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

BY TESINA JACKSON
Reporter
10/25/2010 06:54 AM
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.”
About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

News

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BY STAFF REPORTS
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