Pocahontas Club offering scholarships for graduating seniors

04/26/2015 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. –The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club’s scholarship applications are now available.

The scholarship is for graduating seniors and is designated for the upcoming 2015-16 school year.

IWPC sponsors 10 Cherokee students who are entering college with a $600 per academic year scholarship or endowment.

Applications will be considered on a first-come, first-served basis. Students must be enrolled full-time at an accredited school in order to qualify.

Applications will be received from June 1 to July 31.

For more information, call 918-798-0771 or visit www.iwpclub.org.

Cherokee Phoenix Radio April 26, 2015

04/26/2015 12:00 PM
  • In this week's broadcast:
  • While speaking at the Northeastern State University 43rd Annual Symposium on the American Indian, Cherokee actor Wes Studi said communication is the first step to bringing Native communities together to create change.
  • Officials with the Cherokee Nation’s Natural Resources have wrapped up this year’s Seed Bank distribution by filling the last seed package orders that to be mailed out to people who requested the seeds. Those people will then plant the seeds when the planting season begins.
  • ...plus much more.
Cherokee Nation Immersion Charter School students sing during the opening ceremony of the Northeastern State University Symposium on the American Indian in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It was the 43rd annual event with the theme being “Children: The Seeds of Change.” JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation Immersion Charter School students sing during the opening ceremony of the Northeastern State University Symposium on the American Indian in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. It was the 43rd annual event with the theme being “Children: The Seeds of Change.” JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

NSU’s American Indian symposium sees large attendance

04/26/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University’s 43rd annual Symposium on the American Indian, held April 14-18, presented the large crowd that attended with information on Native issues and helped spread the importance of Native American languages, arts and cultures.

Center for Tribal Studies Interim Director Alisa Douglas (Seminole) said she was happy with the event, with its “Children: Seeds of Change” theme.

“We had good attendance throughout the whole week and a lot of great feedback from our keynote presenters,” she said. “There were a lot of topics and issues that were brought up that a lot of people could relate to. In passing, I heard some individuals sharing their personal stories or some experiences that they may have had and how they could relate to what was mentioned during those sessions.”

She said two of the more popular events were Cherokee actor Wes Studi’s keynote presentation and the American Indian Symposium Film Series showing of “Ronnie Bodean,” which stars Studi. After the screening of “Ronnie Bodean” Studi and Steven Judd, the director and producer of the film, answered questions from the audience.

“That drew a pretty big crowd,” Douglas said.

Douglas said she was surprised of the turnout that the symposium’s powwow because it was the same night as The Azalea Powwow in Muskogee. The Azalea Powwow is held in conjunction with the Azalea Festival. Both powwows took place on April 18.

“We thought that we wouldn’t have that many in number, but we had a really good turnout,” she said.

Douglas said this was her first year being interim director for the Center for Tribal Studies and main organizer for the symposium. She said she was able to succeed with the help of others and those before her.

“In the past, when Dr. (Phyllis) Fife was the director here. She was a great mentor, and she showed me the ropes. We have an American Indian Heritage Committee, so those who are really active with the committee help out tremendously. The students really help out as well,” she said. “With that support and the community support and volunteers it makes the planning and organization a lot smoother.”

Career Services’ Tulsa office finding people job opportunities

Senior Reporter
04/25/2015 04:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Career Services staff members in Tulsa are assisting people in gaining employment in the metro area.

Rhonda Haviland, 58, of South Coffeyville, was recently laid off by Amazon in Coffeyville, Kansas, and said she was hoping to get a similar factory job with the Macy’s distribution center in Owasso. She worked with Larry Daugherty, Career Services jobs/business development coordinator, and credits him for working with Macy’s to get her a job.

“They got the paperwork going for me that’s for sure. I’m in the HR (Human Resources) department. I’ve never been in HR before. I’ve always been on the floor. I worked at Amazon for 10 years,” she said. “With my experience helping associates, that’s what they decided I’d be good for.”

She started her Macy’s job in late March as a learning specialist.

“I’m learning a lot of things, and people are just so nice and all helpful. And we’re getting a lot of associates in from Amazon,” she said.

She said she has about an hour drive to work from South Coffeyville, but she and the other former Amazon workers see it as a good opportunity to work at warehouse jobs similar to the ones they had at Amazon. She added that she and other older workers worried they would have a tough time finding another job because of their advanced ages.

“That worried me because when we lost our jobs I thought, ‘who in the world is going to hire our age?’ You know in a few more years we’ll be retiring. I’m going to work as long as I can, and I’m in good health and everything, knock on wood,” she said. “I sure appreciate Cherokee Nation for helping me because I don’t know which direction I would have went.”

Career Services is administering a two-year Job Driven National Emergency Grant to assist people in becoming self-sufficient through unsubsidized employment. Unsubsidized employment is work with earnings provided by an employer who does not receive a subsidy for the creation and maintenance of the employment position.

Daugherty said through the Tulsa-based Career Services office he is able to help individuals with securing not just a job but also a career opportunity.

“The purpose of this grant is to assist individuals in securing good-paying jobs in health care, information technology, manufacturing, construction and other high-growth industries,” he said. “It is a chance to work with companies that are willing to train them and help them become a part of a business that believes in their employees.”

Ron Brown, 65, of Nowata, visited the Career Services office in Tulsa to get help finding a job in maintenance. He is licensed plumber and was able to begin working at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa about six weeks ago.

“I was kind of surprised. I mean they really went to work for me. I got a call from Macy’s, two or three places, job interviews, and I chose the Hard Rock,” Brown said. “Those people work for you. I just like the way they do things.”

He said he liked the fact the Career Services staff immediately began looking for a job for him.

“I’m not used to stuff like that,” he said. “They tell you how to dress, what to look for, how to do your resume, I mean, they did what others didn’t do for me.”

He said his experiences with unemployment offices while in between jobs were not positive and he felt treated like “a number.”

“They (Career Services) do all the hard work for you. I just figure anybody that can get a job through them is not looking hard,” Brown said.

The Tulsa Career Services office is at 10837 East Marshall St., Suite 101. Its phone number is 918-574-2749.

Except for one component of the $3.7 million grant, participants do not have to be Native American to take part in the Job Driven National Emergency Grant. The grant covers the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction and all of Tulsa County.

College Housing Assistance Program servicing 142 students

04/25/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Executive Director Gary Cooper said during the Tribal Council’s April 13 Community Services meeting that 142 students are being assisted through the HACN’s College Housing Assistance Program.

The Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act-funded program assists low-income Native American students to secure safe and affordable housing established on need and eligibility while seeking a first-time bachelor’s degree and maintaining full-time student status at an accredited institute of higher education. The program provides students with up to $1,000 per semester for housing costs.

Cooper said the program is important because it provides housing assistance to eligible college students while enrolled in college.

“Students may reside in a college dorm, college-owned units or off-campus housing,” he said. “The amount of assistance we provide is paid directly to the landlord to assist with those housing costs. These students must meet NAHASDA guidelines, including income limits and residency requirements.”

Cooper said the HACN began offering the program in the mid-2000s.

“After housing was transferred under the Nation, the program was ended around 2010 and only students who participated in the Cherokee Promise Scholarship Program were eligible, and that was only available at NSU (Northeastern State University),” he said. “In the fall of 2012, the HACN was once again able to extend services to eligible students regardless of where they attended school.”

To be eligible for the College Housing Assistance Program, an applicant must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe with priority given to CN citizens. An applicant must also be a resident of the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional area, meet NAHASDA income guidelines, be seeking a first-time bachelor’s degree at an accredited institute of higher education and participate in the Cherokee Cultural Curriculum.

Priority will be given to students who were assisted the previous semester. Assistance is limited to eight semesters.

“It is truly a great program for eligible college students,” Cooper said. “They can go from right here in the Cherokee Nation to attend college wherever they would like and receive assistance. The assistance we provide goes directly towards their housing, so any other scholarships they receive can be used for their direct education expenses. Anything we can do to help and encourage our Cherokee families to continue their education is a good thing. Since 2013 the HACN has been able to provide assistance to over 550 families, which equates to more than $550,000 towards college housing assistance.”

Cooper said the application deadline has not been finalized for the fall semester, but would possibly be set for July or August.

“We would first work with any students that may be continuing with college in the fall,” he said. “They would not have to reapply, but would have to recertify their eligibility. Once we complete that process we would determine application dates. A press release is issued by CN Communications, notices posted in CN and HACN offices, and I also notify the Tribal Council, all this as a way to notify families.”

For more information, call the HACN at 918-456-5482 or visit www.hacn.org.
Tribal Councilor Victoria Mitchell Vazquez speaks during the Nov. 12, 2013, Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Okla., Vazquez has a 95 attendance record for Tribal Council and special Tribal Council meetings. Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd, right, has 100 percent attendance. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor Victoria Mitchell Vazquez speaks during the Nov. 12, 2013, Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Okla., Vazquez has a 95 attendance record for Tribal Council and special Tribal Council meetings. Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd, right, has 100 percent attendance. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

6 have perfect Tribal Council meeting attendance

04/25/2015 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Six current Tribal Councilors have perfect attendance with regards to Tribal Council and special Tribal Council meetings, according to meeting minutes.

For current legislators serving between Aug. 14, 2011, and April 13, 2015, Jack Baker, Joe Byrd, Tina Glory Jordan, Dick Lay, Janees Taylor and David Walkingstick have 100 percent attendance.

Byrd began serving on the Tribal Council on Jan. 23, 2012, after winning an election to replace Bill John Baker, who became chief on Oct. 19, 2011, after a drawn-out principal chief’s race.

Janelle Fullbright has 98 percent attendance and Don Garvin had a 97 percent attendance record.
Lee Keener and Curtis Snell have 96 percent attendance.

Harley Buzzard, who began serving on the Tribal Council on Aug. 14, 2013; Frankie Hargis, who began serving on Dec. 12, 2011; and Victoria Vazquez, who began serving on Oct. 22, 2013, have 95 percent attendance. David Thornton was next with 94 percent attendance.

Julia Coates and Cara Cowan Watts both have 88 percent attendance, and Jodie Fishinghawk has 84 percent attendance.

Four other people served on the Tribal Council during the time period but are no longer serving. Buel Anglen, who served from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 13, 2013, had 100 percent attendance. Bill John Baker, who served about two months before becoming principal chief, also had perfect attendance. Chuck Hoskin Jr., who served from Aug. 14. 2011, to Aug. 29, 2013, had perfect attendance as well. Meredith Frailey, who served from Aug. 14, 2011, to Aug. 13, 2013, attended 93 percent of the meetings.

The Cherokee Nation’s legislative branch consists of 17 Tribal Councilors. They are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. Fifteen are elected to represent the districts within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdictional boundaries and two are elected to represent CN citizens who live outside the boundaries.

The Tribal Council has the power to establish laws, which it shall deem necessary and proper for the good of the Nation. According to the CN Constitution, the council shall establish its rules for its credentials, decorum and procedure however there are currently no policies regarding absences in their rules and regulations.

VA extends program for veterans with traumatic brain injury

04/24/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs announced April 13 the award of 20 contracts for the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury.

Originally slated to end in 2014, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 extended this program through October 2017.

“We are pleased to extend this valuable program and provide specialized assisted living services to eligible veterans with traumatic brain injury that will enhance their rehabilitation, quality of life and community integration,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, VA’s interim under secretary for health. “TBI is one of the prevalent wounds of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and VA remains committed to taking care of those Veterans suffering from TBI.”

Under the AL-TBI program, veterans meeting the eligibility criteria are placed in private sector TBI residential care facilities specializing in neurobehavioral rehabilitation. The program offers team-based care and assistance in areas such as speech, memory and mobility. Approximately 202 veterans participated in the AL-TBI Pilot Program in 47 facilities located in 22 states. Currently, 101 veterans participate in the pilot as VA continues to accept new eligible patients into the program.

In October, VA issued a request for proposal for vendors wishing to participate in the program. In accordance with the RFP, VA has awarded 20 contracts to facilities located in 27 states. The contracts went into effect on April 1, 2015. The program is currently effective through October 2017, in accordance with VACAA.

For more information about the TBI program, visit www.polytrauma.va.gov. For information about VA’s work to implement the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, see http://www.va.gov/opa/choiceact/documents/FactSheets/Progress-Report-March-2015-Fact-Sheet.pdf.


CHC archives face threat due to temperature, humidity
04/17/2015 08:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center’s archives for 2-D and 3-D collections are in dire need of a new storage location, CHC officials said.

At a March 26 Tribal Council meeting, CHC Director Candessa Tehee said the archives located at the center have four threats working against them: temperature, humidity, light and pests.

Unfortunately, temperature is a threat that CHC Curator Mikel Yantz and the center’s interim archivist cannot currently control, Tehee said.

Yantz, who runs the permanent collections as well as the temporary and permanent exhibits in the museum, said the museum’s basement houses the archives and collections.

“We have two separate areas downstairs. One is for archives, which is where we have our two-dimensional objects – so newspapers, letters and photographs,” he said. “We also have a separate area for collections, and that’s our three-dimensional objects – so pottery, basketry and stickball sticks. Anything that need to be put on larger shelves.”

He said temperature control is the biggest concern when trying to preserve and maintain the archives and collections.

“The building that we have wasn’t created four decades ago to sustain the temperature and humidity, so we’re looking forward to trying to fix that by possibly having a new building,” Yantz said. “If you have a higher temperature and higher humidity, it’s very susceptible to fabric or porous materials like wood and especially paper because what it will do is it will increase the moisture, and so it will start growing mold and start deteriorating those much faster than if it was a cooler temperature.”

The average temperature for the basement is about 70 degrees, which Yantz says is too high. He said the humidity is OK in the winter, but in the summer as the humidity climbs so does the possibility of damage to the archives and collections. He said the ideal temperature is 60 degrees with 40 percent humidity.

“And sometimes it fluctuates here in the building with the temperature outside,” Yantz said. “And as we know in Oklahoma, the temperature ranges from 20 to 120 (degrees) sometimes. And for us to sustain that year-round isn’t possible with what we have.”

Yantz said space is another issue facing the CHC archives and collections.

“We’re looking to create is around 7,000 square feet, which would double our size, but we’re also going to make sure that building is expandable so when we grow that room and building can grow with us,” he said. “The building will be right next to this museum. So if we need to transfer anything from that building to our exhibit area – because we do display a lot of our archives and collections – we’ll be able to do that and keep the document safe.”

Tehee said there have been two recommendations. One is to refurbish the interior of the basement with the other being to build and on-site, metal-fabricated building that would be double the size of the basement.

Yantz said the Cherokee National Historical Society board, which governs the CHC, is raising money through granting agencies and possibly the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses with hopes of creating a new storage area.

Yantz said the CHC’s mission is to preserve, promote and teach the Cherokee history and culture.

“And the documents and objects that we have here and that we preserve at the museum support that mission. It’s vital to make sure that these last for generations,” he added.


Martin earns ‘Seniors of Significance’ award at U of A
Senior Reporter
04/21/2015 08:13 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Cherokee Nation citizen and University of Arkansas senior Taylor Martin has been named to the Arkansas Alumni Association’s first class of “Seniors of Significance.”

The 22-year-old from Tontitown was expected to receive a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in May. She was among 71 graduating seniors, commemorating the university’s founding date of 1871, chosen from 400 nominees to receive the “Seniors of Significance” award.

Each “Senior of Significance” received a special honor gold cord to wear during graduation.

“I felt so honored to have even been nominated for this award, as many of my fellow students were just as qualified for it. I am so blessed to have received the award and it means the world to be able to represent our senior class with such an honor,” Martin said.

The 71 students represent each Arkansas undergraduate academic college, 11 states and two countries.

“These are exceptional seniors who combine academic achievement, leadership skills and substantial extracurricular campus and/or community activities,” stated a university press release.

Martin said her experience at the university has been “incredible.”

“My degree program has proved to be very demanding, but the community that I have been surrounded with through it all, faculty and students included, has made it so enjoyable,” she said. “I would have to say that the group of friends that I have made within my degree program has been one of the most memorable aspects of my time here at Arkansas. They have been there for me through thick and thin, and I wouldn't trade that for the world.”

Her father, David Martin, said Taylor was the recipient of a CN scholarship for the past three years, which assisted her in covering the college expenses “she was 100 percent responsible for.”

“The Cherokee Nation scholarship was a tremendous help for my college career. Between it and a university-sponsored scholarship, I was able to attend college and come out debt free, which is a blessing in itself,” she said.

After graduation, she is expected to work for Wal-Mart’s Information Systems Division in Bentonville, where she said she would be part of an information technology program.

Her father agreed with the words of Principal Chief Bill John Baker who recently wrote, “Our college scholarship recipients embody some of the most important values we hold as a tribe, including personal accountability and community and responsibility.”

“I believe Taylor’s accomplishment demonstrates those values and understanding the necessity of a college education in order for one to realize a better quality of life and bright future for Cherokees,” David said.


Councilors query West Siloam, Roland home construction
04/14/2015 03:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At their April 13 meeting, Tribal Councilors questioned Cherokee Nation Businesses interim CEO Shawn Slaton about home construction projects that Cherokee Nation Construction Resources, a division of CNB, is overseeing in West Siloam Springs and Roland.

Slaton said construction in West Siloam Springs “is making progress.”

“Our housing up at (West) Siloam (Springs) is making progress. They’ve got the gravel down for the roads. They got the utilities in. The house pads are there. We would have been making more progress on that had the pads not been so wet the last couple of weeks,” he said. “As soon as they dry out we’ll begin to put the foundation in and get going there.”

He said the construction of homes in Roland would be on the same track as soon as the water from the recent rainfall clears.

Tribal Councilor Dick Lay then asked how many houses are to be built in each location.

Slaton deferred the question to CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett, who said 29 houses are expected in West Siloam Springs and 23 are expected in Roland.

Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard then asked if occupants have been chosen for the houses yet.

Slaton said CNB is building the homes and the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is picking applicants for them.

Buzzard said he doesn’t anticipate there will be a problem filling the houses.

“I don’t think we’ll have any problems at West Siloam Springs because I heard housing is really, really short,” he said. “I’ve also heard that there is some excitement about us building houses.”

Lay asked Slaton if CNB is using the list of people from the HACN for the homes.

Slaton said he wasn’t sure of the process of choosing the applicants.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker told the Tribal Council that there are two lists from which the HACN chooses its applicants.

“One is if you own your property and another list that has come up is if you don’t own your property,” he said. “So as I understand it, they’ll start though time and date of people that said that they wanted a house, but they did not own land. All of them are not going to want to live in West Siloam Springs, but the ones that do, it’s first-come first-served, time and date on the list.”

Tribal Councilor Tina Glory Jordan said the way she understands the process is the applicants “designate the area that they would like to get a house in if they don’t have land.”

HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper confirmed Glory Jordan’s understanding of the process.

“They designate a county and then we narrow it down by that way. For instance, in West Siloam (Springs) what we would do is because it’s right there on the county line we would merge Adair and Delaware County and we would work on finding families to take those,” he said. “Every application we collect is by date and then time of the application, so everyone is assigned a number. That’s how it’s placed on the waiting list. So either they have land or they don’t have land. We will take those who are on the waiting lists for the folks who don’t have land for Adair and Delaware County and ask them if they would be interested in one of those (houses).”

Cooper said HACN officials have sent out approximately 144 letters to tribal citizens in those counties to see if there was an interest for these homes.

According to a December 2014 Cherokee Phoenix article, CNB will sell the homes to the HACN once they are built. Then the HACN will find occupants to fill those homes.

In other news, Baker introduced the tribe’s 2015 “Remember the Removal” riders at the meeting.

There are 12 riders participating this year from the CN. Citizens of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians will also participate in the ride. The CN participants are Billy Flint, Shawna Harter, Hailey Seago, Caleb Cox, Tanner Crow, Maggie McKinnis, Kayla Davis, Tennessee Loy, Haylee Caviness, Wrighter Weavel, Alexis Watt and Tristan Trumbla.

The participants will bike the nearly 1,000-mile trip that retraces the Trail of Tears through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas and will end in Tahlequah.

Legislators also approved Eddie Morrison as an advisory committee member for the Cherokee National Treasures Program for a term of one year.

They also modified the tribe’s comprehensive budget for fiscal year 2015 for a total budget authority of $639 million. Approximately $653,310 came from grants, while $8.45 million resulted from modification requests. Approximately $6.89 million is going to the General Fund and $1.57 million is going to the Motor Fuel Tax Fund.

The next Tribal Council meeting is slated for 6 p.m. on May 11.


Mammogram unit coming to Gadugi Clinic in May
04/16/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Gadugi Clinic west of the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex will have the mammogram bus available on May 8.

“If you have health insurance and would like to schedule an appointment, please call the clinic,” said Joanna McDaniel, manager of Health Operations at Gadugi Health Center.

The American Cancer Society recommends that women over the age of 40 have a mammogram yearly, she added.

“The Oklahoma Breast Care Center sends their mobile mammogram unit to our clinic 3-4 times a year to perform mammograms on our patients,” McDaniel said. “OBCC provides this service at no out-of-pocket cost to the patient. If patients are interested, they should call the clinic at 918-207-4911 to answer a few screening questions.”

In addition to May 8, the MMU is scheduled to come Aug. 11 and Dec. 9.


OPINION: Nowata County casino means at least 100 jobs for CN citizens
Principal Chief
04/01/2015 12:00 PM
Prior to being elected principal chief, I sat on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council for 12 years. Early on in that time, my good friend Chuck Hoskin Sr., representative for Nowata County at the time, took me to the South Coffeyville area to teach me more about that neck of the woods. He joked to me that Nowata County and South Coffeyville really are part of the Cherokee Nation.

He was kidding, of course, but he made a good point. I realized at that time that some of our more northern areas, like Nowata County, often feel somewhat disconnected to the goings on in the Cherokee Nation. That became even clearer when I was elected to serve as principal chief in late 2011. I visited the area, spoke with people in Nowata and other northern counties, and I could feel their frustration. They saw economic development happening in other regions of the Cherokee Nation but not in their backyards.

I pledged then and there we would change that. We would provide the same opportunities for our northern Cherokees as we’d provided for Cherokees in West Siloam Springs, Roland, Sallisaw, Fort Gibson, Tahlequah, Claremore, Catoosa and Ramona.

I’m proud to report we delivered on that pledge last week when we opened the new Cherokee Casino South Coffeyville. It added 135 jobs to the region, with 100 of them going to Cherokees. And on the day it opened, northeast Oklahoma had just been hit with the heaviest snow of the year. But guess what—not a single employee called in due to weather. They were so eager to work that they put on their new Cherokee Casino uniforms and braved those conditions just to make it to their first day on the job. That is dedication.

Cherokees in Nowata and surrounding counties know the value of a good-paying job. That’s because the unemployment rate in the area has been higher than we’d like for quite some time. The area has been ripe to employ people who want to work, Cherokees who want to work. So to have 135 jobs come to a town of just a few hundred people has an immeasurable impact on so many families.

There are now 135 families bringing home paychecks from well-paying jobs. A hundred thirty-five families who now have access to world-class medical, dental and life insurance for the entire family. A hundred thirty-five families who are saving for retirement and now have a pathway to move up while working for their tribe.

It warms my heart to know the Cherokee Nation can have that kind of impact on our people. And every corner of the Cherokee Nation deserves that opportunity. As the tribe continues to prosper, we will continue expanding economic opportunities to other parts of the Cherokee Nation, including non-gaming opportunities as well.

We’ve come a long way since I made that trip to Nowata County, but I know we have further to go. I look forward to fulfilling that same promise in other areas of the Cherokee Nation so that no Cherokee feels left behind and no Cherokee feels like our tribe isn’t there for them.

God bless all of you, and God bless the Cherokee Nation.


Barnoski shows love for wrestling
04/20/2015 09:00 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Aliana Barnoski, 12, excels in academics, but also shines as an athlete. One of her new undertakings is wrestling.

Barnoski, a sixth grader at Grant-Foreman Elementary School in Muskogee wrestles in the Muskogee Area Youth Wrestling Program.

Aliana said she became interested in wrestling after watching her younger brother wrestle.

“I thought it was cool, so I wanted to try it out,” she said.

Aliana’s father, John, said he was excited when his daughter wanted to try out the sport.

“She just feel in love with it, took to it and loved it ever since,” he said. “She can’t get it out of her mind.”

Aliana’s mother, Russanda, said Aliana began wrestling in the MAYWP in November.

“She got started late in the season because she was signed up for basketball,” she said.

Russanda said despite the late start, Aliana picked up quickly in her new sport.

Aliana said training and cutting weight for wrestling was not an easy task.

She said when she first started she was in the 12-and-under, 130-pound weight class. She said at this weight she was fighting against tougher opponents.

This is when her MAYWP coach, Andre Hill, had her diet to get in the 120-pound class.

“When I go to practice I’d have to wear a hoodie and sweatpants so I can cut weight,” she said. “It was pretty hard. I can only eat certain things. I can’t eat any takeout, fast food and stuff.”

Aliana practices three to four nights a week for approximately two hours a night. Through hard work and determination she has faired well at several wrestling competitions, including the Novice Junior Nationals, which she placed third in her category; the Tulsa Novice Nationals, which she placed third; and the Oklahoma Kids Wrestling Association Novice State Tournament, which she won.

Aliana said she thought it was “pretty cool” to start winning after just starting. She also said she likes getting medals and beating boys. She added that she usually makes friends with the girl wrestlers, and tends to win against them in matches, too.

Russanda said Aliana has gone through some trials in wrestling and is glad to see her succeeding.

“When she first started she injured her shoulder and set out a week, so that put her behind a little bit, and then when she got her stitches (under her eye) she couldn’t practice for a few days,” she said. “I was really proud to see her work through those things. It wasn’t just a walk in the park to get out there and do it. She struggled all year to keep her weight and her injuries down.”

John said it’s important as a parent of an athlete to not be too hard on them when trying to motivate them.

“It’s pretty tough because you can’t be too hard on them,” he said. “I know with her if I’m real hard on her she’ll shut down and not do much at all for me. You have to find that fine line on how to talk to them and definitely find them a good program. That’s what’s made a difference with her, is just the atmosphere at wrestling practice.”

John said it has been an inspiration to see his daughter work hard and not give up.

“It makes me proud to watch her. Just to see how much heart she has and then talking with her coach, he knows that she has a lot of heart. All my kids do, but she really shows it,” he said.

Hill said he’s glad Aliana tried out for the sport and he enjoys coaching her.

“She’s got something that you can’t teach, which is heart,” he said.

Hill said Aliana had the perfect start, which helped her climb the ranks.

“She didn’t come in just dominating from the beginning, but she learned and she progressed. At the end of it all she won it all,” he said. “For a first year wrestler, it’s unheard of. It’s nice.”
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