Tribal Councilor Dick Lay spoke about the act’s importance during the Nov. 14 Rules Committee.
“So the idea was to take a small amount of funding from the businesses, set it aside for just extreme financial emergencies, and I think (Treasurer) Lacey (Horn) and her group have been working along the same lines, so we’re going to try and get those together,” Lay said.
Horn said creating a “permanent fund” was something she had wanted to do, and after working on Lay’s model with Controller Jamie Cole and Assistant Attorney General Chad Harsha they created an act to bring before Council.
“This act establishes a wealth fund, which shall be held by the treasurer in accordance with the act, and assets shall be maintained in an interest-bearing account or otherwise invested to promote growth of the fund's assets,” she said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tribal Councilors on Dec. 11 passed an act that establishes the Cherokee Nation Sovereign Wealth Fund, a fund that is expected to “ensure the continuation of tribal operations and the general welfare of tribal citizens for future generations.”
“I love serving the Cherokee people. They’ve got somebody that’s going to work for them again for the next four years, and I’m really looking forward to that,” said Byrd.
Originally from Belfonte/Nicut, Byrd was the youngest Cherokee Nation legislator to be elected. He served on the Tribal Council from 1987-95, followed by term as principal chief from 1995-99. In January 2012, he won a special election to replace Bill John Baker on the Tribal Council. Baker had taken office as the principal chief on Oct. 19, 2011, after a contentious and lengthy principal chief’s race against incumbent Chad Smith.
In 2013, Byrd was re-elected to serve his first full term under the tribe’s 1999 Constitution, which limits elected officials to two consecutive four-year terms before having to sit out a term. He was also named speaker of the Tribal Council in 2015 after then-Speaker Tina Glory Jordan termed out.
When he first ran for office in 1987, Byrd said he felt the need to help the Cherokee people with the issues they were facing.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With 18 years of experience serving the Cherokee people, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd looks forward to serving another four years as the representative for Dist. 2, which consists of most of northern Cherokee County.
Buzzard worked for the Cherokee Nation for 24 years before running for Tribal Council in 2007. After a term serving Dist. 2, he was elected for Dist. 10 in 2013. He ran again this year because he said there was more he could help improve such as agriculture, sanitation and education. “There was just some things I felt I wanted to be involved with, see if I could help get it done.”
He said he’s stressed agriculture’s importance with the hope that Cherokee children would learn how to grow their food. “Now we’re just eating fast foods and pre-cooked meals and things like that, and our children don’t know about gardening. I’d like to get it to the point where we could raise enough to supply all our families that want those fresh vegetables, but also on a commercial basis too (by) putting it into our casinos and stuff like that.”
Buzzard said he would also like to see improvements with roads and water lines in his district.
He said he has much experience with water and sanitation engineering and that he sees a lot of Cherokee families that do not have inside plumbing and water. A water line extension for rural water is something he would like to work on, he said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Harley Buzzard is beginning his third Tribal Council term. It’s his second for Dist. 10, which consists of northern Delaware County and parts of Ottawa and Mayes counties. Prior to that he served from 2007-11 for the former Dist. 2, which consisted of Delaware County and part of Ottawa County.
“I chose to run for re-election because I have enjoyed serving the Cherokee people. There are projects that I want to see completed, and there is still work to be done.” She said.
Raised in Stillwell, Hargis graduated from Stilwell High School and then from Northeastern Sate University with a bachelor’s degree in education. She has worked for the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Enterprises in several capacities.
“I was raised in Adair County, raised my children here and want only the best for Cherokees in this district. We have made great strides in several areas, including health care, education and housing,” she said.
Before taking a seat on the Tribal Council, Hargis had never planned to run for tribal office. However, when she saw that the people of Adair County needed someone to be a voice she made the decision to “step up” and be that voice.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Frankie Hargis looks to serve the Cherokee people of Dist. 7 for another term after being re-elected in June. Hargis was initially elected on Dec. 2, 2011, to replace S. Joe Crittenden, who resigned after being elected deputy chief. She served her first full term after being elected in 2013.
Baker Shaw, who graduated from Tahlequah High School, said living in Tahlequah gave her a “unique perspective” on now being a CN citizen who lives outside the tribe’s jurisdiction in Oklahoma.
“They (at-large citizens) don’t have the same educational opportunities and benefits as in-jurisdiction has had,” she said. “They don’t have the advantage of the culture. When you’re in jurisdiction it’s just a part of your life more so than at-large. I want to engage our at-large communities to converse with each other and expose them and give them opportunities that they don’t have.”
Baker Shaw comes from a bloodline familiar with serving the Cherokee people. Her father, Amon A. Baker, was a Tribal Councilor under Principal Chiefs Ross Swimmer and Wilma Mankiller.
“His advice is to always vote for what is best for the Cherokees,” she said of Amon’s influence.
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – New At-Large Tribal Councilor Mary Baker Shaw said she’s “eager and excited” to begin assisting Cherokee Nation citizens in areas including health care and education.
“I had a special election with two opponents that took about six weeks, and on Oct. 22, I was sworn in,” Vazquez said.
In 2017, before the CN’s general election in June, Vazquez faced no opponents to again represent Dist. 11, which includes all of Craig County, part of northern Mayes County and northern Nowata County. Her district includes more than 2,000 constituents.
Before becoming a Tribal Councilor, Vazquez was a self-employed potter. She became well-known for her pottery classes, which she taught for about 20 years. She is a consultant, educator, historian and potter who showcases pottery that southeastern United States tribes once. She also helps preserve that culture, she said.
In 1990, Vazquez took a year off from working to study as an apprentice in pottery with her mother, Anna Sixkiller Mitchell. A full-blood Cherokee, Mitchell revived Southeastern and woodlands-style pottery in Oklahoma more than 40 years ago, Vazquez said.
VINITA, Okla. – In the fall of 2013, Victoria Vazquez was elected to the Tribal Council after then Dist. 11 Tribal Councilor Chuck Hoskin Jr. was appointed to serve as the Cherokee Nation’s secretary of state.
Dobbins will take his councilor seat with 37 years of experience in health care, practicing dentistry for 20 of those years.
“I chose to run because from a distance I’ve become quite familiar with the Cherokee health system, and there are some great things about it. The framework’s in place…and a lot of good has transpired. With my experience I feel like I can lend some expertise to help improve the system. That was my primary motive in running for council...to see what I could do to improve the health care system,” Dobbins said.
He said he has more to learn about the CN Health Services and how it functions on a daily basis.
Dobbins is also involved in higher education, teaching at dental schools for the past 17 years and assisting Cherokee students interested in health care.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dr. Mike Dobbins, of Fort Gibson, said he’s ready to serve his first term as the Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor and looks to improve the Cherokee Nation’s health care system.
The Tribal Council re-elected the two legislators earlier in the day at a special Rules Committee meeting to serve in the positions.
“I am humbled by the confidence my fellow councilors place in me by voting for me to serve a second term as speaker of the Tribal Council,” Byrd said. “I believe we are on a positive trajectory in accomplishing great things for our people and look forward to working diligently to continue on that path.”
Vazquez said it was an “an honor and a privilege to serve as deputy speaker.”
“I look forward to continuing to work on behalf of the Cherokee Nation citizens, who should be at the heart and soul of everything we do as a Tribal Council. We are a strong Nation, and I look forward to seeing what the coming years hold for us,” she said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Supreme Court Chief Justice John Garrett swore in Dist. 2 Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd and Dist. 11 Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez as the legislative body’s speaker and deputy speaker, respectively, during the Aug. 15 Tribal Council meeting at the W. W. Keeler Complex.
She was first elected in 2013 to serve Dist. 15, which consists of southern Mayes and southern Rogers counties. When it comes to education, Taylor said her district has Oklahoma State University’s Institute of Technology and Rogers State University to give students chances to explore various career fields.
“I’m looking forward to the opening of the (W.W.) Hasting’s Clinic (in Tahlequah) and using that as a working, training hospital. RSU has programs to train health care professionals as does the vo-tech school, and I’ve got both of those right here (Pryor),” she said. “I’m looking forward to having those kids stay at home, take care of their own. I think those young professionals are going to fall in love with our way of life there in Tahlequah with the river and the scenery and all the things that are to do. They’ll stay and we’ll have this local talent staying right here in northeast Oklahoma, so I’m excited about that.”
She said CN citizens’ health is also an important issue, with a focal point being preventative health. “My passion is preventative health, and teaching Cherokees to own their health and look after their health. We have some excellent programs with…the cooking classes that we have in diabetes management, the fitness classes with the Wings (Fitness) Program that we have. That sort of thing is teaching our citizens that you don’t have to be a statistic. You can own your health, and here’s some ways to help you live a healthier life.”
She said by stressing a healthier lifestyle she’s noticed more citizens taking heed.
PRYOR, Okla. – As she enters her second term, Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor hopes to continue pushing education and health care as well as focus on how the shift in the White House could affect the Cherokee Nation.
TAHLEQUAH – On a cold and windy Jan. 9, Cherokee Nation cultural biologists and Environmental Resources specialists harvested sunchokes, also known as Jerusalem artichokes, at the Heirloom Garden and Native Plant Site on the Tribal Complex.
It is believed the sunchoke was a main food source for Cherokee people prior to European contact.
“The sunchoke is a very important cultural plant. So that was one of the plants that we really wanted to establish in the Seed Bank and the native plant site. We were lucky enough to be gifted some really nice specimens from the Eastern Band (of Cherokee Indians) several years ago. They brought us three really nice plants. The three plants have really expanded,” Environmental Resources Senior Director Pat Gwin said.
Gwin said the sunchoke is able to produce in mass amounts to harvest for the Seed Bank and as a food source.
“Sunchoke, it was an important plant for a reason. It grows an extremely large amount of product for the amount of space, time and effort that you put into it,” he said. “We produce lots and lots of seeds every year.”
Though the harvest ran a little late this season, Gwin said he expected hundreds to thousands of sunchoke tubers to yield. The plant is commonly harvested in the winter and may have been a winter food source for Cherokee because of its ability to grow in cold weather.
Gwin said pre-European contact, the sunchoke was an important food source though it “fell out of favor” after contact. The plant has recently started to rise under the name of Jerusalem artichoke.
The sunchoke resembles a sunflower when in full bloom. When harvested, the tuber underneath the ground resembles a potato, or water chestnut, and has similar qualities and textures due to its root structure.
“When I have cooked these in the past, I’ve noticed that sort of eating them raw kind of tastes like a raw potato or even kind of like water chestnut. If you cook them, and don’t cook them at a high heat, they’ll kind of keep the texture of a water chestnut. They can mostly be cooked just the way that we would cook a potato,” Feather Smith-Trevino, CN cultural biologist, said.
She said sunchokes are not commonly found in a grocery store or produced commercially, possibly because of its inability to “keep” once it is out of the ground.
“With the potato, once we gather those, they can be stored for months and months at a time and they won’t go bad. But with Jerusalem artichokes, once they’re pulled out of the ground their usually only good for maybe about another week to two weeks. They don’t keep much longer than that,” Smith-Trevino said.
For this year’s Seed Bank, around 88 packages were created for Cherokees to grow and harvest their own sunchoke plants.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses signed a memorandum of understanding on Jan. 10 to begin a Cherokee language pilot project called the 14th Generation Master Apprentice Program.
The program aims to have select Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program participants teach the language to Cherokee Immersion Charter School graduates as they enter Sequoyah High School.
“We hope to make an opportunity for them to polish up their language skills and at the same time pass on the teaching techniques that we’ve developed in the adult master-apprentice program for the high school so they can be teachers one day or at least teach their family and friends,” Ryan Mackey, CLMAP curriculum supervisor, said.
The MOU states the “Cherokee Nation and CNB share a common interest in promoting and encouraging the continuous use of the Cherokee language. This requires trained and educated individuals who are prepared to further the proper use of the Cherokee language through instruction of others.”
The program is geared toward immersion school graduates attending SHS to continue learning the language in an after-school program and a 10-week summer intensive learning program.
CLMAP graduates will be selected and employed as instructors in the pilot project.
CNB is funding the program with $180,000 going toward salaries, materials and tools necessary to aid CLMAP instructors in conducting their teachings. Included in the funding is classroom space, meals for participating students, travel for natural language environment field trips, staff training, administrative costs and indirect costs where applicable.
“It’s a great day in the Cherokee Nation that we get the opportunity to take our language program to another level,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.
CLMAP first-year participant and CN citizen Jeromy Miller said he is participating in CLMAP to help his children, who attend the immersion school, continue learning Cherokee at home and bridge the language gap.
“I didn’t have the language myself. I wasn’t able to teach my kids growing up how to speak in their tribal language, their own Cherokee language,” Miller said. “Now that I am learning the language I can bring that home as well, and I can complete the circle in my house of communicating in our tribal tongue.”
The CLMAP began in 2015 to create Cherokee speakers and teachers from adult second-language learners. The program promotes the revitalization of the Cherokee language with participants spending 40 hours a week immersed in the language to become proficient speakers.
The program recently received new office and classroom space on the second floor of the Cort Mall above the Kawi Café in Tahlequah. The space is needed for the program’s expansion.
“It gives us enough space to have breakout classrooms as well as a main classroom. It also provides office space for our staff members, and that’s not something that we’ve had. We started as a very small program and so we needed a small space. But at this point we’ve expanded and we’ve been very successful and we want to make sure that people are accommodated,” Mackey said.
For more information about the 14th Generation Master Apprentice Program, call 918-207-4950.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – E.O. Smith, of Vian, on Aug. 14 will begin serving his first term as the Dist. 5 Tribal Councilor after winning a July 22 runoff election. He will take the seat being vacated by Tribal Councilor David Thornton.
Smith won the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Uriah Grass by receiving 52.26 of the vote.
He previously spent eight years as a CN Food Distribution warehouse manager in Sallisaw.
His platform includes improving education, employment and health care for Cherokees.
“I want to help. There’s some of these families, they don’t need to live in the condition they live in. (Cherokee) Nation is strong but I’d like to help make it stronger. I just care about people…I just want to make things better for District 5,” he said.
Born in Mexico, Smith moved to Vian with his mother and father at age 2.
“My dad was a farmer, and back then there wasn’t any farm aid or anything, and a flood wiped them out and they lost everything they had. So he had to move out to Mexico and worked in the oil fields, saved up money to come back home,” he said.
After seeing his father’s work ethic and ability to move back to the United States to become a business owner, Smith followed in father’s footsteps by becoming a business owner, operating two stores in Vian for 29 years.
Smith was also involved with youth and youth sports, coaching sports teams for more than 42 years.
“That’s my passion. That’s what I love to do. I like working with kids,” Smith said.
As a councilman for the city of Vian, Smith said he see too many young people, Cherokees and non-Cherokees, with no desire to work and wants to motivate them to find jobs.
Smith said in his travels in the CN, about 85 percent of people he talked to brought up improving health care, especially for elders.
“Overall, I just want to help improve things. I’m for all the programs we got going. I don’t want to cut any. I’d like to see some improve,” he said.
He said he had a tough election but is ready to get his feet on the ground and see what lies ahead of him as a Tribal Councilor to improve programs and other issues in the CN and Dist.5
“We all want good things for the (Cherokee) Nation, or we wouldn’t be running. I’m just so excited for this chance. I can’t wait to get started. I really want to try to help. I’m 66. I feel good and this may be my last chance to do something good,” Smith said.
Smith said he is creating an office in Vian where he will be available from 9 a.m. to noon five days a week and will also be accessible by phone at 918-705-1845.
“Let’s pull together and help me make this a good four years. Let’s don’t fight. Let’s pull together,” Smith said.
VINITA — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma’s Mobile Assistance Center is hosting an education and enrollment event from 1 to 6 p.m. on Jan. 22 at the Craig County Fairgrounds and Community Center located at 915 E. Apperson Road.
Tribal citizens and all individuals who attend this free come-and-go event are invited to visit with BCBSOK representatives to receive assistance with their health insurance questions and needs. Tribal citizens have the ability to enroll in coverage on the Health Insurance Marketplace at any time, outside of the standard Open Enrollment period. Tribal citizens can also visit to see if they qualify for available financial assistance to help lower the cost of monthly payments. In some cases, this financial assistance may cover the full premium cost. Customer service support will also be available for current members who may have questions about their coverage.
“The Affordable Care Act provides American Indians with opportunities to compare and buy health insurance in a new way,” said BCBSOK President Ted Haynes. “Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma wants to help people understand their options so they have an opportunity to enroll and choose a plan that’s right for them.”
To learn more about how to protect their health and finances and save on monthly payments, individuals may attend one of the MAC events, contact an independent, authorized BCBSOK agent, or call BCBSOK’s dedicated customer service representatives and product specialists at 855-636-8702.
To see the full schedule of MAC events, click here
. For additional information about health plans and pricing, visit BCBSOK.com
I am Cherokee. I know this because I have a Certificate of Indian Blood card that says so. I also have a blue card that says I’m a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. I have identified as Cherokee my entire life but I have not immersed myself enough in the culture, or most regrettably, the language.
I grew up hearing the Cherokee language, as my dad is a first-language speaker. Cherokee was the only language my paternal grandmother chose to speak on a daily basis. She knew English, but hardly ever spoke it. I heard it so often as a child I was able to understand what my grandmother and dad were saying but never learned to speak, read or write. My granny died when I was 11 and that’s when my knowledge of the language died for me. My dad still spoke it to my aunts and uncles, but for a reason I can’t remember, I stopped really listening to understand it. He would try to get me to learn by giving me directives or asking common questions in Cherokee, but I didn’t take the time to sit down and learn.
As an adult, when people ask if I know how to speak, I tell them I was too busy as a kid playing sports and doing other things to learn. I also took Cherokee I and Cherokee II while at Northeastern State University, but none of the teachings resonated with me. Hearing me say that, and now typing it, I’ve come to realize that is a lame excuse.
I’ll be honest and say I really didn’t see the need to learn the language. I didn’t think knowing Cherokee would get me any further in life. Other than speaking to a few people, I would rarely use it, so why learn. I’ve worked for the Cherokee Phoenix for 11 years. We publish Cherokee stories in our monthly paper and when time allows, we have the translators record audio of the stories in order for readers to hear it spoken by scanning a QR code from a smartphone. I’ve not paid as much attention to it as I should. It’s a great way to see and hear the language.
Now that I’m older, I regret not paying attention to the language growing up and taking the time to learn. I think my generation has made a huge contribution to the downfall of the language. But all is not lost. Although it’s more difficult, it’s not too late to learn. I realize how vital the language is to Cherokees as a people. It is more than a way to communicate. It’s embodies our identity and soul of our tradition, history and the Cherokee way of life.
With the New Year fast approaching, my resolution will be to learn Cherokee. The CN has several outlets as well as online options that are available to learn the language. I also know my dad and aunts will be eager to teach me and I believe they will say, “It’s about time.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – AARP Oklahoma is accepting nominations for its 10th annual Indian Elder Honors to celebrate 50 Native American elders who have positively impacted their respective communities, families, tribes and nation.
Since its inception in 2009, AARP Oklahoma has recognized 450 elders from all 39 tribal nations in Oklahoma.
“The AARP Indian Elder Honors recognizes the extraordinary contribution of Indian elders – many of whom have never been recognized before,” AARP Oklahoma Volunteer State President Joe Ann Vermillion said.
The 2017 honorees from 33 Oklahoma tribal nations included teachers, veterans, nurses, artists, tribal leaders, language and culture preservationists, champion archer and champion arm wrestler.
Cherokee Nation citizens Mary Rector Aitson, Dianne Barker Harrold, Marcella Morton and Joe T. Thornton, as well as United Keetoowah Band citizen Woody Hansen, were honored in 2017 and presented medallions by national and state AARP officials.
“This event celebrates a lifetime of service from these distinguished elders,” AARP State Director Sean Voskuhl said. “The common thread between the honorees, regardless of the contribution, is the commitment to community and service.”
This year’s Indian Elder Honors will be held Oct. 2 in Oklahoma City. Nomination applications are available at https://www.aarp.org/states/ok/stateeventdetails.eventId=671063&stateCode=OK/
Nominations may be submitted electronically or mailed to AARP Oklahoma, 126 N. Bryant, Edmond, OK, 73034.
Nominees must be enrolled citizens of federally recognized Oklahoma tribal nations, at least 50 years old and be living. Nominees do not have to be AARP members. For more information, call Mashell Sourjohn at 405-715-4474 or email email@example.com. The deadline for submitting nominations is April 30.