The Cherokee National Youth Choir performs in front of Seminary Hall at Northeastern State University in May during a celebration of the 125th birthday of building. The choir will host a free concert at 2 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center during the Cherokee National Holiday. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee National Youth Choir performs in front of Seminary Hall at Northeastern State University in May during a celebration of the 125th birthday of building. The choir will host a free concert at 2 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center during the Cherokee National Holiday. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Youth choir to hold free Aug. 30 concert

08/27/2014 03:43 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee National Youth Choir will host a free concert at 2 p.m. on Aug. 30 at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center during the Cherokee National Holiday.

The choir performs traditional songs in the Cherokee language and was founded in 2000 as a way to keep Cherokee youth interested in and involved with language and culture.

Interest in the Cherokee language has been rekindled among young people largely through the success of the youth choir. Several area schools now use the choir’s CDs as a learning tool and other schools are interested in developing curriculum to teach Cherokee language and music.

The CNYC is made up of 40 Cherokee young people from northeastern Oklahoma communities. The choir members are middle and high school youth between grades 6 through 12. The students compete in rigorous auditions every year for a place in the choir. The choir is funded solely by the CN.

Choir members act as ambassadors, their voices uniting to show the strength of the CN and culture 175 years after a forced removal from the tribe’s eastern homelands.

Since its founding in 2000, the choir has performed throughout the country including the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at Ground Zero of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

People may listen to samples and purchase CNYC music at iTunes by searching the music section with the phrase “Cherokee National Youth Choir.” The choir’s CDs are also available on

CN, NSU celebrate Cherokee Constitutions 175th anniversary

08/27/2014 12:54 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Northeastern State University’s College of Liberal Arts are collaborating to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Cherokee Constitution.

There will be a celebratory symposium at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 28 at NSU-Tahlequah’s University Center Ballroom. The Cherokee Nation Color Guard will kick off the event. Following, there will be panels discussing the history of the tribe’s 1839 Constitution.

Keynote speaker, Dr. Miriam Jorgensen, will speak during lunch.

Jorgensen is a lecturer for both University of Arizona and Harvard University’s Executive Education programs in Native American Leadership. She also works at George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University as an adjunct professor in Community Development with American Indian Communities.

For more information, email Dr. Diane Hammons at
Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt carves a bison in a feather piece on Aug. 16 at his Tahlequah, Okla., Watt can produce some pieces in one day of constant work. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt carves an eagle into deer antler on Aug. 4 at his Tahlequah, Okla., home. Watt has been carving since 2012 and creates pieces ranging from necklaces to knife handles. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt shows some of his wood burning art. Watt wood burns portraits, landscapes and animals. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt creates feathers with designs on them out of abalone shell. Watt said feathers are one of his more sought after items. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt also creates necklaces. Some seen here are rose, spider and feather necklaces. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt sits with his wife Cheryl Watt and daughter Violet Watt at their Tahlequah, Okla., home. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee artist Jeffrey L. Watt carves an eagle into deer antler on Aug. 4 at his Tahlequah, Okla., home. Watt has been carving since 2012 and creates pieces ranging from necklaces to knife handles. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Watt works to enlighten others with art

08/27/2014 08:05 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Jeffrey L. Watt is a multitalented artist who excels at different artistic crafts despite being deaf. His wife, Cheryl Watt, signed to Jeffrey during the Cherokee Phoenix’s interview, and in turn, relayed his answers.

Jeffrey took an interest to art when he was 7 years old. He said that’s when his teacher opened his mind about the art world and what it had to offer.

“I started doing my art and I grew up and I saw other people’s art and I really liked it. I just started learning it all,” he said. “The teacher taught me how and he showed me and he opened up my mind to make me understand. I know I’m really happy doing my art and it’s hard.”

It wasn’t until 2012 that Jeffrey learned to carve. That’s when Cherokee artist Levi Springwater gave Jeffrey a Dremel tool and showed him how to carve.

“It looked hard, but whenever I started doing it, it was easy and I’m really fast at it,” he said. “In my mind, I know things. I know how to make things. I use my imagination when I carve and it’s really cool.”

[BLOCKQUOTE] He said his first carved piece was a feather from abalone shell. From there, he said he carved animals, knife handles, necklaces and other items from deer or elk antlers.

“He’s perfect with eagles,” Cheryl said. “His clan is the Bird Clan. So I thought that was pretty cool that, that’s his favorite.”

Jeffrey said the carvings that receive the most attention are his rose necklaces carved from deer antlers.
Aside from his carvings, Jeffrey creates necklaces, wood burnings, paintings, gourd art, emu egg shell art, murals and even paintings on old windows that can be hung inside the house.

Cheryl said people appreciate Jeffrey’s art because many times it holds sentimental value for the buyer.
“Some people cherish it because when he does the wood burnt portraits, a lot of times their parents or their child has passed away and they want to remember that person,” she said.

Cheryl said Jeffrey is a visual artist – if he sees it he can replicate it. Jeffrey said he believes that he has a special talent and is thankful for it.

“When I was little growing up and doing my art and learning it, and in my mind, I knew that God wanted to give this gift to me to open up my mind and my heart to do all kinds of different artwork so that I can help other people and show other people and support other people and to teach people and to help kids,” he said.

As his fan base grows, he said he feels more humble by the people who take interest in his art.
“Thank you so much for supporting me,” he said. “I appreciate you so much and thank you so much for supporting me.”

Cheryl said she is proud of her husband and how he has progressed his life.

“When I first met him, he showed me his art, but nobody else had seen his art,” she said. “I want the world to see how amazing this man is with his art, and he’s so sweet and sincere. Not only has he grown as a person, but he’s grown as an artist. He’s just a better person.”

In the future, Jeffrey said he would like to produce kids books that teach how to create different types of art and illustrate an art book that would tell different Native American stories.

Jeffrey’s art can be found at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill and at the Cherokee Gift Shop, Light Eyes Beads and One Feather Books in Tahlequah. His art can also be found online at eBay and Pinterest by searching Jeffrey L. Watt.

For more information, visit his Facebook page or
Cherokee Nation Day Work Program participant Richard Keener, left, and CN Facilities worker Marty Charles adjust tension ropes Aug. 26 on a tent to be used during the 62nd Cherokee National Holiday. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation Day Work Program participant Richard Keener, left, and CN Facilities worker Marty Charles adjust tension ropes Aug. 26 on a tent to be used during the 62nd Cherokee National Holiday. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CN Holiday prep requires departmental cooperation

08/26/2014 02:28 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation department employees are completing work in preparation for the Cherokee National Holiday. The annual event begins on Aug. 29 and ends Aug. 31. A listing of holiday event times and locations can be found here.

The task of preparing for nearly 100,000 visitors requires multiple departments to work together to complete the variety of improvements to event locations.

Cherokee National Holiday Director Lou Slagle acknowledged CN Facilities Dept. for taking on the majority of the physical labor.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs a proclamation reaffirming August as Child Awareness Month on Aug. 7 at a family event hosted by CN Child Services in Tahlequah, Okla. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Principal Chief Bill John Baker signs a proclamation reaffirming August as Child Awareness Month on Aug. 7 at a family event hosted by CN Child Services in Tahlequah, Okla. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CN Child Services hosts family event

08/26/2014 11:22 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In support of Child Awareness Month, Cherokee Nation Child Services hosted its first family fun event on Aug. 7 at Norris Park.

The “Hula on in for some family fun” event featured the Pumpkin Hollow Boys band, activities, games and food. Several other CN departments also attended with display booths offering information on the respective services.

Since starting in 2007, Child Support Services has offered free services such as genetic testing, affidavits, locating a parent and trying to establish assisted payments of child support for Cherokee children to custodial families so that the children gets their needs met.

“We also service Cherokee citizens that live outside of the boundaries if they’re willing to submit to the jurisdiction of Cherokee Nation,” Kara Whitworth, Child Support Services director, said.

Whitworth said when the department started, officials wanted to be supportive of the entire family because “we know at Child support Services that it takes more than just money to raise a child.”

“We feel that at our office that it’s more important to help the entire family than just collect money and so that’s what our philosophy has been for the last seven years,” Whitworth said. “We’re a relatively new agency and if you compare us to the state agencies, which have been in operation for approximately 30 years, since opening our doors we have collected approximately a little over $25 million. That goes directly to our custodial parent, who are the ones taking care of the children.”

Whitworth said the department still has approximately $2.7 million that still needs to be collected.

Child Support Services is free to CN citizens living within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. A non-custodial parent may fill out an application as long as the child is a CN citizen.

During the Aug. 7 event, Principal Chief Bill John Baker also signed a proclamation reaffirming August as Child Awareness Month.

“That proclamation just reaffirms Cherokee Nation’s commitment to supporting all of our children and our families,” Whitworth said. “It is a way of memorializing the fact that Cherokee Nation holds their children and their families sacred and they want to make sure they’re taken care of.”

For more information, call 918-453-5444 or email
Julie Thornton, Miss Cherokee 2013-14, places a copper gorget on newly crowned Cherokee Ambassador J.J. Dodge’s neck during the 2014-15 Little Miss and Mr. Cherokee Ambassador competition on Aug. 9 in Tahlequah, Okla. Thornton is battling soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer that attacks muscle and bones. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Julie Thornton
Julie Thornton, Miss Cherokee 2013-14, places a copper gorget on newly crowned Cherokee Ambassador J.J. Dodge’s neck during the 2014-15 Little Miss and Mr. Cherokee Ambassador competition on Aug. 9 in Tahlequah, Okla. Thornton is battling soft tissue sarcoma, a cancer that attacks muscle and bones. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Miss Cherokee winning fight against cancer

08/26/2014 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Miss Cherokee Julie Thornton will passed her crown to the new Miss Cherokee on Aug. 23. Thornton has served as Miss Cherokee for nearly a year, visiting different areas of the United States. However, in April, she was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma, a type of cancer that attacks muscle and bones.

“It’s a type of cancer that causes tumors that are connected to your lymph nodes and your bones,” Thornton said. “It looks like a knot on your skin and usually they turn black and they raise up.”

But having cancer hasn’t slowed her. She said despite the diagnosis she’s remained busy with classes at Northeastern State University and is maintaining her grades, earning all A’s.

Thornton said both sides of her family has endured cancer, so she has always been careful and watchful about her body.

“My grandfather just recently passed away of stomach cancer, and a few years ago my other grandpa died of lung cancer,” she said. “So my family has always taught me to watch my body, and if something is wrong, you know, go to the doctor and make sure it’s all checked out.”

She said this spring she noticed a small knot on her thigh and visited the doctor to determine what it was.

“They said that ‘it’s just the keloids, just watch it.’ If it got bigger or anything and if it did then to come back,” Thornton said.

Keloids are a formation of a type of scar. The scar overgrows tissue at the site of a healed skin injury. It tends to affect more people of a darker pigmentation. She said she’s had keloids since a young age and that she watched the area closely. After the knot changed she returned to the doctor.

“Well it got bigger and it got to the size of a half dollar size and it turned black and it raised up,” she added. “So I went to the doctor and they performed a biopsy and they removed the tumor and (I’ve) been going through treatment ever since.”

Her treatment has consisted of chemotherapy injections as well as radiation in the form of pills. Depending on the month, she said she takes one chemo injection every two weeks.

“So like, sometimes I’ll go like once a month in a big dose or I’ll do once every two weeks in small doses. Now I’m doing just once a week (on the radiation pill),” she added. “Yeah, the medicine is working.”

The biggest issue she’s had while going through treatment is exhaustion.

“Everyday I would get tired. I can never get enough sleep it feels like. I guess like depending on the day that I get treatment, I get really moody,” she said.

She hopes her treatments will stop this fall. As for now, her goals are to continue with her classes, graduate in 2017 with a major in criminal justice and double minor in police force and homeland security. Her goal is to become a Cherokee Nation marshal when she turns 21.

Her suggestion for kids and adults is to keep a close watch on one’s body.

“But also just knowing your body, and what’s non-normal. Because like, when I got diagnosed with sarcoma, part of the whole treatment process is that you have to get pat downs every month to make sure that you don’t have any new spots as well,” she said. “Know their body. Know what’s not normal. Know if something’s out of place. Notice new spots on you or new bumps. If you don’t think something is supposed to be there, it’s probably not and you need to go to the doctor and get that checked out.”
Principal Chief Bill John Baker delivers his State of the Nation speech during the 2013 Cherokee National Holiday at the Courthouse Square in Tahlequah, Okla. This year tribal leaders will commemorate the 175th anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Constitution. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Principal Chief Bill John Baker delivers his State of the Nation speech during the 2013 Cherokee National Holiday at the Courthouse Square in Tahlequah, Okla. This year tribal leaders will commemorate the 175th anniversary of the signing of the 1839 Constitution. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

1839 Cherokee Constitution born from Act of Union

08/26/2014 09:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The 175th anniversary of the Cherokee Nation’s 1839 Constitution will be commemorated during this year’s Cherokee National Holiday.

It was signed Sept. 6, 1839, after contentious meetings between two Cherokee factions – Eastern Cherokees or the Ross Party led by Principal Chief John Ross, and the Old Settlers who settled Arkansas and what is now eastern Oklahoma in the early 1800s. A third faction, the so-called Treaty Party, that in 1835 signed away what remained of Cherokee land in the Southeast for $5 million, sided with the Old Settlers.

Those led by Ross had just arrived in Indian Territory in the spring of 1839 after being removed from their homes in the Southeast.

Sequoyah, who had moved to Indian Territory in 1829 from Arkansas, attempted to unite the Old Settlers, who had their own government, with the Ross Party. On July 12, 1839, a convention was held, and after deliberation a formal Act of Union was adopted, whereby the two branches declared to be “one body politic, under the style and title of the Cherokee Nation, succeeding both of the tribal organizations.

Ross; George Lowrey, president of the National Committee; Goingsnake, speaker of the council; and 13 others signed the act on behalf of the Ross Party.
Acting Principal Chief John Looney, Council President George Guess and 15 other Old Settlers leaders, including Sequoyah, signed for that faction.

Another convention met at Tahlequah in September 1839, composed mostly of Eastern Cherokees, to frame a new constitution. The document established rules for election of legislators and chiefs and common holding of the lands of the Nation. Another feature was suffrage for boys over 18 years of age. For purposes of civil administration and the apportionment of legislators, the CN was divided into nine districts similar in size and organization to counties. They were called Canadian, Illinois, Sequoyah, Flint, Delaware, Goingsnake, Tahlequah, Saline and Cooweescoowee, the last one being named in honor John Ross’ Cherokee name.

The 1839 Constitution was preceded by the 1827 Constitution, which was drafted on July 26, 1827, at New Echota, Ga. The document outlined a structure of government, which included an elected principal chief, a senate and a house of representatives.

In 1898, the CN’s 1839 Constitution ceased to govern the tribe as the Curtis Act instituted by the federal government dissolved tribal governments in Indian Territory to assimilate tribes and prepare for Oklahoma statehood, which came in 1907.

Until 1971, the federal government played a paternalistic role for the Cherokee people, choosing their chiefs and dictating tribal matters. In 1971, after his selection as the tribe’s first elected chief since 1903, William Wayne Keeler presided over the drafting of a new Cherokee constitution.

The 1975 Cherokee Constitution, signed by Principal Chief Ross Swimmer in October 1975, superseded the 1839 Constitution. The new constitution contained a Bill of Rights, specifications for tribal citizenship or citizenship, three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), tribal elections, qualifications for elected office and rules for council meetings.

A constitutional convention was held in Tahlequah in 1999 to revise and update the tribe’s constitution. Delegates from throughout the CN discussed, debated and modified the 1975 document. The new constitution included a clause that removed the need to ask the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ permission to amend the constitution.

Cherokee voters approved the amendment in May 2003 that removed federal requirements for amendments to the 1975 Constitution. Two months later, voters adopted the 1999 Constitution as the tribe’s supreme law.

The tribe and BIA negotiated changes to the new constitution and it was ratified in 2003. However, the secretary of the Interior would not approve it.

Proponents of the new constitution filed a lawsuit with the tribe’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal (now Supreme Court) in 2005, asking it to rule whether the 1999 law was valid. On June 7, 2006, the JAT ruled the law became the tribe’s “organic document” when the Cherokee people approved it. The CN officially began using the 1999 Constitution in July 2006.

However, as late as November 2011, the BIA stated it has not approved the tribe’s 1999 Constitution or an amendment that led to its implementation. CN Attorney General Todd Hembree, who in November 2011 was the Tribal Council’s attorney, wrote a letter that stated CN has a strong argument that the U.S. government has recognized the 1999 Constitution because the government has approved numerous government-to-government actions between itself and the CN in the past five years.

In July, Hembree took part in a ceremony at the Capitol Square in Tahlequah that celebrated the 1839 Act of Union, which had allowed for the creation of the 1839 Constitution.

“This Act of Union was not born out of a desire for good government. It was born out of necessity,” Hembree said. “Because if we didn’t come together at that point in time, under those circumstances, all that we fought to preserve could have been lost. It was not just advantageous to unite; it was essential. And that is what happened here, 175 years ago.”


“Sequoyah (ca. 1778-1843),” Oklahoma Historical Society;

“A History of the Cherokee Indians,” Vol. 8, No. 4, December 1930, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Hugh T. Cunningham;

“Curtis Act,” Oklahoma Historical Society, M. Kaye Tatro;

“Cherokee,” Oklahoma Historical Society, Rennard Strickland;

“Echo Hawk opinion may have ‘drastic consequences,’” Cherokee Phoenix, Nov. 22, 2011.


CHC offering free admission during Labor Day weekend
08/15/2014 08:37 AM

PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee Heritage Center will offer free admission during Labor Day weekend, Aug. 30-31, as the center takes part in the annual Cherokee National Holiday.

During the weekend there will be more than 60 Native arts and crafts booths, fair-style vendors, Cherokee games and an opportunity to see the permanent Trail of Tears exhibit in the CHC’s museum.

Also, the annual Cherokee Homecoming Art Show will be on display in the museum. The show features authentic Cherokee art and is considered one of Oklahoma’s most prominent art shows. Cherokee artwork is judged in traditional and contemporary divisions. The traditional division is defined as arts originating before European contact and consists of four categories including basketry, jewelry and beading, pottery and traditional arts. The contemporary division is defined as arts arising among the Cherokee after European contact, and consists of five categories including paintings, sculpture, pottery, basketry and textiles.

Tours of Diligwa, a Cherokee village set in 1710, will be offered for $2 every half hour. Diligwa features 19 wattle and daub structures, 14 interpretive stations. Visitors can witness daily Cherokee life in 1710 as they are guided through the interpretive stations where crafts are demonstrated, stories are told and Cherokee life ways are explained.

Diligwa is a name derivative of Tellico, a village in the east that was once the principal Cherokee town and is now underwater. Tellico was the Cherokee Nation capital and center of commerce before the emergence of Echota in Monroe County, Tenn.

The CHC has been committed to telling the story of the Cherokee since 1967. The center was built on the original site of the Cherokee National Female Seminary, the first institution of higher learning for women west of the Mississippi River.

Offering exhibits, cultural workshops, living history and events throughout the year, the CHC also includes the Adams Corner Rural Village, Nofire Farms, Cherokee Family Research Center and the Cherokee National Archives.

The CHC is located at 21192 S. Keeler Dr. For information, call 1-888-999-6007, email or visit


Indian Youth Wrestling organization selling T-shirts as fundraiser
08/11/2014 12:23 PM

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Indian Youth Wrestling organization based in Tahlequah is selling T-shirts to raise money for club expenses such as new singlets and equipment.

Cost per shirt is $15 plus $5 for shipping, with an additional option to donate more. The organization’s goal is to sell 50 shirts by Aug. 15. Customers should receive their shirts in the mail around Aug. 29.

To place an order, go to the website and search for IYW or type in
to be taken directly to the ordering page. will ship anywhere around the world.

The organization has set out to provide its children with a strong work ethic, resilience and a sense of responsibility for their own destiny as well as lasting inner-strength and confidence.

For more information, visit or email Jillian Girty at


3 veterans honored during Tribal Council meeting
08/14/2014 08:25 AM
Senior Reporter

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Elmer C. Tadpole Jr., his brother Thomas Tadpole and Richard Acorn were the three Cherokee veterans honored with Cherokee Warrior awards during the Aug. 11 Tribal Council meeting.

Elmer was born in June 1940 to Elmer Tadpole Sr. and Lillian Napier Tadpole in Muskogee. His father was an original enrollee with Cherokee family history tracing back to 1737.

When Elmer was 4 years old, his family moved to Tulsa where he grew up and went to school. On his 17th birthday, in 1957, he joined the U.S. Navy Reserves. After graduating from high school he went active duty serving on the USS Woodson DE and USS Hornet CV-12.

The USS Woodson DE was home ported at New Orleans where the boat patrolled from St. Louis down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico to Miami. He then transferred to the USS Hornet CV-12.

The USS Hornet CV-12 was home ported at Long Beach, Calif., and was part of the Pacific Sixth Fleet patrolling Japan, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, Hawaii and the West Coast of the United States. After this stint he was transferred to a naval supply and training base in Subic Bay, Philippines.

There, Elmer performed duties such as security and training exercises. He was honorably discharged in June 1963.

Elmer said he accepted the Warrior Award for “all the veterans lost in service.”

Thomas Tadpole was born in Tulsa on July 21, 1948, to Elmer Sr. and Lillian Tadpole.

Thomas lived in Tulsa and graduated from Tulsa Central High School in 1966. In 1968, Thomas volunteered for the U.S. Air Force and completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio after which he attended Security Police Training at Lackland AFB. In 1970, Thomas volunteered for duty in Vietnam and served there from September 1970 to September 1971 at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. He was assigned to Military Assistance Command Vietnam/7th Air Force, 12th Recon Intelligence Technical Squadron.

Staff Sgt. Thomas Tadpole was honorably discharged in May 1972 and was awarded various medals and ribbons including USAF Commendation Medal (1971-Vietnam), Vietnam Service Medal with three Campaign Stars, Vietnam Campaign Medal w/device, Vietnam Cross of Gallantry and a Presidential Unit Citation (Vietnam).

Thomas returned to Tulsa where he was re-employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He spent 34 years with the Corps of Engineers as a construction representative and project engineer working on military and civil works construction projects in several states and retired in 2004. He and his wife Floy live in Claremore.

“I want to thank you for this. I think this is a great thing to do for veterans,” he said during the meeting.

Richard F. Acorn was born July 20, 1934, in Stilwell to Lillie Mae Acorn and Fred Aguirre in the family home place where Richard still lives. Shortly after his birth, his father and mother divorced. He was raised and adopted by his grandfather and grandmother Rev. John B. Acorn and Adeline Smith Acorn.

After graduating from Sequoyah Indian School in Tahlequah in 1952, Acorn moved to Wichita, Kan., and worked in a sheet metal shop until 1955 when he moved back to Oklahoma to do plumbing with his uncle Bill Acorn. At this time he also met and married Shirley Dreadfulwater.

Acorn was drafted into the Army in 1957. He was sent to Fort Chaffee, Ark., for basic training. After training he was assigned to overseas duty with 7th Army Headquarters, 78th Ordinance Company Field Supply, Mannheim, Germany, and drivers training for military vehicles in Mannheim.

After his tour in Germany, Acorn returned back to the United States to join his family and they moved back to Wichita in 1959 where he worked at Cessna Air Craft Company and joined the U.S. Army Reserve Unit 5048th. He spent four years in the reserves and was honorably discharged in 1963.

In 1965, with the death of his wife, he was left with three girls ages 5, 3 and 18 months. In 1967, he met Judith Ann, who had two girls and two boys, and they married and had a son together. They are still together after 47 years of marriage.

In 1971, Richard moved back to Oklahoma, and in 1973 he began working for the Indian Health Service as an inspector. In 1983, he began working for the Cherokee Nation in Community Development and security. He currently serves as a security guard.

“I’m proud to have been a part of the world’s greatest armed forces. I’m proud to work for the Cherokee Nation,” Acorn said after receiving the Cherokee Warrior medal.


Redbird Smith’s remodeled main facility opens
08/26/2014 08:54 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials celebrated the opening of Redbird Smith Health Center’s main building on Aug. 13 after it underwent a remodel the past two years because of mold found inside.

Clinical Director Jerry Caughman said the remodel means a lot to him because he grew up in Sallisaw and is a CN citizen.

“I’m not only an employee here, I’m from Sallisaw. Both sides of my family, they’re from Sallisaw and we have been 100-plus years,” he said. “So these people that come to this clinic, they’re not only patients of mine, but they’re my friends and family. And so this means more than anyone can ever know.”

The building was closed in 2012, and its patient services were moved to different parts of the health center after the mold was discovered. The building was gutted, said CN Communications officials, with the use of Indian Health Services funds.

The building cost $4.4 million to remodel and will house dental, administration, a fitness area and public health nursing.

Connie Davis, CN Health Services executive director, said the tribe’s administration, Tribal Council and Health Services have made the expansion of health services a priority.

“The Redbird Smith renovation and expansion will not only serve more patients, but also offer programs such as mammography and physical therapy that patients normally would have to be referred to Tahlequah or other health centers to get,” she said. “I’m very proud of this expansion, and it’s just the first of many more to come for our overall health centers.”

Tribal Councilor Janelle Fulbright said the new services the facility will offer is something she and patients have waited a long time for.

“I’ve been on the council seven years and one of things I really, really wanted when I got on the council was a dialysis center. It took four years, but we accomplished that and helped so many people,” she said. “We’ve got top notch care for our people. When they come here they can rest assured they’re getting some of the finest.”

Principal Chief Bill John Baker said “citizens deserve world-class care” and the expansions and remodels represent that.

“This will ensure we offer treatment as effectively and efficiently as possible when patients come for health care services. This is the most important long-term investment we can make as a tribal government,” he said. “More importantly, this expansion allows our health center to accommodate more people day in and day out.”

A new annex is also being constructed behind the main building. When finished, the center will go from 33,000 square feet to more than 60,000 square feet.

Its cost totals about $11 million, making the entire construction at Redbird Smith more than $15 million.

The health center opened in 1992, according to CN Communications. In 2013, it served more than 100,000 patients. After renovations, that number is expected to rise.


I can have it all, but with a little help
05/05/2014 11:18 AM
Who says you can’t have it all? Lately my reality has been just that. However, I haven’t been doing it alone.

During the past year I have experienced several changes. All of which have changed not only my life, but my family’s, too.

In March 2013, I had the opportunity to finally purchase my own car, a new model. That was exciting. I had been having trouble with mine and I badly wanted to purchase a new car. I never thought I could, but I did and that was a fantastic blessing.

Two months later, my family and I moved into a new house built by the Housing Authority of Cherokee Nation under the tribes’ new home construction program. My in-laws allowed us to purchase a small piece of property from them north of Tahlequah for the home to be built upon.

I filed for the program the week of its inception in April 2012, and a year later we moved into our first new home. That was a dream come true. Without that program I’m afraid it would have been far longer for me to buy a home, a new home at that.

In June, my then-partner Mike Murphy and I discovered we were expecting our second child. So together we have four children. This news was quite surprising, but great. We thought having another child wasn’t a possibility any longer considering we’d tried for nearly two years, but we were blessed with another boy. I thought I had my hands full with one in the home (the other two live outside the home). So on Jan. 27, we welcomed the newest Murphy, Austin.

So after all these changes and the welcomed surprise why not go ahead and throw another one in the mix. Mike and I finally got married. I had taken my maternity leave a week before going into labor. So my last week of my leave we planned a small, nice ceremony on the Cherokee Nation Courthouse grounds beneath a beautiful magnolia tree. And the ceremony was just that, beautiful. CN citizen David Comingdeer officiated.

So on April 8 at 4:08 p.m. on the grounds of the historic courthouse, David gave the prayer and welcome in both Cherokee and English and proceeded with the marriage ceremony.

I have waited nearly seven years to marry Mike and for whatever reason in the past it just wasn’t the right time. So on that day I walked to a floral archway where Mike stood as Jami Custer and we left that ceremony as Mr. and Mrs. Michael Murphy.

Now I’ve returned to work, a much-awaited return in my eyes. I have missed the past three months without writing for the Cherokee Phoenix and contributing to what I feel is a much-needed news outlet for our Cherokee people. It feels great to be back working again.

Even though we’ve spent the past seven years as a couple, I want to try and be as a good of a mother and wife as I can. Why wouldn’t I? But life is a lot of work.

In today’s society, many women and men attempt to do it all. They want to work, bring up babies, have personal relationships and still try to find the time for themselves. I tell you, it’s not easy. It can be done, but there’s a lot of help behind the scenes that many don’t see.

For example, purchasing my new car couldn’t have been achieved without my employment with the Cherokee Phoenix. Working for the past seven years has allowed me the opportunity to establish better credit and work steadily and that afforded me the opportunity for the new car.

My home would not have been possible without the help of CN citizens William and Deborah Smoke. They have helped us more than words can express.
And finally, the old saying “it takes a village to raise a child” I think can be linked to our relationships. Many people have had a hand in my and Mike’s seven-year courtship, both good and bad, but either way all leading us where we are today, married.

We can have it all. But when you look at it, really look at what you’re accomplishing, I don’t think you’re doing it alone. Many people are there helping, some we can’t even see.

Thanks friends, family and extended family for all you’ve done behind the scenes.


Legg honored at White House as ‘Champion of Change’
08/14/2014 08:33 AM

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The White House has named Cherokee Nation citizen Daryl Legg a “Champion of Change” for going from a three-time convicted felon to someone who’s helped positively change the lives of dozens.

Legg was sentenced to prison three times for drug possession, but turned his life around and now runs a work re-entry program helping other Natives overcome similar obstacles.

Legg, 43, of Sallisaw, is the Nation’s director of vocational programs, which includes a new program called “Coming Home.” The program helps former prisoners get back on their feet upon release, including help with jobs and housing.

Since the program started in September, 53 of the 55 formerly incarcerated participants have stayed out of prison, with the majority maintaining steady jobs.

“I’m thankful I belong to a tribe that gives me the freedom to do what I love and give back,” Legg said. “The feeling of being able to be trusted again is an awesome feeling, and I’m thankful to the Cherokee Nation and the White House for this award. More than anything, I’m glad to see the reentry issue getting the attention it deserves.”

On June 30, Legg was honored at the White House with 14 other recipients. The “Champions of Change” award is given to ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities. The White House says it received more than 900 nominations for the category Legg was honored in, which is re-entry and employment for the formerly incarcerated.

Legg has been a director of CN vocational programs since 2009. It’s the same program that years earlier offered him the opportunity to learn employment skills after being sent to prison twice in Arkansas and once in Oklahoma.

Legg eventually graduated from Northeastern State University with a major in psychology in 2006 and worked his way up to a director before starting “Coming Home.”

“Daryl has helped the Cherokee Nation develop one of the most progressive reintegration programs in Oklahoma and across Indian Country. His humanity and commitment make him a deserving White House Champion of Change honoree,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Like Daryl, I believe we can’t just give up on people after incarceration. We must open doors of opportunity for our people, not keep them closed.”

The “Coming Home” program is for citizens of federally recognized Native American tribes. Applicants must contact the program within six months of release to be considered for participation.

For more information on the program, call Legg at 918-453-5000, ext. 3832 or email

For more information on the “Champions of Change” award, visit
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