Charlie Soap points out directions while volunteering to work on the installation of a water line to the town of Oaks on Aug. 8, 2011. Soap was married to the late Wilma Mankiller, who helped bring water to the town of Bell in 1982 before she became Principal Chief in 1985. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
James Davis, left, a Cherokee Nation construction worker, holds a spool of tracer wire as Gus Theros digs out a hole to lay down a six-inch water line along Highway 412A to bring water to the town of Oaks on Aug. 8, 2011. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
Gus Theros, left, a resident of Oaks, talks with Charlie Soap, right, while volunteering to help dig a path for a six-inch water line to connect the town of Oaks with water from main arterial water line on Aug. 8, 2011. The water line project is being coordinated by the Cherokee Nation to help the town of Oaks which has been without a steady source of water. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
The flags of Oklahoma, the United States and the Cherokee Nation fly behind a bronze model of the Statue of Liberty at the Cherokee Capitol Square in Tahlequah, Okla., on Friday, July 8, 2011. The Cherokee Supreme Court was hearing appeals and motions from Principal Chief Chad Smith and Chief-Elect Bill John Baker following the disputed June 25th election. The Cherokee election committee certified Baker as the winner in a recount after Smith was originally declared the winner. A second recount also supported Baker, but by a larger margin. Weeks of testimony led to a determination that the two recounts could not be mathematically certain due to discrepancies in vote counts and absentee ballots. As a result, the Court finally recommended a new election, which will be held in September. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
This controversy which hardly anyone outside of northeastern Oklahoma knows anything about is just as convoluted and dysfunctional as Florida during the Bush/Gore election of 2000. I’ve done the best I could to explain through captions, but there are so many details and nuances that any understanding of the situation could only come from extensive research of Cherokee election laws and a thorough reading of a month of daily newspaper articles. Simply put, it’s a mess. Right now, these two sides and their supporters are in complete disagreement, to the point of verbal confrontations and arguments in public. Hopefully the results of the second election in September will be certified and agreeable by both sides so the Cherokee Nation can finally come together and move on.
Covering the trial itself was also a mess, since it meant standing outside in limited shade the entire day waiting for key players to exit the courtroom, which they managed to mostly avoid doing until the very end of the day. As with most federal courts, media are only allowed into the courtroom with a pen and paper; no recorders, cameras, laptops, cell phones, or, in the case of one spectator, insulin monitors that beep. Yes, an elderly woman was removed from the courtroom because her insulin monitor went off.
Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith checks his phone during a brief recess of a hearing in Cherokee Supreme Court in Tahlequah. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
Cherokee citizen Dawnena Mackey, left, is confronted by an unidentified man working for Principal Chief Chad Smith who told Mackey to remove a non-political sign from Capitol Square property in Tahlequah, Okla., on Friday, July 8, 2011. Smith's staff repeatedly told supporters of Chief-Elect Bill John Baker to remove signs, hats and clothing with Baker insignia from the public square. Baker supporters claimed the Smith campaign was acting out of its power to restrict their speech outdoors while protesting the hearing that was in session. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
Cherokee Principal Chief-Elect Bill John Baker stands outside the courthouse in Cherokee Capitol Square after the Cherokee Supreme Court adjourned for the day in a hearing to determine the outcome of the Cherokee Principal Chief election. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World
Chuck Hoskin Jr., senior advisor to the the Baker campaign, gives a statement to media convened at Cherokee Capitol Square all day in Tahlequah, Okla., waiting for a result in the hearing. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World