Ground broken for Hastings Hospital addition

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.
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

Claremore Indian Hospital to host ACA fair

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.

First Nations’ Native Ag, Food Systems grants due Feb. 17

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,

Hastings Hospital achieves technology use certification

02/06/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital is among a few hospitals in the country nationally recognized for using electronic medical records and other technology to advance health services for patients.

The CN received notification earlier in January that it is now certified as a Stage 6 hospital from the Chicago-based Health Information & Management System Society.

The nonprofit reports just 30 percent of the more than 5,400 hospitals in the United States have reached Stage 6 qualifications. There are 19 hospitals in Oklahoma certified as Stage 6, and the CN and Muscogee (Creek) Nation are the only tribes with the certification in the state.

“Implementing electronic health records was a huge endeavor for the Cherokee Nation and not an easy task, but we are seeing the tremendous benefits, including better quality of patient documentation, which increases the level of care of our Cherokee Nation citizens,” Donnie Parrish, CN Health Services Health IT division chief information officer, said. “As the Cherokee Nation applies for grants and accreditations, the technology component is a key part of obtaining those awards, and so we’re extremely grateful to now be certified by HIMSS for our technology advances.”

Health Services began working to upgrade its technology a few years ago.
W.W. Hastings Hospital emergency room physician Thomas Franklin uses a mobile cart while diagnosing a patient in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The hospital has been recognized for using electronic medical records and other technology to advance health services for patients. COURTESY
W.W. Hastings Hospital emergency room physician Thomas Franklin uses a mobile cart while diagnosing a patient in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The hospital has been recognized for using electronic medical records and other technology to advance health services for patients. COURTESY

BIA, BIE announce meth prevention for Native youth

01/24/2017 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – As part of President Obama’s Generation Indigenous initiative to remove barriers to success for Native American youth, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education on Jan. 19 announced that they joined with federal partners to launch the Culture and Meth Don’t Mix program, a methamphetamine prevention initiative for Native youth.

The program is the result of collaboration under the Gen-I initiative between the White House Council on Native American Affairs, the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, BIE and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

It aims to be a culturally appropriate approach for meth prevention among Native American youth through community and interagency involvement. The program also reflects the Interior’s intent to uphold the United States’ trust responsibility to federally recognized tribes.

“Through the Generation Indigenous initiative, the Obama Administration has sought to utilize federal resources across the board to address the issues that can prevent Native youth from fulfilling their potential,” Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts said. “The Culture and Meth Don’t Mix program’s goal is to strengthen meth prevention in tribal communities through the combined efforts of the BIA’s Office of Justice Services, BIE schools, and SAMHSA. I want to thank SAMHSA for working with us to help tribes with protecting their children and youth, and tribal leaders for participating in this important effort.”

The program was rolled out with Indian Affairs, BIA and BIE officials and leaders from seven tribes: The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, the White Earth Band of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the Northern Cheyenne Tribe in Montana, and the Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Pleasant Point and Indian Township communities in Maine.

IHS to expand Community Health Aide Program

01/17/2017 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The Indian Health Service on Jan. 9 published a report outlining a policy and implementation plan to expand the use of community health aides in American Indian and Alaska Native health programs across the country.

Community health aides are paraprofessional health care workers who can perform a range of duties in health programs to improve access to quality care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Under the new policy, facilities operated by the federal government and tribally operated facilities could see expanded opportunities for using these aides, a group that could include dental health aide therapists and workers in substance use and suicide prevention, health education, communicable disease control, maternal and child health, environmental health and other fields.

“Increased access to health care is a top priority for IHS, and community health aides expand much-needed health services for American Indian and Alaska Native communities,” said Mary L. Smith, IHS principal deputy director. “I thank all of our tribal partners for sharing their feedback, and I look forward to their continued participation and partnership as we work together to develop a robust implementation plan. Community health aides are already providing quality health care in some parts of Indian Country, and with the expansion of this program, Native American communities across the nation will have access to these valuable health workers.”

In June, IHS invited comments from tribal leaders on a draft policy statement to begin a process of expanding the use of community health aides at IHS facilities across the country. January’s announcement includes a report summarizing the comments received during consultation meetings and other comments sent to the IHS.

Oklahoma Medicaid agency seeks $200M funding boost

01/13/2017 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The agency that oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma is requesting an additional $200 million, mostly to maintain its current level of health care services for low-income residents, the agency's new leader told state lawmakers on Tuesday.

Becky Pasternik-Ikard, the new chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, outlined her agency's budget during a hearing on Tuesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.

Pasternik-Ikard said about $120 million of the agency's requested budget increase for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is to maintain its current level of programs. An additional $24 million would be required to restore a 3 percent rate cut to Medicaid providers in the state that was implemented last year.

The Health Care Authority received nearly $1 billion in state appropriations last year and was one of the few agencies to receive a funding increase amid a $1.3 billion shortfall.

"Last session was not easy. And we fared very well in that appropriations process," Pasternik-Ikard told lawmakers. "We're very grateful."

CN gets First Nation’s smoothie grant

01/12/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution Program on Jan. 11 received a $20,000 grant from the First Nations Development Institute to start a “Smoothie Demonstration Project” with hopes of getting clients to add more fruits and vegetables into their diets.

According to a First Nations release, the CN was one of 21 tribes and Native American organizations to receive grants to start or expand nutrition education programming in their communities.

According to a CN release, the tribe’s Human Services, under which the Food Distribution Program falls, will use the grant to give 150 participants free blenders in exchange for meeting monthly to get smoothie recipes and track activity and nutrition.

“Eating healthy, staying active and being physically fit should not be a burden,” Leah Duncan, Food Distribution manager, said. “The ‘Smoothie Demonstration Project’ is a tasty, healthy, inexpensive gateway into a better life for tribal citizens willing to participate, especially since many of our participants are elders or families with young children and may want a faster, easier way to get in all their food groups on the go.”

According to the CN release, Food Distribution operates six self-serve food stores to ensure that citizens of federally recognized tribes who are income-eligible and live within the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction have access to healthy foods. More than 11,000 participants use the program monthly.
Glenda Downing, a Cherokee Nation nutrition educator, demonstrates a tomato, carrot and celery smoothie for Food Distribution patrons. COURTESY Food Distribution Program participant Darrell Horsechief, 65, of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, plans to join the “Smoothie Demonstration Project” to get more fruits and vegetables into his daily diet. COURTESY
Glenda Downing, a Cherokee Nation nutrition educator, demonstrates a tomato, carrot and celery smoothie for Food Distribution patrons. COURTESY

Claremore Indian Hospital eligible for NHSC opportunities

01/11/2017 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital was one of 27 Indian Health Service and tribal hospitals recently designated as eligible for selection by health care providers in their outpatient and inpatient settings under the National Health Service Corps program.

This means recruitment opportunities at NHSC-approved outpatient care sites, including health care facilities that provide ambulatory and primary health services in urban and rural communities with limited access to health care.

“This announcement puts IHS on par with critical access hospitals for the first time and expands the resources of the NHSC to tribally-operated hospitals,” said IHS Principal Deputy Director Mary L. Smith. “Recruiting and retaining qualified health care providers at rural hospitals, including IHS facilities, is a major challenge. Programs such as the National Health Service Corps help us attract talented doctors, dentists, behavioral health providers, nurse practitioners and other health professionals to serve our patients.”

This expands the current list of 12 IHS and tribal hospitals that participate as eligible inpatient and outpatient sites for NHSC member clinicians through the Critical Access Hospital designation. The participating hospitals can utilize this expansion to provide enhanced staffing throughout their hospital service delivery system. This expansion will allow qualified health care providers to serve at additional hospitals and assist in recruiting and retaining these providers beyond their two-year commitment.

The NHSC helps bring health care to those who need it most by awarding scholarships and loan repayment to primary care clinicians who commit to serving for at least two years at an approved site located in a Health Professional Shortage Area. Health Professional Shortage Areas are designated by HRSA as having shortages of primary care, dental care or mental health providers and may be geographic (a county or service area), population (e.g., low income or Medicaid eligible) or facilities (e.g., federally qualified health centers, or state or federal prisons).


First Nations to expand Native Arts Initiative
02/10/2017 12:00 PM
LONGMONT, Colo. – First Nations Development Institute, a national Native American nonprofit organization that works to improve Native economies and communities, on Feb. 2 announced it has received a $2.7 million grant for a three-year Native arts project.

This award will position First Nations to expand its Native Arts Initiative, formerly known as the “Native Arts Capacity Building Initiative,” into 2019.

Launched in early 2014, the purpose of the Native Arts Initiative is to support the perpetuation and proliferation of Native American arts, cultures and traditions as integral to Native community life. It does this by providing organizational and programmatic resources to Native-led organizations and tribal government programs that have existing programs in place that support Native artists and traditional arts in their communities.

Since 2014, First Nations has awarded more than $600,000 in grant funds to various eligible Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin to bolster the sustainability of their organizational and programmatic infrastructure as well as the professional development of their staff and leadership.

Under the expansion, First Nations will continue to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. First Nations will begin to offer competitive funding opportunities to Native-led nonprofit organizations and tribal programs in two new regions – the Southwest, including Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California, and the Pacific Northwest, including Washington and Oregon.

First Nations expects to release a request for proposals in the coming days and will award approximately 45 Supporting Native Arts Grants of up to $32,000 each over the next three years to eligible Native-led nonprofits and tribal government programs in these regions.

NAI recipient organizations and programs will utilize their grants to strengthen their organizational and programmatic infrastructure and sustainability, which will reinforce their support of the field of Native American artists as culture bearers and traditional arts in their communities. In addition to financial support, the NAI will offer individualized training and technical assistance opportunities for grantees as well as competitive professional development opportunities for staff members of eligible Native-led organizations and tribal programs.

For a list of current and former NAI grantees, visit


Connors State’s Native center focuses on success, cultures
Staff Writer
02/17/2017 08:15 AM
WARNER, Okla. – In August, Connors State College opened the doors to its Native American Success and Cultural Center that features Native American art, a computer lab, language repository and study group rooms for students, faculty, staff and the public.

The center is part of a Title III grant program that Connors received in 2014.

“This was a $5 million dollar grant spread over five years. This particular one has two focus areas. It has the Native American Success Center area, and it also has another focus for online hybrid course development,” Gwen Rodgers, Connors Title III project director, said.

Rodgers said Connors developed a “pride model” to help Native students with retention, help them learn about their respective cultures and be “inclusive” of all cultures.

“The center is open to anybody. It is not exclusive to Native Americans. There’s a rumor going around that only Native American students can utilize the center, and we’re trying to dispel that,” Colleen Noble, NASCC director, said. “We want students, the public, faculty, staff to feel comfortable to come and learn about the history, culture, literature, artwork of the Five Civilized Tribes. That’s our focus. We are reaching out to school districts for them to come and be a part of field trips.”

The Cherokee, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek), Chickasaw and Seminole nations were labeled as the Five Civilized Tribes.

Noble said in the center’s cultural section artwork is featured with a majority of it being Cherokee, but it also has Muscogee, Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Pawnee and Osage artwork. For the grant’s remainder, NASCC officials plan to acquire more art pieces from the Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, Choctaw and Cherokee tribes in Oklahoma.

The center also offers cultural activities throughout the year by inviting presenters from different tribes to teach classes such as basket making and moccasin making.

Noble said Connors has a high population of Native American students, and the center is a “stop gap” for them to learn more about their respective cultures and heritages without having to travel to places such as Tulsa, Tahlequah and Muskogee to visit museums.

“We are currently 38 percent Native American students, which is a really good percentage for this area. We are one of the highest Native American populations for the state of Oklahoma for a higher learning institute. The biggest percentage of our students are Cherokee. We have over 900 students who are Native American and out of that over 600 are Cherokee,” Noble said. “We’re able to partner with Cherokee Nation and bring in some really wonderful cultural experts to share their knowledge and skills with our students.”

In the NASCC’s success center section, students learn styles in audio, visual and kinesthetic areas. Kinesthetic learning or tactile learning is where students learn by carrying out physical activities rather than listening to a lecture or watching demonstrations.

Noble said the computers labs have headphones, study rooms have marker and art boards and students can utilize a “spinning chair” to de-stress and re-focus on college studies.

“It is a five-year grant, but it is developed and designed for continuation so that at the end of the five years this doesn’t all stop. It’s institutionalized throughout so that everything we’re doing now will keep going. So Connors will just be stronger because of it. We’re excited to be a part of it,” Rodgers said.

For more information, visit or call 918-463-6364.


Tribal Council amends capital, operating budgets
Staff Writer
01/26/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Jan. 16 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously amended the tribe’s fiscal year 2017 capital and operating budgets, increasing both funds.

With Tribal Councilors Curtis Snell and Wanda Hatfield absent, legislators added $76,837 to the capital budget for a total budget authority of $277.8 million. Officials said the increase came from a carryover environmental review for roads projects.

Legislators also increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $132,762 for a total budget authority of $664.5 million. Officials said the increase stems from grants received and authorized carryover reconciliation, new funding awards and an ending grant.

In other business, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden honored three Cherokee veterans with Cherokee Warrior Awards for their military service.

Dale Leon Johnson was drafted in 1967 and sworn into the Army at Fort Polk, Louisiana. In 1968 he was transferred to Fulda, Germany, serving with Company C 19th Maintenance Battalion USAUR as a tank mechanic. He was honorably discharged as Specialist 4 in 1973. He and his wife Patricia have been married for 51 years and he recently retired from AEP/PSO after 37 years working as a lineman.

Shad Nicholas Taylor enlisted in the Oklahoma Army Guard in 1983 while still in high school. After basic and advanced training in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, he spent almost 10 years working at Camp Gruber near Muskogee. His duty included tours to Panama and Jamaica for hurricane relief. In 2003 he was deployed for 12 months to Fallujah, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Days before being sent home from Fallujah, he was wounded, sent to Bagdad, Kuwait, and Germany before finally going Fort Sill in Lawton to heal. He said he takes pride in all the commendations he has received and was honored to receive the awards and medals for his 20-plus years of service.

Jimmy Donald Quetone is a graduate of Northeastern State University. He served as a teacher and basketball coach for East Central High School in Tulsa before being drafted by the Army in 1954. He was stationed at Fort Knox in Kentucky and Fort Sam Houston in Texas. He served in the 97th Machine Record Unit where he was responsible for keeping records for personnel and equipment in the 4th Army Area. He was honorably discharged in 1956 and returned to the education field. He retired working as the CN director of Education in 2001. Quetone is also an inductee of the NSU Athletic Hall of Fame and continues to serve others by volunteering at the Tahlequah Senior Citizens center.

In reports, Cherokee Nation Businesses CEO Shawn Slaton recognized the CNB and CN Entertainment Community Impact Teams for raising $21,406.67 for the “Heart of a Nation” campaign, which will be used to help buy needed medical equipment for tribal citizens.

A check was presented to Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Crittenden for the campaign.

“All across the board we’ve got a very giving company both in terms of time and money,” Slaton said. “What it’s intended to do is impact in a positive way, helping Cherokee people.”


Jackson waiting for lung, heart transplants
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
01/05/2017 08:00 AM
BOATMAN, Okla. – After multiple tests and hospital visits, Cherokee Nation citizen Robert Jackson could receive a call anytime from the Cleveland Clinic notifying him that organs are available for his heart and double-lung transplants.

Dot, Robert’s wife, said when notified a jet would pick them up at the Claremore Regional Airport.
“Average wait once you get to this point continues to be about six months on heart-lung. So it could be the next day until we get to that point or we could be sitting here next fall,” she said. “You don’t know because there’s a lot to the match. It’s not a simple process at all. Cleveland (Clinic official) feels that Robert’s just a very good candidate because his kidneys are good, his liver’s good.”

The reason for the transplants, Robert said, is because he was born with a congenital heart defect that eventually caused him to not only need a new heart but also new lungs.

He said doctors told his parents he wouldn’t live to be 6 years old, but at 42 he’s beaten the odds.
“They told me I wouldn’t live until I was 6 years old, told my mom and dad that. Then it was 12, then 18. Said that I’d never graduate. Well, I’m sitting here right now 42 years old, and I have graduated,” he said.

Dot said the transplant is a “drastic, high-risk” surgery, but if something isn’t done the outlook for the next year “isn’t good.”

“If they can’t find a match soon enough, they said if he ended up in the hospital, they’d medical transport him up there and they have the machines called ECMO’s (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) that basically can breathe and help his heart pump until they can find a match,” she said.

Now, Robert said, they’re waiting for the call and trying to prepare for recovery after the surgery.
“You’ll be in the hospital for at least two months after the surgery then back and forth,” he said.
Dot said the hospital has advised them to save $20,000, which includes the jet price, boarding and any other things they may need while in Cleveland.

“Our insurance will cover up to $10,000 so that means we’ve got 10 more to get. We’ll do whatever we have to do,” she said. “If it gets to the point where we have to start selling the house, the cars and everything else to keep him alive that’s what we do. Then you don’t have anything to come back to so that’s kind of hard, too.”

She said after the surgery Robert would be on medications before being weaned off some of them.

“We’re going to have a medication expense between $350 and $400 a month. He’ll gradually get off some of them, but it’s not like we don’t have a pretty big hurdle in front of us, but you have to take the hurdle,” she said.

Robert said he’s been on the transplant list since 2006 but because his health has been better than others he hasn’t had to be moved up until recently.

“I had a heart attack in 2005, and that day I forced myself to work. I thought I had a sinus infection. Well, kept getting worse and I was going to the bathroom and I couldn’t walk down the hallway. So we went to Claremore Indian Hospital and they sent me to Hillcrest (Medical Center), and Hillcrest is the one that told me in 2005 I had a heart attack,” he said. “In 2006 I was on the list. This is how long I’ve been waiting. They ain’t going to give you organs if you’re doing as good I can still walk a little ways. Take my own shower. You’re not going to do the surgery unless something absolutely major happens.”

Jackson said later when he visited Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis he was informed that he would also need a double-lung transplant.

“It seems like every year I go down and down further and further. I came in the house the other night and I couldn’t hardly walk,” he said. “People don’t understand when you can’t breathe how much your body hurts.”

Robert said he tries not to dwell on his conditions but live life the “best” he can.

“If I want to go to Pryor and get an ice cream cone I will,” he said. “I don’t say that I don’t think about it, I do, but I don’t do it all the time. I don’t let it ruin my life because if you did that you’re going to live in misery.”


OPINION: Creating new Cherokee speakers
Principal Chief
02/01/2017 12:15 PM
The Cherokee language is one of the most vital elements of our tribal culture. We have invested in preservation efforts and youth education endeavors, including the Cherokee Immersion Charter School, which is a renowned global example for developing youth speakers.

Today, there are an estimated 2,000 to 4,000 fluent Cherokee speakers, and many others who are conversational second-language learners of Cherokee. While we have elders who are fluent and the emerging youth who will be, there was a void in the development of young adults.

That is why, two years ago, we launched the Cherokee Language Master-Apprentice Program. The goal of this program is to create new adult Cherokee language teachers. We selected four young adults to be the first class, and I am proud to say two of the students recently graduated and one of them will soon be teaching at the Immersion School.

When the selected students came into the program, they had little to no knowledge of the Cherokee language. However, upon graduating two years later, they have achieved high conversational levels. That is truly amazing.

The Master-Apprentice Program is an everyday effort. The students perform general, everyday activities but speak nothing but Cherokee. No English is spoken all day. They cook, look for wild onions and mushrooms and have general daily conversations in Cherokee. The approach is to do the everyday things, simple activities that are second nature to speak about in English, but do so only in Cherokee. The Cherokee language immersion environment is eight hours each day, five days per week.

The students are paid an hourly wage to attend the program and are selected through an essay and interview process. The students are referred to as apprentices, and these activities and classes are led by fluent, first-language speakers called masters. The program tries to identify young adults and older learners.

This method has been adopted by many tribes in California and has proven to be effective in producing fluent second-language learners. The evidence-based strategy integrates the Cherokee language and our staff has secured multiple grants to help fund the Master-Apprentice Program. Our success in the past year reinforces this effective learning method. Language immersion may be difficult and disorienting initially, but through perseverance and patience, students begin to grasp and learn Cherokee communication structures. Our mission is to develop Cherokee speakers who will have the knowledge to continue learning and teaching throughout the student’s life and ensure language preservation.

A third class of eight participants was selected in late 2016, bringing our total to 16 students. Increasing our number of speakers means preserving our unique culture. Our goal is to provide a seamless path for Cherokee language achievements that result in cultural preservation and eventually finding employment utilizing the Cherokee language.

With this effort, coupled with our Cherokee Immersion Charter School and the work of our Cherokee translation department, which has helped develop the Cherokee language for new technology that our citizens can use to text and email in Cherokee, we have set the bar for what it means to invest in language development. Cherokee Nation is a leader in Indian Country, and we are committed to preserving and growing our language. The tribe is proving we can cultivate more Cherokee speakers and enhance our language programs.

For more information on the Master-Apprentice Program, contact the program’s manager, Howard Paden, at


Water Spider Creations: Preservation through creation
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/14/2017 08:15 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – During the past several years, Cherokee Nation citizen Jules Brison has tried to preserve Cherokee culture through her art. That preservation has evolved into a business that shares culturally significant art to people from all over.

Brison owns and operates Water Spider Creations. She makes textiles art such as finger-woven belts, moccasins, ribbon shirts and tear dresses.

“I originally started doing art at a very young age. In some areas I’m self-taught, and some others I’ve had great influence from various other artists. My uncle Robert Lewis was probably my biggest influence along with my grandmother,” she said.

Lewis started her focus in textiles, she said. With regards to her sewing, both of Brison’s grandmothers were seamstresses, and they both shared their knowledge with her, which allowed her to create and wear items she had a hand in making.

“When I was Miss Cherokee and Junior Miss Cherokee, I actually helped create my tear dresses. When I ran for Miss Indian Summer my cousin Terri Fields and I and Cierra Fields actually helped make my entire regalia set to compete,” she said.

With influence from others she decided to sell her artwork. She began working as a paid artist two years ago, and each piece commissioned or created for show is unique.

“Each new piece of art I create is not exactly the same as another piece. So each individual piece is original. You’ll see artists that can duplicate things a million times, and that’s not exactly one of my fortes. I feel like that each piece of art has its own character or its influences drawn from other things,” Brison said.

She said it’s not uncommon for her to have multiple projects going at once. For this story, she was working on beaded moccasins, a finger-woven belt and a feather cape for her wedding.

“It kind of gives me a way to express myself in various different forms all in one setting,” she said.

Brison, who has sold pieces to people as far as England and Japan, uses different media to sell her art. – an online marketplace of individual sellers/creators of handmade or vintage items, art and supplies – is one of which she said is a great tool for artists.

“I encourage more artists to use that because that gets your art on a global scale. Anybody from, you know, Ukraine, China, Japan, England – anybody can get on there, see your work and order it,” she said. “I’ve actually sold things all across the globe.”

Brison is also available on Facebook at Water Spider Creations, where she said she enjoys working with customers most because it can be more personal that way.

On April 3, the Cherokee Phoenix will draw a winner for her finger-woven belt that she donated as part of the newspaper’s quarterly giveaway.

“Finger weaving is one of our oldest traditional arts, and it’s also one of the arts that is finally seeing a revitalization,” she said. “The finger-woven belt that I actually did for the Phoenix is purple, cream and maroon. It took me about six hours to complete and is an average waste length, but the colors essentially pop.”

Readers can get one entry in the drawing for every $10 spent with the Cherokee Phoenix. For more information, call 918-207-3825 or 918-207-4975.

To contact Brison for more information about her art, find her on Facebook or email her at
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