San Diego Cherokee Nation citizen also TV personality
By Will Chavez
SAN DIEGO, Calif. – As San Diego Cherokee Community Councilor Phil Konstantin addressed fellow SDCC members during a picnic in October it was obvious he was comfortable with a microphone.
That comfort stems from working at KUSI, a local independent television station. Konstantin recently became the evening assignment editor after being the station’s traffic reporter for more than four years.
“What I liked was that I got to work with a really nice bunch of people. We were in the early morning news so we could be a little more light hearted and didn’t have to be quite so serious,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of interesting people. We got a lot of TV personalities, movie stars, government officials and lot interesting local folks, and I had a chance to sit down and talk and interact with those people.”
Before landing his KUSI job, Konstantin served with the California Highway Patrol giving traffic reports for the ABC affiliate KGTV for nearly nine years.
Prior to moving to southern California, he lived in Houston for 27 years. There he worked at NASA from 1972-75 and assisted with the last two Apollo moon flights, Apollo 16 and 17.
Konstantin said he met and fell in love with a girl from Houston whose family moved to California. He followed her there after her father helped him get a job in construction. After two years, he said he wanted a more stable job and joined the CHP in 1985. His first patrol assignment was in Los Angeles, but he eventually transferred to San Diego to be closer to his children.
“I spent three and a half years here in San Diego patrolling the roads, and then I spent another 15 years being the public affairs officer for this division of the highway patrol, so I was on TV a lot,” he said.
He retired from the CHP in 2005 and began working with KUSI four days later.
While in San Diego he became active with the SDCC, despite the fact that it took his family 40 years to obtain Cherokee Nation citizenship cards because his maternal Cherokee grandfather left the family when his mother was 7 years old and was not heard from again.
“We had a hard time proving that the person on the rolls was my grandfather. So, it almost became a matter of pride to prove somewhere on paper that I was Cherokee,” he said. “I’m mostly European American, but I grew up with a great and deep respect for being a Cherokee. My mother was very proud of that particular part.”
He said he has spent much time learning about Cherokee culture and history and was eager to join the SDCC to learn more.
“This chance to participate in this organization has really made me more aware and educated of what it is to be a Cherokee in this community and this day and age,” he said.
His study of Native American culture and history led him to write the book “This Day in North American Indian History.” He also wrote six of the 24 chapters for “Native America History for Dummies,” and contributed an article and appendix items for “Treaties with American Indians.” His latest book is titled “The Wacky World of Laws” and details “crazy laws around the country,” Konstantin said.
Reach Staff Writer Will Chavez at (918) 207-3961 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Konstantin (Photo by Will Chavez)