A screen shot of a post on Facebook that shows Chief Bill John Baker, in a Cherokee Nation shirt and with a tribal medallion, carrying a gun at the pigeon shoot.
The leader of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma apologized for attending a live pigeon shoot but said he didn't kill any birds despite the existence of a video that shows him with a gun during the event. Principal Chief Bill John Baker acknowledged his presence at the fundraiser for Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) earlier this month. The tribe donated $2,500 to the incumbent Republican's re-election campaign and was listed as a "gold" sponsor of what was billed as a "dove hunt." Baker, however, said he was surprised when he showed up to the Quartz Mountain Resort on September 5. He said Inhofe's campaign misrepresented the nature of the event and he apologized for going. "Had I known the event on Sept. 5 was not a sporting hunt that would provide food for my family or others, I would not have accepted the invitation," Baker said in a statement to Indianz.Com. "I regret my attendance, and apologize that my presence could imply to some that I condone the events of that day. I do not."
YouTube: Principal Chief Baker at Pigeon Shoot by SHARK
SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK), an animal rights group, posted videos of the event in which hundreds of live birds were thrown in the air and shot by participants -- including Inhofe. One clip shows Baker holding a gun but the Cherokee leader insisted that he did kill any birds. "After a brief but uncomfortable period of time, I left the main event area and spent most of my time shooting clay pigeons in a different area," Baker said.
Chief Bill John Baker's official Cherokee Nation vehicle at the pigeon shoot. Photo from SHARK
Baker went to the event in his official Cherokee Nation vehicle and was wearing a Cherokee Nation shirt. He also sported a medallion that he wore in a Cherokee Nation video announcing a significant economic development project in Tahlequah, the tribe's capital. Tribal members who are upset with Baker's participation in the pigeon shoot have extracted still images of the SHARK video that clearly show their leader holding a gun and wearing the Cherokee shirt and medallion.
YouTube: Cherokee Nation Member Statement - Twila Barnes at press conference
"We are not animal rights activists," Twila Barnes, a tribal citizen, said at a press conference in Oklahoma City yesterday, where she was joined by two other Cherokee women. Barnes was one of the first to call attention to Baker's participation on her blog, Thoughts From Polly's Granddaughter. "We support the second amendment and hunter's rights, but this pigeon shoot was not a hunt. The death of these pigeons served no purpose other than to stuff the campaign coffers of a career politician," Barnes continued. "The fact that Cherokee Nation money, from any entity of the Cherokee Nation, went to Inhofe for this event infuriates us. Our chief attending and participating leaves us in shock." Attorney Michael Moore, another tribal citizen, is asking Cherokee Nation Attorney General Todd Hembree to determine whether Baker violated tribal law by killing any animals. Since the chief said he left the area where the shootings occurred, it's possible an investigation won't turn up much. Chief Baker's entire statement follows:
In serving as Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, it’s my duty and honor to take every opportunity possible to advance the interests of the Cherokee Nation to better the Cherokee people. In this spirit, I received an invitation to a Sept. 5 dove hunt where Oklahoma’s senior Senator Jim Inhofe and the majority of Oklahoma’s congressmen were present. It was a rare opportunity to spend time with most of our federal delegation, and let them know the current challenges and accomplishments of the Cherokee Nation. As the hunt began, I was surprised to find it was not what I expected. After a brief but uncomfortable period of time, I left the main event area and spent most of my time shooting clay pigeons in a different area. I am a hunter, and I have taught my children to hunt and to hunt responsibly. I have participated in dove hunts before and have taken that meat home to feed my family. Had I known the event on Sept. 5 was not a sporting hunt that would provide food for my family or others, I would not have accepted the invitation. I regret my attendance, and apologize that my presence could imply to some that I condone the events of that day. I do not. We have worked closely and successfully with Senator Inhofe and other members of the Oklahoma delegation on a range of issues that deeply affect Cherokees in areas such as health care, education and housing. While we do not always agree, we work diligently to maintain an ongoing, professional dialogue. Working with these gentlemen to further the best interests of the Cherokee people and all of Indian Country is time well spent. In hindsight, this event was not the appropriate venue. Moving forward, I will continue working with our federal delegation, but in more appropriate settings.Related Stories:
Cherokee chief participated in live pigeon shoot for Sen. Inhofe (9/30)
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