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.
Bureau of Narcotics officers seized 20 pounds of crystal meth during a 2015 stop along Interstate 40 in Canadian County. BUREAU OF NARCOTICS AND DANGEROUS DRUGS CONTROL Oklahoma Watch
Bureau of Narcotics officers seized 20 pounds of crystal meth during a 2015 stop along Interstate 40 in Canadian County. BUREAU OF NARCOTICS AND DANGEROUS DRUGS CONTROL

Health care bill could cost Oklahoma millions

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/03/2017 12:45 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A Republican plan to overhaul the nation's health care system shows health care could become unaffordable for many poor Oklahomans and the state could be forced to subsidize health care costs for Native Americans, according to an early analysis of the plan prepared for Gov. Mary Fallin.

A document obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press shows state health officials also project the proposed new law would result in the state immediately losing $9.3 million in public health funding for programs such as immunizations and chronic disease funding.

The three-page document prepared last week by state health officials and policy analysts in Fallin's office outlines some of the pros and cons of key provisions in the plan.

Among the top concerns is the proposal to replace income-based subsidies that help people pay for premiums with age-based tax credits.

"This creates a huge subsidy cliff between Medicaid and the individual market that could cause people on Medicaid to not go to work or earn more income because the cost of insurance would be unaffordable," the analysis states. "The subsidy should be based on income and age."
https://www.facebook.com/Janees-Taylor-for-Tribal-Council-217063208698059/

Oklahoma suffers largest syphilis outbreak in recent history

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/31/2017 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — State health officials say Oklahoma County is in the midst of the largest syphilis outbreak in recent state history.

The state Health Department's manager of HIV and sexually transmitted disease services, Kristen Eberly, said this is the largest number of cases connecting to the same infection she's seen in her 13 years with the department.

The outbreak comes as Oklahoma is also seeing a rising number of residents dying from heroine and methamphetamine overdose.

Health officials said drug abuse is one of the main contributing factors for the syphilis outbreak. Other risk factors associated with the outbreak include exchanging sex for money or drugs, and having multiple sex partners.

Eighty residents between the ages of 14 and 47 have been infected over the past few months, The Oklahoman reported. The majority of those identified used drugs, including heroin and methanphetamine.

Effective interventions prevent alcohol use among Native youth

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/16/2017 12:15 PM
ATLANTA, Ga. – Community-based and individual-level prevention strategies are effective ways to reduce alcohol use among American Indian and other youth living in rural communities, according to a new study supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse also provided support for the study.

“This important study underscores our commitment to finding evidence-based solutions for alcohol problems in American Indian and other underserved populations,” said NIAAA Director George F. Koob “This study is one of the largest alcohol prevention trials ever conducted with an American Indian population, and the first to demonstrate the effectiveness of screening and brief counseling intervention in significantly reducing youth alcohol use at a community level.”

Although American Indian teens drink at rates similar to other United States teens, they have early onset alcohol use compared to other groups and higher rates of alcohol problems. Rural youths, including those who are a racial minority relative to their community, are also at increased risk for alcohol misuse. Early prevention is critical in these populations, but both American Indians and rural communities have been underrepresented in studies aimed at finding effective solutions for underage drinking.

To address this gap, researchers led by Kelli A. Komro of the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta worked with the Cherokee Nation, the second-largest tribe in the U.S., to implement a rigorous research trial of two distinct strategies to reduce underage drinking and its consequences.
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Family fights for childhood cancer funds

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
03/13/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Cherokee Nation employee Gary McAlpin returned home on March 10 with his family and son, Kai, who’s been battling cancer since May. Gary has pleaded with citizens locally and across the United States to fight for more children’s cancer research and treatment funding.

Kai, who has been dubbed “Warrior Kai,” suffers from a rare cancer call T-Cell Leukemia. According to Gary’s Facebook page, he said he and his family have knocked on all the hospital doors available to them for Kai, but none would take him due to the complexity of his condition.

And after battling for so long and watching his son’s pain daily, they chose to take Kai home.

“Where Kai will continue to have the same medical care, but with hospice. He will have the same pain management and fluids being given,” Gary stated on Facebook.

During the past year, while attempting to stay positive about his son’s diagnosis, Gary has pleaded with people to pressure the country’s leaders into offering more funding for childhood cancers.
Kai McAlpin COURTESY The McAlpin family COURTESY Gary McAlpin holds his son Kai while Kai rests in the hospital during cancer treatments. COURTESY
Kai McAlpin COURTESY

Exercising helps achieve healthy lifestyle

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/09/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – While eating healthy is a major component to weight loss and leading a healthy life, exercise also plays a role in taking on a well-rounded lifestyle change.

Brandon Goad, a physical activity specialist at the Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center, said people who are looking to begin exercising should speak with “fitness professionals.”

“I would suggest come into a facility like we have, or anywhere where they have fitness professionals, and get some advice,” he said.

Goad said when beginning an exercise program people should exercise two to three times a week.

“Your body will kind of tell you if you need to be in the gym or if you don’t. If you’re extremely sore and you can’t move it’s probably not going to benefit you to show up and do more exercise on top of that. I’d probably be more beneficial to stay at home or come up here and walk and then maybe do some stretching and some mobility exercises,” he said.
Brandon Goad, Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center physical activity specialist, serves as a trainer and teaches classes at the MSRC in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He said people looking to start exercising should speak with a “fitness professional” for advice. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX In this 2016 photo, people exercise during a boot camp class at the Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Brandon Goad, MSRC physical activity specialist, said participating in a class is a good way to start one’s physical fitness journey. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Weights are displayed in the weight room on the bottom floor of the Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The MSRC is open seven days a week. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Brandon Goad, Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center physical activity specialist, serves as a trainer and teaches classes at the MSRC in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. He said people looking to start exercising should speak with a “fitness professional” for advice. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Meal planning, preparation key to healthy lifestyle

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/03/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Whether its eating breakfast, lunch or dinner, Larissa Hancock, a registered dietitian at W.W. Hasting’s Hospital, said meal planning and preparation are keys to making a healthy lifestyle change.

“I think one of the main things about healthy eating is actually taking some time to do your planning,” she said. “Healthy eating starts at the grocery store. So when we are in a hurry or we’re just trying to come up with something quick it’s so much easier to make those convenience choices. Anything you bring in your house from the grocery store, that’s what you’re going to eat.”

She said a good way to meal plan is to make a menu and stick to it.

“If you sit down on Saturday or Sunday afternoon and just say ‘this is what I’m going to make this week,’ and you shop for those ingredients that you need for those things, then it’s easier to stick to that plan than if we’re just kind of flying through each day,” she said. “Then spend some time doing some meal prep. Do your meal prep and have breakfast ready for each morning of the week, or same thing for lunch.”

Hancock said stick with lean meats when shopping.
Larissa Hancock, a registered dietitian at W.W. Hasting’s Hospital, looks at bananas inside Reasor’s Grocery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Hancock said when shopping it is usually best to stick to the perimeter of the store because that’s where the produce and meats are located. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Larissa Hancock, a registered dietitian at W.W. Hasting’s Hospital, holds a handful of fruit at Reasor’s Grocery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Hancock said fruits are good to eat as part of a healthy meal. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Registered dietitian Larissa Hancock looks through a display of green beans at Reasor’s Grocery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Hancock said healthy eating starts at the grocery store. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Various fruits are displayed along a wall at Reasor’s Grocery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Larissa Hancock, a registered dietitian, said it’s important to have a balanced plate, which is often colorful. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Larissa Hancock, a registered dietitian at W.W. Hasting’s Hospital, looks at bananas inside Reasor’s Grocery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Hancock said when shopping it is usually best to stick to the perimeter of the store because that’s where the produce and meats are located. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Ground broken for Hastings Hospital addition

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/17/2017 06:15 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials – along with representatives from state, federal and local governments – broke ground Feb. 17 on a 469,000-square-foot addition at the W.W. Hastings Hospital campus.

According to a CN Communications press release, the facility will be four stories tall and feature 180 exam rooms with access to a MRI machine; 10 new cardiac, lung and kidney specialists; and an ambulatory surgery center.

“The facility is the outcome of the largest IHS-joint venture agreement ever between a tribe and the federal government. The Cherokee Nation is paying for the $200 million construction of the health center, while Indian Health Service has agreed to pay an estimated $80 million or more per year for at least 20 years for staffing and operation costs,” the release states.

Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said the facility would offer a new level of health care and increase access to services in northeastern Oklahoma.

“On behalf of the Cherokee Nation Health Services staff, I thank (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker, the Tribal Council and Cherokee Nation Businesses for giving us the opportunity to deliver first-class health care to our patients,” Davis said.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
An artist’s rendering of the 469,000-square-foot addition adjacent to W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation officials broke ground on the addition on Feb. 17. COURTESY Principal Chief Bill John Baker speaks to the crowd attending a Feb. 17 groundbreaking ceremony for a 469,000-square-foot addition adjacent to W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Students from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School sing a song in Cherokee during the Feb. 17 groundbreaking ceremony for an addition to the W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The facility will be the length of two football fields and 2-1/2 times the size of the current facilities. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Principal Chief Bill John Baker, second from right, and other tribal leaders break ground on Feb. 17 for an addition to W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The facility will be four stories tall and feature 180 exam rooms with access to a MRI machine, 10 new cardiac, lung and kidney specialists and an ambulatory surgery center. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
An artist’s rendering of the 469,000-square-foot addition adjacent to W.W. Hastings Hospital in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation officials broke ground on the addition on Feb. 17. COURTESY
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Claremore Indian Hospital to host ACA fair

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/15/2017 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will host an Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment Fair from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on March 1 in Conference Room 1.

“We will be hosting another ACA Outreach and Enrollment Fair here at Claremore,” Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator, said. “Even though members of federally recognized tribes have a special monthly enrollment status, it is important for American Indian and Alaska Native individuals and families to learn about their insurance options. Whether it’s purchasing insurance through the Marketplace or qualifying for SoonerCare, knowing that you have quality coverage provides peace of mind.”

Dishno said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer.

Also Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will attend to assist patients with signing up for free-to-low-cost health insurance.

The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6559 or 918-342-6507.
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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

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.”

The tribe donated the money from its special projects fund.

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

First Nations’ Native Ag, Food Systems grants due Feb. 17
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/13/2017 02:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – Applications for two grants under the First Nations Development Institute’s Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative are due by 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time on Feb. 17.

First Nations will award up to 12 grants of up to $35,000 each to support projects that aim to strengthen local food-system control; increase access to local, healthy and traditional foods; and decrease food insecurity and food deserts, all with an emphasis on serving Native American children and families.

For this grant opportunity, examples of allowable activities include, but are not limited to:

• Community Garden Development,

• Food Sovereignty Initiatives,

• Food System Planning,

• Supply Chain Improvements,

• Grower-Based Education Programs, and

• Intergenerational Programs with a Focus on Food.

?First Nations will also award up to 10 grants of up to $15,000 each to Native communities looking to conduct food sovereignty assessments in order to gain a better knowledge and understanding about the historical, current and future state of their local food systems.

Under this grant opportunity, examples of allowable activities include, but are not limited to:

• Food Sovereignty Assessment Planning,

• Conducting Food Sovereignty Assessments,

• Data Analysis of Food Sovereignty Assessment Surveys, and

• Community Meetings Related to a Food Sovereignty Assessment.

?The request for proposals for grants can be accessed at http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/2017NAFSI.

The request for proposals for the food sovereignty assessment grants can be accessed at http://www.firstnations.org/grantmaking/2017FSA.

Organizations are invited to apply for one or both of these opportunities. Entities eligible to apply include U.S.-based, Native American-controlled, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations, tribes and tribal departments, tribal organizations or Native American community-based groups with eligible fiscal sponsors committed to increasing healthy food access in rural and reservation-based Native communities and improving the health and well-being of Native American children and families. ??

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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