Sharlene White Hollis, 66

Born August 25, 1953

Died August 8, 2020

James E. Fullbright Jr., 77

Born March 6, 1943

Died August 6, 2020

Jodi Lynnetta Jones-Sallis, 34

Born January 19, 1986

Died August 5, 2020

Mary Lavonne Peebles, 89

Born July 26, 1931

Died August 3, 2020

Benji Ray Hotema, 42

Born March 23, 1978

Died August 3, 2020


Our death notices and obits are always free to the families and funeral homes.


Thursday, August 13

Sequoyah vs. Muskogee | Live: Oklahoma High School Softball
Back to School Event M-Z
Bravado Wireless Real Okie Championship Pro Golf Tournament
Harley Hamm solo/ Return to inside the hall

Thursday, August 13, 2020, 7:13 AM

The Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has advised the Boynton Public Works Authority to inform users of its drinking water to use water that has been brought to a full, rolling boil for at least one minute, bottled water, or water from another acceptable source for consumption, use in food preparation, dishwashing and brushing teeth.

The order was issued due to E.coli in the drinking water. 

This boil order is not related to the Coronavirus Disease pandemic.

“It is important to continue to wash your hands during the Boil Order,” Said Erin Hatfield of the DEQ. “During the Coronavirus Disease pandemic, keeping hands clean is especially important to help prevent the virus from spreading. It is safe to wash your hands with soap and tap water. If soap and tap water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. If you have an open wound, you should use boiled or bottled water to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer.”

Users will be notified when the water is considered safe for human consumption. Federal law requires that consumers be notified when a public water supply exceeds certain maximum contaminant levels and might be harmful to the health of consumers.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020, 8:39 AM

State Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-OKC, is slated to begin an interim study on how COVID-19 has affected employment and wages in Oklahoma.

The South OKC representative hopes to focus the study on what went wrong for Oklahoma workers during this crisis, and where the state can make improvements going forward.

The goal of the study is to develop and implement policies to permanently address these issues. To do this, Bennett is hoping to get a good mix of subject matter experts and real-world experiences from Oklahomans.

“In order to fix this problem, we need to hear from people it has affected. We are scheduled to present this study to the Government Efficiency Committee on the morning of Sept. 17,” Bennett said. “Legislators are shown graphs and stats related to this crisis nearly every day, and I think it is important that we are reminded of the people those data represent. With your help and your voices, that is what I intend to do with this study.”

Oklahomans wanting to share their experience for this study are encouraged to call (405) 557-7404 or email

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020, 8:30 AM

Tom Alford

The memorial service for Muskogee judge Tom Alford has been postponed until after immediate danger from the coronavirus, according to his pastor, Fr. Bob Wickizer at Grace Episcopal Church in Muskogee.

“Father Bob performed last rites and has been with the family the past few days,” the church stated in a message to members. “Arrangements for a future memorial service will be announced as soon as current conditions allow.”

Wickizer praised Alford’s work in life.

“Tom’s sense of justice and compassion will be missed by all whose lives came in contact with his,” he said.

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Monday, August 10, 2020, 9:51 AM

Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Health Services have created a voucher program to help more Cherokee citizens purchase new eyeglasses regardless of their age, income or health diagnosis.

The Eyeglass Program is designed to help Cherokees who have been examined by a Cherokee Nation Health Services optometry provider to purchase new eyewear with a $200 voucher beginning August 17.

Though an eyeglass program has been in place for more than a decade, it previously had more restrictions. The eligibility requirements have been updated so that more Cherokees will have the opportunity to get the eyewear they need to see more clearly.

“Cherokees, no matter their age, income or where they live should have access to quality prescription eyewear. Eyeglasses can be expensive, and Cherokees shouldn’t have to choose between seeing clearly and purchasing food or other emergency needs for their families,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “By opening this program to all Cherokees, we hope it will help ease some of the financial burden during these difficult times as our citizens continue to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact.”

Cherokee Nation’s Eyeglass Program will provide an allowance of up to $200 toward a new pair of eyeglasses. Add-ons such as transitions, anti-glare and progressive lenses can be purchased by the participant if the cost exceeds the voucher amount.

Eligible participants must be Cherokee Nation citizens and must get their prescription and examination from an optometrist working in a Cherokee Nation Health Services facility.

“We are proud to announce this update to our eyeglass program, that provides Cherokees with greater access to care. This is, and has been, our mission from the beginning,” said Executive Director of Cherokee Nation Health Services Dr. R. Stephen Jones. “By removing obstacles, we are able to increase access and serve more communities. Better vision means better health and quality of life for this and future generations.”

The program is funded through revenue generated by Cherokee Nation Businesses. To receive an eyeglass voucher, make an appointment at any Cherokee Nation Health Services optometry department.

Since its inception, the Cherokee Nation’s Eyeglass Program has provided over 10,000 pairs of new eyeglasses to Cherokees each year.

For more information on the Eyeglass Program, visit

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Friday, August 7, 2020, 12:18 PM

A member of the Muskogee High School Color Guard has tested positive for COVID-19 according to Muskogee Schools’ spokesman Steve Braun.

“Once we were made aware, we notified the families of the other members of the color guard,” Braun said.

He has not yet responded to a question about whether the positive test of one of the school’s students will affect the district’s plan to open schools for in-person instruction at the end of this month despite warnings from doctors groups that schools should not reopen so early.

More information as it becomes available.

UPDATE 12:20 p.m.: Braun said the positive does not affect the district’s plan for reopening.

“As part of our return to school plan we do encourage testing but for students that were within six feet or less,” he said. “We will also have them quarantine as a precaution and not participate until their quarantine time is up or they have a negative COVID-19 test result.”

UPDATE 12:43 p.m.: Braun, after being asked whether the band was also informed, due to the close proximity in which they practice with the color guard, said “According to the band director, the color guard has not been in close proximity with the band, so the color guard was informed.”

After MuskogeeNOW responded that one band student who was not informed was the boyfriend of a color guard member, Braun replied “I just checked and I was incorrect. The band director is personally calling parents but started with those that are in the color guard and has been in the process of reaching out to every band parent to let them know.”

He has not yet responded to the question of whether band and color guard faculty members are also quarantining and whether those faculty members are also involved with other students or congregate with other faculty members.

UPDATE Aug. 8, 12:48 p.m.:

The mother of a color guard student says she has not been notified of the COVID case by the school, and yesterday, the schools even texted her daughter saying to come to practice on Monday.

The girl, who asked to not be identified for fear of reprisals, asked if she should self-quarantine following close proximity to the infected girl, and the coach said no, she was expected to be at practice.

Braun said “I’m letting the administration know that right now. They should have been notified by now.”

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Friday, August 7, 2020, 9:48 AM

Gage Hayden Ross

Gage Hayden Ross, 22, of Oktaha is charged in federal court with Assault with the Intent to Commit Murder after a May 24 incident in which Logan Hubler was shot.

The confrontation allegedly stemmed from a gun Hubler alleged Ross had stolen from him.

Hubler was shot in the back.

Police interviewed numerous witnesses who say they saw at least part of the confrontation.

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Friday, August 7, 2020, 9:07 AM

Production has finished on a new Cherokee language animated series pilot episode created through a partnership between the Cherokee Nation, the Oklahoma Film + Music Office, and FireThief Productions, an independent film company responsible for the Emmy-winning “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” TV program.

The new animated series is title is pronounced “Inage’i” translating to “In The Woods.” The story follows the adventures of four animal friends who live together in the forests of Turtle Island. Iga Daya’i the mischievous rabbit, Juksvsgi the gruff wolf, Anawegi the conscientious deer and Kvliwohi the wise bear are characters drawn from rich Cherokee storytelling tradition.

The Cherokee Nation funded the animated language series as part of its overall Durbin Feeling Language Preservation Act to preserve and revitalize the Cherokee language. The series also features voiceovers from Cherokee Nation speakers who are part of the Cherokee Nation Film Office’s Native American talent database. A free public screening of the pilot episode will be announced soon.

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Thursday, August 6, 2020, 9:07 AM

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing a public health alert for ready-to-eat meat and poultry products containing Food and Drug Administration regulated onions that have been recalled by Thomson International Inc. due to concerns that he products may be contaminated with Salmonella Newport. FSIS is issuing this public health alert out of the utmost of caution to ensure that consumers are aware that these products, which bear the USDA mark of inspection, should not be consumed. As more information becomes available, FSIS will update this public health alert.

The RTE meat and poultry items were produced by Taylor Farms on July 30 and 31, 2020. The following products are subject to the public health alert:

  • 7.25-oz. plastic sealed container labeled as “Sausage Breakfast Scramble Bowl” with lot code TFD212AU8 and TFD213AU8 and with a best if used by 08/06/2020 or 08/07/2020.
  • 6.2-oz. plastic sealed container labeled as “Taylor Farms Cheddar Cheese & Chicken Salad Snack Tray” with use by date 08/06/20 or 08/07/20 and lot code TFD212AU7 and TFD213AU7.
  • 41.35-oz. plastic bags containing “Chicken Salad” with use by date 08/04/20 or 08/05/20 and lot codes TFD212AU8 and TFD213AU8.
  • 10-oz. plastic sealed container labeled as “Chicken Salad Deli Snack” with lot codes TFD212AU3 and TFD213AU3 with best by dates 08/06/2020 or 08/07/2020.
  • 7.75-oz. plastic sealed container labeled as “H.E.B. Shake Rattle Bowl SOUTHWEST SALAD with CHICKEN” and a best if used by date of “Aug 10/2020 and lot code TFD213AU20.
  • 17.25-oz. plastic sealed container labeled as “Marketside SOUTHWEST STYLE SALAD WITH CHICKEN” with a best if used by date of 08/11/20 or 08/12/2020 and lot codes TFD212AU26 or TFD213AU26.

The products bear the establishment number ““P-34733” or “34733” inside the USDA mark of inspection or printed on the container. These products were shipped to retail locations in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas.

CDC, FDA and public health and regulatory officials in several states are investigating a multistate outbreak of Salmonella infections linked to onions produced by Thomson International, Inc. There have been no confirmed reports of illness due to consumption of the FSIS-regulated products produced containing these onions. Anyone concerned about an illness should contact a health care provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ refrigerators. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

Salmonella can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea (which may be bloody), nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis and arthritis.

Consumers with questions can contact Kim Earnshaw or Elizabeth Llanes with Thomson International, Inc., at (661) 845-1111.

Consumers with food safety questions can call the toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) or live chat via Ask USDA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday. Consumers can also browse food safety messages at Ask USDA or send a question via email to For consumers that need to report a problem with a meat, poultry, or egg product, the online Electronic Consumer Complaint Monitoring System can be accessed 24 hours a day at

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Wednesday, August 5, 2020, 9:46 AM

Jodi Sallis, 34, of Fort Gibson died early this morning in a single-car crash near Hulbert, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Sallis was driving a 2004 Mercury Grand Marquis northbound on S 410 Road around 2:30 this morning just south of Hulbert when she departed the roadway to the left, striking a tree and ejecting her.

She was transported by Muskogee County EMS to Saint Francis Hospital in Muskogee, where she was pronounced dead at 3:37 a.m. due to massive injuries.

The condition of Sallis at the time is under investigation and the cause of the collision was cited as unsafe speed. Sallis was not wearing a seatbelt, and her car’s airbags did not deploy.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 3:43 PM

Muskogee Police sent the following information.

We will be participating in a parade for Mr. Donald Hamilton who is a WWII vet, on Wednesday August 5th, 2020 at 6:45 pm. Mr. Hamilton will be celebrating his 100th birthday and his family has invited us to be part of the parade by his residence.

We will be meeting at the New Hope Baptist Church located at 1501 North 43rd Street East at 6:45. The parade will go from there to his residence located at 4000 Eufaula Ave


Tuesday, August 4, 2020, 8:05 AM

Johnathan Zamudio

WARNING: This story contains language most people find offensive, and a description of a stabbing death.

Johnathan Zamudio, 33, has been charged in federal court with second-degree murder after his court-appointed attorney, Roger Hilfiger, moved to have his state case dismissed due to Zamudio’s 1/32 quantum of Indian blood.

Zamudio was initially charged in state court with first-degree murder after the Aug. 20, 2019 death of Muskogee man Keith Boswell in the Family Dollar parking lot on East Side Boulevard.

According to an FBI probable cause affidavit filed with the new case, Boswell had been letting Zamudio stay at his house, but Zamudio, who has bipolar disorder, said he heard voices saying he was a cop and a snitch. Zamudio told police he hadn’t taken his medicine for a long time and had consumed 18 or 19 beers. As Boswell accompanied Zamudio to the Family Dollar, Boswell was verbally abusing him, he said, calling him a “bitch, punk and a nigger.” Inside the store, Zamudio said, Boswell leaned in to the clerk, said something to her and they both looked at Zamudio and laughed.

Outside the store, Zamudio told police he punched Boswell in the head, after which Boswell screamed, “you are fucking dead now, nigger, you and your family.” Zamudio said he replied “that’s the last time you threaten my family,” then pulled a steak knife out of his shorts pocket. He said Boswell said, “what the fuck are you going to do with that, bitch?” Zamudio said he then stabbed Boswell as many times as he could and walked away as a woman came out of the store. He told police he stopped, turned around and said to Boswell, who had just collapsed, “who looks like the fucking bitch now, laying on the ground?”

Boswell later died from his wounds. Police picked Zamudio up in the area, at which point he allegedly waived his Miranda rights and told them what had happened.

His state case has not yet been dismissed, but a hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

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Monday, August 3, 2020, 8:38 AM

WARNING: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual crimes against children.

Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal case against Jimcy McGirt, whose previous state conviction on sex charges was appealed to and overturned by the United States Supreme Court because the Oklahoma government had no jurisdiction to try McGirt, who is Native American, for the crime. The landmark decision recognized that tribes and the U.S. government have sole jurisdiction over Native Americans involved in crimes inside the borders of reservations.

The crime McGirt stands accused of occurred in 1996, over a weeklong period, where McGirt is accused of sexually abusing a four-year-old who was under the care of his then-wife. The girl told a relative that she had a secret that the relative had to promise not to tell. She told the relative that McGirt had put his finger “in her private”, referring to her vagina, and also that McGird told her to touch his “private”, referring to his penis, and that she did not like touching it because it was “yucky”, had hair and was “up”. She also told the relative that McGirt had put his tongue on her vagina.

The relative reported what she was told to the Wagoner County Sheriff’s Office. The girl told the deputy interviewing her that McGirt had “touched her down there” while motioning toward her vagina. The deputy asked how many times he had done it, and she replied “every day.”

The girl had in the intervening time told two other relatives about the alleged abuse.

McGirt had formerly been convicted of two separate counts of forcible sodomy in 1989 and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released in March of 1991. In that case, McGirt, who was working as a maintenance man, was convicted of making a five-year-old and eight-year-old boy pull their pants down and put their penises in his mouth.

In the 1996 case, McGirt was arrested and tried for first-degree rape by instrumentation, lewd molestation and forcible sodomy, after which he was found guilty on all three counts. The jury recommended he serve 500 years on each of the first two counts, and life in prison without the possibility of parole on the third count. The judge in the case agreed and sentenced McGirt to two 500-year sentences and one life without the possibility of parole.

On appeal, the Oklahoma Supreme Court noted that, while the sentences were “admittedly harsh,” it found no reason to overturn them.

Writing to his wife from prison, McGirt apologized for molesting the girl and said he had not been in his right mind, and that the devil had made him do it, according to an affidavit filed with the new federal case.

The US Supreme court overturned McGirt’s conviction based not on the merits of the case, but on whether the state had jurisdiction to try the case.

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Friday, July 31, 2020, 8:00 AM

Kyle Vannortwick

Kyle Joseph Vannortwick, 36, of Muskogee has been charged with first-degree murder in federal court after his attorney moved that state courts drop his murder charge there for lack of jurisdiction. Vannortwick and his alleged victim are both members of the Cherokee Nation.

According to documents filed with the state and federal cases, Vannortwick is accused of fatally stabbing his twin brother, Adam Vannortwick, in a Feb. 18 altercation at their home at 1001 Chestnut Street. Officers state they found Adam Vannortwick lying in the kitchen in a pool of blood, and that Kyle Vannortwick told them his brother fell and started bleeding.

Officers reported a large knife in the kitchen with blood and hair on it. They say Kyle Vannortwick stated he did not stab Adam Vannortwick, who, according to police, died from his injuries on March 4. The Oklahoma medical examiner determined the cause of his death to be homicide.

He has been held without bond at the Muskogee County Jail since his brother died, at which point the $100,000 bond he was being held on was removed to no bond.

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Thursday, July 30, 2020, 4:37 PM

Muskogee County Treasurer Robyn Boswell just sent the following notice:

A second employee of the Muskogee County Treasurer’s Office has tested positive for COVID-19. For the safety of the citizens of Muskogee County, as well as the other employees, the Muskogee County Treasurer’s Office will be closed until the Oklahoma Department of Health approves our office to be reopened.

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Thursday, July 30, 2020, 7:53 AM

Even as the coronavirus continues its deadly climb toward its peak, Muskogee Public Schools has announced it will reopen for in-person instruction on Aug. 31, a month from tomorrow.

Students, teachers and support staff will crowd back into schools for a later-than-usual start to the school years.

Parents who want to keep their children home during the pandemic can opt into the district’s e-learning program. If students are already enrolled in the district, parents can click here and complete the enrollment form there, said Steve Braun, spokesman for the schools.

The deadline to enroll students in the e-learning program is next Monday, Aug. 3.

In the coming weeks, an e-learning teacher will reach out to enrolled students.

You can click here to view the upcoming school calendar.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020, 7:33 AM

Oklahoma native Jonita Mullins has just released her fifth historical novel titled The Cross Timbers which is Book 2 in “The Neosho District” series. The book is available from her website, and can be found on Amazon. Mullins focuses her writing on the rich history of Oklahoma. This new book is based in fact and covers Creek and Cherokee history in the days leading up to their removals from Georgia to the river bottom lands of Indian Territory in the late 1820s.

“Most history textbooks focus on the tragic Trail of Tears journey made by the Cherokees in 1839,” Mullins says. “But the story is much larger and more complex than that. Many journeys were made over the course of several decades. The Cross Timbers shows some of the earliest events in this part of Oklahoma’s history.”

The Cross Timbers is a tale of greed, vengeance and the fight against the tide to push all Indians west to the land set aside for them among the ancient woods at the edge of the prairie in what would become Oklahoma. Mullins grew up in Haskell and currently lives in Muskogee.

Jonita has published fourteen books, both fiction and non-fiction.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 2:17 PM

The Muskogee Police Department just released the following:

In light of the continued concerns regarding COVID-19 Virus (Coronavirus), the Muskogee Police Department will be implementing the following changes to our normal operations. We are asking for the cooperation of the community as we navigate the present circumstances.

If you call the Muskogee Police Department for service, and a current member of your household has been traveling, quarantined, or is displaying signs of respiratory illness to include fever, cough, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing, PLEASE NOTIFY THE DISPATCHER so our officers can utilize the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) when responding to the call. At the minimum our officers will be wearing a surgical mask or cloth face covering while in contact with the public. When the officer determines it necessary they may choose to wear an N-95 mask.

If you call us for service, our officers will request to speak with you outside the residence to gather the proper information. Officers have been instructed to keep a minimum of 6 feet while interviewing everyone when possible. This is in accordance with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). We ask that the public utilize this universal precaution as well.

Please DO NOT come to the Muskogee Police Department if you are sick. If you need to make a report, it will be done over the phone.

If you do enter the Muskogee Police Department please wear a mask covering your mouth and nose.

These changes are essential for the protection of our officers, our residents, and to maintain an efficient, effective, and swift law enforcement response. Please rest assured that in an emergency situation, you will receive immediate response from the Muskogee Police Department.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 8:47 AM

The Cherokee Nation is establishing a new language department that will directly oversee the tribe’s Cherokee Immersion School, a team of translators and the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program. The new department will focus on language preservation and perpetuation, and generating more proficient second-language Cherokee speakers.

Howard Paden, a Sequoyah County native and the tribe’s current Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program manager, has been named as the executive director of the tribe’s new language department. Wyman Kirk has also been named administrator of the Cherokee Immersion School, and Jeromie Hammer has been named as principal.

All three are Cherokee Nation citizens and each have been learning the Cherokee language for at least two decades.

“Unfortunately, we’re losing upwards of a hundred fluent Cherokee speakers a year,” Paden said. “We recently lost seven alone in one month, three of them from COVID-19. We’re at a crossroads, so we must make language our priority and get our citizens behind this critical effort to continue saving our language. I believe the Cherokee Nation and Chief Hoskin are putting all of the pieces into place to help us teach new generations of Cherokee speakers how to use and pass along this beautiful tradition.” As administrator of the Cherokee Immersion School, Kirk will lead the Immersion School being responsible for the development, implementation, supervision and evaluation of educational and student services.

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Monday, July 27, 2020, 9:00 AM

Leroy Jemol Smith

Although Muskogee County District Attorney Orvil Loge spent years and tons of effort coordinating with law enforcement agencies to track him down, he won’t be trying the case of Leroy Jemol Smith, who is accused of raping at least five women in Muskogee in the 1990s.

Smith is a member of the Choctaw tribe, so his case was moved on Friday to federal court because Natives cannot be tried in state courts inside Native jurisdiction.

In the affidavit for probable cause, the FBI noted that DNA taken from the victims and matched to Smith had a “1 in 221 quintillion” chance of being someone else’s DNA besides Smith’s. Since the entire population of the world is 7.7 billion, it’s considered statistically impossible for the DNA to not be Smith’s. Smith also lived less than a mile from the victim.

The DNA found on each of the victims matches Smith, according to the affidavit.

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Monday, July 27, 2020, 7:42 AM

The Oklahoma chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians have issued a joint statement saying that while the group supports the goal of safely getting students back to school, they cannot support the opening of in-person schooling in Oklahoma in August.

“While some counties may have extremely low rates of spread, others have growing numbers of positive cases or consistently high positive test rates, indicating that comment spread is uncontrolled and testing is not yet sufficiently reaching all infected people,” the groups stated. “Additionally, safety policies and resources are not standardized across the state, leading to inequitable protection for children, teachers and families.”

The allocation of resources is especially hard on minority and poor children, the statement continues.

To ensure a safe school setting in Oklahoma, OKAAP and OAFP recommend the state prioritize the following strategies, which should be implemented in partnership with educators, administrators, parents, and students.

  • Local, Data-Driven Decisions. OKAAP and OAFP believe there should be clear guidance from the state on specific, county-level data indicators that show it is safer to open specific school districts. The White House Opening Up America Again plan suggests reopening schools (Phase 2) when a region has a downward case trajectory OR downward trajectory for the percentage of positive tests (provided there’s sufficient testing) for 14 days. In a similar, but more conservative approach than the color-coded map suggested by the Oklahoma State Board of Education on 7/23/20, we recommend that counties be in the yellow or green zone (0-10 new cases per 100,000 population) before resuming in-person instruction. OKAAP and OAFP support using, at minimum, these criteria to plan for safe re- opening at the county level. Public health data should not be used only to shut down schools because of an outbreak.
  • K-12 Mandatory Masks. OKAAP and OAFP recommend a requirement in schools for mandatory K-12 student and teacher masks. Universal use of masks is the state’s best tool to prevent spread.
  • Social Distancing. OKAAP and OAFP believe districts need clearer guidance on how to achieve social distancing and smaller, consistent cohorts of students. This will likely require fewer students to be in school buildings at any given time. Districts should be granted approvals to allow them to expand into space in community centers or to use creative scheduling to allow for social distancing when they open.
  • State Purchasing Power. The AAP is advocating for federal funds to support safe public school re-opening. As they have thankfully done for the medical community, the state should utilize its purchasing power to obtain and distribute needed PPE, hand hygiene and cleaning supplies, and sanitation materials, including full medical PPE for all public school nurses, building first responders, and teachers/para-professionals in self-contained/special needs classrooms.
  • Clear Communication. The OKAAP and OAFP believe a strong alliance should be established between the health care community, the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the Oklahoma State Department of Health to ensure clear guidance is given to school districts across the state.

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Friday, July 24, 2020, 1:41 PM

Brian Bias

Brian Bias, who killed motorcyclist Brian McElmurry in 2016 on the Fort Gibson Dam while driving drunk, was arrested again for DUI in December with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher and had that charge upgraded to aggravated DUI.

He was charged with DUI in Cherokee County in connection to the 2016 death, but that charge has since been expunged from the Cherokee County records.

He had at least one other DUI charge in Wagoner County.

Yesterday, his attorney filed to have his latest DUI case dropped because it is filed in Muskogee County District Court and Bias is Native American.

Yesterday’s filing says the state court has no jurisdiction to try him. He is scheduled for a hearing on the motion in August.

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Friday, July 24, 2020, 8:46 AM

Solomon Horsechief

In the first instance since the U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating tribal or federal authority over crimes in Indian Country where the accused is a Native American, Solomon Lamont Horsechief, 34, of Muskogee is charged in federal court with raping a 14-year-old girl after allegedly lacing a marijuana blunt with a substance that helped him overcome her resistance, according to documents filed with the case.

Horsechief is a member of the Cherokee Nation, and the alleged rape occurred on 12th Street in Muskogee, which is inside the boundaries of the Creek Nation reservation.

According to an investigation by the FBI, Horsechief is alleged to have provided two underage girls with blunts, one of which he smoked with them, the other he did not smoke, the girls told investigators. After smoking the second blunt, the girls said they don’t remember much, except that the victim ended up in the back seat of the pickup with Horsechief, whose pants were down, and the girl was in her bra and panties with her panties pulled to the side. The girl who remained in the front of the pickup remembered the victim telling Horsechief to stop and “no.”

Horsechief later told FBI investigators that he had sex with the girl, but that it was consensual. Since she is under 18, it is not legally possible for her to engage in consensual sex with an adult. Horsechief allegedly also told investigators that “if” the girl said “no,” he stopped.

The victim told investigators that she has known Horsechief for awhile, and that he was aware she is 14. The other girl also remembers informing Horsechief that the girl is 14. A physical examination of the girl showed signs of trauma consistent with rape, an affidavit states. She also complained of pain in her lower abdomen.

The alleged rape occurred on March 27 and the case was transferred to federal court because of Horsechief’s Indian status.

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Thursday, July 23, 2020, 8:30 AM

Glenn Ferguson, 48, of Muskogee was found guilty in federal court in January of possession of materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

Ferguson possessed and accessed images and videos containing visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The images and more than 50 videos of children ranging in age between infants to pre-teens engaged in sexually explicit conduct were transported over state lines via computer, which is what landed the case in federal court.

The verdict was the result of an investigation combining the resources of the FBI and the Muskogee Police Department.

Yesterday, federal Judge Ronald White returned the sentence: 10 years in federal prison, followed by five years of probation and $5,800 in restitution to the victims. Ferguson must also register as a sex offender. He requested assignment to a prison close to Muskogee so his relatives could visit, and White recommended he get it.

Ferguson cannot possess a computer with access to the Internet, including at any place of work. He also cannot possess any kind of pornography, and he must attend mental health treatment while in prison.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 12:39 PM

After an employee at the county treasurer’s office tested positive for COVID-19, Muskogee County Commissioners have mandated that anyone entering the county services building or the county courthouse must be wearing a mask in common areas.

  • All persons entering the Courthouse complex, which encompasses the Courthouse and the County Services Building, shall wear a mask covering their nose and mouth while in common areas of the buildings.
  • Elected Officials and Supervisors shall establish mask wearing procedures for their employees that govern whether a mask is necessary at the employee’s work station.

The resolution, which passed at a special meeting this morning, takes effect tomorrow morning.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 8:41 AM

Dr. Beverly Smith

Bacone College has announced Dr. Beverly Jean Smith, enrolled member of the Navajo Nation from Grandfalls, Arizona, has been selected to fill the role of vice president of academic affairs for Bacone College.

Smith, whose Navajo clans are Naakaii Dine’e, Kinlich’iinii, Todich’iinii and Tsenjinkini, is the maternal great-granddaughter of Hastiin Alchini Lani (Muchachos Muchos), one of the markers of the Navajo Treaty of 1868.

Smith attended public schools and residential Indian boarding schools, before earning her Bachelor of Arts in American Indian Studies from Haskell Indian Nations University in 2001. She then earned a master’s degree in education counseling with a student affairs emphasis in 2011, and in 2017 she earned her doctoral degree in education organization and leadership with a concentration in higher education and a graduate minor in American Indian and Indigenous Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“Dr. Smith brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in American Indian higher education that will benefit and inspire our faculty and students,” said Bacone College President Dr. Ferlin Clark. “We welcome her to our Medicine Wheel circle of learning at our historic college.”

Smith credits her parents for raising her in a deeply traditional and cultural environment and credits her son and network of scholars who mentor and inform her leadership and administrative work.

“My philosophy reflects my grandparents’ cornfield teachings, ‘as long as you have a way, we are happy for you,’ tending and harvesting in good thought and purpose,” Smith said. “I embrace diversity and support President Clark’s vision for Bacone College. I humble myself to be appointed in an administrative leadership position with levels of agendas with and toward student success.”

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Monday, July 20, 2020, 2:39 PM

Editor’s note: This article is the opinion of Ponie Lance McCrary. It has been edited for length

I never really grew up in the State of Oklahoma. I grew up on a reservation called Indian Country. And so did everyone who grew up in the area roughly between Oklahoma City and Arkansas.

More than 14 years ago, I worked in an externship program with Muscogee Nation District Court under former Judge Patrick Moore. One of the first things he ever showed me was an interesting law that existed in the Oklahoma State Constitution. Article 1, Section 3:

The people inhabiting the State do agree and declare that they forever disclaim all right and title in or to any unappropriated public lands lying within the boundaries thereof, and to all lands lying within said limits owned or held by any Indian, tribe, or nation; and that until the title to any such public land shall have been extinguished by the United States, the same shall be and remain subject to the jurisdiction, disposal, and control of the United States. Land belonging to citizens of the United States residing without the limits of the State shall never be taxed at a higher rate than the land belonging to residents thereof. No taxes shall be imposed by the State on lands or property belonging to or which may hereafter be purchased by the United States or reserved for its use. (Emphasis added)

He asked me what I thought it meant. I told him that it sounded like all Indian land in general is forever disclaimed by the State of Oklahoma. After taking a walk down memory lane, I began my usual internet research of the Oklahoma Constitution and found an article that seems to, in conjunction with the McGirt Supreme Court decision, render the State of Oklahoma powerless over Indian Country:

Section XXIII-8: Contracts waiving benefits of Constitution invalid.

Any provision of a contract, express or implied, made by any person, by which any of the benefits of this Constitution is sought to be waived, shall be null and void.

This suggests that AG Mike Hunter, Governor Stitt, or any other officials of the State cannot even contract with Native American people nor their tribes while Article 1 Section 3 exists. The lands of reservations of the Five Tribes are not part of Oklahoma — and according to the McGirt decision and the state’s Constitution, never have been. So the big question now is where do we go from here?

In this situation, it calls for the tribes to use the State facilities for tribal governing purposes just like the facilities are doing now. From judges to janitors, all state and county employees without CDIB cards should be immediately re-evaluated and possibly replaced with card-carrying Native Americans that are qualified and meet current tribal criteria.

I think most Native Americans agree that as a people we like commerce. We like shopping, buying cars, going to Wal-Mart, eating at buffets and barbeque joints. At a glance, it should all seem in the future as nothing but business as usual. Behind the scenes, the tribe should run things. Basically anything involving licensing would be run through the Five Tribes. This includes but not limited to driver’s licenses, business licenses, health licensing, attorney licensing, medical licensing, just about anything that requires licensing. Native governments can use federal marshal services and Native police instead of county sheriffs and state police.

Indian Country can and will collect its own taxes and federal funding, just like any other territory in the United States. It can evaluate on a case by case basis certain things like past state judicial decisions, business dealings, and land transactions to determine if the past actions were done in good faith.

Of course there will be growing pains. There will also be opportunities. Most smart tribal business and governmental officials know that Indian smoke shops and casinos are not truly the way to our future. These things were a means to an end. With our jurisdictional boundaries defined, the future well being of the tribe lies within our boundaries: riparian rights. Indian country holds the majority of the lake water within the tri-state area. We own the water. Even if others don’t see it that way, they still have to go through us to get to the water. This is the key to all future negotiations when dealing with our state neighbors.

Unfortunately NOW is not the time for compromise when it comes to jurisdictional issues. Now is the time to set up boundaries and rules. The Dawes Commission that was formed around the time of statehood had one primary goal: to assimilate the Native Americans to the American culture. As a people, our culture never died but lessons were learned and applied that came from the American culture: we lawyered up.

Ponie Lance McCrary is a licensed attorney with the State of Oklahoma and the U.S District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. He also practiced in Cherokee and Muscogee Creek Nation tribal courts. He was born and raised near the town of Warner of Cherokee Nation.

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Monday, July 20, 2020, 8:13 AM

Cherokee citizens are expected to pack the Cherokee Nation Council meeting today at 1 p.m. in Tahlequah, expressing concern and outrage over an Agreement In Principle with the state of Oklahoma relaxing much of the jurisdiction won in the McGirt Supreme Court decision two weeks ago.

One counselor, Wes Nofire, has proclaimed that the agreement was a “backdoor deal” done behind closed doors and sacrifices Cherokee Nation sovereignty in the name of getting along with the state.

The council was not consulted before it was announced the nation was participating in the agreement, Nofire said.

“You need to back off and sit down,” Native activist Suzan Shown Harjo said to Cherokee Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin. “It is a sad day in Indian Country when one Native Nation is willing to sell out another because of some backroom dealing benefit.”

Some citizens are circulating a petition for the removal of Hoskin over the debacle.

UPDATE 2:04 P.M.: After the council meeting, the Cherokee Nation released the following:

“The leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations have been, and continue to be, committed to discussing the parameters of the historic Supreme Court decision in the McGirt case. These leaders agree that any path forward requires strong collaboration between the Five Tribes.

None of the leaders of the Five Tribes support eroding our sovereignty or turning back the recognition of our reservation achieved through McGirt. We feel that the leaders of each tribe understand that we must be engaged with the state Attorney General and members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation if we are to have a meaningful voice in any legislative process that moves forward as a result of McGirt. Above all, each leader has a responsibility to the citizens we represent to protect our sovereignty.

Last week’s statement of principles began a discussion with state and federal stakeholders. Upon further reflection, and after obtaining feedback from the people we represent, leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations agree that more discussion is warranted with stakeholders and the general public. We remain committed to communicating with and responding to the stakeholders and tribal citizens about the statement of principles, and we are committed to take the time to do that. We remain deeply respectful of Chief Hill’s and Chief Chilcoat’s views on this matter on behalf of their respective nations, and we will continue to work with them on this issue.

The leaders of the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations are engaged in a wide-ranging discussion of issues surrounding tribal, state and federal jurisdiction in light of McGirt. We all agree that such discussion must address the parameters of criminal jurisdiction and potential impacts of the McGirt case on civil jurisdiction, and must involve members of Congress and state leaders. We are optimistic that the leadership of the Five Tribes will demonstrate the wisdom to remain engaged, in a unified manner, with stakeholders as we move forward cautiously and carefully on matters impacting the McGirt case.”

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Monday, July 20, 2020, 8:00 AM

Clint Lee Mullican

A man was shot and killed over the weekend near Summit, according to numerous emergency authorities.

The man, Clint Lee Mullican, was Native American and the slaying happened within the boundaries of the Creek Nation, so the FBI and the Creek Nation Lighthorse Patrol are investigating.

The suspect is Timmie Coleman, 36, according to emergency officials.

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Monday, July 20, 2020, 7:29 AM

Jon R. Malek, 65, of Broken Arrow drowned yesterday morning on Fort Gibson Lake, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Malek was operating a 1997 Concord boat just west of Sequoyah State Park around 10 a.m., when he stopped the vessel, jumped in the water to go swimming and immediately started struggling, according to family members.

The boat’s passenger, Margie L. Malek, 57, attempted to throw a float cushion to him, but windy conditions made the throw unsuccessful. Jon Malek was face-down, and Margie Malek started the boat after several attempts and was able to drive the boat to the victim, dive into the 27-foot-deep water and hold onto him until passersby were able to stop.

Malek was pulled from the water and transported on the boat to shore, where Wagoner County EMS was waiting. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

He was not wearing a personal flotation device.

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