CNB approves sale of Red Wing facilities

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
09/01/2015 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Businesses board of directors passed two property-related resolutions on Aug. 26, one of which calls for the auction of land and buildings that housed the Cherokee Nation Red Wing entity.

CNB officials unanimously approved to sell, via private auction, 15 acres and three buildings in Kellyville. The land and facilities housed CNRW, CNB’s 8(a) small disadvantaged military services and systems integration business, before it was relocated to Pryor.

The other resolution requested an extension on a lease in Tampa, Florida, for CNB’s Cherokee Nation Geological Services because of a recent $45 million contract received with the U.S. Geological Services. The board unanimously voted to extend the lease by three years.

Officials also announced that CNB continues to work on the Cherokee Springs Plaza in Tahlequah and Cherokee Outlet in Catoosa. As of publication, Cherokee Springs Plaza work consists of excavation for storm water pipes, as well as roadwork. CNB is also continuing to work with a developer on securing tenants for the Cherokee Outlet.

Also, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Director Molly Jarvis announced that the Cherokee Nation Courthouse in Tahlequah would have a Sept. 17 ribbon cutting to unveil the outside work completed on the property and that the master plan for the Saline Courthouse in Rose is still in the works. She added that there would be an event on Sept. 13 at the Guthrie Green in Tulsa called “Cherokee Days.”

CNF to host open house during Cherokee National Holiday

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – Cherokee Nation Foundation is hosting an open house during the 63rd annual CherokeeNational Holiday Sept. 4-6. CNF hopes to raise awareness about the organization and its mission to help Cherokeeyouth succeed academically and achieve their higher education goals.

The open house is Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 800 S. Muskogee. Students, parents and teachers are encouraged to stop by for goodie bags and to gather information about CNF programs and scholarship opportunities.

“Most people do not know that we have programs for students as young as fifth grade,” said Janice Randall, executive director of Cherokee Nation Foundation. “We have so many ways to help prepare Cherokee students, and we are dedicated to helping as many of them as possible. We just have to let them know who we are and how we can help.”

CNF also plans to reveal its new branding initiative at the open house.

“The Cherokee National Holiday is the perfect time to reintroduce ourselves and remind the Cherokee people that we are here to help,” said Randall. “We want Cherokee students to understand the value of higher education and know it is within reach for each and every one of them. We work diligently with all of our students to help them prepare for their academic journey and keep them informed about resources to help them succeed.”

Cherokee councils gather at Red Clay

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 12:00 PM
CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Leaders from the Cherokee Nation, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians gathered on Aug. 28 at Red Clay State Park for a historic Tri-Council meeting.

The event marked the first time all three federally recognized Cherokee tribes assembled for a council meeting at Red Clay. After Georgia passed laws displacing Cherokees and preventing Cherokee leaders from meeting, the Cherokee capital was moved from New Echota (now in Georgia) to just over the Tennessee state line in Red Clay. Nearly a dozen separate council meetings were held there between 1832 and 1837.

“The gathering of our Cherokee governments at this sacred site is not only historic, but a strong reflection of our inherent sovereignty,” Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “It is because of our Cherokee ancestors’ spirit of perseverance that we are able to gather and conduct the business of our people. We must always keep that in mind and protect that right for our future generations.”

The Tribal Councilors voted on several resolutions:

• Requiring all cultural or historical presenters or artisans claiming to be Cherokee to be verified by one of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes,
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd, Tribal Council Secretary Frankie Hargis and Tribal Councilors Keith Austin, Bryan Warner and Shawn Crittenden cast their votes during the Tri-Council meeting on Aug. 28 at Red Clay State Park in Tennessee. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd, Tribal Council Secretary Frankie Hargis and Tribal Councilors Keith Austin, Bryan Warner and Shawn Crittenden cast their votes during the Tri-Council meeting on Aug. 28 at Red Clay State Park in Tennessee. COURTESY

Sept. 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix now available online

BY STAFF REPORTS
09/01/2015 08:35 AM
In this month's issue:

• The principal chief, deputy chief and eight Tribal Councilors take their oaths of office on Aug. 14.

• CN files lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson'

• CCO brings Cultural Enlightenment Series to Briggs community

• OK tribes approach $1B in state fees
Sept. 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix now available online
Sept. 2015 issue of the Cherokee Phoenix now available online
https://www.facebook.com/NativeGrains

Party held for NYU-bound Million

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
08/31/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Garrett Million opened the front door to the Sequoyah High School cafeteria and was shocked by the many friends and family who stood and shouted “surprise” to welcome him to a going-away party on Aug. 22.

The Sequoyah High School graduate was set to leave Tahlequah on Aug. 27 for New York City to attend New York University on a scholarship.

“I was really pleased and overwhelmed by this many people showing up because a lot of them came from a long way. A couple of the girls came from Arkansas and some from out by Oklahoma City,” Georgia Million, Garrett’s mother, said.

She said she was pleased by the support he received and that it made her “beam with pride” at how much he is respected and supported by SHS students because it wasn’t always that way. He was picked on and bullied in grade school, and he didn’t have many friends, she said.

She said Sequoyah welcomed him and his classmates liked him from the start.
Sequoyah High School graduate Garrett Million is surprised by family and friends who gathered Aug. 22 at the Sequoyah High School cafeteria to give him a going-away party before he leaves for New York City to study theater at New York University. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Georgia Million hugs her son, Garrett, after he arrives at his surprise going-away party at the Sequoyah High School cafeteria in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Principal Chief Bill John Baker, left, also took part in the party and praised Garrett for his accomplishment of getting a scholarship to study theater at New York University. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Sequoyah High School graduate Garrett Million is surprised by family and friends who gathered Aug. 22 at the Sequoyah High School cafeteria to give him a going-away party before he leaves for New York City to study theater at New York University. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Phoenix Radio Aug. 30, 2015

BY STAFF REPORTS
08/31/2015 02:00 PM
  • In this week's broadcast:
  • To help continue her education after high school, Cherokee Nation Citizen Megan Baker recently received the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association John Marley Scholarship.
  • It was called the “Crash Heard Around the World, ” the plane crash that killed Will Rogers, the “Cherokee Kid,” and aviator Wiley Post. The story of that tragic day is commemorated every year during the “Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In” at the ranch where Rogers was born.
  • ...plus much more.

Hudgens studies abroad in United Kingdom

BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/31/2015 12:00 PM
DURANT, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Emalea Hudgens, a junior at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and a double major in psychology and music, recently spent a semester studying at the Swansea University, a public research university based in Wales of the United Kingdom.

Hudgens received the title of Brad Henry International Scholar in 2014 and she studied abroad this past spring.

The Jay native is a Cherokee Nation citizen and Harvey Scholar recipient. She is also a Savage Storm Leader and was selected to be in the President’s Leadership Class for 2012-13. Hudgens is a member of the Southeastern Chorale, Sparks Dance Team and Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, according to the SOSU Communications Department.

“I am very blessed and excited to get this opportunity to study abroad and become immersed in a different culture,’’ Hudgens said to the Southern, the SOSU newspaper. “It has been a life-long dream of mine to travel the world, and I cannot wait to share the stories and experiences with family and friends.”

Hudgens said she felt fortunate to have studied overseas.
Emalea Hudgens, a Cherokee Nation citizen from Jay, Oklahoma, takes a photo with a baby camel in the spring while visiting Morocco during her semester-long study abroad at Swansea University in Wales. COURTESY
Emalea Hudgens, a Cherokee Nation citizen from Jay, Oklahoma, takes a photo with a baby camel in the spring while visiting Morocco during her semester-long study abroad at Swansea University in Wales. COURTESY

Culture

Native exhibition ‘Return from Exile’ starts 2-year tour
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/27/2015 10:00 AM
ATHENS, Ga. – For the last 500 years, and particularly since they began to be displaced and removed from their ancestral homelands, Native American tribes from what is now the Southeastern United States have returned annually for ceremonial rites on the autumnal equinox in late September.

“Return from Exile,” an art exhibition of more than 30 contemporary Southeastern Native American artists timed to coincide with annual homecomings, will be on view Aug. 22 to Oct. 10 at the Lyndon House Arts Center in Athens. The exhibition is beginning a two-year tour of museums throughout the U.S. and is sponsored by the University of Georgia Institute of Native American Studies and the Lyndon House.

On Saturday Aug. 29 a daylong symposium will feature panels of artists and scholars of Native American art and guided gallery tours. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10 and is sponsored by the institute. All events are free and open to the public.

The exhibition features art representing the five tribes removed from the Southeast in the 1830s: Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole.

“Featuring those five tribes and in Athens is particularly apt because the Oconee River was the traditional dividing line between the Creeks and the Cherokee, so Athens straddles that territory literally in Georgia,” said Jace Weaver, the Franklin Professor of Native American Studies, director of the UGA Institute of Native American Studies, and one of the exhibition’s curators.

The exhibition and symposium are bookends to related events designed to highlight the equinox and the celebration of Native American cultural heritage and return to the region.

On Tuesday, Sept. 22, the Lyndon House will host a screening of “This May Be the Last Time,” a documentary directed by Sterlin Harjo about the tradition of Creek Christian hymn singing.

On Wednesday, Sept. 23, the first American Indian Returnings, or AIR, talk will be held at 4:30 p.m. in Room 214 of the Miller Learning Center. The speaker will be Jodi Byrd, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation and associate professor of English, gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Byrd’s lecture, “Something Native This Way Comes,” will address issues of literary genre, returns, embodiment, civility, and horror.

“Return from Exile” is curated by Weaver; Bob Martin, associate professor of visual art at John Brown University; and Tony Tiger, former chair of the art department at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Following its run at the Lyndon House, the exhibition will travel to the Collier County Museum in Naples, Florida. It will then travel the country through 2017 to venues including the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa, and the Cherokee National Museum in Park Hill, Oklahoma.

The UGA Institute of Native American Studies, the Southeastern Indian Artist Association, the Lyndon House Arts Center, the UGA President’s Venture Fund, the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation, the Cherokee Nation, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation is supporting the exhibition.

Education

CN citizen receives Oklahoma gaming scholarship
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
08/25/2015 12:00 PM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – To help continue her education after high school, Cherokee Nation citizen Megan Baker recently received the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association John Marley Scholarship.

“As a Cherokee woman, continuing my education is important because I want to be an example to other women in my tribe,” Baker said. “I want to help them see that it is possible to get an education and give back to the Nation.”

Baker, who previously served on the CN Tribal Youth Council, is one of six who received the OIGA scholarship in May.

In 2008, the OIGA established the John Marley Scholarship Foundation to provide education opportunities for OIGA member employees and their family. The foundation provides scholarships for eligible individuals to attend accredited colleges, universities and trade schools in Oklahoma or other states.

The OIGA was established in 1986 where the common commitment and purpose is to advance the welfare of Indian peoples economically, socially and politically.

The foundation provides scholarships for OIGA member employees and members of their families who meet certain minimum requirements, who complete an application and who are selected by the Foundation’s board to receive a scholarship.

Baker, 18, said her father, who works at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa brought the scholarship to her attention.

The John Marley Scholarship is a $2,000 award that can be applied to any part of college costs. Applicants must be enrolled in Career Tech, a community college or a four-year college or university, and any student is eligible.

Baker will be attending Oklahoma State University this fall and studying psychology.

“I plan on majoring in psychology and in the future hopefully either becoming a criminal psychologist or a criminal profiler,” she said. “I’ve just always been interested solving, sort of like, puzzles and I decided that it was something I would be interested in to try to help people who have been affected by a crime of some sort. Kind of just like a little bit of me wanting to save the world I guess. I’m just really interested in how people’s minds work.”

To be considered for the John Marley Scholarship, applicants had to submit their transcripts, a copy of their acceptance letter, two letters of recommendation, their fall class schedule, a completed application and a 1,000-word essay on the topic, “If you could have dinner with anyone- past or present- who would it be?”

Baker said she also received several community scholarships and received the CN Valedictorian-Salutatorian Scholarship and the tribe’s undergraduate scholarship.

Council

6 Tribal Councilors say goodbye
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
08/19/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Aug. 10, six outgoing Tribal Councilors, who either termed out or gave up their seat, were honored with plaques during their last day of meetings.

Former Tribal Council Speaker Tina Glory Jordan thanked her constituents for entrusting her as their representative.

“I believe we’ve made the situation a little better for them. I’m very proud of what we did for the Head Start Program,” she said. “I love the fact that we’ve given out more scholarships this year than we’ve ever given out before. And if you can educate a young person that’s really all they ever want from the tribe because they’re go on, they’ll be productive and they’ll take care of their families.”

She said she loves that the tribe is building houses again and receiving one is a life-changing event.

“We’ll never be able to build enough houses, but we’re getting there. As you have people that you satisfy on the program, you have five more that are coming on to the program. But I love the fact that we’re building houses again,” Jordan said.

Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts said she hopes she left the tribe a little better with her service during the past 12 years.

“I know I am a better person for having served and am thankful for the experience,” she said. “I will continue to pray for the Cherokee Nation and our government and business staff who work diligently throughout the year to serve our Nation. My thoughts and prayers are with them as they make decisions for the Nation.”

She added that she would continue her community service by working with Native students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, as well as the American Indian Science and Engineering Society and scholarships.

Tribal Councilor Janelle Fulbright said one of the best things she’s seen happen within the CN during her eight years on council was the construction of the new Redbird Smith Clinic and dialysis center in Sallisaw.

“And I just consider it a privilege to serve, a privilege and an honor, and I’ve greatly enjoyed my eight years. “The newly elected council members, I have great confidence in them that they will carry on and be very responsive to the needs of our people,” she said.

Tribal Councilor Lee Keener said he was humbled and honored to represent the Cherokee people.

“It’s been an awesome experience. One of the best experiences of my life. I’ve learned a lot. I wish every Cherokee citizen could experience being on council so they could understand their government and what goes on,” he said. “I hope that I’ve done it to the best of my ability as far as voting, and it’s been a very good education for me and I’ll have it with me for the rest of my life.”

Tribal Councilors Jodie Fishinghawk and Julia Coates said a few words regarding their service to the tribe during the Aug. 10 Tribal Council meeting.

Fishinghawk said she wanted to thank Adair, Delaware and Ottawa counties for the privilege to serve.
“Thank you to the great employees we have over hear at the Nation,” she added.

Coates said it has been an honor to serve on the behalf of the At-Large people.

“I’ve said it at so many community meetings. It takes a lot of effort for the At-Large folks to remain involved and to remain connected, and it’s very gratifying to see how very many of them do continue to make that effort. I’ve tried to advocate as strongly as I possible could on your behalf,” she said. “And I appreciate the trust and honor that you have given me in these eight years and I hope I have fulfilled your trust in me.”

Health

Retiring nurse practitioner put her patients first
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
08/07/2015 08:24 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – When a health professional is beloved or highly regarded it is difficult to see them retire. Such was the case with nurse practitioner Vickie Love, who recently retired from the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center.

Her assistant nurse, Victorian Scott, said Love’s patients have been consistently bringing her gifts when they learned of her retirement. Patients brought everything from a picture frame to candy, Scott said.

“The way she works with patients, she shows people how you should treat them. She’ll drop what she’s doing to see a patient,” Scott, a licensed practical nurse who has worked with Love for 18 months, said.

Scott said she was reluctant to work in women’s health when she got to the health center, but now it’s a “passion” of hers after working with Love.

“She’s kind-hearted. When she’s doing her exams, she puts herself in that female’s position, so she’ll talk them through it,” she said. “She’s been a great teacher. I’ve learned so much from her.” Scott said.

Love, 58, has been serving the Cherokee people as a nurse practitioner at WPMHC for more than 22 years.

“I love my job. I love doing this,” she said.

Love said she would miss the staff members who are like her family.

“I think maybe it’s because we were in this clinic and it’s so small. Every department is right here, so you interact with everybody, and we’re here with the same group of people all day, so you’ve got to make the best of it. You’ve got to live with people,” she said. “It’s a good place to work, and it makes me sad they can’t get physicians to come here. They don’t know how good it is here. It does take a special doc to come in here because not everybody can take care of Native people.”

She and her husband Chuck, who recently retired from W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, live in Pettit Bay southeast of Tahlequah. The couple recently purchased a recreational vehicle and was set to take their first trip in it at the end of July to visit their daughter Socia, who is in her last year of residency in Seattle.

“She’s going to make me a grandma, so to help her in her last year of residency, we’re going to go up and help take care of baby so she doesn’t miss any time,” she said.

Love grew up in Wichita, Kansas, but her Cherokee mother is from Eucha and her Muscogee (Creek) father is from Bristow.

“Every weekend and every summer we were in Oklahoma, so Oklahoma is second-nature,” she said.

She began her career in 1985 at Hastings Hospital as a nurse and a med surgeon in the intensive care unit. Later, she signed up through the Indian Health Service Area Office to attend school to be a nurse practitioner.

“I didn’t even know what a nurse practitioner was then, and there were no nurse practitioner colleges in Oklahoma at all. It was a new concept. I knew to make rank (in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) you had to have a master’s, and that was going to be a master’s program, so I signed up for it,” she said.

She won a scholarship to attend nurse practitioner school at the University of Texas in Arlington and began her studies in 1989 and graduated in 1991. The IHS scholarship included a two-year payback period for students to pay back the IHS school loan.

“I was always hoping I could go to school and come back here to Hastings. I didn’t get Hastings. I got sent out to Clinton, and I cried all the way,” she said. “I tell you, it was one of the best experiences I could have had. Back here they didn’t know what to do with us because it (nurse practitioner) was a new concept. When I got out there they were kind of feeling it out, too, but I was treated like I was a nurse practitioner out there. There was great group of doctors, and I learned so much from them.”

She said when she went to Clinton, then-Principal Chief Wilma Mankiller was upset Love did not get posted at Hastings. She said Mankiller called the area office to get her posted in Tahlequah, but it was too late. She said the chief asked her to tell her when her payback was complete. When it was complete two years later, Mankiller advocated for Love to be posted near home. She was posted at the Nation’s Stilwell Clinic, which back then was in a trailer near the Stilwell City Hospital.

In 1994, a new CN clinic opened in Stilwell named after Mankiller, and Love began a 21-year relationship with patients and staff there. She served with five different principal chiefs, and after beginning her career as an ensign, Love retired as a captain in the USPHS.

She said during the past 22 years one thing was consistent in her job and that was the time she spent with patients. She said she might have known more about some of her patients than their families because she took that extra time with them when they came in for treatment.

“I like spending time with my patients and not being on that time constraint, so what I’ve always done with my time is that I spend that time with them, and then after 5 o’clock I chart (update patient charts), and I could be here 8 o’clock or 9 o’clock at night trying to finish,” she said. “I don’t know how I would do with their new concept. I’m hearing there are 10-minute visits. It might be a good time for me to get out because that would be difficult for me.”

Opinion

OPINION: Thank you for allowing me to serve another 4 years as Principal Chief
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
07/31/2015 10:00 AM
Wado to all Cherokee Nation citizens who participated in the recent elections for principal chief, deputy chief and Tribal Council. Regardless of whom you supported in the election, if you took time to vote, you expressed your voice and participated in our democratic process, which is critical to our future success. I thank God, my family, my friend Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden and our supporters for the honor and opportunity to serve another term.

I invite you all to the inauguration ceremony at 10:30 a.m. on Aug. 14 at the Sequoyah Schools gymnasium, “The Place Where They Play.” The address is 17091 S. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah.

It’s critical that our citizens engage in our leadership selection process. I encourage all Cherokees to become involved and learn about the issues and processes that shape our government.

Moving beyond the election, we now return our focus and attention to what truly matters, and that is the future of the Cherokee Nation and the Cherokee people. Another term in office will allow us the opportunity to keep building upon the progress we’ve made together during the last four years.

We have multiple projects in motion that will be absolute game-changing endeavors for our future, and over the next four years we will continue to focus on building a better world for all Cherokees.

The most important issue for our future is access to quality health care. Four years ago, Cherokees agreed our tribal health care was at a crisis point, so we invested $100 million from casino profits into health care expansion and improvements. Our record-breaking gaming profits should be utilized to benefit Cherokee Nation citizens. That is the reason we pursued gaming in the first place 25 years ago. This has allowed us to build new clinics in Jay and Ochelata and expanded health centers in Stilwell and Sallisaw. Soon, we will break ground on a 450,000-square-foot facility at the W.W. Hastings Hospital site in Tahlequah. The planned facility at that location will provide space for 1,200 new employees who will, in turn, provide quality care for our people.

Once the facility is built, we can launch our own medical school, where we hope to partner with Oklahoma State University to provide hands-on education right here in the Cherokee Nation. This means we will educate and train health care professionals who will one day staff our clinics and new hospital.

We will keep advancing our economic growth and finish major retail and entertainment expansion projects in Tahlequah and Catoosa. Additionally, we will implement statewide hunting and fishing licenses for all Cherokee Nation citizens near the end of year. We are also investing in our iconic structures by making a major renovation to our tribal headquarters in Tahlequah, a project that has been ignored for almost 40 years. Along with that, the refurbishing of our historic Cherokee capital building in downtown Tahlequah shows our commitment to the future.

It’s imperative that we convince even more Cherokee Nation youth that a college education is possible with our tribal scholarships. No qualified student who applied last year was turned down, and we supported nearly 4,000 Cherokees in college, a record number. We will help even more students in the future, honoring our ancestors’ deep commitment to education.

We want more Cherokees to enjoy the American dream of homeownership and put our Cherokee tradespeople to work building these homes. Hundreds of folks are taking advantage of our housing program, and thousands of Cherokees are now employed building those homes, including cement finishers, carpenters, bricklayers, roofers and plumbers.

Financial success for Cherokee families is equally important. We will keep advancing job development and driving the economy of northeast Oklahoma. We have a talented staff that is adept at securing federal grants to create jobs, programs and provide services for Cherokee people. Additionally, increased diversification of Cherokee Nation Businesses in our jurisdiction will continue to create cash flow for our tribe and increase self-sufficiency for our citizens.

Over the next four years, we will keep up that momentum and continue building on this successful foundation. We will continue looking for partnerships that create opportunities for our people, such as the Macy’s expansion in Owasso that is creating thousands of good jobs for Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike.

We’ll be sharing even more updates and more exciting news during the Cherokee National Holiday State of the Nation address. Please make plans to join us this coming Labor Day weekend for our annual homecoming event the first weekend in September.

With great enthusiasm and pleasure, we look forward to serving you, the Cherokee people, for another four years.

Wado.

People

Helsley drafted by St. Louis Cardinals
BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
08/25/2015 08:00 AM
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – On June 9, Cherokee Nation citizen and pitcher Ryan Helsley was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals as the 161st overall pick in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft.

“It was pretty awesome, especially coming from such a small town and a small school,” Helsley said. “Just to show people that it’s possible no matter where you come from if you just work hard and keep pressing for what you want.”

A 2013 graduate of Sequoyah High School, Helsley is the second SHS player and CN citizen to be drafted in the MLB.

He is also the first player from Northeastern State University to be drafted since 2009, the first NSU player to be drafted in the first five rounds and the first NSU player to be selected by the Cardinals since the draft started in 1965.

Helsley said it was his parents who helped motivate him to practice and work hard.

“I have to give a lot of credit to them,” he said.

According to the NSU Athletic Department, Helsley made 21 starts in 26 appearances during his two years at NSU, compiling a 14-8 record and 4.06 ERA in 126.1 innings pitched. Helsley won the MIAA Freshman of the Year award in 2014 and was named to the MIAA Second Team. In 2015, he was named to the MIAA First Team, the only underclassmen to earn the honor.

Helsley said after his freshman year in college, he became eligible for the MLB draft.

“The summer after my freshman year I was in California playing baseball and my coach out there told me that he thought I’d be eligible for the draft because I turned 21 during the summertime and fell on the deadline of the draft,” he said.

He said during the fall of his sophomore year, scouts began contacting him and by 2015 he was drafted.

Helsley plays for the Johnson City Cardinals in the Advanced Rookie League. After the Advanced Rookie League the baseball classifications are Class A, Double A, Triple A and then the Major League. However, it varies when and into which division a player advances.

The Johnson City Cardinals’ regular season begins in June and ends Sept. 1. The team plays more than 60 games.

Helsley said he is a starting pitcher with a six-day rotation and his best pitches are his curve ball, changeup and fastball, which is clocked at 98 mph.

As a Cherokee and a baseball player, Helsley said it was great to be someone that other Native Americans could possibly look up to and try to model after.

“I’m trying to be the best role model that I can be,” he said.
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