Tulsa Artist Fellowship extends application deadline

01/31/2015 02:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – The George Kaiser Family Foundation announced Jan. 21 that it is extending the deadline for the national artist fellowship program – the Tulsa Artist Fellowship from Feb. 2 to April 3.

The TAF is meant to enhance Tulsa’s growing art scene by providing awards and resources to local and non-local artists.

Native American artists are encouraged to apply. Fellows will be awarded an unrestricted stipend ranging from $15,000 to $40,000 and, in most cases, free housing and studio workspace.

“It is our goal with these awards to recognize great artists in all stages of their career. In addition, we feel that providing housing and workspace in Tulsa’s Brady Arts District gives the non-resident fellows the opportunity to experience the treasures of our art community and share their talents with Tulsa,” Stanton Doyle, George Kaiser Family Foundation senior program officer, said.

The TAF is open to both local and non-resident artists and will provide awards for both early and mid-career artists. In an effort to help grow and shape Tulsa’s vibrant arts community, non-resident artists will be required to live in provided housing in Tulsa. In the first year, fellowships will be awarded to artists in the discipline of public and/or gallery-oriented visual arts with the possibility of adding other disciplines in the future.

The program will reserve some of the fellowship positions for Native American, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian artists. A screening committee and selection panel will follow the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 as a guideline in awarding Native American artists a fellowship.

“In terms of Native American art, Tulsa has deep roots diverse artistic traditions represented in the extensive collections of many nearby tribal institutions as well as at the Gilcrease and Philbrook museums – and a vibrant community of contemporary Native artists working in various media and style,” Doyle said.

Fellowships offered will be merit-based grants and will have a one-year term with an option to renew for a second year. Five to 15 fellowships will be provided depending on the quality of entries. Fellowships will be separated into two categories.

Early Career Artists: Award of a $15,000 unrestricted stipend with free private housing and workspace during year one. Year two is optional and will include a stipend of $7,500 plus free housing and workspace. If the fellow wants to stay in Tulsa, housing, and workspace can be retained for a third year for $500 a month total.

Mid-Career Artists: Award of a $25,000 unrestricted stipend with free private housing and workspace in year one. Year two is optional and will include a stipend of $15,000 plus free housing and workspace. If the fellow wants to stay in Tulsa, housing and workspace can be retained for a third year for $500 a month total.
A coordinating committee consisting of local leaders in the Tulsa arts community will screen all fellowship applications for eligibility and coordinate community programs for the fellows during their time in Tulsa. Eligible applicants will be reviewed by a national panel of panel comprised of national artists, curators, reviewers and experts in the area of focus.

Applications for the TAF are due on April 3 and the fellowship will begin on Jan. 4, 2015. To learn more about the Tulsa Artist Fellowship and apply, visit www.gkff.org/taf.
Cherokee National Youth Choir members partake in an interactive game during their choir retreat on Jan. 16 at the Tulakogee Conference Center. The previous years choir members welcomed in 15 new members for the 2015 choir season. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX.
Cherokee National Youth Choir members partake in an interactive game during their choir retreat on Jan. 16 at the Tulakogee Conference Center. The previous years choir members welcomed in 15 new members for the 2015 choir season. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX.

CNYC enjoys retreat, gets to know each other

01/31/2015 08:00 AM
WAGONER, Okla. – The Cherokee National Youth Choir on Jan. 16 went on its annual retreat that was filled with interactive games, singing and the making of new friends at the Tulakogee Conference Center.

The retreat is to welcome new members so they can leave the title of “new” choir member behind.

During the retreat choir members got to know each other by playing games and by learning some of the music they will be singing in the coming months.

CNYC Director Mary Kay Henderson said the choir consists of approximately “half and half” of new and old members.

“Some of the kids already know someone in the choir, but we’ve got a lot of new ones,” she said. “It’s just a little bit larger group than we’re use to having, but it’ll be fun.”

Cherokee language teacher and CNYC travel coordinator Kathy Sierra said an important aspect about the choir retreat is that alumni choir members come and help with storytelling and cultural activities.

“The alumni will come in and help them learn. Even all the former members that are there will be helping all the new ones. It’s just a unique group,” she said. “Once this orientation’s (retreat’s) over we’ll be like one big, happy family.”

Home-schooled freshman Danya Pigeon, 15, said she wanted to join the choir for a couple of years but has always been too busy. Pigeon was one of the 15 youths who were inducted into the choir in January.

“I finally felt like it was something that I needed to do to help preserve the culture and keep it alive,” she said. “I like to sing also, so I figured it was a win-win.”

Pigeon said she learned some of the Cherokee language by learning “Amazing Grace.”

“I learned the first two verses and then that kind of got me into wanting to learn more,” she said.

After enjoying the activities of the retreat’s first night Pigeon said she could tell the choir was like a family.

“This isn’t just a group of young people that sing, it’s really more than that. They’re like a family, and they’re friends, and they just all fit together like puzzle pieces,” she said.

Pigeon said she looks forward to learning more of the Cherokee language and encouraging others to do so.
Sequoyah High School junior Morgan Mouse, 17, has been in the choir for a year and said she remembers being a new choir member.

“I was so scared and nervous. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it or not, but after I got progressed in it was really fun and I enjoy it so much,” she said. “Going different places and seeing different people that I’ve never met, that was really fun.”

She said now she is trying to help new members feel comfortable.

“I’m just trying to guide them and tell them, “Don’t be so nervous and don’t be afraid to show them who you really are.” That’s really all that matters,” she said.

Mouse said she influenced her brother, Tenkiller Public School eighth grade student Elijah Bennett, to join the choir. Bennett is a new member for the 2015 season.

“At first he was really scared because he really didn’t want to sing that much,” she said. “Every time I came home I talked about choir. He got really jealous because I brought up so many stories and so many funny memories that he said he wanted to share them too, so that’s why he’s here.”

Henderson said she and Sierra have upcoming shows in the works, with the first being in March.
She said they plan to use the $10,000 the choir won from the GRAMMY Foundation and the rock group Foreigner for a summer tour. The choir won the money by submitting a public service announcement that showed their love for music.

“We hope to use that to take this choir on a short tour in June to Cherokee, North Carolina, to different cultural places along the trail (Trail of Tears) and not only to learn, but to share their culture with the people in that area,” she said. “The choir is so unique that nobody else has one that sings totally in Cherokee.”

The CNYC released its 12th CD in 2014 titled “From the East.” The 12-track disc contains songs from the Cherokees’ ancestral homeland in the East.

Country musicians Little Big Town return to Hard Rock

01/30/2015 04:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Country music band Little Big Town will make its way back to The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa on March 21.

The Grammy Award-winning group entered the music scene approximately 15 years ago with their hits “Good As Gone,” “Little White Church,” “Boondocks” and “Bring It On Home.”

The group released its sixth album “Pain Killer” in October, which features the single “Girl Crush” and the No. 1 hit “Day Drinking.” “Pain Killer” follows the band’s platinum-selling album “Tornado,” which includes No. 1 hits “Pontoon” and “Tornado.”

For more information, visit www.LittleBigTown.com.

Tickets start at $60 and are on sale now. Ticket prices and information on upcoming shows can be found under The Joint section at www.hardrockcasinotulsa.com or by calling 918-384-ROCK. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa is located off Interstate 44 at exit 240. All who attend must be 21 years of age or older.
Cherokee Nation citizen Rick Tabor, center, poses with a bull elk he harvested with the help of his friends B.J. Latta, left, Bob Burlingame, and Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer, right. The men assisted the disabled Tabor with the hunt in December on Burlingame’s land in Adair County. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Rick Tabor, center, poses with a bull elk he harvested with the help of his friends B.J. Latta, left, Bob Burlingame, and Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer, right. The men assisted the disabled Tabor with the hunt in December on Burlingame’s land in Adair County. COURTESY

Friends help disabled Cherokee go on hunt of lifetime

01/30/2015 12:00 PM
STILWELL, Okla. – A disabled Cherokee Nation citizen with a love for hunting was able to partake in hunts thanks to the assistance of a local game warden and an eye surgeon from Sherman, Texas.

Oklahoma Game Warden Jared Cramer knew of CN citizen Rick Tabor’s love of hunting and his desire to hunt even though he was born disabled and confined to a wheelchair. With the help of Cramer and eye surgeon Bob Burlingame, Tabor was able to realize his dream of hunting elk this past fall.

“Cramer had come to know Rick, and because of Rick’s desire to hunt, despite physical disabilities that would sideline most, he was determined to give this bright young man an opportunity to hunt,” Burlingame said.

Burlingame purchased a ranch in Sequoyah and Adair counties and turned it into a wildlife haven while maintaining it as a timber and cattle ranch.

Four years ago, Burlingame and Cramer met when Cramer visited Burlingame’s ranch. From that meeting, Burlingame said, Cramer and Tabor were to form an unusual alliance, the purpose of which was to enable Tabor to pursue his hunting dreams.

Sam Munholland of the Oklahoma Youth Hunting and Shooting Sports Association assisted Burlingame and Cramer in locating a device that would allow Tabor to hunt. The wheelchair device was procured from beadaptive.com, a web-based company specializing in devices designed to aid disabled hunters. It was equipped with a brand new 30-06 rifle topped with a pistol scope and presented to Tabor for high school graduation this past spring.

Cramer and Tabor wasted no time in sighting in the new rifle. After dispatching several hogs on Burlingame’s ranch later in the summer, Tabor’s first fall hunting trip in November proved successful after he harvested a buck and a doe.

Cramer again visited with Burlingame regarding hunting possibilities for Tabor. Cramer and Tabor hoped to have a more challenging hunt. Three years previously, Burlingame had stocked Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch with elk, and a trophy bull was on the agenda as Tabor’s next hunting adventure.

In December, the team of Cramer, Tabor, Burlingame and fellow hunter B.J. Latta waited patiently for an opportunity. Cramer, who had long wanted Burlingame to hunt with Tabor, gave up his spot in the hunting blind, taking a position farther south to watch the action.

“Suddenly B.J. hoarsely whispered, ‘I see horns.’ Sure enough, a large bull loomed in the short brush adjacent to the trail they were hunting. After 30 tense minutes of wondering whether the massive bull would step out, B.J. once again exclaimed, ‘He’s stepping out,’” Burlingame said. “Rick readied himself for the shot, guiding his gun with a special aligning device that he operates with his mouth. After lining up his crosshairs just behind the bull’s shoulder, he coolly announced ‘I’m about to take the shot.’ The rifle roared, and the bull staggered as Rick’s bullet found its mark, a perfect hit. He followed up with a second shot to put the bull down for good.”

Tabor’s hunting friends celebrated back at Burlingame’s barn. The bull was a true trophy for Tabor, Burlingame said.

“Thus ended a fantastic hunt by a gutsy young man with physical challenges that most would consider insurmountable. It should be noted that none of this would have occurred without the hard work and dedication of Jared Cramer, who befriended Rick and tirelessly worked to make his hunting dreams a reality,” Burlingame said.
The Cherokee Nation recently purchased the Clinic in the Woods building located between the Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The tribe purchased it for $1,078,500 to use for its Behavioral Health services. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee Nation recently purchased the Clinic in the Woods building located between the Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The tribe purchased it for $1,078,500 to use for its Behavioral Health services. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribe purchases Tahlequah clinic property

01/30/2015 08:14 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – To help place the Cherokee Nation’s Behavioral Health services in a more centralized location, tribal officials recently purchased the Clinic in the Woods building located at 1325 E. Boone St. between the Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital.

“We have been leasing space for years, and to purchase this at a very good price, and the location, made it a good opportunity for the tribe. But also the location will make it convenient for patients so they can go see their providers, and then they can just go over to Hastings to get their medication,” CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said.

According to CN documents, the tribe purchased the building on Nov. 3 for $1,078,500.

Davis said the building was appraised for more than $3 million. She added that her sister was the realtor of the Clinic in the Woods but removed herself once the tribe became interested in the building.

Davis said there wouldn’t need to be many renovations except painting and new carpet.

She added that she was hoping the location would be open before March.

According to the CN website, Behavioral Health offers programs such as mental health services, substance abuse treatment and community-based programs promoting mental health. It also offer programs designed to help prevent substance abuse.

Presentations and technical assistance to schools and community organizations are available on topics including alcohol and drugs, violence, mental health, suicide and reproductive health. Outpatient services include individual and family therapy, substance abuse counseling, relapse prevention, parenting skills for disorders of childhood, psychological testing and crisis intervention.

Behavioral Health also started Project Launch in 2013, which offers training for practitioners to help circulate programs and provide those services to families in Cherokee communities. One program of Project Launch is a three-day training Triple P-Positive Parenting Program, a parenting and family support system designed to prevent and treat behavioral and emotional problems in children and teenagers, according to its website.

Triple P aims to prevent problems in the family, school and community and to create family environments that encourage children to realize their potential.

Oaks Indian Mission receives poker tournament proceeds

01/29/2015 12:17 PM
WEST SILOAM SPRINGS, Okla. – The eighth annual Reindeer Games Poker Tournament at Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs helped raise $1,000 for the Oaks Indian Mission.

The funds were raised to ensure that children would be able to celebrate important milestones in 2015.

“We are very happy that Cherokee Nation Entertainment and Cherokee Nation Businesses continue to support the children we care for,” Oaks Indian Mission Executive Director Vance Blackfox said. “Gifts such as this and the ongoing support from casino employees and guests are crucial to providing the children with structure, a place to call home and educational opportunities that will bring hope for them and their futures.”

Those participating in the tournament were given an opportunity to purchase additional poker chips. The money generated from the rebuy was designated as a contribution to OIM, raising approximately $1,000.

“I’m proud to see our employees working hard to make sure the children of Oaks Indian Mission feel special throughout the year,” Tony Nagy, Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs general manager, said. “This is something they have continued to be passionate about. Making birthday memories is important for any child, but these children especially need loved during their special day.”

Aside from the donation of money, CNE, CNB and OIM collaborate year round to help better the lives of each child at the mission. Employees from CNE and CNB volunteer at the mission and serve as storytellers, mentors and tutors. Cherokee Casino & Hotel West Siloam Springs employees also provide monthly birthday cakes to the youth at OIM.

OIM cares for Native American youth ages 4 to 18. They house approximately 36 youth during the school year with a majority of them staying during the summer months.

For more information, visit www.oaksindianmission.org.
Cherokee Nation citizens Cmdr. Dana Hayworth, left, registered nurse at the CN W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Capt. Kevin Brooks, chief pharmacist at the Whiteriver Indian Health Service Hospital in Whiteriver, Arizona; and Lt. Cmdr. Julie Erb-Alvarez, epidemiologist at the IHS Oklahoma City Area Office, are serving with the U.S. Public Health Service’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Africa. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizens Cmdr. Dana Hayworth, left, registered nurse at the CN W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma; Capt. Kevin Brooks, chief pharmacist at the Whiteriver Indian Health Service Hospital in Whiteriver, Arizona; and Lt. Cmdr. Julie Erb-Alvarez, epidemiologist at the IHS Oklahoma City Area Office, are serving with the U.S. Public Health Service’s response to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Africa. COURTESY

3 Cherokees help fight Africa’s Ebola epidemic

Senior Reporter
01/29/2015 09:12 AM
MARGIBI COUNTY, Liberia, Africa – Three Cherokee Nation citizens are serving in Liberia with the U.S. Public Health Service helping to stop the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Capt. Kevin Brooks, chief pharmacist at the Whiteriver Indian Health Service hospital in Whiteriver Arizona; Cmdr. Dana Hayworth, registered nurse at CN W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma; and Lt. Cmdr. Julie Erb-Alvarez, epidemiologist at the IHS Oklahoma City Area Office, are serving at the forefront of the U.S. government response to the Ebola outbreak. They are among the USPHS officers staffing the Monrovia Medical Unit, a 25-bed field hospital that has been reconfigured to function as an Ebola Treatment Unit.

The team consists of doctors, nurses, infection control officers, pharmacists, laboratorians, behavioral health specialists and administrative management staff. They are providing support and care for health care workers and responders who are combatting the disease.

“I am very proud that I have been able to come to Liberia and represent the Cherokee Nation and the United States as we assist the people of Liberia overcome this unprecedented outbreak that has devastated their country,” Brooks said. “I went into this mission not for any recognition but just to help people in need, which is why I became a United Stated Public Health Service pharmacist with the Indian Health Service. In just the short time that the USPHS has been here helping, you can see a significant benefit to the Liberian people, and I greatly hope that this partnership continues in areas other than Ebola.”

The medical unit’s focus is to provide care to international and local health care workers and responders who become infected with the Ebola virus. By providing that care, they, in turn, can care for other Ebola patients in the region. The USPHS team arrived in Liberia in December, but USPHS officials did not say when the team would return home.

“I understand the positive impact that this mission is having for our tribe, our country and globally. I am grateful to be a part of the response and appreciate the love and support I have received from friends, family and my workplace,” Erb-Alvarez said. “As an epidemiologist working for the Indian Health Service, I have followed the West African Ebola epidemic from early 2014 until it turned into a full global public health crisis. From the beginning I have wanted to help and this experience is life changing.”

USPHS health care workers are providing medical care to Ebola responders who are at a high risk of getting infected with the virus if they come in contact with symptomatic or infected patients and with vomit, diarrhea, blood and soiled bedding.

“This mission in West Africa is a chance to offer hope and healing to these people in Liberia who are devastated by the Ebola virus. It has wiped out entire communities, towns and families. There are children who have lost both parents to the disease and are now being raised by siblings and the community that remains,” Hayworth said. “This mission is also a chance to help contain the EBV before it spreads to other countries and continents on the level it is here. So I feel that by participating in this mission, I am providing humanitarian care that is desperately needed here in country while at the same time attempting to protect my nation against the spread of this deadly disease.”

Hayworth said she misses her family, friends and job and that her co-workers have been supportive of her mission and have sent cards, care packages and emails.

“I am very thankful to them. The have all supported me and kept things running smoothly at home,” she said. “Christmas Day was especially hard but some of our team members spent time with some children in the community who were also without family because they had died from Ebola. It put things in perspective for me. So, I was blessed on Christmas like never before by sharing it with these precious children.”

Erb-Alvarez said Liberians have welcomed them “with open arms” and the USPHS team are thanked everywhere they go in the country.

“I have been told over and over that because of us, they now have hope. Being here has allowed me to experience in-person the devastation that this epidemic has had on the people of West Africa and gain a first-hand understanding of what we in the United States only occasionally see or read about in the news,” she said.

She added she misses her husband and daughter, her “granny’s smile” and her mom, dad and brothers.

“I miss all my pets. There are no animals here, only lizards, bats and bugs. I miss being able to hug and shake hands. We have to maintain social distancing at all times. It will probably be tough to come home and have people hugging me and shaking hands,” Erb-Alvarez said. “I really miss good food, driving and good roads. I don’t really miss the cold weather though. I am actually enjoying the African heat and humidity.”


Wilson releases playable sci-fi app
01/22/2015 10:22 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. – Daniel H. Wilson, author of technology thrillers such as “Robopocalypse,” “Robogenesis,” and “Amped,” has teamed up with Portland game design studio Mountain Machine to produce “Mayday! Deep Space,” a playable science fiction story for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch.

The app made its debut in the Apple App Store on Jan. 7. In the app, players answer a mayday call from a survivor who is stranded on a derelict spaceship and use voice commands to guide him to safety – all while uncovering the terrible secret behind what wiped out the crew.

“It’s pure survival-horror with a shocking twist at the end,” states a press release for the app.

A Cherokee Nation citizen, Wilson has been working for the past year and a half with Mountain Machine to develop the playable sci-fi story app.

“I grew up in Tulsa and attended the University of Tulsa to study computer science. No surprise then that ‘Mayday!’ is part audio book and part video game – a story that you can play,” Wilson said. “It employs speech recognition very intentionally to put the player into an intimate, emotional experience with the survivor character. Basically, ‘Mayday!’ combines everything I love about reading and gaming into one package.”

Harnessing the latest Apple hardware to employ seamless speech recognition, players can use more than 10 voice commands to guide a survivor to safety through five levels of increasing mayhem and uncover the terrible secret behind what happened to the crew of the USS Appaloosa.

Osric Chau (“Supernatural,” “2012,” “Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn”) voices the main character, joined by Bitsie Tulloch and Claire Coffee, stars of the NBC television show “Grimm.”

Wilson is committed to using the latest technology to find new ways to tell stories.

“By using spoken commands, I hoped to forge an intimate, emotional experience,” he said. “My goal for ‘Mayday!’ was simple: create a story that you can play. Please grab a copy and let me know what you think, and as early adopters, it’s always important to leave reviews right away if you enjoy the game. Thank you for your support. It’s because of you that I keep scheming.”

Wilson has formed his own entertainment company called “Iron Cloud Entertainment.” He is also a New York Times bestselling author behind books such as “Robopocalypse,” “How to Survive a Robot Uprising,” and “Amped.”

Wilson, of Portland, has built a diverse writing career since earning a doctorate degree in robotics from Carnegie Mellon University in 2005. In 2008, he hosted “The Works” on the History Channel, a 10-episode series exploring the inner workings of everyday stuff.

In collaboration with DC Comics, he is writing a weekly series called “Earth 2: World’s End.” He is also penning a science fiction survival script for the movie company Lionsgate with Brad Pitt attached to produce.

“Mayday! Deep Space” is available today for a price of $2.99 from the App Store on iPhone, iPad, and iPhone Touch or at www.AppStore.com. For more, visit www.maydayapps.com or on Twitter: @maydayapps.


IHS scholarship workshop set for Feb. 10 at NSU
01/23/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –An Indian Health Service scholarship workshop has been set for Feb. 10 at Northeastern State University’s Tahlequah campus

The workshop will take place on the University Center’s third floor in the Morgan Room. IHS Area Scholarship Coordinator Keith Bohanan will act as the guest facilitator.

IHS offers three scholarships to qualified Native American or Alaska Native candidates, those being the preparatory, pre-graduate and health professions scholarships.

The preparatory scholarship is for qualified Native American and Alaska Native students who are enrolled in preparatory or undergraduate prerequisite courses in preparation for entry health professions school.

The pre-graduate scholarship is for qualified Native American and Alaska Native students who are enrolled in coursework leading to a bachelor’s degree required for application to pre-medicine, pre-dentistry, pre-podiatry and others needed by Indian health programs.

The health professions scholarship is for qualified Native American and Alaska Native students who are enrolled in an eligible health profession degree program.

For applications, visit www.ihs.gov/scholarship/ The deadline for new applications is March 28.


Council passes bill opposing transmission power line
Senior Reporter
01/13/2015 02:29 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 12 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously approved a resolution opposing the construction of a transmission power line that would carry power generated by windmills in western Oklahoma through the state and Arkansas into Tennessee.

With Julia Coates absent, the 16 Tribal Councilors present voted against the 750-mile project being proposed by the Plains & Eastern Company based in Houston. Legislators are particularly opposed to the line running through Sequoyah County, which is within the tribe’s jurisdiction.

Tribal Councilor Cara Cowan Watts initially abstained from voting for the resolution in committee because she said she did not have enough information.

“We don’t have information, all the information, I think. Even if it is accurate and it’s going to impact our facilities or places and locations and historic places and routes, not just in Sequoyah County but also in Arkansas, we have a lot of work to do,” Cowan Watts said. “What came out in committee was potentially they had been contacting the tribe for three years, and we (council) hadn’t been informed. So, I think there’s additional investigations that need to occur about what did or didn’t happen with involvement with the tribe.”

Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright, who helps represent Sequoyah County, said she has attended public meetings regarding the transmission line and heard from landowners who may be affected and who do not want to give up lands.

She said landowners, some of them CN citizens, also do not want to see 200-foot towers on their lands or hear humming noises emitted by transmission lines. There is also the possibility that the lines would emit a low-grade level of radiation, Fullbright said.

She said 800 Sequoyah County residents have signed a petition against the transmission line and that Sequoyah County commissioners are also against it. Also, the line would run near and parallel to the marked Trail of Tears trail in the county, she said.

Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, who serves as the president of the national Trail of Tears Association, said the superintendent who oversees the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail is also opposed to the project because it would affect Trail of Tears sites in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

“I’m also opposed to it simply because of the affect it will have on Cherokee citizens as it crosses their property,” he said.

In other business, the Tribal Council unanimously approved Nathan Barnard nomination to the CN Administrative Appeals Board, which hears appeals from people who have lost employment with the tribe.

Barnard is filling a vacancy left by Lynn Burris, who resigned after being confirmed to the tribe’s Supreme Court. Bernard will serve from Jan. 13 to Oct. 31.

Supreme Court Judge John Garrett swore in Barnard during the meeting.

“I want to thank Chief (Bill John) Baker for nominating me, and I want to thank the council for the opportunity to serve the Nation, and I will certainly do my very best,” Barnard said after taking his oath.

During his State of the Nation report, Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced that the tribe has expanded maternity leave for tribal employees.

“This means it’s on our insurance, and it doesn’t mean it is sick leave or vacation. It’s above and beyond (employee insurance), so that our young mothers, and fathers, can nurture our young Cherokee children,” he said.

Also, for tribal employees, the CN has adopted a new emergency communications system to better inform workers of “bad weather days.”

“The system will allow us to send voice mails and/or text messages directly to the staff in the event of a closing or a delay or any emergency,” Principal Chief Baker said.

The Tribal Council also honored CN citizen and artist Donald Vann for his support of fellow Cherokee veterans by donating his art to them and for his achievements as an artist.

Vann is a veteran who served in the Vietnam War and was assigned to the 1st Calvary Aviation Division. In November 1969, Vann’s helicopter was shot down. Only he and his crew chief survived the violent crash. After recovering from his injuries, Vann rejoined his unit in Fort Hood, Texas, where he was assigned to desk duty and later went on to be a drill instructor. In March 1973, he received an honorable discharge. He earned several medals, including the Purple Heart, National Defense, Good Conduct, Vietnam Campaign and Republic of Vietnam Campaign.

Vann’s Stilwell High School principal, Dr. Neil Morton, spoke about Vann during the meeting saying he recognized that Vann was not like other students and enrolled him in an alternative program and allowed him to paint murals on the school’s walls for two hours every day. He said Vann’s first mural was a depiction of the Trail of Tears.

Vann thanked the body for the honor and his business partner, Scott Bernard, for his assistance since moving to Tahlequah from Austin, Texas, about five years ago.


CN awarded IHS Joint Venture Program project
01/19/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials in 2013 announced an expansion to the tribe’s Health Services, which included a new W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah. On Jan. 15, tribal officials said the Indian Health Service has awarded the CN a Joint Venture Program project to help pay for a new Hastings.

As part of the agreement between the CN and IHS, the tribe will fund the construction of a more than 250,000-square-foot facility on the hospital’s Tahlequah campus. IHS initially provides up to $30 million per year for 20 years for staffing and operations, according to CN Communications.

The tribe was among more than 30 applicants and one of the top three selected for the project.

“Cherokee Nation Health Services cannot be more excited about the future of W.W. Hastings Hospital and our tribe’s health system as a whole,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “With the millions of dollars from the joint venture project, the Cherokee Nation will continue to offer first-class health service at a state-of-the-art health facility.”

Davis said she’s worked within the walls of the current hospital since 1988 and knows firsthand the challenges of not having enough room as both a patient and a nurse.

“And so when I had the opportunity to have this job it was more than I could have ever dreamed when the (principal) chief (Bill John Baker) readily said ‘OK, let’s make some expansions’ and had support of the council and put that money where their mouth is,” Davis said. “We’ve got a great team of people and the chief pushing forward to get this done.”

Davis said in August 2013 the Tribal Council passed a resolution to apply for the joint venture with IHS. The resolution was submitted that September.

“We were notified Oct. 15 of the same year that we were in the top running. And just this past year, or this week, notified that we were selected,” she said.

Hastings CEO Brian Hail said in conjunction with IHS, CN would begin the planning process with the new hospital following program requirements.

“We estimate we’ll have that completed by the end of the summer then hopefully we can have construction completed within the next two to three years,” Hail said.

Principal Chief Baker said it took work from several people and departments to bring the tribe’s health services where it is today.

“But I stand before you today to tell you that this is probably the greatest news of the modern Cherokee Nation,” he said. “Yes, we started gaming some 10 years ago and that was great news, but over those 10 years we averaged about $20 to $25 million a year coming into the tribe for direct services to our people. But because of this announcement today we have been approved for a joint venture on the W.W. Hastings Hospital campus to proceed...right away.”

He added that CN official would do everything in their power to maximize the dollars to make the lives and the health care of the Cherokee people.

“So we don’t know exactly how it’s going to look because there is going to be some negotiations and give and take, but it very likely could mean more dollars per year than the dollars they gave us when we took over Hastings Hospital five years ago,” Baker said.

According to a press release, the “expanded hospital campus will help alleviate the strain on the current hospital, which was built 30 years ago to serve 65,000 outpatient visits each year. The hospital currently serves more than 400,000 patient visits per year. The new facility will include more than 100 exam rooms and dozens of specialty rooms.”

The release also states that in the early 1990s, IHS started a Joint Venture Program to help tribes develop better health care facilities for its citizens “while alleviating financial strain on the federal government.”


Looking back on a successful 2014 and welcoming a bright 2015
Principal Chief
01/01/2015 12:00 PM
As we begin a new year, we are blessed to open a chapter of new possibilities and reflect on successes in 2014. The coming year offers us an opportunity to meet the needs of the Cherokee people and deliver services and implement new ideas that will improve lives. We will continue to focus on things that make real and lasting impacts in the lives of Cherokee Nation citizens by providing homes, health and hope.

We made a $100 million investment from casino profits to provide better health care for CN citizens. In 2013 and 2014 we broke ground on health centers in Ochelata, Sallisaw, Stilwell and Jay. We are working diligently to complete those new and expanded health centers that will provide service to more than 1 million patient visits in the coming year. In 2015, all four of these health centers will open. The expanded space, coupled with state-of-the-art equipment, allows us to deliver better and faster care.

Another bright spot in our approach to health care was the opening of our new Jack Brown Center in Tahlequah. The center offers world-class therapy and care to troubled Native youths and young adults battling substance abuse. We believe in a holistic approach to health care delivery, and helping young people battle addiction is equally as important as treating other diseases.

Increasing hope for Cherokee families means access to quality jobs. In 2014, Macy’s broke ground on a fulfillment center in Owasso, creating thousands of jobs. With our CN Career Services leading the recruitment effort, CN citizens will fill many of those Macy’s jobs.

Cherokees can be proud of other retail development projects announced in 2014. Cherokee Springs Plaza in Tahlequah is a $170 million development project that will include dining, retail and entertainment and adjoins Cherokee Springs Golf Course. In addition to the permanent jobs created when tenants begin filling retail spaces, Cherokee Springs will create hundreds of construction and support jobs, as development is projected to span a five-year period.

Cherokee Springs Plaza is a nice complement to the upscale retail development we announced in September. We are developing a high-end outlet mall adjoining the Cherokee Hills Golf Club near the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa. The dining and entertainment options are projected to create 1,000 permanent jobs and hundreds of other jobs during construction. We expect to annually generate $120 million in sales and attract 2 million additional visitors to the area. Our partner, Woodmont Outlets, is spearheading the $80 million development that will increase the number of visitors to Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in the coming years.

Cherokee Nation Entertainment broke ground on two casinos is 2014, which will provide hundreds of Cherokee jobs. In Roland, we launched an $80 million project with expanded dining, entertainment and hotel space, which will bring 100 new jobs to the region. In August, we broke ground on the Cherokee Casino South Coffeyville, just south of the Kansas border. This casino will also create 100 jobs in an area that has been left out of CN economic development for too long.

A good job leads to family stability. I’m proud that in 2014, I signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for all CN employees. CNB followed suit by passing a similar resolution. The bump to $9.50 an hour was simply the right thing to do for our employees and our people. We have more Cherokees working for our businesses than ever before, so this increase helps them better meet their families’ needs.

That’s a source of pride for me, just as the expansion of our car tag program is. In June, a compact with the Oklahoma Governor’s Office allowed us to offer car tags for the first time to Cherokees living anywhere in Oklahoma. People said it could not be done, but I’m thankful we were able to achieve this.

In 2014, also saw the CN preserve vital pieces of our culture and history. Bison retuned to the CN through a federal surplus program, and we could not be happier. We have reconnected a piece of our heritage to our bright future. The herd of bison will grow, creating a boon in cultural tourism and other economic development opportunities. The CN was also proactive in working with high tech companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft to incorporate our language and syllabary across multiple user platforms. This guarantees our language will thrive as people use it to communicate in modern ways such as texting and email.

I am proud of what we have done in 2014 and look to building on these successes in 2015.

As I have said, a good government makes life better for its people and for future generations. When we are healthy and have jobs and home security, we are more hopeful. That is what we are working toward every day for Cherokee people. All these achievements were made possible through the grace of God and because of the team effort of our thousands of dedicated employees, and to them I extend a sincere “wado.”

So on behalf of all those at CN working hard on your behalf, I wish you all the blessings of a happy New Year.


Student contracts with CN after learning Cherokee language
01/25/2015 08:00 AM
CHICAGO – It was while attending a powwow in Chicago when he was 10 that sparked Patrick Rochford’s interest in learning the Cherokee culture and language. After learning the Cherokee language through the Cherokee Nation’s online language courses, Rochford, now 22 and a student at DePaul University, contracts with the CN Translation Department.

“I would say I really started when I was 14 and I enrolled for the online classes with Ed Fields (CN Cultural Resource Center language instructor). But before that my dad had bought me a Cherokee language book when I was 10, so I started playing around with the words. But I didn’t get serious about it until I was probably 14,” Rochford said.

The book his father bought him was a beginning Cherokee language book.

“I didn’t really know what I was reading at the time because I didn’t know how to pronounce the different Cherokee sounds, but I still tried,” Rochford said. “That’s where I started my love of the language. When I went to Ed’s classes, I really went back and was like ‘oh, I know how to say this now’ and that’s how I started.”

Rochford said the reason he took the classes was just to learn a few words and more about the Cherokee culture. He said he knew he had Cherokee ancestry but he felt that having ancestry wasn’t enough.

He quickly immersed himself in the language and took all of the online language classes about three times each.

“I guess I knew I had Cherokee ancestry and it wasn’t enough to say that,” he said. “I really got interested in it and when I started Ed’s classes. I didn’t have the idea of becoming fluent. I just wanted to learn a few words. I figured it would be fun. After I got more into his classes I decided I want to become fluent one day or as close to it as I could become.”

Rochford said he enjoyed the way Fields taught the classes because he included the Cherokee culture.

“That’s really important for me when I’m learning about something, is to have a sense of culture as well as language,” he said.

From 2010-12, Rochford attended Northeastern State University where he was a Center for Tribal Studies student worker, and in 2010, he and other NSU students helped teach an after-school Cherokee language and culture program at Grandview Public Schools in Tahlequah.

“That was always fun because we got to work with the kids doing the Language Bowl,” he said. “So to see them pick up words, that made it worth it.”

About three years ago, he did an interview on the tribe’s Cherokee Voices, Cherokee Sounds radio show with host Dennis Sixkiller. Rochford still listens to the show to help his learning.

“Some of the speakers have a really fast rhythm in the way they speak, but now I’ve gotten used to it,” he said. “It helps for me to listen to the radio show. I listen to the interviews any time that I can because living in Illinois I don’t have anyone to speak with on a daily basis. So that really helps just listening. It gets me used to hearing it.”

In 2011, Rochford interned with the CN Language Technology group where he first started working with the translators.

“We would put together many dialogues and record them,” he said. “So it gave me a lot of practice with the language.”

Today, Rochford majors in international studies with a focus on indigeneity and language revitalization and minors in Italian. And, because of his fluency in the Cherokee language, has been a contract employee with the tribe’s Translation Department since February 2013.

“Roy Boney, who is the head of the translation department, he contacted me and asked me if I would be interested,” Rochford said. “I said ‘of course’ because I love working with the language. That’s my passion.”

Rochford translates Facebook, Gmail and Microsoft software updates.

“This is neat because there are not a lot of indigenous languages that are being made to use on the computer and being updated,” he said.

Boney said Rochford worked closely with the Cherokee speakers in the Cherokee Language Program and others in the community to learn Cherokee.

“He is recognized among our community as one of the best second-language Cherokee learners,” Boney said. “He collaborates very closely with our speakers in working on translations related to modern technology, which contain a lot of terminology some of the elder generation may not be familiar with. It has been a very beneficial collaboration. Beyond that, Patrick is living proof that learning Cherokee is possible with dedication and hard work.”

Boney said Rochford scored master level on the Cherokee Language Program’s proficiency and certification tests.

Because of the hard work and studying he’s put in to learning Cherokee, Rochford said it all has been worth it because of what he’s accomplished with it.

“I love what I do, and I love that I can still contribute to helping out with the work that needs to be done with the language even though I’m going to school up here currently. It’s worth it when you can understand a joke in Cherokee,” he said. “I think that’s when it’s like ‘yes, I love this language’ because now I can laugh and understand what’s being joked about. I think it’s rewarding and I’m thankful to the countless Cherokee speakers that have helped me in my learning process over the years. I wouldn’t be where I am in my learning of the language without their continued encouragement and support.”
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