Health Services introduces antibiotic guidelines

10/19/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services is introducing a program to educate patients on alternative ways other than antibiotics to heal common illnesses.

According to recent information released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotics are often misused for illnesses such as influenza and the common cold, and like other medications, they could have side effects.

According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the United States and across the world. The CDC states the main driving factors behind antibiotic resistance are the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

Using the CDC guidelines, the tribe will more closely monitor antibiotic prescriptions and the use of antibiotics by patients throughout all CN health facilities.

Leadership at Health Services’ nine health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital is also working to further educate staff on the proper use of antibiotics.

CN citizens needed for health survey

10/18/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Public Health officials are conducting a health survey among CN citizens in northeastern Oklahoma as part of a partnership between a team led by CN epidemiologist Dr. Ashley Comiford and University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

The survey aims to describe health behaviors of CN citizens living within the 14 counties of the tribe’s jurisdiction. The results will be used to address serious health problems among Cherokees related to chronic diseases and to help to improve public health services and programs within the CN.

The survey is being conducted over the phone and approximately 3,400 CN citizens will be surveyed. CN citizens will be randomly selected from a list of adults and asked to take 20 to 30 minutes to complete the survey. Responses are confidential and survey participants will not be named or identified on any reports. Participants will be compensated for their time. Participation in this survey is voluntary and does not affect the benefits and services received at CN.

The CN Institutional Review Board has approved the project, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information, call Comiford at 918-453-5000, ext. 7076 or Dr. Sohail Khan at (918) 453-5602.

Bra fitting highlights Breast Cancer Awareness Month

News Writer – @cp_bbennett
10/16/2017 04:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Three Rivers Health Center and Dillard’s partnered on Oct. 12 to provide a free bra-fitting clinic at the health center as part of a “Fit For the Cure” event by the clothing brand Wacoal.

“You’d be surprised at the number of women who have never done this. We have some customers come in who have never had a bra fitting, ever,” Cynthia Acuff, lingerie business manager for Dillard’s in Muskogee, said. “They’ll come in to the store, try on something, then if it looks like it fits then that’s what they go with. And eight out of 10 women are definitely wearing the wrong size.”

Acuff has been with the company for more than 30 years and completes trainings twice a year to help women find correct bra fits, which only take 10 to 15 minutes.

“We go in and we do a measurement on you and once we do a measurement, then we use a specific bra that’s called our Wacoal fit bra to help determine your actual cup size that you will be needing for that bra,” Acuff said.

The event also assisted in highlighting Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is in October. For every complimentary Wacoal bra fitting Acuff completed $2 was donated to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. An additional $2 donation was possible for every Wacoal or b.tempt’d piece purchased at the fitting.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cynthia Acuff, business lingerie manager with Dillard’s store, compares two bras during a free bra-fitting event on Oct. 12 at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Acuff completes training twice a year to help women find their correct bra size and said approximately eight in 10 women do not wear the correct size bra. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Several bras were available for women to try on as part of the “Fit For the Cure” event on Oct. 12 at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. For every individual who completed a free bra fitting, the Wacoal clothing brand donated $2 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. An additional $2 donation was also possible for every bra purchased at the event. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cynthia Acuff, business lingerie manager with Dillard’s store, compares two bras during a free bra-fitting event on Oct. 12 at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, Oklahoma. Acuff completes training twice a year to help women find their correct bra size and said approximately eight in 10 women do not wear the correct size bra. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

OKC Indian Clinic tackling behavioral health disparity in Native Americans

10/11/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY - Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a non-profit clinic providing services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, is raising mental health awareness during October.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (43.8 million) or 18.5 percent of adults experiences mental illness in a given year. Mental Health Week is the first week of October and raises awareness about mental health conditions and the importance of good mental health for everyone.

Mental health is essential to everyone’s well being, and mental illnesses are common and treatable. Yet, some people experience symptoms of mental illnesses differently and engage in potentially dangerous or risky behaviors to avoid or cover up symptoms of a potential mental health problem. Specific populations of people, like Native Americans, experience mental health concerns at a higher rate than the general population.

“It is important to understand early symptoms of mental illness and know when certain behaviors are potential signs of something more,” said Summer Welcher-Duke said behavioral health director of OKCIC. “We need to speak up early and educate people about risky behavior and its connection to mental illness and do so in a compassionate, judgment-free way.”

According to the American Psychiatric Association, Native Americans experience serious psychological distress 1.5 times more than the general population, experience PTSD more than twice as often as the general population, and use and abuse alcohol and other drugs at younger ages as well as at higher rates than all other ethnic groups.

Health Services implements new provider compensation package

News Writer – @cp_bbennett
10/10/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services has increased base pay for many physicians in primary care by $35,000 as part of a new compensation package that took effect Oct. 1.

Included in the package are quarterly bonuses based upon relative value units or RVUs.

The package raises the base-pay threshold for nearly 120 doctors at the tribe’s W.W. Hastings Hospital and nine health centers, according to CN Communications.

“Ideally we never want to lose any of our physicians, but we know there are times they leave for larger cities or higher paying jobs just like any other industry. So we hope this move is one that will have a lasting impact,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said.

Additionally, all physicians, advanced practitioners and physician’s assistants above the base-pay threshold will receive a 2 percent raise after CNHS compared regional market salaries with information provided by the Medical Group Management Association, according to administration officials.

16 CN nurses among Oklahoma’s Great 100 Nurses

10/05/2017 12:00 PM
CATOOSA, Okla. – Sixteen Cherokee Nation nurses were honored Sept. 26 at the state’s Great 100 Nurses awards dinner at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa.

The national Great 100 Nurses Foundation honors standout nurses for their contributions to health care each year. The state participated in the celebration for the fourth straight year.

The winners were chosen based on their contributions to the nursing profession and for serving as role models after being nominated by patients, peers, administrators or their communities.

“I’m very humbled to be recognized with such talented and caring individuals,” CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis, one of the tribe’s 16 honorees, said. “I’m also very proud of the Cherokee Nation nurses who were also honored. They are the backbone of our health care system and help us provide the first-class level of health care that our citizens expect and deserve.”

The 16 CN recipients of the Great 100 Nurses of Oklahoma honored were:

Health Services hosts clinics for flu vaccines

10/04/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services is offering free flu vaccinations for CN citizens and their families, including non-Native family members living in the household.

Health officials have dozens of vaccination clinics scheduled in October and November at schools, town halls and health centers throughout the tribe’s jurisdiction. For the complete CN flu vaccination schedule, visit

The flu season typically runs September to March, but each year it peaks during different months. The tribe vaccinated more than 50,000 people during the most recent flu season.

Vaccination clinic dates and locations are subject to change.

HHS Secretary Price visits Cherokee, Pawnee nations

News Writer
09/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – U.S. Department of Human and Health Services Secretary Tom Price made his first visit to Oklahoma on Sept. 19 to meet with tribal officials from the Cherokee and Pawnee nations as part of a three-day tour of health care facilities and to address tribal health care needs.

Following a tour of the Jack Brown Treatment Facility, a facility for treating Native American youth with substance abuse problems, Price and Principal Chief Bill John Baker held a press conference to address health care issues sweeping Indian Country and the United States.

With the opioid crisis as the main topic, Baker talked about how hard the CN is being hit by the epidemic.

“Pain medications are saturating the Cherokee Nation. In our Indian Child Welfare office, about 40 percent of our foster care cases involve families torn apart by opioids. We have babies being born in our hospital on a monthly basis having to be life-flighted to Tulsa because they entered the world, at no fault of their own, with these powerful drugs in their system,” he said. “Opioid is crippling Indian Country, and the Cherokee Nation is certainly feeling the negative effects. It is literally destroying lives and wrecking families.”

Baker said the CN has filed a lawsuit against the largest distributors of opioid drugs in America, and the case is pending in tribal court.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Tom Price, U.S. Department of Human and Health Services secretary, speaks about the overdose and opioid epidemic sweeping the nation with Principal Chief Bill John Baker during a Sept. 20 press conference at the Jack Brown Treatment Facility in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tom Price, U.S. Department of Human and Health Services secretary, speaks about the overdose and opioid epidemic sweeping the nation with Principal Chief Bill John Baker during a Sept. 20 press conference at the Jack Brown Treatment Facility in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Health provider pay package set for Oct. 1

News Writer – @cp_bbennett
09/21/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Health Services officials were expected to implement a new provider compensation package on Oct. 1 after soliciting feedback from Tribal Councilors and the Health System Provider Compensation Committee.

“That’s what were pushing for,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said of the projected implementation date. Oct. 1 marks the beginning of fiscal year 2018. “We’re prepping the contracts right now anticipating everything going through.”

Davis declined to share details of the new compensation package, but said the plan was supposed to have been finalized in a Sept. 13 meeting with Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Treasurer Lacey Horn and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr.

Compensation Committee member Dr. Johnson Gourd, a physician at Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, said as of Sept. 19 providers had not received an official document with the changes.
“We have not got official word on that,” he said. “I don’t know what the package entails or what the final numbers are. I don’t know even what to expect. Everything is just hearsay at this point.”

Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis addresses the Tribal Council on Sept. 11 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla. Davis said that Health Services would implement a new provider compensation package on Oct. 1. COURTESY
Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis addresses the Tribal Council on Sept. 11 at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla. Davis said that Health Services would implement a new provider compensation package on Oct. 1. COURTESY


NSU Center for Tribal Studies to host Indigenous Arts Education Series
10/19/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Thanks in part from an Oklahoma Arts Council grant, the Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will host the Indigenous Arts Education Series in November for American Indian Heritage Month.

The series will include the following:

Nov. 2
Marcus Harjo (Pawnee/Seminole) will present “Creative Writing and Music Production Workshop” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Harjo uses writing, music production and live performances to promote his passions of youth outreach, cultural awareness and promoting healthy, drug-free lifestyles, specifically among American Indian populations. His workshop will focus on teaching participants how to use writing and music composition skills to enhance the delivery of their message. His workshop will conclude with a live performance.

Nov. 8
Sandy Fife Wilson (Muscogee Creek) will present “Shell Carving Demonstration” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Wilson is an experienced artist having learned her art techniques through both formal education and traditional means as she comes from a long line of family artists. Wilson specializes in Southeastern design shell carvings, finger-woven items and Creek basketry. She will host a demonstration that will educate the audience on this traditional form of art and lead participants through the process using a direct, hands-on approach to instruction.

Nov. 14
Yatika Starr Fields (Muscogee Creek/Osage/Cherokee) will present “Becoming a Mural Artist” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Fields’ presentation will highlight his experience and work as a mural artist and provide attendees with some insight into the highly specialized field of mural art. This event will include a live art demonstration.
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. Additional information is available at


GPI offers Native women journalistic opportunity
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
10/12/2017 10:00 AM
WASHINGTON – The Global Press Institute is offering Native American women an experience with its Tribal Nations training-to-employment program, which allows women who are enrolled citizens in a tribe the opportunity to become journalists even if they have no prior experience in the field.

Cristi Hegranes, GPI founder and executive director, said in 2016 GPI conducted a pilot of the Tribal Nation’s program and are “excited” to expand the program and accurately tell the Native American story with hopes to get women from Oklahoma involved.

“So much of the coverage that makes it to the national scale is so stereotypically driven, and it really demonstrates a lack of understanding of so much of what happened within communities, tribal governments,” she said. “So we are expanding Global Press Tribal Nations to work with women from a variety of different tribes and communities across the United States to join the Global Press program.”

Hegranes said the program includes “rigorous” training and “long-term” employment.

“Anyone who graduates from our training program will receive long-term employment to cover their community over the long-term working for Global Press Journal,” she said.

Those who are accepted into the program would take part in a weeklong training in Washington, D.C., before reporting in their communities.

“We’ll be bringing women from all different tribes together to spend a week together learning what we call the principals and the practice of Global Press Journalism,” she said. “Then everyone will go back to their communities and they spend a couple of months doing three to six stories working with Global Press editors and fact checkers and copy editors to produce really unique coverage from the community.”

Hegranes said it’s important to highlight that no prior journalism experience or basic education limit is required and that applicants must be 18 or older.
“Really the only thing that is required is a natural curiosity and passion for storytelling and really the time to commit to the training and the long-term story production from the communities,” she said. “On average we work with our reporters for more than five years after the training. So we’re really looking for people who want to make an investment in their future as journalists.”

Hegranes said this “extraordinary” opportunity offers these future journalists the chance to play a “pivotal” role in changing the narrative for their community.

“Global Press news stories reach about 20 million people around the world every month. So this is a huge opportunity to really increase accurate information, to really dive in beyond the stereotypes and tell really authentic, true, important stories that might otherwise never be told,” she said.

Hegranes said GPI has been developing independent news bureaus in under-covered parts of the world for the past 11 years.

“The way that our program works is we identify local women from these communities and we put them through a rigorous training process. Teaching them to be ethical, accurate, investigative, feature journalists,” she said.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 15. To apply, visit


Byrd builds on 18-year legacy of serving CN
News Writer
08/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With 18 years of experience serving the Cherokee people, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd looks forward to serving another four years as the representative for Dist. 2, which consists of most of northern Cherokee County.

“I love serving the Cherokee people. They’ve got somebody that’s going to work for them again for the next four years, and I’m really looking forward to that,” said Byrd.

Originally from Belfonte/Nicut, Byrd was the youngest Cherokee Nation legislator to be elected. He served on the Tribal Council from 1987-95, followed by term as principal chief from 1995-99. In January 2012, he won a special election to replace Bill John Baker on the Tribal Council. Baker had taken office as the principal chief on Oct. 19, 2011, after a contentious and lengthy principal chief’s race against incumbent Chad Smith.

In 2013, Byrd was re-elected to serve his first full term under the tribe’s 1999 Constitution, which limits elected officials to two consecutive four-year terms before having to sit out a term. He was also named speaker of the Tribal Council in 2015 after then-Speaker Tina Glory Jordan termed out.

When he first ran for office in 1987, Byrd said he felt the need to help the Cherokee people with the issues they were facing.

“Our government didn’t begin serving our people until the 1970s. When I first moved to Northeastern (State University) in 1972 to get an education, it really opened my eyes to a lot of the issues our people were facing,” he said. “In the rural areas there were a lot of people who weren’t self-efficient, and I saw right then we still had many people out in the rural areas that needed help and needed an awareness that there is a tribe out there that should have a responsibility to take care of our people.”

As for his current term, deciding to run again for the Dist. 2 seat was an easy decision, he said, because of his love for serving the Cherokee people and because of his constituents who asked him to continue.

He spoke of elderly women who continues to set an example of how his constituents have not forgotten their Cherokee culture or who they are as a people.

“When people like that come up to me and ask me to run, it’s a real honor to have people with that kind of stature to say, ‘you need to run another time,’” he said. “The people will let you know when it’s time to run. You don’t have to consult them, they’ll let you know.”

During his time as Dist. 2 representative, Byrd has helped with projects to improve services for CN citizens, including the passing of a $900 million budget, a $100 million investment in Cherokee health care as well as a $200 million dollar expansion of the W.W. Hastings Hospital.

For this term, Byrd said he would continue working with the tribe to ensure rural area schools have shelter for inclement weather and that elders and veterans are taken care of.

“Our veterans seem to not be taken care of like they should,” he said. “When we give speeches and talks we all say, ‘we respect our elder’s and we respect our veterans,’ but we have many that are still homeless and not being served. I want to do anything I can to assist in making sure our elders and veterans are taken care of.”


Claremore Indian Hospital to host VA benefits fair
09/20/2017 11:30 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will sponsor a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair on Sept. 21 in the hospital’s Conference Room 1.

Hospital officials said the fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist their Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA.

“We will have Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA and Disabled American Veterans to assist with the application processes,” Sheila Dishno, Claremore Indian Hospital patient benefit coordinator, said. “Please make plans to attend and bring your financial information (income and resource information) and DD-214 (military discharge) papers.”

If already enrolled, call 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6559 so a hospital official can update your file.


OPINION: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Executive Editor - @cp_brandonscott
10/01/2017 04:00 PM
As you may have noticed, this month’s cover is a bit more colorful than usual. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we here at the Cherokee Phoenix wanted to help raise awareness about the importance of screening and early detection.

The probability of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 8, and breast cancer is the second-leading cause of mortality among women in the United States. Within the Cherokee Nation, Breast cancer is the second-most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cancer among women. These statistics, coupled with the fact that Native American women have some of the lowest breast cancer screening rates of any ethnic group, is a sobering reality.

Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but early detection is key to successful treatment. Women whose breast cancer is caught at an early stage have a 93 percent survival rate. A Breast Self Exam or BSE, Clinical Breast Exam or CBE and mammogram are all effective early detection methods. CBE and BSE instruction occurs at all CN health centers, and mammograms are performed at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center, A-Mo Health Center, Sam Hider Health Center and the Claremore Indian Hospital.

Additionally, the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control was established to ensure CN citizens were receiving quality treatment, access to clinical trials, patient advocates and instructions on screening and detection. In 2015, more than 2,000 women participated in the screening and early detection program provided by the CNCCC. It is my hope that the number of participants in this program continues to grow year over year.

Today, a pink ribbon is synonymous with breast cancer awareness. But I urge you to take more than just a passing glance at all of the pink you will see this month. I encourage you to take time to learn about the early warning signs, receive instruction on self-exams and make a plan to utilize the resources available through CN Health Services for clinical exams. And men, we should take an active role in the fight against breast cancer as well. Encourage the women you love to take the time for breast cancer screening. It just might save their life.


Scott fiddles her way closer to Cherokee culture
News Writer
10/17/2017 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. – For some it’s traditional games such as stickball or marbles. For other Cherokees it may be weaving baskets with traditional materials that bring them closer to their culture. But for 15-year-old Regina Scott, it’s the love for the fiddle and fiddle music that brings her in tune to Cherokee culture.

“I think it’s really cool that I am Cherokee and that I play the fiddle because the fiddle was part of the Cherokee culture,” Cherokee Nation citizen said. “I know there are a lot of people that are Cherokee that probably don’t have a direct connection to their culture, so I am really proud that I have the fiddle because I feel like it brings me closer to my Cherokee culture.”

The Tulsa native found an interest in the bowed-string musical instrument at age 5 when she began taking classical violin lessons from longtime violinist Jody Naifeh. However, it was hearing her cousin play the fiddle that sparked her curiosity for the instrument.

“My cousin was the only one that fiddled, and she doesn’t anymore. It was kind of a brief thing. But it’s really amazing that I even got into it because really no one in my family is musical. My mom told me that both of her grandmothers were musical...but really I’m the only one,” she said.

Scott continued taking violin lessons and began studying fiddling.

“I started off with classical violin from Mrs. Naifeh, which I am still with her today. The cool thing about her is a lot of classical teachers don’t really do fiddling and aren’t super into that side of music. But she took me to my first fiddle contest, and so because of her I kind of got started in fiddling,” she said.

Although fiddle and violin appear the same, Scott said the styles are different.

“The violin and fiddle are very different styles, but both benefit each other. The violin is classical music and is technically difficult and you sight-read the music to learn it. But fiddling you learn by ear, so it’s more like reading a book versus storytelling,” Scott said. “Violin helps the intonation and technical aspect of fiddling, whereas the fiddling helps me to put feeling into the classical music and make it more than just the notes on the page”

As early as 7 years old, Scott traveled statewide to fiddling contests and performances, learning and watching some of the best fiddle players. Now she plays among them, continuing to make her mark. She has also competed in fiddling contests in surrounding states and as far as Idaho.

“I have competed all over. I do the Oklahoma state fiddle contest, the Colorado state fiddle contest, and there is a fiddle contest in Grove called the Grand Lake National Fiddle Contest, and I actual won that a couple of years ago. I am the youngest person to ever win it,” she said. “I have probably been to, I would say, over 50 competitions.

For her accomplishments, CN officials proclaimed Feb. 10 as “Regina Scott Day.” Tribal Councilor Keith Austin presented Scott with the proclamation after her performance at the National Fiddler Hall of Fame Ceremony and Concert in Tulsa in front of an audience of celebrated fiddlers and country musician Vince Gill.

“The National Fiddler Hall of Fame inducts people every year, so I got to play for Randy Howard who was being inducted. So I was on stage and I had just finished and it was a really great moment, and one of the Cherokees came on stage and he said ‘wait, don’t go yet,’ and I was very confused, but then he read a proclamation from the chief that basically said that the day Feb. 10, 2017, was a day dedicated to me and my accomplishments,” she said. “I was thinking ‘is this real?’ like, ‘is this a prank?’ but it was amazing and I have it framed at home.”

As for her violin, Scott still plays. She is part of the Tulsa Youth Symphony, the Holland Hall Orchestra and Honors Orchestra, in which she is first chair violin. She also teaches a beginner’s orchestra class to help her violin teacher.

She advises young musicians who are pursuing their dreams to keep practicing.

“Practice, practice because sometimes you don’t feel like practicing or it’s just not in your schedule, but if you really like it you can make time for it. You know, if you really want to be good at it and it’s something you are really passionate about that’s the only way to get good,” she said.

Scott will be the featured entertainment during the annual Will Rogers birthday celebration reception. The reception begins at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs in Claremore.
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