Community and Cherokee NationEntertainment volunteers recently renovated the Belfonte community center. Thenew renovations allow the community to use the building more efficiently foractivities. PHOTO BY TESINA JACKSON
Belfonte leaders want more involvement from residents
BELFONTE, Okla. – About 19 miles northeast of Sallisaw, along Highway 101, sits the quiet Sequoyah County community of Belfonte.
Once part of French Louisiana, Bellefonte, as it was originally spelled, is a French word meaning beautiful water. French traders who ascended the Arkansas River and its tributaries to trade with Native Americans gave the community its name.
The history of the village started for the Cherokees in the late 1820s as they drifted up Lee’s Creek from settlements around what is present-day Muldrow, along the Arkansas River. Their primary way of living was farming, fishing and hunting.
The earliest families to settle the area included the Stars, Glasses, Eagles and Seabolts, which the nearby Seabolt Cemetery is named for.
By the time of the Civil War, the community included a grade school founded by the Cherokee Nation. It was known as Lee’s Creek School and started around 1859. It was moved four times before settling on its present site, which was built in 1955. Today the school is known as Belfonte Public Schools and teaches grades pre-kindergarten through fifth.
Lee’s Creek Missionary Baptist, later renamed the Belfonte Missionary Baptist Church, began in 1869 and was one of the original eight churches to form the Cherokee Union Baptist Association. Services were held in the Cherokee language.
Today, while driving through Belfonte, one may not realize that within this community are residents trying to bring other residents together. One initiative was renovating the Belfonte Community Center. Recently, residents and Cherokee Nation Entertainment employees worked together to make the community building safer and more functional.
Volunteers installed two new doors to prevent break-ins, removed rotted trim and painted new trim, cleared old playground equipment and railroad ties and cleaned the landscaping around the property.
“We try to bring the community together to let them know that there are things going on down here now that weren’t going on in the past,” said Anita Gilbreth, secretary/treasurer of the Belfonte Community Center board. “We’re trying to get together a family movie night and a family game night. We just need to get the word out that there are things to do at the community center now. We’re just trying to get everyone involved and starting to come back to the community, and it’s just really hard.”
To get the community more active and involved, the community center board has created events for the people to participate in, including the CN Youth and Cherokee Nutrition programs, Indian taco sales, bake auctions, Cherokee language classes, GED classes, clay-work classes, basket-making classes and the recent Community Fun Day.
“We’re trying to get the community to let us know what they want to do. And we are going to try to do the traditional games and storytelling,” Gilbreth said. “If they want to do scrapbooking or exercise, they need to let us know so we can get it set up by calling us.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials have told tribal employees that they will now text or call employees regarding possible office closings or late start times.
“This administration wants to ensure our employees are informed, and quickly, about decisions that affect their work day,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “In the past, when a foot of snow or ice patches covered the ground, our employees called our complex early that morning to listen to an operator recording to see if tribal offices would be open at 8 a.m., or they would text co-workers or bosses to ask.”
To alert employees earlier the tribe will use Blackboard Connect, “a mass notification service.”
“This is how it works: the system allowed our IT department to plug in all Cherokee Nation issued employee cell phones into a call list. When inclement weather strikes and our administration makes a decision to close the complex, or start work later than normal, employees will receive a phone call or text message, or both, as early as possible with such updates recorded by our Communications office,” according to a CN Communications release. “School systems, such as Fort Gibson, and city governments, such as Tahlequah, use similar messaging systems to keep their stakeholders informed.”
CN employees who use a personal cell phone can send a name, title, department and phone number to email@example.com if they would like to receive the same notifications.
“We realize it may take using this system a few times before it’s seamless, but I believe this will be another tool that increases the safety for employees and keeps you all better informed,” the release states. “Employees may also check Cherokee Nation Facebook and Cherokee Nation Twitter for the latest inclement weather related work updates as well.”
Tahlequah Sequoyah certainly has picked a proper time to peak during the season. The Indians and Lady Indians have taken advantage of a grueling January slate.
The boys (11-5) are riding a seven-game win streak and the girls (13-3) have a six-game win streak of their own, too.
Saturday, Jan. 24, Sequoyah claimed the boys and girls championship trophies at the Tri-State Classic in Jay. That type of domination couldn’t have come at a better time with No 1 boys and girls’ basketball teams in Class 4A coming to Sequoyah on Tuesday, Jan. 27.
Fort Gibson is a combined 27-1, as it has dominated its opponents throughout the season consistently. The girls game will start at 6:30 p.m. and the boys will follow at 8 p.m.
The same night, Sequoyah will honor a group who helped pave the way for basketball success at SHS--the Native American “Dream Team,” of 1998.
“This was the team that broke the ice, being the first SHS team to reach the state basketball tournament,” Sequoyah Athletic Director Marcus Crittenden said.
Leroy Qualls, who is now a superintendent, was the head coach of the boys team. Also, Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick was a member of the team, too, among notables.
In addition to the ceremony honoring the team, an autographed basketball from a notable Oklahoma City Thunder guard can be won, too.
“Thanks to a generous donation from BancFirst of Tahlequah, we have a basketball autographed by Russell Westbrook that we will raffle off the same night,” Crittenden said.
CATOOSA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment purchased three properties each in 2014. The properties total approximately 152 acres with the largest being in Rogers County.
CNE purchased 89.98 acres on Sept. 30 from John and Velma Mullen. According to Rogers County records, the cost was $3.7 million. The land is located west/northwest of CNE’s Cherokee Hills Golf Course. The golf course is located at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.
The Cherokee Phoenix reported in September that the acquired property would be used for the golf course.
According to artist renderings, “Cherokee Outlets” a premium outlet shop and entertainment and dining zone that was announced on Sept. 10 is expected to be built behind the Hard Rock and could possibly use land occupied by the golf course and its clubhouse.
CNB officials said they were awaiting a master plan for “Cherokee Outlets” as well as a plan from a golf course architect.
“We are in the process of negotiating with the golf course architect. I anticipate getting that agreement in place in the next couple of weeks and starting to do some preliminary work there,” CNB Executive Vice President Charles Garrett said in September.
According to CNE Communications, CNB officials are still planning work to be done on the golf course.
CNE also purchased approximately 6 acres for $256,500 in Sequoyah County, according to county records. Cherokee Nation Property Management purchased the land from Benjamin and Judy Cowan and later deeded it to Cherokee Nation Construction Resources for housing.
CNCR will build 23 homes that the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation will purchase after construction is complete.
On July 2, Jim and Connie Jolliff sold 57.75 acres in Delaware County to CNPM for $85,000, according to county records.
“This property is directly south/east of and abutting the Saline District Courthouse property owned by the Cherokee Nation,” CNE Communications officials said.
However, CNB officials did not release the land’s intended use citing “competitive information exemption.”
The three properties the CN bought are located in Cherokee County. Two properties were purchased from HLD Investments, a corporation in Tahlequah owned by the Mason and Minor families.
On Nov. 3, the CN purchased a property and its building known as the “Clinic in the Woods,” which is located near W.W. Hastings Hospital off Boone Street.
According to CN Communications, the tribe paid $1,078,500 for the 1.536 acres, and the building’s anticipated use will be for the tribe’s Behavioral Health Program.
Also purchased on Nov. 3 was the Cascade property totaling less than 1 acre. It’s located near Northeastern Health System Tahlequah and Hastings Hospital. The property cost $771,500 and will be used for Health Services.
The tribe also bought property located at 120 E. Balentine Road in Tahlequah for its motor vehicle tag office. It was purchased on Jan. 30 from Don Smith for $300,000, according to county records.
LINCOLN, Neb. – Vision Maker Media will be offering summer, or fall, 10-week, paid internships for Native American and Alaska Native college students at various public TV stations.
“Providing experience for Native students in the media is vitally important to ensure that we can continue a strong tradition of digital storytelling,” Shirley K. Sneve, Vision Maker Media executive director, said. “We are grateful for the support of local PBS stations in helping us achieve this goal.”
During the internship at least two short-form videos on local Native American or Alaska Native people, events or issues for on-air or online distribution should be completed.
With major funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the purpose of this paid summer internship is to increase the journalism and production skills for the selected college student. One of the major goals of the internship will be to increase the quantity and quality of multimedia reporting available to public television audiences and other news outlets.
Students interested in applying for this internship opportunity must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by March 24. The application process requires submission of a cover letter, resume, work samples, an official school transcript and a letter of recommendation from a faculty member or former supervisor. Top applicants will be notified in late April with the internships spanning between May 1 and Dec. 18.
Up to 10 public television stations will be selected to host an intern and an award of $5,000 to the station will be used to provide payment to the intern, cover any travel expenses and administrative fees.
Stations that would like to be considered for hosting a public media intern must apply online at <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/intern" target="_blank">www.visionmakermedia.org/intern</a> by Feb. 3.
WASHINGTON – On Jan. 9, President Barack Obama announced that the Choctaw Nation is among five areas of the United States that will be part of the Promise Zone Initiative.
The president first announced the Promise Zone Initiative during last year’s State of the Union Address, as a way to partner with local communities and businesses to create jobs, increase economic security, expand access to educational opportunities and quality, affordable housing and improve public safety.
“I am very thankful that the Choctaw Nation and partners have been awarded the Promise Zone designation,” said Choctaw Chief Gregory Pyle. “We are blessed to work with many state, regional, county, municipal, school, and university partners who, along with the Choctaw Nation, believe that great things can occur to lift everyone in southeastern Oklahoma when we work together.”
Parts of the president’s plan include investing in and rebuilding hard-hit communities are to restore the basic bargain at the heart of the American story; that every child should have a fair chance at success and that if you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules, you should be able to find a good job, feel secure in your community and support a family.
“This designation will assist ongoing efforts to emphasize small business development and bring economic opportunity to the high-need communities,” Pyle said. “I am confident that access to the technical assistance and resources offered by the Promise Zone designation will result in better lifestyles for people living and working within the Choctaw Nation.”
The other Promise Zone Initiative areas are located in San Antonio, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and southeastern Kentucky.
CLAREMORE, Okla. – After growing up on her father’s ranch, Cherokee Nation citizen Dr. Kristin Vickrey knew she wanted to become a veterinarian.
“I’ve always wanted to be a vet,” she said. “I grew up raising cows so my dad always had cows. I was always out there working, and I always loved the medicine side of things. Going out and actually helping make the animals feel better, it was just something I’ve always wanted to do. It led to where I am today.”
Vickrey attended Oklahoma State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in animal science and veterinary doctorate. In 2011, she began working at the Regional Animal Care Center in Claremore as an associate veterinarian with Dr. Jerome Yorke.
While Vickrey still attends larger animals for her family, her focus is small animals such as cats and dogs with the occasional ferret, rabbit and guinea pig.
“I think my smallest patient is a little 2-pound Chihuahua and my biggest patient is a 200-pound Bull Mastiff,” she said. “So there’s a big range difference. It makes my job interesting, going from one to the next and everybody is just a little bit different. They might have the same problem but it doesn’t always present the same.”
Kimberlee Coates, pet owner and Claremore resident, said she began going to Vickrey after being assigned to her two years ago.
“…we just really loved her and the compassion that she had for our pets and the fact that she was very personable and attentive to them and reassured us that everything was going to be OK whenever we had to have a procedure done,” Coates said. “It just gives us a lot of piece of mind to know that our pets will be well taken care of and that we don’t have to worry.”
Coates has four cats and one dog that she has brought to Vickrey.
“They can’t speak for themselves, and so as a pet parent you really feel like you need a doctor that can tune into them and can show them the compassion because there’s that gap in communication that you so much wish your pets could just talk,” Coates said. “Because if they could it would just make everything so much easier, but they can’t so you really have to have somebody that can fine tune into looking for the signs and the things that we as pet parents sometimes miss and don’t see, and she’s excellent at being able to do that.”
Regional Animal Care Center offers several types of surgeries and services such as exploratory surgery, spaying, neutering, bone surgeries, dental, vaccinations, micro chipping, amputations, general medicine, therapeutic lasers, digital x-rays, endoscopic ear exams and blood work.
“I think probably my favorite part is that I really like orthopedic work,” Vickrey said. “I like fixing the broken bones and repairing torn ACLs (anterior cruciate ligaments). Those I get the biggest reward out of because I fixed it and now it’s better. I like those big rewarding cases.”
Vickrey said the most challenging part of her job is telling owners that their animals will need to be put down.
“We’re the advocate for the animal. The animals can’t tell you what they’re going through so we have to come to the owners and tell them ‘unfortunately your animal is not going to make it or it’s suffering’ and it’s not always the easiest part because the owners love it. They want to keep it alive. They want to do everything they can for it, but at the end of the day if I don’t tell the owner that their animal is suffering and is in pain, the only thing it’s hurting is the animal,” she said. “I wish I could save them all, but unfortunately you just can’t.”
Vickrey, along with Yorke, also work with a nonprofit animal rescue group called Zoi’s Animal Rescue, which is a no-kill animal rescue with locations in Claremore and Navasota, Texas.
Regional Animal Care Center, which is located at 1201 N. Lynn Riggs Blvd., also offers grooming and a full indoor and outdoor boarding facility. For more information, call 918-341-5551.