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.
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, second from left, reads an act relating to protecting land the tribe owns during the April 10 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The bill authorizes the administration to prevent ingress, egress or encroachment on tribal properties. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor Dick Lay, second from left, reads an act relating to protecting land the tribe owns during the April 10 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The bill authorizes the administration to prevent ingress, egress or encroachment on tribal properties. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

9 councilors have at least 95 percent attendance rate

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
04/07/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to Tribal Council records, nine of the 17 Tribal Councilors showed up for at least 95 percent of the meetings they were required to attend from Aug. 14, 2015, to March 21, 2017.

Within that timeframe, Buel Anglen led all legislators in attendance of Tribal Council and committee meetings at 99.3 percent. Anglen attended 147 of 148 meetings.

According to Tribal Council records, Tribal Council meetings consist of regular monthly meetings, which are scheduled for the first Monday after the second Saturday, and any special meetings. Committee meetings are a combination of meetings of all seven standing legislative committees: Community Service, Culture, Education, Executive & Finance, Health, Resources and Rules.

Tribal Council records also state that all legislators serve on all committee except for Bryan Warner and David Walkingstick. They are not members of the Culture Committee. Also, Frankie Hargis joined the Culture Committee during its second meeting, records state.

Joe Byrd and Keith Austin reached 98.6 percent in attendance while Jack Baker garnered 97.2 percent.
Graph showing Tribal Council attendance from August 8, 2015 to March 21, 2017
Graph showing Tribal Council attendance from August 8, 2015 to March 21, 2017
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Tribal Council accepts U.S. Forest Service apology

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Feb. 21 unanimously voted to accept an apology from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region for damages to a Trail of Tears site in the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek, Tennessee.

In July 2015, U.S. Forest Service cultural resource managers notified higher-ranked Forest Service officials that they had discovered damage made in 2014 to a site on a Trail of Tears section. The damage consisted of holes dug by a bulldozer and other heavy equipment.

“At that site, 35 large holes were dug into the historic Trail of Tears to create large, earthen berms,” Sheila Bird, Cherokee Nation special projects officer, told the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. “They used bulldozer and other heavy equipment, and this earthmoving resulted clear and extensive damage to the historic national trail.”

She added that Forest Service employees did the work and claimed that it was done for erosion control and to prevent areas of the Trail of Tears from washing out.

“This is a well-known and mapped Trail of Tears path, but it was not marked because it was privately owned. This land was purchased by Conservation Fund and held for the U.S. Forest Service,” she said. “The District Ranger failed to follow federal laws requiring consultation with Indian tribes. The Forest Service has acknowledged fault and committed to restoring the site.”
During the Feb. 21 Tribal Council meeting, Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, center, reads legislation that asks for acceptance of an apology from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region for damages to a Trail of Tears site in the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek, Tennessee. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX John Paul Atkinson receives a medal from Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden after being honored with the Cherokee Medal of Freedom for his service in the U.S. Army. His friend and fellow soldier, Jesse James Collins, was also honored but was in the hospital due to service-connected injuries. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen John Thomas Cripps III, who served in the U.S. Army, is given a pin during the Feb. 21 Tribal Council meeting after being given the Cherokee Medal of Freedom. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
During the Feb. 21 Tribal Council meeting, Tribal Councilor Jack Baker, center, reads legislation that asks for acceptance of an apology from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region for damages to a Trail of Tears site in the Cherokee National Forest near Coker Creek, Tennessee. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribal Council amends capital, operating budgets

BY LINDSEY BARK
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.
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor reads a legislative act to amend the tribe’s comprehensive capital budget for fiscal year 2017 at the Jan. 16 Tribal Council meeting at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Jim Quetone, center, holds his Cherokee Warrior Award as he is honored by administration and Tribal Council officials for his military service at the Jan. 16 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation Businesses and Cherokee Nation Entertainment Community Impact Team captains introduce themselves as they present a $21,406.67 check to Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden for the “Heart of a Nation” campaign at the Jan. 16 Tribal Council meeting. The money will provide tribal citizens with needed medical equipment through CN Health Services. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor reads a legislative act to amend the tribe’s comprehensive capital budget for fiscal year 2017 at the Jan. 16 Tribal Council meeting at the W.W. Keeler Complex in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Council reconfirms Hembree as attorney general

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
11/16/2016 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – During its Nov. 14 meeting, the Tribal Council unanimously reconfirmed Todd Hembree as the Cherokee Nation’s attorney general.

Hembree was reappointed for a period of five years from January 2017 to January 2021 after being re-nominated by Principal Chief Bill John Baker.

Hembree was first appointed to serve as attorney general in January 2012. Previous to that he served as the attorney for the Tribal Council for 12 years.

“I am very honored to be afforded the opportunity to serve the Cherokee Nation for another term as attorney general. However, the many successes that this office has had over the last several years has only been made possible due to the dedication and hard work of the staff,” Hembree said. “The Cherokee people are very fortunate to have such a group working for them.”

Legislators also unanimously approved Sheryl Rountree, of Tahlequah, to serve a five-year term on the Sequoyah High School board of education. Tribal Council approval is needed because the tribe operates the school. Rountree will serve from December 2016 to December 2021.

Tribal Council passes Wind Farm resolution 10-6

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
10/18/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Tribal Council approved a resolution on Oct. 17 authorizing the Cherokee Nation to execute a lease agreement with Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC, a company owned by PNE Wind USA, Inc.

According to the resolution, the tribe “since time immemorial has exercised the sovereign right of self-government on behalf of the Cherokee people…” and “the Cherokee Nation encourages economic development and acknowledges renewable energy resources are necessary to prevent land and air pollution as an alternative to the use of fossil fuels and is part of our long-term solution toward energy sustainability.”

“Be it resolved by the Cherokee Nation that the Council recognizes that Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC will obtain debt financing and equity investments to fund the wind resource infrastructure project and that it is necessary to grant a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for the sole purpose of allowing Chilocco Wind Farm, LLC to initiate causes of action against the Cherokee Nation in the event of default under the terms of the Wind Resource Lease Agreement,” the legislation states.

Cherokee Nation Tribal Councilors Dick Lay and Buel Anglen both discussed openly why they would vote against the legislation.

“I think it’s going to essentially destroy our Chilocco property. It’s our trust property the only trust and only property we have left of the old Cherokee Outlet,” said Lay. “It’s impossible for me to vote for a waiver of sovereign immunity so that some foreign controlled windmill company can get a bank loan. I just can’t bring myself to do that.”
During the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting in October Tribal Councilor Jack Baker discusses his reasons for not supporting the wind farm project that will be built on the Chilocco Indian School property. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Shannon Buhl, left, takes his oath of office after being renominated as Marshal of the Cherokee Nation. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
During the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council meeting in October Tribal Councilor Jack Baker discusses his reasons for not supporting the wind farm project that will be built on the Chilocco Indian School property. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Wind energy lease doesn’t make Council agenda

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
09/19/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Six Tribal Councilors voted against adding to the agenda a resolution authorizing a wind resource lease agreement between the Cherokee Nation and Chilocco Wind Farm LLC. Despite passing the legislation an hour earlier in a reconvened Rules Committee meeting, the measure failed to get a two-thirds vote during the Sept. 12 Tribal Council meeting.

With Tribal Councilors Harley Buzzard and Rex Jordan absent, Tribal Councilors David Walkingstick, Dick Lay, Jack Baker, Shawn Crittenden, Don Garvin and Buel Anglen voted against adding the wind farm legislation to the agenda.

According to the resolution, the Tribal Council had previously authorized Cherokee Nation Businesses to obtain “grant funding to support feasibility studies as to the development of wind energy within the jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation.” It also states that it would be “economically advantageous” for CN to create wind energy resources in Kay County on its Chilocco trust property.

“We’re looking for alternative energy,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “It’s on the heels of the Dakota pipeline issue where we protect our land, we protect our resources.”

Byrd said some Tribal Councilors were not in favor of building a wind farm in the Chilocco area and wanted to keep the land untouched.
Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner, right, reads a resolution regarding the Cherokee Nation’s membership to the National Congress of American Indians at a Sept. 12 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick, middle, talks about the resolution for Cherokee Nation to support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota during the Sept. 12 Tribal Council meeting. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor Bryan Warner, right, reads a resolution regarding the Cherokee Nation’s membership to the National Congress of American Indians at a Sept. 12 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Councilors reimplement Whistleblower Act

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
08/17/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At their Aug. 15 meeting, Tribal Councilors passed a new Whistleblower Protection Act after learning earlier this year it was repealed in 2012.

The act is to protect employees from “retaliatory action” when participating in “protected activities” such as reporting alleged wrongdoing of a co-worker, supervisor or elected official.

The vote passed unanimously with Tribal Councilor Wanda Hatfield absent.

During the July 12 Rules Committee meeting, Assistant Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo said the act would replace the one that legislators repealed in 2012.

“When the Ethics Act was amended in, I believe, 2012 it was included in the language… this repeals Title 28. When you repeal a title you repeal all of the title,” she said. “No one caught that at the time that the Ethics Act was passed…It should have said it repeals this section of Title 28, but what it said was it repeals Title 28. When the new Ethics Act was passed…it took out the whistleblower language.”
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor reads a resolution during the Aug. 15 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor reads a resolution during the Aug. 15 Tribal Council meeting in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Tribal Council, AG revamp civil code

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
08/05/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council during its July meeting amended the Cherokee Nation’s civil code that, according to the attorney general’s office, was long overdue.

Attorney General Todd Hembree said major changes involve creating causes of actions and procedures designed to modernize the court system.

“There was an increase to statute of limitations, which is the time frame in which a Cherokee citizen can bring a cause of action,” Hembree said. “Previously, most cases could be brought within two years. Now most cases can be brought within five years, with some having a three-year limitation.”

According to legislation, civil actions, other than for the recovery of real property, can only be brought within the following periods after the cause of action shall have accrued and not afterwards:

• Within five years: an action upon any contract, agreement, or promise in writing,
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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

Council approves FY 2017 Indian Housing Plan
BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
07/13/2016 03:05 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tribal Council on July 12 approved the submission of the Cherokee Nation’s fiscal year 2017 Indian Housing Plan to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

According to the legislation, the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act of 1996 requires a tribe to adopt a one-year plan for each fiscal year it requests federal funding. The resolution states the CN must submit an IHP in a form prescribed by HUD to receive its FY 2017 housing funding. According to the IHP, the plan needed to be submitted by on or by July 18.

“The Indian Housing Plan is basically a road map. It is a plan, but it’s basically a road map that says ‘federal government, here is how we propose to spend these federal funds that we get under NAHASDA,’” Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation Director Gary Cooper said.

Tribal Council officials said the tribe is requesting $52.8 million. According to the IHP the money will be used to help meet the following needs: overcrowded households, renters wanting to become homeowners, substandard units needing rehabilitation, homeless households, households needing affordable rental units, college student housing, disabled households needing accessibility, units needing energy efficiency upgrades and infrastructure to support housing.

The resolution passed unanimously with all councilors present.

Councilors also unanimously approved two applications to the Federal Highway Administration for money to replace two bridges located in Delaware and Washington counties.

Washington County’s bridge is over a tributary to the Caney River, according to the legislation. The legislation states that Bridge 84 provides “crucial access for many Cherokee citizens” and is identified as a candidate for replacement.

Bridge 27 in Delaware County bridge is over Whitewater Creek, and it too provides crucial access for CN citizens, according to the resolution. The resolution states it is identified for replacement as well.

Tribal Councilors also unanimously approved Sandra Hathcoat’s nomination to the CN Home Health Services and Comprehensive Care Agency or PACE boards.

Legislators also unanimously amended Legislative Act 05-16, the CN Employment Rights Act, to address businesses that are owned by trusts and assure that the beneficiaries of the enterprises are Native American.

According to the act, “Indian-owned economic enterprise” shall mean any Indian-owned commercial, industrial or business activity established or organized for the purpose of profit, provided that such Indian ownership shall constitute not less than 51 percent of the enterprise, and the ownership shall encompass active operation and control of the enterprise. No business that is more than 49 percent owned by a trust as a trust-owned business shall be included, legislation states.

The tribe’s FY 2016 comprehensive operating budget was also unanimously increased by $128,142 for a total budget authority of $676.8 million.

Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

However, prescription drug overdoses remain a scourge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Opinion

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

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

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

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

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

People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said he eventually hopes to offer advanced classes.

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

For more information, call 918-803-1408 or visit the “Fencing in NE Oklahoma” Facebook group.
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Call Justin Smith 918-207-4975

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