Remember the Removal riders celebrate reaching the Oklahoma border on June 19, 2014, after three weeks of biking the Trail of Tears. The 20 riders were from the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Remember the Removal riders celebrate reaching the Oklahoma border on June 19, 2014, after three weeks of biking the Trail of Tears. The 20 riders were from the Cherokee Nation and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Application deadline for Remember the Removal bike ride extended to Nov. 10

10/30/2014 12:14 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The application deadline for the 2015 Remember the Removal bicycle ride has been extended from Oct. 31 to Nov. 10.

The ride is nearly a 1,000-mile journey that travels through seven states, testing riders’ physical and mental endurance as well as teaching leadership and the history and struggles of the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee people. The three-week ride retraces the northern route of the U.S. government’s forced removal of the Cherokees from their homelands in the southeast to Indian Territory, starting in 1838.

Participants must pass a physical, participate in group training rides and meetings, and attend Trail of Tears history courses prior to the summer ride. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is an annual partner in the remembrance ride and will have a group of riders participating in the journey, which begins in New Echota, Georgia, which was once the site of the Cherokee capital.

Along the way, the group will explore and participate in activities that link the riders to the experiences their Cherokee ancestors had at the time of the removal. The ride will culminate with a homecoming event as the team arrives in Tahlequah, the capital of the CN.

After gold was discovered in Georgia in 1829, the U.S. government created an illegal treaty with a small group of dissidents to remove all Cherokees from their homes and relocate them in the vast unknown “Indian Territory” to the west of Arkansas. The event took place over the winter months of 1838 through 1839 and became more commonly known as the Trail of Tears.

An estimated 16,000 Cherokees were forced at gunpoint to remove themselves and their families from their homes, farms and communities. After being held in federal stockades, they were subsequently herded on an over land routes and taken by boats on river routes.

More than 4,000 Cherokees died during their round up, imprisonment, and along the various removal routes from harsh conditions.

Ride organizers of Remember the Removal ride hope to promote awareness of the removals as Cherokee citizens revisit the areas where their ancestors traveled. Other goals of the Remember the Removal bike ride are to help educate Cherokee students about their tribe’s history and the difficulties associated with the Trail of Tears, and to promote the achievements of the modern CN to those along the route.

For an application, visit

For more information, call 918-453-5198.

Center for Tribal Studies’ ‘Halloween Party’ set for Oct. 31

10/30/2014 10:31 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University’s Center for Tribal Studies will have a Halloween event for children of all ages on Oct. 31.

The “Halloween Party” will have trick or treating from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. there will be games, refreshments and costume contests. The costume contests will award the scariest, funniest and most original costume.

The event is sponsored by NSU Native Student Organizations.

The Halloween Party will take place at the Bacone House at 320 Academy St. For more information, call 918-444-4350.
Workers finish concrete work on the Redbird Smith Health Center addition’s entrance in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The 30,000-square-foot building should be complete by the end of the year. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Workers finish concrete work on the Redbird Smith Health Center addition’s entrance in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The 30,000-square-foot building should be complete by the end of the year. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

4 tribal health centers under construction

Senior Reporter
10/30/2014 09:01 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Construction Resources is working on four health centers within the tribe’s jurisdiction. Two new health centers are under construction in Jay and Ochelata, and additional space is being added to two of the tribe’s oldest facilities in Sallisaw and Stilwell.

The new construction is part of a $104.3 million health care investment, which Cherokee Nation Businesses’ profits is funding.

“It is probably one of the most rewarding projects that we’ve ever taken on. It’s not just one clinic, it’s multiple clinics and it’s all for the Cherokee people,” CNCR Executive General Manager Cheryl Cohenour said. “We’re Cherokees building something for the benefit of other Cherokees. It’s a great source of pride for us.”

The Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw is near completion as construction crews finish outside areas. The clinic is expected to be ready by the end of the year. The $11 million expansion will add 30,000 square feet to two existing health center buildings located at 301 S. J.T. Stites Blvd. and will include a new drive-through pharmacy, more lab space and physical therapy and mammography services. It will also have more than 25 exam rooms.

“What we’re doing is we’re adding on an annex to the existing clinic. Our target date to be ready for medical equipment to come in around the 25th of October,” Cohenour said.

The Redbird Smith Health Center was the first Indian health clinic to be constructed “from the ground up” in 1992 under CN management. The 21,945-square-foot health center opened in 1993 and was recently renovated because of mold. Reopened in August after two years of renovations, it now houses dental services, clinic administrative offices, a fitness area and public health nursing.

In 2007 an annex building was added adjacent to the original health center. This building is 11,444 square feet and was increased the capacity of the original health center.

A new health center for Jay is on schedule for a March completion, Cohenour said. The foundation has been poured and the steel for the walls and roof is in place for the 42,000-square-foot building.

The $13.5 million health facility will accommodate services such as primary care; dental; optometry; radiology; behavioral health; public health nursing; pharmacy with mail order; laboratory; nutrition; Women, Infants and Children services; contract health; and diabetes care. The CN also plans to add physical therapy.

Cohenour said a new 28,000-square-foot health center in Ochelata should be complete in December. Crews have been working on the interior of the $9 million Cooweescoowee Health Center, which will accommodate services such as primary care, dental, optometry, radiology, behavioral health, public health nursing, pharmacy, a laboratory, contract health, diabetes care and WIC.

It will replace an existing 5,000-square-foot health center in Bartlesville, which opened in 2002.

Cohenour also said the expansion of the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center is going well. The foundation has been poured for the 28,000-square-foot addition, which should be complete in May.

The current 36,000-square-foot clinic is 20 years old and has approximately 135,00 patient visits annually and needs more space as its patient load increases, said tribal officials. The CN operates the largest tribal health system in the United States with 1.2 million patient visits a year.

The WPMHC offers primary care, pediatrics, physical therapy, mammography, dental, optometry, radiology, behavioral health, public health nursing, a pharmacy, a laboratory, nutrition assistance, diabetes care and WIC.

The design for the new W.W. Hastings Hospital is also complete as CNCR officials prepare to work on the three-story, 155,000-square-foot facility, which will be located on the east side of the current hospital in Tahlequah.

“We’re just doing everything we possibly can without turning dirt because we can’t do that (turn dirt) until we hear about the joint venture,” Cohenour said.

In August, the Tribal Council approved a request to Indian Health Services to participate in its Joint Venture Construction Program. If approved, IHS would help CNCR construct the $54 million hospital by providing staffing and operations funding for the hospital’s construction. Under the agreement, the CN would purchase equipment and provide the facility’s construction.

CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the CN would not break ground until it receives word about whether the tribe can participate in the Joint Venture Construction Program. To do so would disqualify the CN from the program.

“We feel pretty good about our chances, but the process is not complete yet, so we’re waiting on a decision. That decision will impact what precise date we will begin construction, so until that process is complete, which we expect to be completed this year, we just can’t specify a date,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

The IHS is authorized to establish Joint Venture Construction Program projects with tribes for the construction of health care facilities as long as tribes spend tribal funds or other non-IHS funds, including loan guarantees, for the construction of a tribally owned health care facility. In exchange, for a minimum of 20 years, the IHS agrees to lease the health facility and land under a no-cost lease and provide the equipment, supplies and staffing for the operation and maintenance of the health facility.

Cherokee Phoenix Radio Oct. 26, 2014

10/29/2014 12:51 PM
  • In this week's broadcast...
  • we recap the Oct. 13 Tribal Council meeting where councilors unanimously approved resolutions requesting the U.S. Interior Department to place into trust land associated with two of the tribe’s health facilities.
  • Also 17 youth from across Northeastern Oklahoma were sworn in as Tribal Youth Councilors during the Oct. 13 Tribal Council meeting.
  • much more.
Cherokee artist Trey Pruitt, 13, touches his pottery piece that won second place in the sixth through eighth grade category at the Cherokee Art Market. The market took place on Oct. 11-12 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee artist Trey Pruitt, 13, touches his pottery piece that won second place in the sixth through eighth grade category at the Cherokee Art Market. The market took place on Oct. 11-12 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokees place in Cherokee Art Market youth competition

10/29/2014 08:03 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Twenty-six of the 32 Cherokee Nation citizens who participated in this year’s Cherokee Art Market Youth Competition placed in their respective categories.

Overall, the youth competition, which began in 2008, had 46 entries. It was part of the larger Cherokee Art Market held Oct. 11-12 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa.

The youth competition contained artwork from children in grades sixth to 12th. All art in the contest was previously judged and placed according to grade level and category.

Trey Pruitt, 13, of Stilwell, won second place in the Sixth through Eighth Grade: Miscellaneous Cultural Items category for his clay shield. The shield has a turtle engraved in the center with 10 engraved leaves circling it. He said the piece took him approximately a month to create.

Aside from competing in the CAM Youth Competition, Pruitt has entered works in other art shows, one being the 2014 Cherokee Holiday Art Show. There, he won the Judge’s Choice and second place for his pottery.

Pruitt said he started entering competitions three years ago but has been making pottery for five years.

He said he learned to create pottery by watching Cherokee National Treasures and working with his father, David Pruitt.

“My dad does pottery, too, but I don’t think I’ll be where he’s at for a while,” he said.

Although Pruitt’s youth competition entry was a shield, he said he’s best at making pots. He said when designing he likes to stick with traditional Native American art styles.

Lillie Vann, 13, of Tahlequah, won first place in the Sixth through Eighth Grade: Pottery category.

“It’s the biggest pot I’ve done so far, and it’s a traditional Cherokee design. I hand drew it,” she said. “At the top where the rim is and from the design to the bottom is all polished. It took me two weeks to make it.”

Vann said this was her first CAM Youth Competition she’s competed in but not her first competition.

“I’ve been doing shows in Tahlequah,” she said.

She won second place and Judge’s Choice for her pottery at the 2013 Cherokee Holiday Art Show. She added that this year she won first and second place for her pottery as well.

Vann said she’s been creating pottery pieces for two years and enjoys doing it because she likes “learning what Cherokees did a long time ago” and being with her grandmother, Jane Osti, who also creates pottery and is a Cherokee National Treasure.

CAM Coordinator Deborah Fritts said the youth artists amaze her every year.

“The youth always amaze me and this year is not different. They are talented,” she said. “Their parents and teachers should be proud.”

For more information regarding the youth competition email

CN donates $40K for Stilwell splash pad

10/28/2014 01:34 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – To help with the construction a splash pad, the Cherokee Nation donated nearly $40,000 to the City of Stilwell.

“We are all one big community, and it means a lot to us for the Cherokee Nation to work with us on this project,” Stilwell Mayor Ronnie Trentham said. “The things we want to do as a city we couldn’t do alone, so the partnerships between us and the tribe and other groups are needed. We are a better community because we work together.”

The splash pad will be located at the Edna M. Carson Stilwell Community Park. City officials expect the project, totaling $464,000, to be completed by May 2015.

“Stilwell has always been a hub of Cherokee activity because we have so many citizens living there and working there at our Cherokee Nation Industries facility,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This represents a good investment for the Cherokee Nation, as it enables the community and its leaders to expand the infrastructure and deliver more offerings for people.”

CRC looking to expand Promise Scholarship Program

10/28/2014 01:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s College Resource Center is looking to expand the Cherokee Promise Scholarship Program to Connors State College in Warner.

Dr. Neil Morton, CN Education Services senior advisor, confirmed the possible partnership between the tribe and the college during the Tribal Council’s Education and Culture Committee meeting on Sept. 15.

CN Communications officials said Jennifer Pigeon, CRC interim director, declined to comment because details are still being worked on between Connors and the tribe.

Connors State College also declined to comment.

Under the current criteria for the scholarships, which are available at Northeastern State and Rogers State universities, students selected for the program take Cherokee classes and experience on-campus living together. Selected students each receive a $2,000 CN scholarship and Native American Housing and Self Determination Act-funded housing each semester.

During their time at school, the Cherokee Promise scholars are expected to bond during activities as well as study together in cultural education, Cherokee language and college strategies classes. Scholars will also participate in monthly community service activities and, as they advance in the program, act as mentors to incoming freshman.

Recipients have also been required to fulfill 20 hours of community service. Five of those hours must be with the other scholar students.

When the program started three years ago at NSU, the CRC looked for a university to initiate the program by looking at current CN scholarship students and found that most attended NSU.

In 2013, the CRC expanded the program to RSU so more students could apply for the opportunity to receive money for college tuition.

For more information, call the CRC at 918-453-5000, ext. 7054.


Cherokee women make up 16 percent of CAM artists
Senior Reporter
10/20/2014 01:05 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Numerous Cherokee women artists participated in the ninth annual Cherokee Art Market held Oct. 11-12 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. Of the 154 CAM participants, 25 were Cherokee women artists.

Cherokee artist Janet Smith, who traveled from nearby Wagoner, said her main interest is creating “traditional Cherokee paintings.”

“I paint in the old style, the old flat style that I was taught at Bacon (College),” she said. “I’ve been doing some type of art ever since I can remember, but primarily to sell since the early (19)80s.”

Along with attending the Cherokee Art Market each year, she said she travels and competes in many art shows each year, including the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Art Market and the annual Cherokee art shows held in Tahlequah.

“This is a great market. For one thing, the location is just super, and they take good care of us. I always do well here,” she said. “You have so many artists, not just Cherokee artists, but from all over. This is really a national show. It’s just always so much fun to visit with them and to look at what other artists are doing. I just really enjoy it.”

Cherokee artist America Meredith of Santa Fe attended this year’s Cherokee Art Market as a publisher to share her art magazine “First American Art,” which showcases the “Art of Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.”

“They let me do a magazine booth, which is really exciting because a lot of the writers are here. Some of our advisors are here, and some of the artists are here like Troy Jackson (Cherokee), who was the cover of our last issue,” Meredith said. “So it’s kind of fun that the people can meet the artists and take this (magazine) home and read about the artists, too.”

Meredith said she taught Native American art history, but found writing about art was a better way to reach more people.

“There’s really a lot of exciting things happening in Native American art, but we just need that context and understanding, so I feel like I’m serving the public better,” she said. “My own art career is on hiatus. I figure it’s more important for people to understand what’s going on in Native art. So, we try to present all tribes and try to have hemispheric approach – North and South America – because I think we have a lot of cultural connections with South America...because people used to travel a lot in the old days, I think.”

She said the magazine, which publishes quarterly, allows artists to explain their work and makes Native artwork accessible. She profiles four artists in each issue from a variety of mediums and areas.

When she does create art she paints and has recently began doing smoke art. Her work can be seen at the Spider Gallery in Tahlequah.

One of a handful of Cherokee finger weavers, Karen Berry of Garland, Texas entered her finger weaving and gourd art in the market. She won a third place ribbon in the Traditional Weaving division for her “Red Men’s Garters.”

“I actually have been trying to do the oblique style of finger weaving, which hasn’t been done lately, and I’ve been trying to help revive it. It is what we did in the 18th century with trade goods from Europe,” she said. “I’ve really been enjoying it and have been perfecting the technique. It’s usually a solid color of yarn with white beads woven into it. It’s time consuming to get the beads on the yarn, but I really enjoy working with it.”

She also entered a 3-foot-tall gourd fashioned into the legendary snake-like creature Uktena from Cherokee folklore. The piece is titled “The Guardian” and depicts Uktena twisting up in a coil of water.

“It’s a creature that we feared and also revered,” she said. “I kind of thought that would win something, but you just never know.”

This was Berry’s fourth year at the art market and the first time she won a ribbon.

“I’m excited to win. It’s a hard show to win in and it just feels really rewarding when you do win because there are some really amazing artists here,” Berry said.


Indian schools face decayed buildings, poverty
10/24/2014 01:24 PM
WINSLOW, Ariz. (AP) – On a desert outpost miles from the closest paved road, Navajo students at the Little Singer Community School gleefully taste traditional fry bread during the school’s heritage week.

“It reminds us of the Native American people a long time ago,” says a smiling 9-year-old, Arissa Chee.

The cheer comes in the midst of dire surroundings: Little Singer, like so many of the 183 Indian schools overseen by the federal government, is verging on decrepit.

The school, which serves 81 students, consists of a cluster of rundown classroom buildings containing asbestos, radon, mice, mold and flimsy outside door locks. The newest building, a large, white monolithic dome that is nearly 20 years old, houses the gym.

On a recent day, students carried chairs above their heads while they changed classes, so they would have a place to sit.

These are schools, says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, whose department is responsible for them, “that you or I would not feel good sending our kids to, and I don’t feel good sending Indian kids there, either.”

Federally owned schools for Native Americans on reservations are marked by remoteness, extreme poverty and few construction dollars.

The schools serve about 48,000 children, or about 7 percent of Indian students, and are among the country’s lowest performing. At Little Singer, less than one-quarter of students were deemed proficient in reading and math on a 2012-2013 assessment.

The Obama administration is pushing ahead with a plan to improve the schools that gives tribes more control. But the endeavor is complicated by disrepair of so many buildings, not to mention a federal legacy dating to the 19th century that for many years forced Native American children to attend boarding schools.

Little Singer was the vision in the 1970s of a medicine man of the same name who wanted local children educated in the community.

Students often come from families struggling with domestic violence, alcoholism and a lack of running water at home, so nurturing is emphasized. The school provides showers, along with shampoo and washing machines.

Conflicts and discipline problems are resolved with traditional “peacemaking” discussions, and occasionally the use of a sweat lodge.

Principal Etta Shirley’s day starts at 6 a.m., when on her way to work, she picks up kids off the bus routes. Because there’s no teacher housing, a caravan of teachers commutes together about 90 minutes each morning on barely passable dirt roads.

All this, to teach in barely passable quarters.

“We have little to work with, but we make do with what we have,” says Verna Yazzie, a school board member.

The school is on the government’s priority list for replacement.

It’s been there since at least 2004.

The 183 schools are spread across 23 states and fall under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Education.

They are in some of the most out-of-the-way places in America; one is at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, reachable by donkey or helicopter. Most are small, with fewer than 150 students.

Native Americans perform better in schools that are not overseen by the federal bureau than in schools that are, national and state assessments show. Overall, they trail their peers in an important national assessment and struggle with a graduation rate of 68 percent.

President Barack Obama visited Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota in June, where he announced the school improvement plan.


CN honors 3 vets at council meeting
10/28/2014 08:03 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation honored a World War II veteran posthumously, a Navy Vietnam veteran and an Army veteran with Cherokee Medals of Patriotism during the Oct. 13 Tribal Council meeting.

The late Ben Haner, of Claremore; Ray Dean Grass, 68, of Locust Grove; and Robert W. Johnson, 53, of Wagoner, each received a medal and plaque. Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief Joe Crittenden acknowledged the veterans’ services to the country.

The late Pvt. Haner was born in Yonkers on Aug. 16, 1918, to Tom Haner and Virginia Williams. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in December 1942 during World War II. After training, his squad was assigned to guard the eastern coast of the United States and then France and Germany.

In a battle for control of a bridge over Lake Ammersee in Germany, Haner was wounded three times in the right leg, which he lost to gangrene while waiting for evacuation. After recovering in a hospital in San Francisco, he was honorably discharged in 1946. Haner received a number of honors, including the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. Haner’s family is donating his Cherokee Medal of Patriotism to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, making it the first of its kind in their collection.

“I’m very, very proud of my father and his service to this country,” Bennie Haner, who accepted the award in her father’s place, said. “He was very proud of being Cherokee, and I think this is an outstanding honor.”

Staff Sgt. Ray Dean Grass was born on May 4, 1946, to Thomas W. Grass and Ella Standingwater. He attended Oaks Mission School before enlisting in the U.S. Navy on May 8, 1963. After basic training, he entered the Vietnam War doing supply runs aboard the USS Castor and refueling ships aboard the USS Guadalupe.

He earned the Vietnam Service Medal, National Defense Medal and more. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in 1967 as petty officer second class, and six months later he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. He was trained as an aircraft maintenance specialist, assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and finally transferred to Guam and assigned to a C-97 aircraft. He was honorably discharged from the Air Force on Jan. 9, 1970.

Spc. Robert W. Johnson was born Nov. 8, 1960, in Riverside, California. He enlisted in the Army on June 28, 1978. He trained at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, as a communications specialist. His training included operating switchboards, laying wires and repelling off mountainsides to maintain communication between companies. He also earned the title of rifle sharpshooter.

He carried out the remainder of his service in Fort Carson, Colorado, where he adapted his training for the snow and trained in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare tactics. He was honorably discharged on April 20, 1984.

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. To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-453-5541 or 1-800-256-0671, ext. 5541.


CN opens new Jack Brown Center today
10/27/2014 09:07 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will host the grand opening ceremony of the new Jack Brown Center at 10:30 a.m. on Oct. 27 at 1413 Missionary Circle near the Male Seminary Recreation Center off Fourth Street.

According to a release, the treatment center helps Native youth overcome drug and alcohol addiction.

“It’s one of only 10 centers of its kind in the country. The former Jack Brown Center was located in a 1930s era facility on the Sequoyah Schools campus. The new center is a 28,000-square-foot farmstead architecture style campus, with five buildings. The expansion allows the center to serve 36 Native youths instead of the previous capacity of 20,” the release states.

The campus will have both male and female dorms, a cafeteria and therapy rooms.

“An iconic silo, part of the dairy farm on the original property, was kept as part of the design. In its 26 years, the Jack Brown Center has treated more than 1,700 Native youths,” according to the release.


He cries for acorns
Tribal Councilor
10/28/2014 01:25 PM
Ka, nigada itsitsalagi! Attention, all Cherokee! I think every day of my Cherokee father, grandmother and the many elders I knew when I was young. I miss their wisdom, insight, patience, teachings, life lessons, encouragement, their humor, and, yes, even their discipline. I remember how our elders looked at life and the comfort and love they provided all of us was significant and important. Now I am grown and I respect them even more.

When I was a boy, I assumed my elders would always be here. I still have many questions to ask them every day, but the time is gone. My grandparent’s first language was Cherokee. We have much to learn from our elders today. I am grateful for our elders still living who are our culture keepers. We owe both the living and those who have gone before a debt of gratitude.

One thing I remember about my Cherokee father was his compassion for all animals. The animals know things that we do not know. Pigeon in Cherokee is woyi. Gule disgonihi, which is translated as dove, literally means, “he cries for acorns.” In a deeper sense, the meaning is the dove is crying for the people.

Elders then and now will tell you doves and pigeons are our messenger birds, and as such should not be molested or killed without purpose. Doves and pigeons, white birds in particular, are sometimes used for ceremonial purposes. It is of utmost importance the birds are prayerfully respected. The birds and animals fed us through hard times. We should never leave the Cherokee Nation and enter another tribe’s homeland to kill doves and pigeons. Our Cherokee culture tells us to remember a time when we as a people had a flagrant disregard for killing animals. The animals held a council and afflicted us with all manner of disease. The Nation may not be blessed if animals are needlessly slaughtered. The animals, birds and fish provide for us still.

If we forget the Cherokee teachings of our elders, we may unintentionally abandon Cherokee ways. Another recent casualty has been our Cherokee language program at Northeastern State University. I had to ask for a detailed report of the loss of funding to the program. A Memorandum of Agreement is being worked on as this column goes to press. The program funds were diminished and repurposed without a plan in place and without Tribal Council knowledge or consent. The new “plan” must take place soon if the program is to begin in Spring 2015. I cannot stand idly by without questioning this action because I took an oath of office which stated “... I will do everything within my power to promote the culture, heritage and traditions of the Cherokee Nation.”

Our language scholars, teachers and students have worked and are working tirelessly and passionately to preserve our language. We owe it to them, to ourselves, to the ones who have gone before us and to the generations who will follow, our best effort to help our language endure.

As a student of the language program eloquently stated, “The most successful language endeavors are those that employ all strategies available. While we can, it is our obligation to do so.” As a student of the Cherokee language who is always learning, I need this program. As with many of us, I can no longer go to my father or grandmother to talk to them. I am proud of those few who can still speak and write Cherokee. I am proud of those who still are sharing their Cherokee knowledge. I am proud of the language program, the immersion school, students, teachers and families who are committed to Cherokee every day.

I see our people living under a veil of implied inferiority while those in power lord their positions over them. We still have many Cherokee capable of helping. A number of elders helped me with this article, and I could not have written it without them. It is a good thing to seek counsel from our elders, and as our Constitution states, “the guidance of the Sovereign Ruler of the Universe.”

Maybe it is not our culture and language which are lost, but us. Perhaps the doves cry still. They cry for us.


Hummingbird re-elected as NTGCR chairman
10/15/2014 08:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird was recently re-elected as chairman of the National Tribal Gaming Commissioners & Regulators, a non-profit organization that promotes cooperative relationships among the commissioners and regulators of tribal gaming enterprises.

“When I saw the NTGCR and what it was about and its purpose, I thought ‘this is a good way for me to get back to, to make good on the investment my early mentors made in me,’” Hummingbird said. “I can now reach out to other commissioners and say ‘you’re not alone out there. We’re here to help.’”

NTGCR was founded by tribal gaming regulators to provide information and education and promote an exchange of ideas from tribal regulators from across the country.

“We get together two times a year and offer up trainings in the areas of audit surveillance, investigations, IT and provide new commissioners and some seasoned commissioners with information and training that everybody would regardless of what jurisdiction they’re in,” Hummingbird said. “We train on federal laws, on compacts. We train on hearing procedures. We train on auditing. We train on anything that a commissioner might need to know to do his or her job.”

Hummingbird first elected as NTGCR chairman in 2006. He said the organization is a source of support and information.

“Early on when I started this job in 1998, I had very little knowledge gaming let alone how to regulate gaming,” Hummingbird said. “So when I first took this job I reached out to my counterparts at other tribes and they were very willing and happy to share (public) information with me that got me really up to speed in a very short amount of time as compared to learning it on my own.”

Hummingbird said during his involvement with NTGCR he has learned a lot about federal law and gaming.

“Early on when I started, it was just at the very beginning of electronic Class II bingo, and I was very fortunate enough at the time to see all the different court cases that were happening, which our tribe was involved in, go from the federal courts in the state to the appellate courts and all the way up to the Supreme Court and then being able to see all the other court cases that tribes have been involved in or initiated for different types of games,” he said. “I think by having that early foundation and being able to see this industry grow from the bottom up has really been an experience that very few have had, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of those people.”
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