Cherokee Nation citizen and Tahlequah High School junior LaNice Belcher practices her music that she will play during the summer with the Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps. Belcher will play the synthesizer 1 part in the group’s performance of music from the “Phantom of the Opera.” COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen and Tahlequah High School junior LaNice Belcher practices her music that she will play during the summer with the Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps. Belcher will play the synthesizer 1 part in the group’s performance of music from the “Phantom of the Opera.” COURTESY

Belcher to go on music tour this summer

03/30/2015 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen and Tahlequah High School junior LaNice Belcher will spend her summer a little different than most teenagers her age, touring throughout the United States with the Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps preforming music from “Phantom of the Opera.”

Belcher, 17, said at first she wasn’t interested in the corps but changed her mind when realizing that being a part of the group would be the best choice for her future.

“I didn’t really want anything to do with the program. I wasn’t interested,” she said. “As I started to read up on it I was like, ‘this is actually really cool.’ I was like, ‘you know what? I really need to experience this. I need to know what it’s like so I can use this as a experience for what I’m going to do later on whenever I’m a band director.’”

Belcher said she received the music for the audition but decided not to try out because she believed she couldn’t make the group. After skipping the first audition, she decided to give it a go.

“I was freaking out because drum corps is like a really big thing, especially like around here,” she said. “I went to the next audition camp and I have never worked for so long and so hard on music.”

Belcher earned the synthesizer 1 spot in the group and has had to perform copious amounts of training, both physically and musically at camp and home, to maintain her spot.

“We just rehearse like 12 hours a day. So that’s going to be in the blazing hot sun. That’s going to be a lot of stress because we’re trying to learn all this music, trying to learn the show, trying to get everything down perfectly,” she said. “It’s like a professional group. The atmosphere is very intense.”

Belcher said although training is challenging, she looks forward to the experiences she will gain.

“I’ve never been part of such a group that’s so devoted to what they do. We give up everything. I’m pretty sure I’m about to give up prom so I can go to camp,” she said. “I’ve given up so much, but it’s all worth it because I know this summer’s going to amazing. I’m going to get to experience so many different things. I’m going to get to go to so many different places, meet so many awesome people and musicians.”

Belcher said there are about 120 members consisting of the color guard and brass and drum lines.

“That’s what we’re dealing with right now,” she said. “We have quite a few people, but everyone’s hard working and determined.”

The Genesis Drum and Bugle Corps will also compete against other groups from the United States.

“We’re going up against some of the toughest drum corps in the whole nation,” she said.

Belcher said the competition would ultimately make her better as a musician and strengthen her work ethics. She said it is important for people to strive for the best they can be.

“If I really want something I will work as hard as I can to get it. I will always be trying to get better. My parents, they have instilled that into me. That’s something that’s very fundamental in my life,” she said. “I want to be able to encourage other people that they can do it, too.”

Genesis was founded in 2009 and is based out of Austin, Texas. Each year the group participates in a numerous performances. According to its website, the corps is open to performers between the ages of 15 and 21 and is a full-time summer commitment. Performers and staff travel for 65 days during the summer, participating in more than 25 performances as well as competing for a world championship finalist spot.

All camps and rehearsals are held in Austin, and that is where Belcher travels to once a month to rehearse.

For more information, visit
The Cherokee Nation flag flies at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors approved two multi-million dollar expenditures at its March 25 meeting, including a $6.9 million renovation of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. TRAVIS SNELL/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee Nation flag flies at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. The Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors approved two multi-million dollar expenditures at its March 25 meeting, including a $6.9 million renovation of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. TRAVIS SNELL/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CNB green lights multi-million dollar projects

Special Correspondent
03/30/2015 08:17 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – With its entities reporting record-breaking profits for a second straight month, the Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors unanimously approved two multi-million dollar expenditures at its March 25 meeting.

The more outwardly visible of the two projects is a $6.9 million renovation at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino that will be completed in three phases.

The first phase is a $2.1 million overhaul of the hotel’s lobby, which will add more space to the check-in area, currently designed to accommodate about 150 of the more than 400 rooms. Once finished, the lobby will have 12 check-in desks, including space just for the hotel’s VIPs.

Mark Fulton, Cherokee Nation Entertainment chief operating officer, said he anticipates starting the lobby work on May 10 and completing it within 100 days, which would be mid-August.

The second phase will be the addition of a $2.5 million luxury spa, complete with manicure/pedicure service, a blow dry bar, rooms for singles and couples massages and space for his and hers hydrotherapy.

Projected to be 4,000 square feet, the spa will go into a space currently occupied by Meigs Jewelry. No timeline has been set yet for when work would begin, nor has a decision been made as to whether the jeweler will remain at Hard Rock when its lease expires in September.

“We’ve looked at some alternative sites with them (Meigs),” Fulton said. “We’re in conversations with them to determine where they want to go. We’re trying to find some spaces for them, as they are valuable to us and appreciate all they do with us.”

The third phase will be adding a 16,000-square-foot pool area, complete with cabanas, an extended bar and a hot tub area. The project is expected to cost $2.3 million and a construction timeline has not yet been set.

“We’re much more than a locals’ casino. We cater to the locals, but we’re more of a regional attractor now, as is Tulsa,” Fulton said. “It’ll also complement the traffic that will be coming in with the new outlet mall as well.”

With two of the phases not out to bid yet, firm job numbers for the project were not available.

Citing multiple outage points at both sites in 2013 and 2014, the board also approved a $4.9 million security upgrade for Cherokee Casino West Siloam Springs and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

“Any surveillance failure can cause a casino closure,” senior security manager Josh Anderson said. “This will allow us to have redundancies across the board to prevent that from happening.”

The funding for the two expenditures comes in part from CNB having a second straight record-breaking month. For February, CNB generated $76.5 million in revenue, more than 9 percent above its target rate and an increase of 8.5 percent from February 2014, making it the company’s most profitable February.

Despite being a shorter month, February’s revenue was just $1 million less than the previous month, thanks in part to the soft opening of the tribe’s ninth casino in South Coffeyville. To date, CNB has generated $364.3 million in top line revenue for fiscal year 2015, almost $30 million ahead of its projected rate.

“All indications are that March will be a strong month as well,” CNB Chief Financial Officer Doug Evans said.

With continued growth, CNB plans to add about 250 jobs later this year at its expanded hotel-casino in Roland. The casino is still on pace to open on May 19 and the hotel is scheduled for a Dec. 1 opening. Most of the new positions will be on the culinary and hotel sides.

“Sequoyah County is one of the areas where we’re at that has the highest unemployment so we are very happy to add more jobs to that economy,” Fulton said.
Red Dirt musician Stoney LaRue will preform a free public concert on April 2 at the Cherokee Nation’s Employee Appreciation Day in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. COURTESY
Red Dirt musician Stoney LaRue will preform a free public concert on April 2 at the Cherokee Nation’s Employee Appreciation Day in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. COURTESY

LaRue to headline CN Employee Appreciation Day

03/29/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –Red Dirt musician Stoney LaRue will be headlining this years Cherokee Nation Employee Appreciation Day, which honors employees for their hard work throughout the past year. The outdoor free concert is open to the public and is on April 2. It will take place just west of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah.

The opening act will be the all-Cherokee group, Pumpkin Hollow Band. They will kick off the show at 5:30 p.m.

“These Oklahoma musicians have a strong local following and will put on a great show for our community and the entire Cherokee Nation,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We wanted to show our appreciation to our employees and the community with a night of good music and family fun.”

LaRue, who is Texas-born but a longtime Oklahoman, is known for his hits “Down in Flames,” “Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” “Oklahoma Breakdown” and “One Cord Song.” The crowd can expect to hear his hits and also songs from his new album, “AVIATOR.”

“The theme is, essentially, following direction, trusting in yourself and new beginnings,” said LaRue. “I’d say it’s a little combination of rootsy rock, country, folk and whatever else is in the hodge podge, and separate as much of the pride and ego from it, and put it in a format that’s easy to listen to.”

CN citizens Rod Buckhorn, Doo Reese, Kirk Reese and Spider Stopp named the band in honor of their birthplace, Pumpkin Hollow. The country and red dirt genre band has opened for Luke Bryan, Mark Chesnutt, Brantley Gilbert and Tracy Lawrence.

According to a CN press release, no alcohol, tobacco or ice chests are permitted on the premises. Food vendors will be on site and shuttles available for parking. Bringing lawn chairs and blankets to sit on is encouraged.

The Cherokee Nation W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex is located at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave.

Old Fashioned Picnic set for May 16

03/29/2015 12:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. –The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club is having its ninth annual Old Fashioned Picnic at 10:30 a.m. on May 16 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch.

The event is free to the public but a $10 food donation is suggested to help raise funds for the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Cub Higher Education Scholarship fund. It is suggested to bring a lawn chair to the event.

The event will include a hog fry, live music, an auction, Cherokee marbles, corn stalk shoots and hatchet throwing.

Cherokee Nation Registration will also be set up at the event getting information for CN photo ID cards.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker will be an honored guest at the event.

Cherokee Nation Businesses and the Oklahoma Pork Council are sponsoring the event.

For more information, call Debra West at 918-760-0813 or Ollie Starr at 918-760-7499 or visit

Cherokee Phoenix Radio March 29, 2015

03/29/2015 10:00 AM
  • In this week's broadcast:
  • Veterans and Cherokee leaders on March 11 celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Cherokee Nation Veterans Service Center.
  • University of Connecticut student Rachel Litvin and 13 fellow students traveled to Marble City to help the restore the outside of a youth recreation center that’s part of a community food pantry that provides food, clothing and household items to needy people.
  • much more.

CN, Tahlequah to construct waterline around SHS

03/29/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With funding being provided by the Bureau of Indian Education, the Cherokee Nation and city of Tahlequah will construct a waterline that will go around the Sequoyah High School campus.

David Moore, Cherokee Nation construction management planning and development director, said all the main pipes and waterlines to the buildings throughout the school’s campus will be replaced, which will help improve the water quality and stop leaks.

“The reason we are going around the campus is so we cannot disrupt water supply to the campus,” Moore said. “That way we can go in and build the waterline and then come back and connect each building.”

The school has a city waterline but the new line will help with water usage because each building will have its own water meter installed. There is currently one water meter at the Sequoyah campus.

“Right now we have one master meter for all of it,” Moore said. “We’ll be able to monitor the usage better.”

The water tower, located close to where the school’s first football field was, will also be refurbished to hold more reserve water, which will be used for emergencies such as fires. Building the new waterline will help increase emergency reserve water flow and pressure.

Moore said the architectural and engineering estimated cost of the project is approximately $750,000. The city will construct it and the tribe will pay for materials.

“We pay for all the materials, and the city will do all the work,” Moore said. “They’ll purchase the materials that they require for their system and we’ll pay for them. We’re working really good with the city.”

Once the waterline is complete the city will maintain it.

“Right now if any waterline up there busts then we have to fix it,” Moore said.

Moore said the project is expected to start within the next two months and be completed in about six to eight months.

“With this new line I think we should be able to isolate problems better if they ever come up,” he said.

Blood drive set for April 16 at CN

03/28/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –There will be an Oklahoma Blood Institute blood drive from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on April 16 at the Cherokee Nation O-si-yo Ballroom behind the Restaurant of the Cherokees.

Blood donors will receive donor T-shirts for their contributions. If they chose to reject the T-shirts the funds designed for the T-shirt will go to the Global Blood Fund, which is a nonprofit organization that provides safe blood services in developing countries.

Donating blood takes approximately an hour and can be made every 56 days.

According to an OBI press release, those with negative blood types are urged to donate. Only 18 percent of the population has negative blood types and patients with negative blood types can only receive blood from those 18 percent of people.

A photo ID is required to donate at OBI blood drives. Participants must be 16 years old or older to donate. Participants who are 16 years old must provide a signed parental permission form and weigh in at 125 pounds or more to donate, those who are 17 years old must weigh in at 125 pounds or more and those 18 and older must weigh in at 110 pounds or more to donate.

For more information, email


HorseChief creates art based on Cherokee history, culture
Senior Reporter
03/27/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dan HorseChief began creating artwork almost as soon as he was able to hold a pencil. The Cherokee-Pawnee is a natural artist, but he also had influences all around him. His older siblings are also artists and his mother worked as an art teacher when he was young.

“My first memory is drawing in church. I would draw the Alamo (battle) while they were teaching about peace,” he said laughingly. “I just mimicked my brothers and sisters. I’m the youngest of four. And my mother, later on, was an art teacher. I just basically watched and observed. I was the little guy in the corner watching everybody do their thing. That’s how I started.”

Later, he began entering art shows “for fun” and watched his mother, Mary Adair HorseChief, partake in art exhibits with her works. He received formal art training at Bacone College in Muskogee, and at the Institute of the American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

“The people I looked up to in the art world were my female relatives. So, I have a lot of respect for my mother, our family and friends,” he said.

He also credits his high school art teacher for helping him with learning how to create art and credits his sister Mary. He said when he started learning how to draw pictures he was inspired by sports and pop culture, and Mary taught him how to properly shade mountains when he drew landscapes.

“She told me how to hold a pencil and how to use it, how to use my fingers,” he said.

As a young man he read National Geographic magazines and history books and would draw photos he saw, which helped him learn to draw the muscles of people and animals while they were motion. Eventually he transitioned from drawing black and whites to painting colors on canvas and sculpting figures. However, he still sketches his ideas on paper before painting or sculpting them, he said.

Today, he paints using gouache, acrylic and oil, and said his paintings have helped his sculpting. His paintings and sculptures have won awards at local and national art shows.

A photography class he took while attending Northeastern State University in Tahlequah also helped him with creating artwork, he said.

“I just say try everything you can,” he said. “I actually had a job as a woodcarver for two years carving images on furniture. That actually transformed my sculptures. That gave me confidence. I used to paint toy soldiers for a job in the summer and that helped me to mix paint. So you never know how all these little things are going to add up.”

He may be the only Cherokee artist working on large sculptures of human figures. He is responsible for the bronze 9-1/2 foot tall Sequoyah statues that stand at NSU and Sequoyah High School, the stickball sculpture titled “The Seeker” in front of the SHS gymnasium and the “Resurgence” sculpture at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill.

He is also working on five-figure sculpture that will be placed in front of the Cherokee Veterans Service Center on the CN Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The five figures will represent the five branches of the United States military: Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard. A falcon will be fixed over the figures to symbolize a “guardian” over the service people.

“So the whole groups swirls up to that falcon,” he said.

The figures of the sculpture are a World War II bomber crewman, Marine recon member in Vietnam, Army infantryman from World War I, modern-day female Coast Guard member and a modern Navy officer.

“So you have different ages, genders ranks, backgrounds, but they all represent the diversity of Cherokee people in the Cherokee Nation,” he said.

He said this sculpture is a “mixed-media” piece that has the figures mixed with objects the figures would have worn or used such as a helmet, hat, rifle or binoculars made from clay, plastics and resins.

He said he prefers to be “hands-on” with his large sculptures, so he sculpts them at full size to ensure it’s “the vision” he wants that’s going to be the final product.

HorseChief said it’s a good time to be a sculpture artist and feels he has arrived at the right moment. However, creating sculptures are time consuming. He figures it will take two years to complete the veterans sculpture, which he hopes to have completed later this year.

He is also working on a painting for an addition being built at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell. The painting will be computer-enlarged to a 16-foot-by-20-foot piece that will go with two similar-sized pieces being created by his sister Mary and brother Sam. The three pieces will tell the Cherokee story “The Origins of Strawberries.”

“They’re (Mary and Sam) the perfect choices for doing these pieces, Sam with his detail and my sister with her passion and flare,” he said.

One can view his work on Facebook by searching for Daniel Milton HorseChief.


Mango languages offers innovative way to learn Cherokee
Senior Reporter
03/28/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – People now have an innovative way of learning to speak the Cherokee language thanks to Mango languages, which offers its language lessons for free through public libraries.

Cherokee is the first Native language offered by Mango languages, and Cherokee Language Program translator specialists Anna Sixkiller and John Ross helped create two chapters of the 10 language lessons offered by the company.

CN Language Program Manager Roy Boney said most libraries in the area have access to Mango languages. The company offers one of the “most robust” Cherokee language applications he’s ever seen, he said.

“There are a few other Cherokee language apps, but most of them are basic word lists with colors or animals. This one is getting into how you interact, talk and speak back and forth, and the grammar notes explains why the language is the way it is,” Boney said. “It was something new to all of us. They have a linguist assigned to the Cherokee Nation to work with us, and the linguist helped parse out some of the information like the roots (of the language) to help put it together so that it made sense to a learner.”

People will see the written Cherokee language and English phonetics and hear a host explain how the Cherokee language works.

“And then Anna and I will be speaking – introductions, goodbye, and small conversations – in the Cherokee language. That goes on all the way through to lesson 10,” Ross said.

Boney said the partnership with Mango languages came about because Teresa Runnels (Sac and Fox), American Indian Resource Center coordinator for the Tulsa City-County Library, received a grant to develop a Native language project. TCCL CEO Gary Shaffer and Director of Strategic Investments for Cherokee Nation Businesses Jay Calhoun worked with Mango languages to have Cherokee included among the 66 languages Mango languages offers.

“They didn’t know which language to do first, and they went with Cherokee because it’s the most visible with all the technology (used to share the language),” Boney said.

Sixkiller said she and Ross worked on greetings and phrases such as, “what is your name,” “where are you going” and “where are you from.” Phrases one would use when interacting with Cherokee speakers.

“We had to create our own text. We created our own text, then we had to record, and then we also had to review the recording,” Ross said.

He said he and Sixkiller began working on the Mango application in August by watching videos on how the Mango process works. In September, they began gathering phrases and greetings and responses to greetings and finished that portion in October. Recording of their work began in November, and the finished project was released in January.

Each lesson has a different subject matter such as Lesson 2, which includes expressions of gratitude and how to greet people. Each of the 10 lessons has approximately 50 slides, and the lessons build on the previous lessons because people might use a phrase or greeting in Lesson 5 that they learned in Lesson 2.

“You can see the phonetic and tone pronunciation. You can actually record your own voice and compare how you’re pronouncing it to how they’re saying it,” Boney said. “You can have the pronunciation slowed down if you need to hear it better. So it’s got quite a lot of features in it.”

Mango languages also included culture and grammar notes to help people understand the language’s roots.
Ross said he also appreciates the fact a man and a woman converse in the lessons to teach the language. He said he’s seen numerous Cherokee language programs over the years and this one “rates pretty high.”

“We need to target everybody, but I think we need to inspire our young ones in learning our language, and I think this is a good start here,” he said. “They know what we can do with our language now, and we need to get them inspired to learn our language.”

Ross said the Mango lessons can be the beginning of someone becoming a fluent Cherokee speaker, but more importantly people can hear the tone of spoken Cherokee.

“I think that’s the key to learning the language, to be able to hear it all of the time, and it makes it easier to pronounce words,” Ross said.

Boney said a desktop computer version of the program exists, as well as an app version for iPhone and Android smart phones. He said it would take most people a few hours to go through all 10 lessons. The language program is free to people if their library has access to it.

“So, if you have a library card and you’re in Stilwell, and if the Stilwell library has it, you can go in there and log in through the library’s website and use your library credentials to log into Mango for free,” Boney said. “It’s the same with your app, too. You just put in that stuff to get access to it.”

He said people who don’t have a local library or a library that doesn’t have access to Mango can pay to use the lessons on the Mango website or app.

“One of the reasons why we liked this project when we got approached with it was the fact that it does give people an incentive to go to the library, and that’s an underused resource in a lot of communities,” Boney said.

For more information, visit To find a library with Mango, visit and enter your zip code.


Law firm donates $200K for health care facilities
03/17/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During the March 16 Tribal Council meeting, Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Endreson & Perry law firm and attorney Lloyd Miller have jointly donated $200,000 for the construction of Cherokee Nation health care facilities.

“We’ve fought the fight on self-governance issues, your battles with the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, your battles to ensure the integrity of the Cherokee Nation sometimes against other tribes, and it’s all been successful,” said Miller, who is employed with the law firm that has worked with the tribe for more than 20 years. “You’ve been wonderful to us in terms of your confidence in us, your trust in us, and it’s our pleasure to be able to give back to you.”

Baker said the tribe has been successful with Miller as its attorney on contract support costs.

“He originally won a lawsuit of about $12 million. Then we just won another one for $20 million with part of the settlement being they (federal government) will fully find contract support costs from now on.”

The donation will go to CN construction projects such as health care clinics in Ochelata and Jay as well as a new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah.

In other business, Tribal Councilors unanimously authorized CN Human Services – specifically children, youth and family services – to submit a grant application for fiscal year 2016 to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts absent.

Tribal Councilor Frankie Hargis said earlier in the day at the Community Services Committee meeting that the grant is a formula-based grant with a minimum funding of $350,000 for victims of family violence.

Tribal Councilors also authorized CN Career Services to submit a grant application to the U.S. Department of Education for vocational rehabilitation program funding.

Since 1992, the tribe has operated the vocational rehabilitation program, which assists in ensuring self-sufficiency for tribal citizens. It is Oklahoma’s longest running tribal vocational rehabilitation program.

According to the resolution, individuals with disabilities are in need of employment and training activities so they can enter jobs and become self-sufficient, and the Department of Education has funding available for vocational training programs for such individuals.

The grant requires that a 10 percent cash match be made available to the program each year of funding.
Hargis said the grant is new and would be approximately $600,000 per year for a five-year period.

Legislators also approved Bobby L. Vaughn as a governing board member of the CN Comprehensive Care Agency for a term of three years from March 2015 to March 2018.

“I’m the patient safety officer at Hastings Hospital right now, and I’d just like to say what an honor it is for me to be nominated for this position by the chief so it’s really near my heart,” Vaughn said during the Feb. 26 Rules Committee meeting. “I hope to do an excellent job for you.”

J. Blake Fletcher was reappointed as a commissioner of the CN Environmental Protection Commission for a three-year term.

“I just want to thank the council for allowing me to serve in this capacity and I really look forward to continuing that service,” Fletcher said on Feb. 26.

Marty D. Matlock was also reappointed as a commissioner of the CN Environmental Protection Commission for a four-year term.

The next Tribal Council meeting is scheduled for April 13.


4 CN clinics deemed ‘Certified Healthy’ by state Department of Health
03/26/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Four of Cherokee Nation’s health centers, W.W. Hastings Hospital and the tribe’s entire Health Services have been deemed “Certified Healthy” by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

The Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw and Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell were recently selected among 1,700 winners of the Certified Healthy Oklahoma award for 2014.

The designation for maintaining a healthy campus for employees is administered by the state, Oklahoma Academy, state chamber and Oklahoma Turning Point Council.

“I believe it is important as a health department to set the example of making healthy choices,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “If we can create a work environment that not only encourages but supports these important changes in our lifestyle, then we have made a real impact on ensuring healthy generations to come.”

Employees take advantage of fitness rooms, daily exercise and diet and nutrition classes offered at each of the sites. The tribe’s Early Childhood Unit was also recognized as “Certified Healthy” for providing a healthy nutrition policy for staff and Head Start children.

The awards are given annually in six categories: businesses, restaurants, schools, campuses, early care and education and congregation.

“All of us are aware of the high costs associated with unhealthy habits, and because our employees work in the health care setting, it’s vital that the workplace be conducive to living a healthy lifestyle,” Brian Hail, W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO, said. “Having this recognition from the Oklahoma State Department of Health demonstrates our commitment to our employees’ well-being and our dedication to the vision of healthy communities for this and future generations.”

The CN maintains an onsite health center to treat sick employees, the Gadugi Clinic, and employees and CN citizens have free access to the Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah, which offers a gym, weights and weekly boot camp, yoga and Zumba classes.

“The Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program is a free statewide recognition program showcasing organizations and communities that are committed to making the healthy choice the easy choice,” Julie Dearing, manager of the Certified Healthy Oklahoma Program, said. “Oklahoma truly has a vision of creating healthier places to live, work, learn, play and pray. We are challenging all Oklahomans to eat better, move more and be tobacco-free, as well as implement policies to create healthy environments throughout our state.”

For more information on Health Services, call 918-453-5657.


OPINION: Working Cherokee families deserve progressive maternity leave plan
Principal Chief
03/02/2015 10:00 AM
Helping our employees at the Cherokee Nation meet both work and family obligations is a good guiding principle, and it is the right thing to do. That’s why the CN has adopted a new Human Resources policy regarding maternity leave to support family values and working Cherokee families.

The new plan includes eight weeks of fully paid maternity leave for CN government employees who’ve been with the tribe for at least one year and who are on the Nation’s insurance plan. Unlike the old policy, and what is typical in other workplaces, no sick or vacation days must be used before paid maternity leave is utilized. The fully paid maternity leave program will benefit Cherokee families and position the CN as one of the most sought-after places of employment for women. While the CN Family Medical and Leave of Absence policy ensures new mothers won’t lose their jobs by taking maternity leave, it does not guarantee pay during the time away.

The U.S. Department of Labor says 70 percent of women with children at home are in the workforce, yet only about 16 percent of employers offer fully paid maternity leave. That means many families take on significant and burdensome debt from the birth of a child. That’s a sad fact and a sad reflection on the priorities of our society.

This progressive policy by the CN, however, puts families first and places us at the forefront of a much-needed evolution in workforce policy. More than 70 percent of our tribal government employees are women. Once again, CN is proving to be a leader by showing our state, other tribal governments and all of the United States our real commitment to our talented workforce.

We need modern policies for a modern workforce, and this progressive change will be good for business, for the regional economy, for community health and, most importantly, for Cherokee families. We will be one of the few tribes nationally that offer this benefit to staff, and implementing this policy places us far ahead of Oklahoma government and business entities.

It’s been shown internationally that forward-thinking human resource policies, like expanded maternity leave, reduce employee turnover and training costs and provide overall health care savings to both the employer and employee. Sadly, the United States lags far behind other developed nations in providing paid maternity leave.
The CN has long been the employer of choice, and we will not lose talented potential employees by failing to ensure access to paid maternity leave. Recruitment and retention blossom with ensured job security. That means economic stability for our workers, but for our tribe it can also mean a renewed since of loyalty and increased productivity from our employees.

While there is a logical economic argument to support and justify this CN policy, it is more important on a moral and human level. Time with a newborn is irreplaceable and nothing can ever break those family bonds established in the first days of life. Our dedication to building a healthier CN must start in infancy. As a father and grandfather, I know a healthy life and a healthy family start then. Parents with an early hands-on role in their children’s lives will be more involved for years to come and their children will be healthier.

Additionally, having that safe and uninterrupted time means higher rates of breastfeeding and immunizations and regular health visits for the infants. It also means lower risks of postpartum depression, as those bonds within the home and family are able to be built without undue outside stress.

Candace, who works in our Human Services, is expecting her second child this year. She says the new policy will allow her to concentrate on her family and newborn without worrying about bills. Having that economic security will be a huge relief to her family in those crucial days.

Building a strong, healthy government means we won’t have to find and train new workers to replace our talented staff. Building a strong, healthy family means our staff can prioritize their values appropriately.

I am proud we are putting our people first and truly promoting family values.


Korean War veteran brothers honored
03/26/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored two brothers who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during the Korean War with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism during the March 16 Tribal Council meeting.

James Darrel Kennicutt, 83, and Herman Diviuns Kennicutt, 80, both of Tahlequah, received a medal and plaque from Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledging their service to the country.

Pfc. James Kennicutt was born on Feb. 2, 1932, in Tahlequah to C.H. and Onie Kennicutt. He enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard in 1950 and attended basic training at Fort Polk, Louisiana. After being assigned to the machine gun platoon, he was deployed to Hokkaido, Japan, for eight months of advanced training. In December 1951, his division was deployed to Korea in an area known as the “Iron Triangle.” James served as a .30-caliber machine gunner. He was honorably discharged from the Army National Guard in 1952. He later enlisted into the U.S. Air Force in 1954. He trained as an electronic turrets mechanic and was stationed at Loring Air Force Base in Maine until he was honorably discharged in 1957.

Sgt. 1st Class Herman Kennicutt was born on Oct. 15, 1934, in Tahlequah to C.H. and Onie Kennicutt. He enlisted with the U.S. Navy in 1953 and attended basic training in San Diego. He served aboard the USS Hollister as a torpedo man in Japan and Korea before being assigned to the USS Ozbourn. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1957. Herman enlisted in the Army in 1958 and was deployed to Korea for a year. He was stationed in multiple bases in the U.S. and Germany before spending 1966-67 in Vietnam during that conflict. He retired from the Army in 1974 with more than 20 years of military service.

“I do want to thank the Cherokee Nation for the things they do for veterans, especially this new veterans center that sits down here,” said Herman Kennicutt. “It’s been a real boom for a lot of people, a lot of veterans who didn’t have anywhere else to go or anyplace to go for help. The late Rogan Noble, many of you knew him, gave me a lot of help in getting me disability through the veterans administration. So, to Rogan and all of the Cherokee Nation, thank you very much.”

Each month the CN recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all veterans. Native Americans, including Cherokees, are thought to have more citizens serving per capita than any other ethnic group, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.
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