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

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. • 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.


10/09/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. - Native bull riders and calf ropers to barrel racers will converge Sunday in Tahlequah for the Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo. Bareback Riding World Champion Cody Parker, Professional Bull Rider Zane Cook and World Champion Calf Roper Steve Brickey are just a few who will compete for $20,000 in cash and prizes at the Cherokee County Rodeo Grounds, 16818 S. Muskogee Ave. in Tahlequah. The rodeo starts at 5 p.m. with slack starting at 10 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 11. Admission is free. “The Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo was created as a way to showcase our talented Native cowboys and cowgirls,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “These cowboys and cowgirls will receive much-deserved recognition for their talents while also competing for some beautiful prizes, bragging rights and, of course, the cash. We hope the public comes out to enjoy this new event, as we fully expect it to be a great success.” Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo events will include bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, junior bull riding, mutton bustin, barrel racing, junior barrel racing, breakaway, senior breakaway, junior breakaway, team roping, senior team roping, junior team roping, steer wrestling and calf roping. For more information, contact Diamond Thomison at 918-905-0364 or GV Gulager at 918-772-7701
10/09/2015 08:30 AM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Former Tribal Councilor Jodie Fishinghawk accepted a position with Cherokee Nation Businesses in late August to be its project manager for Community Programs. According to CNB Communications, Fishinghawk’s hire date was Aug. 24, but prior to accepting the position, Fishinghawk spoke with the Cherokee Phoenix about the job and its duties. The Adair County native said she already had the job-required knowledge needed for the position after her eight years of being a Tribal Councilor. She said she expected to work within tribal communities and with the Cherokee people in those communities, as well as CNB employees. “Which is something that I’ve been doing for a long time as a Tribal Councilor. I think I’m very qualified for this position,” she said. According to the job description, the position is responsible for the coordination of various special programs and will be a liaison between Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses and the 14-county jurisdiction. “The incumbent will be knowledgeable about services and programs offered by Cherokee Nation,” the description states. According to the job description, some skills and experience needed for this position include leadership skills, experience in managing multiple projects, coordinating project, ability to write routine reports and the ability to problem solve. There is also a degree requirement as well as five years experience with five or more years managing projects, the description states. She added that some job duties she was expected to handle included working closely with CNB employees. “I’ve noticed that there is a big disconnect with our employees at CNB and the Cherokee Nation. They know about health care if they’re sick. They know about education if they have a student in college, and they know about housing if they use rental assistance or have a house. But not a lot know about the Nation in general and its programs,” Fishinghawk said. “I’m there to try and fill that disconnect.” According to CNB Communications, the job is a new position that began Oct. 1 and was advertised publicly. Fishinghawk works within the CNB Community Relations under Molly Jarvis, vice president of Marketing and Cultural Tourism. Fishinghawk said she preferred to work in the Tahlequah area rather than Catoosa, where CNB is based, and upon her hiring she was given that option. Prior to her hiring, she said her salary would be comparable to what she made her last year as a Tribal Councilor, approximately $56,000. The Cherokee Phoenix requested an interview with Fishinghawk through CNB Communications after her hire date, but was denied. According to the tribe’s Constitution, “All Council members shall be limited to two consecutive elected terms on the Council. All Council members having served two consecutive terms must sit out one term before seeking any seat on the Council.” Fishinghawk was elected to her first term in 2007 and her second in 2011.
10/08/2015 02:30 PM
AUSTIN, Texas – Operation Enduring Respect is a nonprofit group that takes wounded veterans to college and NFL football games. It’s operated by Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Phelps. He said since starting the organization he’s taken more then 1,000 veterans to sporting events. “We’re all about healing. Wounds are not only physical, but there are also mental wounds and trauma, and I’m trying to help make a difference in the lives of those who risk their lives,” said Phelps, 58, who serves as the nonprofit’s director of operations. “We’re helping these service members come out of their shell and get back into society.” Phelps was raised in the military life and after seeing the effects of war on people he helped co-start the organization. He’s taking three CN citizens to the Red River Rivalry football game between the universities of Oklahoma sand Texas in Dallas on Oct. 10. Plans are also in the works, according to CN Communications, to take 25 veterans to a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving and perhaps some to the Super Bowl. His family during the years has always kept their Cherokee culture close. Phelps said he loves the fact that he’s Cherokee. “I was raised to have a deep affection for the tribe and culture,” Phelps said. “With this nonprofit I knew I also had the chance to help wounded Cherokee and Native veterans, and so bringing those two together is very rewarding.” U.S. Army veteran Staff Sgt. Marvin Cochran went to Iraq twice and served in Afghanistan. The Tahlequah, Oklahoma, native is one of three Cherokees going to the Red River game with Phelps. According to CN Communications his father, Jim Cochran, a Vietnam veteran, and RC Brashears, a Korean War veteran, are also planning to go. For more information about Operation Enduring Respect, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
10/08/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Communication department released its October events calendar on Oct. 1. Oct. 10 6 p.m. – Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach will host a free movie night at the Dream Theatre in Tahlequah. Attendees will be treated to Holt Hamilton films “Legends from the Sky” and “More than Frybread.” For more information, contact Kevin Stretch at 918-207-4919 or Oct. 11 5 p.m. – The Cherokee Nation All-Indian Rodeo will be held at the Cherokee County Rodeo Grounds in Tahlequah and will feature bareback, saddle bronc, bull riding, junior bull riding, team roping and much more. Admission is $2, and kids 12 and under get in for free. Oct. 12 6 p.m. – Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting at the W.W. Keeler Complex, 17675 S. Muskogee Ave., Tahlequah. For the agenda, visit Oct. 12-15 The Redbird Smith Health Center in Sallisaw will be hosting free activities in connection with Breast Cancer Awareness Week. For more information, contact Neoma Flynn at or Mary Owl at Oct. 13 6 to 8 p.m. – A Cherokee County community meeting hosted by Tribal Councilors Rex Jordan, Joe Byrd and David Walkingstick will be held at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds in Tahlequah. 6 p.m. - Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach will host a traditional Cherokee foods presentation by Cherokee National Treasure Edith Night at the Osiyo Training Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee in Tahlequah. This cultural event will be a guide to hunting, gathering and preparing traditional Cherokee foods such as kanuchi, wishi mushrooms and wild onions. For more information, contact Dawnena Mackey at 918-525-2041 or Oct. 20 6 to 7:30 p.m. – The Cherokee Nation Vinita Health Center will host Bingo Night at the health facility in Vinita as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition to bingo, a pumpkin contest will also be held. Oct. 23 8:30 a.m. – Cherokee Nation Sam Hider Health Center will host the second annual Chili Cook-Off at the Jay Community Center. Registration is $10 and proceeds go to the Women’s Health Committee fund for Breast Cancer Awareness. Oct. 27 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. - Cherokee Nation Community & Cultural Outreach will host a Leading Great Meetings class as part of the Community Leadership Series at the Osiyo Training Room behind the Restaurant of the Cherokee in Tahlequah. This capacity and community leadership training will give you the understanding of facilitation styles, participation and creating the perfect agenda. For more information, contact Chris Welch at 918-207-4953 or 5 p.m. – A community meeting hosted by Tribal Councilor Don Garvin for Cherokee Nation citizens of District 4 at Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee. Principal Chief Bill John Baker will also be in attendance as well as the Cherokee National Youth Choir. Oct. 30 7 p.m. – “Thriller” takes the field as the Sequoyah High School Drama Department will be performing Michael Jackson’s hit song at half time of the football game against Lincoln Christian. For more information, contact Amanda Ray at Oct. 31 7:45 a.m. – Cherokee Nation Wings Program will be hosting the “Nowata Halloween BOO-YAH 5K & Fun Run.” Registration will be at the First Baptist Church in Nowata. For more information, contact Amy DeVore at 918-915-0464 or Cherokee community language classes for fall 2015 also begin in October: • Lost City Community Center on Tuesdays, Oct. 6 – Dec. 8, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Webbers Falls Museum on Mondays, Oct. 5 – Dec. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Tri-County Vo-Tech in Bartlesville on Mondays and Thursday, Oct. 5 – Nov. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Elm Tree Baptist Church in Tahlequah on Mondays and Tuesdays, Oct. 6 – Nov. 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Fairfield Community Building in Stilwell on Tuesday and Thursdays, Oct. 6 – Nov. 5, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Lyon Switch Community Building in Bunch on Mondays, Oct. 5 – Dec. 7, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Elm Tree Baptist Church in Tahlequah on Thursdays, Oct. 8 – Dec. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Salina Early Learning Academy on Thursdays, Oct. 8 – Dec. 17, from 5:45 to 7:45 p.m. • Country Baptist Church in Locust Grove on Mondays, Oct. 5 – Dec. 7, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. • Indian Capital Technology Center in Stilwell on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Oct. 20 – Nov. 19, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Housing Authority in Sallisaw on Thursdays, Oct. 8 – Dec. 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. • Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw on Tuesdays and Wednesday, Oct. 6 – Nov. 10, from 1 to 3 p.m. on Tuesdays and 2 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays. • Rocky Mountain School in Stilwell on Wednesdays and Thursdays, Oct. 7 – Nov. 5, from 4 to 6 p.m. • Briggs Community Building in Tahlequah on Sundays, Oct. 4 – Dec. 6, from 2 to 4 p.m.
10/07/2015 04:00 PM
VONORE, Tenn. – The Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is inviting the public to visit the museum on Oct. 17-18 for a half price admission weekend with children 12 and under admitted for free. Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Dawn Arneach will be on hand all weekend to help with Cherokee genealogy. Stop by and listen to Lloyd Arneach tell Cherokee stories. The museum will also have a vendor on hand selling Cherokee crafts and books. The museum is named for Sequoyah, a Cherokee who could not read or write in any language but perfected a syllabary system for reading and writing the Cherokee language for his people. Sequoyah was born near the museum site in 1776. The mission of the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, a property of the EBCI, is to promote the understanding and appreciation of the history and culture of the Cherokee Indians in Eastern Tennessee, particularly the life and contributions of Sequoyah. The museum collects, preserves, interprets and exhibits objects and data that support this mission. For more information, call 423-884-6246.
10/07/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Tax Commission Administrator Sharon Swepston said of the approximately 172,000 letters regarding the tribe’s hunting and fishing compact that were recently mailed to CN citizens, about 32,000 were returned because of bad addresses. “About 19 percent were bad addresses, about 32,000 letters,” Swepston said during a Sept. 24 CN Rules Committee meeting. She added that officials also received responses from tribal citizens at good addresses. “We’ve received back about 27,000 (letters), about 16 percent of the actually updated forms that are coming back in.” The letters described the “historic compact expanding hunting and fishing treaty rights” and a response card for a deer and turkey license that was to be mailed back to the CNTC upon completion. The response card lists needed information for the citizen to receive the license. Swepston said her department hopes to do more outreach to get the word out about the licenses and how to apply for it. “We are going to do some more communications-type stuff to get it out there, to tell people if you haven’t received this you know that you can go to the website to do this, to get the information,” she said. Swepston said her staff is working “diligently” to input all of the license information into their system. “We’re averaging about 974 a day putting them in, actually the updated information into the system so we’re making a dent in it and we’re trying very hard to get there,” she said. CN citizens can visit to fill out a hunting and fishing license application. The tribe is expected to issue the licenses on Jan 1. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to get the cost of the letters that were mailed, but did not receive a response from CN Communications. In other news, the CNTC unanimously approved a new organizational chart for the department. “We eliminated two salaried positions and that enabled us to put four agent positions in, which we needed in our imaging department and our audit department,” she said. “The organizational chart, all that does is show the deletion of those two positions and the addition of the agents. That’s all that is.” Swepston also said tobacco sales showed a decline in the year-to-date revenue of approximately 19.9 percent and in the month-to-month revenue comparison of July 2014 to July 2015 of approximately 12.2 percent. “I’ve talked to some of the owners and stuff, and they all just say business is down, but with all of the marketing and the pushing for quitting smoking and all of that, it’s going to be down,” she said. Swepston said the sale of motor vehicle tags has increased in both year-to-date and in the month-to-month comparison. “For motor vehicle year-to-date through July we have an overall increase of 24.17 percent over what we were this time July last year,” she said. “For the month of July, compared to July of 2014 we had an increase of 18.08 percent.” She said in July, within the CN’s expanded jurisdictional boundary, there were 2,016 tags sold. The expanded jurisdictional boundary is Mayes, Muskogee, Rogers, Tulsa and Wagoner counties that are partially outside of the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. Swepston said her department has had “no major issues” since the implementation of the online tag renewal system for the renewal of car, truck, motorcycle and personalized tags. “I mean we had a couple little hiccups, but those were easily worked out,” she said. “It seems to be going really well.”