SHS to host public budget meeting

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/25/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School administrators will host a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on May 8 in the school’s library regarding the proposed 2017-18 Title VI budget and its provided services.

The proposed budget supplements students’ college and career readiness and allows for public feedback.

The meeting is open to all interested stakeholders. Written comments can be submitted for up to 10 calendar days following the meeting and may be submitted either in person or by mail to Sequoyah High School, c/o Principal Jolyn Choate, PO Box 520, Tahlequah, OK 74465.

Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. According to the Office of Civil Rights, programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education are covered by Title VI.

The school is located at 17091 S. Muskogee Ave.

CN donates $14K to Kansas Public Schools

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/18/2017 01:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials donated $14,000 to Kansas Public Schools in Delaware County to help construct an indoor hitting facility for the school’s baseball and softball teams.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell presented KHS head baseball and softball coach Austin Graham the check at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.

“Schools today don’t have the extra revenue to dedicate toward the needs of extracurricular activities,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. “It’s great that the tribe can step up and help schools like Kansas partially fill the funding gap so that students can have amenities like the baseball and softball teams’ indoor hitting facility.”

Graham said that without the donation, the hitting facility would not be possible.

“The tribe’s help is huge,” Graham said. “We wouldn’t even be able to think about getting new batting cages or a building built without their support.”
https://www.facebook.com/Janees-Taylor-for-Tribal-Council-217063208698059/

DOI makes final Cobell Education Scholarship Fund transfer

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/17/2017 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced on April 11 that the Interior has made its final transfer to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, bringing the total amount to $60 million to be made available to advanced technical training and higher education for Native youth.

The fund provides financial assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training. It is funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations and authorized by the Cobell Trust Management Settlement.

“This scholarship program advances the Trump Administration’s commitment to tribal sovereignty and self-determination, as well as the President’s belief that ‘education is the civil rights issue of our time,’” Zinke said. “Investment in the next generation of American leaders will allow many of these young people to gain the valuable skills required for today’s competitive workforce and the knowledge and expertise needed to help their communities meet tomorrow’s challenges. Educational development and skills training are vital for sustaining the economic and political advancement of tribal nations and our nation as a whole.”

To date, more than 2,000 scholarships totaling more than $5.25 million have been awarded to almost 1,000 Native American students for vocational, undergraduate and graduate study. The scholarship awards are up to $5,000 per semester for vocational and undergraduate students and up to $10,000 per semester for graduate and doctoral students.

The application deadline for the 2017-18 academic year was March 31 and information regarding summer 2017 scholarship opportunities can be found via www.cobellscholar.org.

Cherokee language showcased at language fair

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
04/17/2017 08:30 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Students from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and Grand View School, both based in Tahlequah, participated in the 15th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3-4 at the Sam Noble Museum.

Students representing languages from different Oklahoma-based tribes also competed, but the CICS and Grand View students placed in numerous categories, taking home first-, second- and third-place trophies.

The CICS sent around 90 students from grades pre-kindergarten through sixth, while Grand View sent 18 students, third through sixth grade, to Norman. Students from both schools used the Cherokee language to perform songs, skits and readings.

CICS Principal Holly Davis said ONAYLF is the biggest event for the school to attend, and it spends most of the year preparing by having teachers tie in songs, skits and readings into lessons.

“It’s a great even for our language portion because…we’re so unique that we don’t always have an opportunity to do something like this. So it’s our big event for our language,” Davis said.
The Grand View (Elementary) Cherokee Choir sings “Sunday School Song” in Cherokee at the 15th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman. The school brought home first-, second- and third-place awards from the competition. LISA SNELL/NATIVE OKLAHOMA Students from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School perform the song “Eternal Sabbath” in Cherokee at the 15th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman. The school sent around 90 students to the competition. LISA SNELL/NATIVE OKLAHOMA
The Grand View (Elementary) Cherokee Choir sings “Sunday School Song” in Cherokee at the 15th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman. The school brought home first-, second- and third-place awards from the competition. LISA SNELL/NATIVE OKLAHOMA
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Woodall School to host chess tournament

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/16/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Woodall School will host its Scholastic Chess Open for students in grades kindergarten through 12 on April 22 at the school located at 14090 W. 835 Road.

According to a press release, the event is a Swiss-system tournament, which is a non-eliminating tournament that features a set number of rounds. It is also school team sensitive with machine tie breaks (no blitz). Half-point byes are available for one non-played round except the last round. Players may only “play up” 100 points to a higher-rated section.

Registration is from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. All players must check in 15 minutes prior to play in Round 1. Round 1 begins at 10 a.m. for Sections 4 and 5. Sections 1, 2 and 3 begin at 10:30 a.m.

Section 1 is kindergarten through fourth grade at U500 with five rounds. Section 2 is kindergarten through sixth grade at U700 with five rounds. Section 3 is grades six through 12 at U700 with five rounds. Section 4 is kindergarten through 12th grade at U1100 with five rounds. Section 5 is kindergarten through 12th grade at Premier 1100+ with four rounds.

All sections will be rated using the Chess Express Rating Service. All chess ratings will be looked up by the tournament director.

Pocahontas Club offers 10 scholarships

BY STAFF REPORTS
04/15/2017 10:00 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club has opened applications for 10 scholarships for Cherokees students for the upcoming 2017-18 school year.

According to a press release, the scholarships are open to male and female students and are for $600 per academic year.

The scholarship applications are considered on a first-come, first-served basis for full-time students enrolled in an accredited college, university or vocational school.

Applications must be received by July 31. For more information regarding eligibility requirements, call 918-798-0771 or email vickibaker@atlasok.com or visit www.iwpclub.org.
http://www.freddieferrell.com/

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Sarah Eddings

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/12/2017 04:00 PM
STILLWATER, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Sarah Eddings, 22, a senior at Oklahoma State University, has traveled a good portion of the world while learning and experiencing life. Now, as she finishes up her senior year she hopes to eventually work for a non-profit.

Eddings said she was able to participate in the “2016 Semester at Sea Program,” which was approximately three and a half months long and allowed her to visit 11 countries including India, China and Japan.

“It really showed me a lot of different diversity because growing up, especially in Oklahoma, it’s kind of like the Bible belt and there’s not too much, I feel like, kind of culture. It’s mainly predominantly white culture and so going and seeing all these different kinds of religions and learning different things about the world was something that I couldn’t experience here in Stillwater,” she said.

Eddings said while at school she does charity work while acting as the executive philanthropy chair of her sorority Phi Mu.

“I would plan events that benefitted the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital so I would create original events,” she said. “I started a thing called ‘Miracle Moracle’ and basically it’s like a fundraiser with mac and cheese and the whole campus is invited to come. The tickets and all the proceeds go to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. While they’re there they make cards and write letters to the kids who are currently in the hospital. Then I schedule hospital tours, and my organization goes and drops off the cards and everything.”
Sarah Eddings
Sarah Eddings

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Louden Akin

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/05/2017 04:00 PM
SPERRY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Louden Akin, 18, a Sperry High School senior, had a busy senior year with winning state in wrestling, being named all-state in wrestling and football as well as class co-valedictorian.

Akin said he’s been wrestling for approximately 14 years, and on Feb. 27 was named the Class 3A state champion in wrestling.

“First time ever winning state. It came at a good time, being senior year and all,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier. That’s like every wrestler’s ultimate goal is just to win state, and I finally accomplished it.”

He earned his all-state status in football, which he’s been playing for approximately 12 years, playing running back for the Pirates. “It’s a big honor.”

As for co-valedictorian, he shares that title with his girlfriend Kayla Beagles.
Louden Akin
Louden Akin
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STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: Gideon Moore

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/04/2017 04:00 PM
MULDROW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Gideon Moore, 17, a Muldrow High School senior, was recently named within the top 10 percent of Oklahoma graduating seniors as well as valedictorian for his school.

“I was very pleased when I found out. It’s a really high honor,” he said.

He said he received a financial reward to go along with the “prestigious” title of being in the top 10 percent.

“I’m a recipient of $1,000, which is nice, but it also means a prestigious title that I can use on any sort of application because it’s a very prestigious award,” he said. “It looks great and it’s a high honor, and I’m very thankful for it.”

He said being named valedictorian was also an “honor.”
Gideon Moore
Gideon Moore
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Culture

Tiger wins Trail of Tears Art Show grand prize
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/18/2017 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Sac and Fox artist Tony Tiger took home the grand prize award for his work “Metamorphosis” at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 46th annual Trail of Tears Art Show.

Winning artists for the show were announced April 7 during an opening-night celebration for the show, which can be viewed through May 6. The TOTAS is the longest-running Native American art show in Oklahoma and features a variety of authentic art. Featured artwork is available to purchase throughout the show’s duration.

CHC Interim Director Tonia Hogner Weavel said the show is open to any federally recognized tribal citizen. Artists competed for more than $14,000 in prize money in seven categories: paintings, graphics, sculpture, pottery, basketry, miniatures and jewelry.

“The art is the most prestigious in the country, and it is for sale to the public. The art show gives people the opportunity to see some of the most contemporary artists that are being featured nationally. So, we are pleased and happy to host this show,” she said.

Tiger said he has been participating in the art show for about 10 years, and this is the first time he’s won the grand prize.

“I was very surprised,” Tiger, who is also Seminole and Creek, said. “Artists have to have opportunities to exhibit their art, to sell their art, and this (TOTAS) is a wonderful way to do that.”

Cherokee Nation citizen Renee Hoover entered her contemporary double-wall baskets using round reed material in the show and won a first place award for her “My Mother’s Basket.”

“The Trail of Tears Art Show is really a special show. It recognizes the wonderful traditions of Native people and the artistry that we have. I especially like participating in it because of the quality of the art is outstanding. It’s very competitive, and I always come in worried ‘will I be good enough, will I be juried in?’ So, there’s a lot of anxiety,” she said. “It’s wonderful to also appreciate the artwork that’s here and the way we as Native people use our art to continue to allow our traditions and culture to thrive.”

For a complete list of awardees, visit www.Anadisgoi.com.

2017 TOTAS Winners & Awards

Painting: Roy Boney Jr., Cherokee Nation, “She Led Her By the Hand ”

Sculpture: Troy Jackson, Cherokee Nation, “Exodus, The Assembling of Displacement”

Basketry: Renee Hoover, Cherokee Nation, “My Mother’s Basket”

Pottery: Chase Earles, Caddo Nation, “Caddo Story of the Flood: Respect Land and Animals”

Jewelry: Toneh Chuleewah, Cherokee Nation, “Copper Style Bracelet”

Graphics: Brenda Bradford, Cherokee Nation, “Light Through Fire”

Miniature: Merlin Littlethunder, Cheyenne Nation, “Chiefs Meeting on Water Rights”

Emerging Artists: Kellie Vann, Cherokee Nation, “Bath Time for Super Heroes”

Bill Rabbit Legacy Award: Karin Walkingstick, Cherokee Nation, “Tsi-s-du”

Betty Garner Elder Award: Paul Hacker, Choctaw Nation, “The Chief”

Education

Sequoyah to host OKC Thunder basketball camp July 18-20
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/04/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School will host an Oklahoma City Thunder Youth Basketball Camp July 18-20 at its gym, The Place Where They Play.

The camp is open for kids ages 6 to 14 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day of the camp. The camp is located at?17091 S. Muskogee Ave. Click herefor Map and Directions.

The cost for each camper is $185.

According to a press release, Thunder Youth Basketball camps “offer kids the opportunity to grow in the fundamentals of the game and engage in a hands-on, team-centric environment.”

Camp participants will be instructed on technical fundamentals, developmental drills to improve skill sets within defense, ball handling, shooting, layups and more.

Participants will receive one hour for lunch, but must stay on site. Lunch will not be provided, but limited items will be available at the concessions stand.

Campers will receive a Thunder Youth Basketball reversible camp jersey, basketball and water bottle.

To register, Click here. Early registration is encouraged as the camp is likely to fill quickly.

Council

Legislators resolve to protect tribally owned land
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/12/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At the April 10 Tribal Council meeting, legislators unanimously passed an act to protect Cherokee Nation-owned lands against ingress, egress and encroachment.

‘The Principal Chief will direct appropriate offices and staff within the executive branch to not allow any individual, company or any other entity to restrict ingress/egress access to any Cherokee Nation property, to not allow any encroachment on any Cherokee properties whatsoever and if any entity has restricted ingress/egress or encroached on Cherokee Nation property to begin negotiations or legal proceedings to resolve ingress/egress problems, or remove encroachments on Cherokee Nation property,” the legislation states.

During the March 21 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said he’s thought about the “protection” of tribal property since the tribe began purchasing more land.

“I’ve been thinking about this for years now, since we’ve started purchasing more property in the Cherokee Nation…the protection of our property and our lands, whether it be trust…or anything else,” he said. “I’ve checked with our legal counsel and with the assistant AG (attorney general) to make sure that this act does not interfere with any previous acts or resolutions or any other work that we’ve done previously in granting easements and that sort of thing.”

The bill follows the legislators rejecting a resolution in January to lease 190 acres of trust land in Adair County to Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch. The ranch is a hunting resort, and its owner wanted to lease the acreage to resolve a trespassing issue with the tribe. After purchasing approximately 5,000 acres nearly a decade ago, the ranch owner fenced in his property as well as CN trust land.

Legislators also unanimously authorized a right-of-way easement to Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company for the W.W. Hasting’s Hospital expansion. Ground was broken for a 469,000-square-foot addition in February.

During the April 10 Resource Committee meeting, Lay said he had concerns about a waiver in the right-of-way bill.

“We need power and gas and so forth, but I keep seeing, in fact, I see them on all three of these resolutions that are coming through Resources. Mr. Speaker and I, we’ve talked about these waivers of evaluation and waivers of bonds, waivers of compensation. Whenever I see a waiver, a red flag goes up, and forgive me for being so independent, but that’s just the way I am,” Lay said.

Joel Bean, of the CN Realty Department, said the waiver in place because the tribe wasn’t requesting any “compensation” for the land.

“For a project that we’re not requesting any compensation for, that’s the reason we’re asking for the wavier evaluation because there’s not really a reason for the tribe to spend three or $4,000 getting an appraisal done for the easement and the substation itself that we’re not going to be charging that company the money for,” he said. “The tribe itself isn’t going to charge for that easement itself, you know. If we’re charging for a pipeline going across our property or something like that we wouldn’t include the wavier unless it was for something that was supplying Cherokee Nation’s property or the business or the buildings or houses. Everything’s going to be supplied to the Nation.”

Lay said he didn’t “like” waivers but voted for the resolution “under protest.”

“What we’re doing here is a good thing. We need it. We gotta have it. But I’m going to vote for it under protest of all these waivers. I just don’t like these waivers because some of these things were built up and sent up for the protection of tribes at one time or another,” he said.

During the Tribal Council meeting, legislators also unanimously passed a resolution to allow the building of seven storm shelters for Head Start facilities in the tribe’s jurisdiction.

During the April 10 Education Committee meeting, Christina Carroll, of CN Grant Services, said the facilities were chosen because they are “Cherokee-owned facilities.”

“We can’t place them on state land or non-tribal facilities. So the seven facilities will be all various communities, and they’ll get shelters that fit their needs for each building,” she said. “They will be attached to the facilities. It’s not a under the ground or anything like that. It’s a additional room on the building and they will be FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)-rated buildings.”

Legislators also unanimously passed a resolution to sponsor a CN Scout Award for the Boy Scouts of America.

During the March 21 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said by sponsoring the award “every Cherokee boy in scouting throughout the United States, or throughout the world, can achieve a Cherokee Scout Knot for their uniform.”

In other business, legislators:

• Increased the fiscal year 2017 capital budget by $375,000 to $279.9 million,

• Increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $2.02 million to $669.9 million,

• Approved Dewayne Marshall as a Sequoyah High School board of education member,

• Authorized CN to lease approximately 25 acres of tribal trust land on which a gym and ball field are located to the CC Camp Community Organization in Adair County,

• Authorized the BIA to update the tribe’s inventory of tribal transportation facilities,

• Authorized an application to the Federal Highway Administration for two bridges over Wickliffe Creek in Mayes County,

• Approved CN warehouse donations to Maryetta School, Boys & Girls Club in Delaware County, Disney Assembly of God Church, Spavinaw Community Building, Cedar Tree Baptist Church, Calvary Indian Baptist Church, Stilwell Public Library and the Neighborhood Association of Chewey, and

• Approved CN Education Service donations to Bluejacket Public School.

Health

Meth surge leads to record overdose deaths in Oklahoma
BY JEFF RAYMOND
Oklahoma Watch
04/05/2017 08:15 AM
A record number of Oklahomans died from drug overdoses in 2016, and for the first time in years, methamphetamine was the single biggest killer, preliminary data shows.

An Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control analysis shows 952 people died from overdoses, and the number is likely to rise as pending autopsies are finalized. The total number of overdose deaths is well above the 862 recorded in 2015 and the previous record of 870 in 2014.

Meth was involved in 328 of the deaths, climbing steeply from 271 in 2015 and surpassing the total combined deaths involving much-abused opioids hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Opioids remain a potent threat, however. As a group, they were involved in more fatal overdoses than meth in 2016.

Fatal heroin overdoses continued to surge, with the drug involved in 49 deaths in 2016, up from 31 in 2015. Other states have seen larger increases in deadly heroin abuse.

The Narcotics Bureau said its numbers derive from its running collection of autopsy results from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Narcotics Bureau spokesman Mark Woodward attributed the meth-related deaths partly to the growing use and continued availability of the drug.

Oklahoma’s high rates of mental illness and addiction, along with crackdowns on opioid prescribing, have made the state a ready market for a form of meth, called “ice,” provided by Mexican cartels.

The living-room meth labs of the previous decade are less common now, with discoveries of labs decreasing dramatically, Woodward said. Instead, meth comes from “super labs” in Mexico and along the U.S.-Mexico border. People who once would have cooked small amounts of meth to sell and use now steal or barter to feed their habits.

“It’s cheap, it’s accessible and someone in your circle will have it if you’re using drugs,” he said.

Changes in law have helped decrease opioid overdoses, health officials say. A 2015 law requires doctors to check the state’s Prescription Monitoring Program database before prescribing opioids and benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, to new patients. A 2014 reclassification of combination opioids, such as Lortab, which includes hydrocodone and acetaminophen, into Schedule II controlled dangerous substances, prohibits doctors from writing prescriptions for more than 90 days and phoning them in to pharmacies.

Jeff Dismukes, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said the declining number of opioid-related deaths also corresponds with lives saved from administering opioid-blocking Naloxone.

“It’s pretty darn close,” he said. “You can see how we’re really making a difference in bringing that number down.”

However, prescription drug overdoses remain a scourge.

“We’ve made a little progress with opioids but we’re nowhere near that not being a problem,” Dismukes said. “That’s still the biggest issue in the state”

Jessica Hawkins, prevention director for the Mental Health Department, cautioned against oversimplifying potential links between meth and prescription drug abuse. A drop in one doesn’t necessarily lead to an increase in the other, she said.

“They’re concurrently problematic,” she said. “What we don’t want to do is switch attention from another serious epidemic, which is the opioid epidemic we’re in, and move attention away from that.”

Hawkins said potential causes include increased strength of methamphetamine, manner of taking the drug (IV users are more likely to suffer an overdose), using meth with other substances, and multigenerational use in some families.

Woodward said there is no way to know if the hundreds of Oklahomans who died from meth overdoses were regular users or were shifting from prescription opioids to meth. Autopsies and medical examiner reports only determine what was in a person’s body at the time of death, or if responders found drugs or paraphernalia nearby. Also, many people who die from drug overdoses have taken multiple drugs, although the Narcotics Bureau counts them according to the main drug found in their systems.

“When you’re an addict, you’ll take what you can get. … They all have their drug of choice, but they’re not exclusive to that drug,” he said.

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to oklahomawatch.org.

Opinion

OPINION: Women play essential role in history, success at CN
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
04/01/2017 12:00 PM
Historically, the Cherokee Nation has been a matriarchal society and has always looked to strong women for guidance and leadership. Cherokee women are proud and powerful and fuel our success as a tribe. This fact is as true today as ever. We are honor and celebrate the enormous contributions Cherokee women have made throughout our history and in our modern government and business endeavors.

As Principal Chief, I strive to place talented women in leadership roles within this administration and at Cherokee Nation Businesses. In fact, there are more women in management at CNB and Cherokee Nation than ever before. Many of our tribal programs and departments are led by women and our tribal government’s workforce is dominated by women. Of the 3,665 employees we have at Cherokee Nation, 2,597 are female. That represents more than 71 percent of our staff.

We have created a more female-friendly work environment at Cherokee Nation by establishing a fully paid, eight-week maternity leave policy for expectant mothers who work for the Cherokee Nation and by raising the minimum wage for all employees, allowing our employees to continue working for the Cherokee people while meeting their family obligations.

The tribe’s legislative body, the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council, is shaped, in part, by Deputy Speaker Victoria Vazquez and Councilors Frankie Hargis, Janees Taylor and Wanda Hatfield. Their leadership and vision are helping drive the Cherokee Nation into a brighter future.

Recently, we also recognized the fourth anniversary of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. At Cherokee Nation, we remain committed to protecting women and children from the epidemic of domestic violence. We created the ONE FIRE Victim Services office to be a beacon of hope and safety for women and families within our tribal jurisdiction.

People

Stretch starts fencing program sparked from passion
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/29/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A passion for fencing and teaching others the sport encouraged Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Stretch to begin a fencing program at the Academy of Performing Arts.

He said the first class began approximately three months ago and he hopes to get “a lot” of attention drawn to fencing.

“Currently I have six (students). It’s my first group, and they range from 6 years old, which is pretty young, to probably in their mid-40s. Two dads come with their children,” he said.

Stretch said he’s tried to start a fencing program for “years.” He said he started one in Tahlequah because the sport is “under promoted” in the area.

“When I moved to Tahlequah, there’s not a lot of opportunity. The opportunities are in Fayetteville (Arkansas) or Little Rock, Arkansas, or Tulsa, so it’s an hour and a half drive to get to fencing in this area. Plus, I think that it’s…under promoted in this area, and I’d kind of like to see us grow into a nice club where we can go fence with our people,” he said.

Stretch said his program focuses on foil fencing, where one hand is typically behind the fencer.

“What we do primarily is foil fencing, and it is a thinner weapon. It has a blunt tip on it so it doesn’t actually make a puncture wound. Foil’s kind of the finesse of the sport,” he said. “So there’s foil, there’s épée and there’s sabre. Sabre’s like the MMA (mixed martial arts) of fencing where it’s kind of a brutal sport. Foil fencing, the torso, not counting arms, is the target area. So when you make a touch on the torso then you get a point. The way we play it is the first to five points wins.”

He said in fencing different articles of protection are necessary when competing. He said some items worn are the jacket, which is form-fitting with a strap that goes between the legs, and a mask, which provides protection for the head and neck. The mask’s face is metal mesh. There is also the plastron, an underarm protector that provides extra protection under the jacket, and gloves, which provide protection for the sword hand.

As for his students, Stretch said they’ve done a “great job.” “I didn’t really have any expectations, and they’ve done a great job. Some of them are turning into great fencers. They’re learning off of each other.”

Logan Stansell, 14, of Tahlequah, is a student who began fencing because he wanted to “get in shape.”

“I use to be very out of shape, you know, unhealthy, and I wanted to change that. So I saw fencing as a good idea due to it being an interesting alternative to normal exercise. Something that can be fun and enjoyable while at the same time a good workout,” he said.

He said the sport is “amazing,” and it’s something he enjoys weekly. “I feel like I’m actually learning. You feel the progress. You learn when you’re getting better.”

Stretch said he’s been interested in fencing since college and started fencing at the Tulsa YMCA.

“I was playing racquetball at the time, and I noticed that they had fencing, so I started taking fencing there and did it for several years,” he said. “Then I moved, at one point, to Little Rock, Arkansas, and they have great fencing there. So I was fencing in Little Rock at the Central Arkansas Fencing Club, and then I arose to be an assistant coach there and that’s kind of where I got the interest of coaching.”

Stretch said his next class starts on April 14 and it’s a beginner’s class for ages 6 and up. He said students do not have to have equipment immediately because he starts them on “footwork.”

“What we do is…we have a few weapons for you to practice with. You won’t fence anyone else because you won’t have equipment, but after you’ve done it for a couple of weeks then we have a little basic fencing set that you can purchase online,” he said. “That usually runs about $150 for that basic setup, and it’s the jacket, the mask and the glove and the weapon.”

He said he eventually hopes to offer advanced classes.

“So what we’re hoping is that once we build up a small group then maybe we can have intermediate classes and maybe advanced,” he said.

For more information, call 918-803-1408 or visit the “Fencing in NE Oklahoma” Facebook group.
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