, we will turn our attention next to the completion of the first stage of the tribal cemetery. Future phases will include a Veterans Service Center. Completing future phases will, of course, depend on resources available, but they are already within the minds and thinking of the Council in response to some of the needs that have been expressed by our people for many, many years.
Our language program continues to establish the foundation for reestablishing Mvskoke-Seminole language fluency within the Seminole Nation. In 2014, the Seminole Nation became one of the first tribes in the state of Oklahoma to establish a process for certifying individuals to teach Mvskoke-Seminole language in the state’s public school system. This is important because receiving instruction from the state and highly-certified Mvskoke-Seminole language teachers allows the student to attain his or her world language credit, a credit that is critical to obtaining high school requirements. Over the 2014-2015 school year, Konawa Public Schools and Seminole Public Schools will be the first districts in the Seminole Nation to offer Mvskoke language through a certified teacher and provide this unique language learning opportunity, for credit, to their students. Other schools in the Seminole Nation are expected to follow as soon as tribally-certified language teachers become available and district resources allow.
To meet the vast needs of our people, the Seminole Nation must mobilize significant tribal resources. Assistant Chief Johnson and I believe that this goal is best accomplished by facilitating partnerships that enable our members to address some of our needs through their own community service. Two efforts are noteworthy in 2014: three years ago, a tribal member introduced me to an organization called Reaching Our World’s Kids. Based in South Carolina, ROW Kids creates opportunities for youth to learn how they can positively impact the lives of others through community service. In the spring of 2014, ROW Kids brought their second work group of junior high and high school students to the Seminole Nation. The students spent their spring vacation completing small projects designed to improve the church grounds and buildings traditional native churches within the Seminole Nation. Over the Spring of 2013 and 2014, these projects have included: removal of old camp houses and giving church buildings a much needed coat of paint, and other improvements. Another project that some of you may be participating in today is called SEMINOLEDGE. Earlier this year, a tribal member currently living in California approached my office offering his service to create a Seminole language app. Over the summer, company representatives and the Seminole Language Program worked on the concept. One of their efforts is a game called SEMINOLEDGE. Players earn points for answering correctly questions related to Seminole history and language. Although SEMINOLEDGE is only in the proof of concept stage, for me, the app represents a concrete example of the possibilities technology offers for improving our ability to communicate with our people wherever they may be, and more importantly in this day in time, whenever they wish. I want to personally acknowledge and thank Mr. Kevin Narcomey and his family for providing the Seminole Nation with this unique opportunity.
As we look to the future, there are a number of things that we have been working on at various levels within the Seminole Nation that will emerge as we move forward. We were recently notified that we have been preliminarily awarded a five-year grant from the Administration of Native Americans to develop a tribal vineyard and to train tribal members to create their own vineyard. This particular project was chosen because private vineyards can be created on relatively small parts of the land, and as you most of you know, within the restricted lands of our people, the largest tract is probably 40-acres. The project will work with tribal members to create 1 to 2.5-acres of vineyard. Hopefully they will sell some of their product to the Seminole Nation Winery that is under development, but they will also have the opportunity to sell their product on the open market to others. This is, we hope, one of the first of many opportunities for tribal members to use their own resources and, perhaps, their own labor to create an income opportunity for themselves.
Another important initiative that is being organized and led by the Assistant Chief is Food Sovereignty. As all of you know, and we have spoken many times in the past, it is important to the Nation that we have the ability to feed ourselves. For many years we have not had that ability. The Assistant Chief and members of his work group, including the Health Board and Food Distribution Program, have started working on community gardens, and Assistant Chief organized a program this year to help individual members develop their own garden. He hopes to expand this project and be ready for the spring to encourage more of our people to produce some of the food that they eat. He is also looking at a hydroponic project that is of the scale in which an individual could run it as well. He has been very active in this particular area over this past year.
One of the things that you may have noticed is that leadership is critical to the development of our Nation. Leadership does not always come from behind this podium. The examples I have given you today are all examples of leadership that was shown by a member of the Seminole Nation who came forward and said “I have a need” or “I have a problem.”
Much of what we have celebrated today with the Veterans came from the fact that one day in my first year of office, Ms. Palmer came in and said, “Can you help me get Tony’s medal – his code talker medal?” From that one conversation we were able to get not only his medal, but the medal for Mr. Harjo and his family as well. Assistant Chief Johnson was instrumental in bringing this project to a successful conclusion. He actually started on the code talker medal – the Seminole portion – when he was an employee. Without his presence at many of the meetings you sometimes have to go to in Washington, we probably would have had a very different design than the one that you see on these medals. The medal design is one that is largely of our choosing and reflects the broad service of our people. I think you will be proud of what Assistant Chief Johnson, with the US Mint, was able to achieve.
The language app, a tribal member came forward and said, “I see a need to help connect my children to the Seminole Nation. This is what we do, how can we help you?” By sitting down with the Language Program, an app was created. Where it goes from here is still to be determined, but the leadership of those people coming forward and saying “I have a need” has made it a lot easier for us to respond and create opportunities and solutions for your needs.
The winery project, again, we see a need. We have vacant land – land lying dormant that used to be plowed. It may be small and there aren’t many things that you can do with it, but hydroponic and small-scale agriculture is the only way that we are going to be able to take full advantage of that in today’s environment. But in many parts of the world, small-scale activities provide significant amounts of income, and the workgroup and task force is looking at those types of activities. The Assistant Chief has found a small-scale project that he believes will work very well in the small land environment we have here. More importantly, it will be low maintenance, and still grow a significant amount of food product.
We are looking forward to the opportunity to continue to work with the Seminole People in finding solutions to our needs. For the first time in many years, we will likely have a sufficient amount of land to consider some of the projects that you all have mentioned. Some of you have said, “Grow some buffalo, and provide that meat to the people, because it is high quality.” We actually have enough room to do that at a reasonable scale. Some have said, “Grow cattle and provide grass-fed beef to our people.” Again, for the first time in a long time, we have the opportunity to actually consider that project. We will definitely be looking at some of those opportunities as we take control of these properties.
We will not stop looking forward for opportunities to help build the Seminole Nation in the future. But I would like to leave you today with a challenge. You can do this through your Council Members, you can do this through our office, and I know many of you have done this already, my challenge for you for 2015 is to look for your opportunity to lead on something that you feel personally very interested in.
When the Palmer family came forward, it took time and she was very patient, but we were able to bring her request to a successful conclusion. We have been able to do that in some other areas, and we will continue to pursue the opportunities for those that come forward.
Take a look at the opportunity to define a leadership position – in your community, in your church, in your business, or in your everyday life. The Seminole Nation is not me, and it is not the General Council. It is all of you. Together we make the Seminole Nation great. Tomorrow and beyond, we can make the Seminole Nation into one of the greatest tribal nations in the world – if not any nation in the world. And that will all come from our efforts.
The last effort that I would like to mention is a group of individuals that came to the Council and said, “We have a need, and we want to see it fulfilled.” In the early 90s and mid-90s, a group of Veterans came to the General Council and said, “We would like to form a Color Guard to honor our Veterans upon their passing, and we need weapons and we need uniforms.” From a very small contribution from the General Council of the Seminole Nation, our Color Guard has grown into one of the most respected color guards in the United States, if not in the world. They are called upon to serve at, literally, no compensation to them at many events around the nation. On Memorial Day of this year, I had the honor to accompany our Color Guard, at the invitation of the United States, to lay a wreath on behalf of all Native Veterans in the United States at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I was very, very proud and honored to be asked to accompany our Color Guard on that day. We had the opportunity to hear President Obama’s remarks that day and were able, with the assistance of the guard at the tomb, to lay a wreath in honor of the service of all Native Americans in the armed forces of the United States.
As we close today with my session of the program, please, in your prayers remember all those folks who served in harm’s way, have served in harm’s way or are still serving in harm’s way today. As you all know, the greatest percentage of people in the armed forces of the United States today are (1) Oklahomans and (2) Native Americans.
Dowell named Lighthorse Chief of Police
Kent Dowell was hired as Chief of the Lighthorse Police Department in September.
He has worked for the Potatwatomie County Sheriff’s Department, Citizen Potawatomi Tribe, Multi-tribal Drug Task force for the Kickapoo Tribe, Field Supervisor District 23 Drug Task Force, DEA Meth Drug Task Force, Oklahoma City Police Department, State Agent for the Department of AG and the Texas Southwest Cattle Raisers as a Ranger. He has worked for the Seminole Nation Lighthorse since 2009.
“I’m looking forward to succeeding in making the Lighthorse better, and the potential is limitless in what I think we are going to accomplish,” said Dowell.
Dowell’s future goal for the Lighthorse is to start a training academy that other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies will attend and receive great training. He also hopes to start self-defense classes for tribal members, and firearm safety classes.
Leslie Tanyan recently joined the Seminole Nation as the new chief gaming regulator.
Tanyan worked for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma as secretary for the business committee. Prior to that, she was the Iowa Tribe Gaming Executive Director, Absentee Shawnee Executive for the Gaming Commission, and also worked at the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority as an accountant.
Tanyan received her associates in accounting from Rose State College, B.A. in Accounting from the University of Oklahoma and an MBA from Oklahoma Christian University.
Tanyan is a member of the Iowa Tribe. She is the granddaughter of Martha Fox Welch and daughter of James Switch. Her husband is Tracy Tanyan. She has two children.