Barton delves into Native American cuisine

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/26/2017 08:15 AM
TULSA, Okla. – Taelor Barton grew up watching her grandmother, Edith Knight, cook. Those cooking sessions inspired Barton to become a chef and share her talent in creating food.

“My grandma did indeed have a huge part in me choosing to be a chef later on in life. It was something that we always did together,” the 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen said. “I think it started out as something to kind of keep me busy at first and then the more skills that I would learn, especially when I was away from her, I would come back and show her and then we’d cook together. Basically, she used food to extend care to us as children. It was such an important nurturing aspect of my upbringing that I couldn’t let it go. I had to kind of carry on in her stead, being a cook in the family.”

Barton said she began taking a creative role in cooking at age 13. “Even though I didn’t know much I still wanted to play with food and see what I could make.”

This love for cooking inspired Barton to study culinary arts while in high school. She later attended the Oklahoma State University-Institute of Technology’s culinary program in Okmulgee.

She said even today taking on that creative role when she was 13 affects how she approaches food.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizen Taelor Barton, who is the executive chef at The Vault in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says she began taking a creative role in cooking at age 13. She credits her grandmother, Cherokee National Treasure Edith Knight, as having a “huge” part in her becoming a chef. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Executive chef Taelor Barton shapes a bean cake for a Native American-inspired dinner party on April 19 at The Vault in Tulsa, Oklahoma. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Taelor Barton, who is the executive chef at The Vault in Tulsa, Oklahoma, says she began taking a creative role in cooking at age 13. She credits her grandmother, Cherokee National Treasure Edith Knight, as having a “huge” part in her becoming a chef. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

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.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Stretch, left, speaks to his fencing students while they practice at the Academy of Preforming Arts in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The fencing class practices there weekly. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Logan Stansell, 14, left, and Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Stretch, fencing instructor, practice fencing techniques at the Academy of Preforming Arts in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Stansell joined because he thought it would be an “interesting alternative to normal exercise.” STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Logan Stansell, right, fences with a classmate during a weekly fencing practice at the Academy of Preforming Arts in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Stretch teaches the class. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Stretch, left, speaks to his fencing students while they practice at the Academy of Preforming Arts in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The fencing class practices there weekly. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Kirby strives for change in her community

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
03/27/2017 08:15 AM
NEW YORK CITY – Cherokee Nation citizen Jennifer Kirby attended the 61st annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on March 10-15 as a Lutheran World Federation delegate.

Kirby said she heard stories and testimonies from women of other countries about their struggles to be heard by their governments on issues such as abuse, human trafficking, work and equal pay.

“Just the fact that you were so close to so many women and so many world leaders who are saying ‘we care about women’s rights, we care about women’s work, justice for women, women’s empowerment’ was really inspiring. I feel like that was a life-changing experience to be around so many people that are fighting for a lot of the same things across the world,” Kirby said.

She said she learned women from other countries struggle with speaking on certain issues and have to be “strategic” or “silent” in their fights because of dangers they face. In the United States, she said, it’s easier for women to speak and find allies and support on issues, but in a sense, solutions are still government-controlled.

Within her Lutheran delegation, Kirby heard stories from Indigenous women about what they face that affects them as well as their children and what hinders their empowerment to create change in their communities.
Cherokee Nation citizen Jennifer Kirby, right, and other delegates of the Lutheran World Federation wait for the opening ceremony on March 13 at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. Kirby plans to create a presentation in her hometown of Oaks, Oklahoma, to teach others about her experience at the UNCSW. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Jennifer Kirby, right, and other delegates of the Lutheran World Federation wait for the opening ceremony on March 13 at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York City. Kirby plans to create a presentation in her hometown of Oaks, Oklahoma, to teach others about her experience at the UNCSW. COURTESY

Brooklyn-based artist has Vinita roots

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
03/24/2017 08:30 AM
VINITA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen J.J. Lind is a Brooklyn, New York-based artist and artistic director of Immediate Medium, a nonprofit performance and producing collective he co-founded in 2002. He’s created more than 20 works spanning theater, video, photography and performance that have been presented throughout New York City. He also has two film projects in development that explore his Native ancestry and home state of Oklahoma.

“Spooklight” is a film Lind is developing with filmmaker Gabrielle Demeestere. It is a “psychological and environmental horror film” that examines the deteriorating relationship between two Cherokee siblings and their non-Native half brother. It will be filmed in northeastern Oklahoma and feature performances by local Native actors and non-actors.

“Allotment” is a documentary by Lind and filmmaker Mark Lazarz. It is an “impressionistic portrait” of northeastern Oklahoma and its people that examines the legacy of enforced land ownership inside the CN. It is being filmed across over the course of four seasons and will feature interviews with local residents, tribal leaders, elders, politicians, church leaders, cowboys, artisans and local historians.

“Growing up it wasn’t cool to be Indian,” Lind said. “Most of my classmates weren’t into it, and those that were didn’t see me as part of their group because I’m tall and blond.”

While at Yale University, Lind said he longed to connect with other Native Americans.
J.J. Lind
J.J. Lind
http://www.billandtracirabbit.com/

Pettit thrives as radio show host

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
03/16/2017 08:15 AM
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Justin Pettit grew up with a passion for radio broadcasting after listening to sports on the radio during his early years.

Pettit said he grew up listening to broadcasts of the University of Oklahoma Sooners and University of Arkansas Razorbacks basketball teams.

“Now, I do my own stuff. I do basketball or game of the week here on 105.1 (KXMX in Sallisaw). I do the play-by-play, the color (commentary), all my own stats, everything,” he said.

He initially thought about going into the radio broadcasting business in 2010 while working as realtor in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“I always had a passion for radio, and I got a note from one of my friends about doing broadcasting school, and it was all online so I was able to do it,” Pettit said.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Justin Pettit, a Cherokee Nation citizen and radio broadcast host, works behind the microphone on March 6 at the Mix 105.1 KXMX radio station in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, during the “JP in the Morning” show. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Justin Pettit, a Cherokee Nation citizen and radio broadcast host, uses an audio switchboard and multiple computers to host his radio show “JP in the Morning” at the Mix 105.1 KXMX radio station in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A microphone and headphones for guests are displayed at the Mix 105.1 KXMX radio station in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, where Cherokee Nation citizen Justin Pettit works as host of the radio show “JP in the Morning.” LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Justin Pettit, a Cherokee Nation citizen and radio broadcast host, works behind the microphone on March 6 at the Mix 105.1 KXMX radio station in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, during the “JP in the Morning” show. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Payton sees continued success in BMX

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/15/2017 09:00 AM
BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. – After participating in BMX, or bicycle motocross, for the past few years, Cherokee Nation citizen Payton Sarabia, 7, had a successful 2016 when it came to taking home the gold.

Priscilla, Payton’s mother, said Payton won the Arizona State championship and three other races.

“This year she won the championship for Arizona State, taking home the first, and then we also competed for Gold cup, which is regional (District Championship). She competed in two gold cups, South Central (Regional Championship) and South West (Regional Championship). She won both of those receiving the number one,” she said. “The South Central was in Texas, which was a new track for her, new girls, and she went out there and she had a clean sweep, but she got first place on all three days of the championship so she came home the overall winner. Then the Southwestern was in Arizona, she also brought home first place that weekend.”

In 2015, Payton won the Arizona championship and third place for the DK Bikes Gold Cup Regional Championship, both in the 5-and-under girls’ class.

Priscilla said Payton is doing “awesome” and that her district championship win was not separated by age, gender or skill level.
Payton Sarabia
Payton Sarabia
http://www.freddieferrell.com/

Group nears 40 years of preserving Goingsnake District history

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
03/14/2017 12:00 PM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – In Indian Territory, before Oklahoma statehood, the Cherokee Nation was divided into the Canadian, Cooweescoowee, Delaware, Flint, Goingsnake, Illinois, Saline, Sequoyah and Tahlequah districts.

The Goingsnake District Heritage Association is a nonprofit organization in Westville dedicated to the preservation of Cherokee history and genealogy, especially of the Goingsnake District.

GDHA President Jack Baker, of Oklahoma City, said the association was formed nearly 40 years ago to remember the history of the district, which encompassed what is now northern Adair County, a portion of eastern Cherokee County and a portion of southern Delaware County.

“It was formed in 1978 by a group of citizens in Westville whose families were all Cherokee citizens. They wanted to remember their families and what had happened in the (Cherokee) Nation,” said Baker, who was born on his grandfather’s land allotment in the Chewey Community of northern Adair County. “I may be the only one that’s left from that early time period. All of the ones who went to the early meetings, sometimes there would be only a half a dozen of us there, almost everyone of them are dead. But it was to remember what had happened and to perpetuate the history of the Goingsnake District.”

In 1983, the group started publishing the “Goingsnake Messenger,” a newsletter and historical journal that highlighted the group’s activities, genealogy and Cherokee history. The 30-page journal is now published twice a year.
The Goingsnake District was one of nine districts in the Cherokee Nation preceding Oklahoma statehood. It encompassed northern Adair County, part of eastern Cherokee County and part of southern Delaware County. Today, the Goingsnake District Heritage Association works to preserve the district’s Cherokee history and genealogy. COURTESY Goingsnake District Heritage Association historian Marybelle Chase, left, shares a history report at the association’s annual Christmas dinner at the Proctor (Oklahoma) Community Building. Normally, the GDHA meets the third Saturday of each month at the John F. Henderson Library in Westville. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Goingsnake District was one of nine districts in the Cherokee Nation preceding Oklahoma statehood. It encompassed northern Adair County, part of eastern Cherokee County and part of southern Delaware County. Today, the Goingsnake District Heritage Association works to preserve the district’s Cherokee history and genealogy. COURTESY

Ray stars in ‘Virginia Woolf’ production

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
03/14/2017 09:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen and Sequoyah High School drama teacher Amanda Ray starred in Northeastern State University Drama’s production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” which ran Feb. 15-18 at the NSU Playhouse.

Ray, a NSU graduate, said as an acting teacher she’s a firm believer that if she’s going to teach it she needs to do it well.

“I think coaches should play a game every once in a while. I think it’s good for you.” Ray said.

“In my career I have been fortunate to inhabit numerous different roles, whether it was a straight drama or a fun musical, but no experience comes close to playing Martha in Edward Albee’s Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play, ‘Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ It has been one of my favorite plays and by far my favorite role, and one I didn’t think I’d ever get the chance to play. NSU Theatre Company, which is my home stage, gave me that chance this past February, and I can’t thank my director, Dr. Robyn Pursley, enough for choosing me for this role.”

Ray said it was “exhilarating” being on the stage again in a role that was “emotionally draining and so rewarding.”
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizens Adam Childress, left, and Amanda Ray, along with actor and Northeastern State University Drama faculty member Chris Miller star in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on Feb. 15 at the NSU Playhouse in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizens Adam Childress, left, and Amanda Ray, along with actor and Northeastern State University Drama faculty member Chris Miller star in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on Feb. 15 at the NSU Playhouse in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Approximately 400 archers compete in ORES Tournament

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/10/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Approximately 400 archers from 30 schools across visited the Cherokee Nation’s Joe Thornton Archery Range on Feb. 24 to compete in the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament.

Brian Jackson, range coordinator, said the tournament was held to help students prepare for the state tournament.

“They wanted to host a tournament right before the state tournament, so we have 40 targets out there, over 400 archers and they’re going nuts out here,” he said.

Jackson said students could have scored a maximum of 300 points during the shoot.

“They will shoot at 10 meters, and they’ll shoot at 15 meters. They have three scoring rounds at 10 meters, three scoring rounds at 15 meters for a maximum of 300 possible points. Some of them will be in the top 280s, 290s,” he said.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizen Coy Brooks, 14, wearing cap, shoots during the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament on the Feb. 24 at the Cherokee Nation’s Joe Thornton Archery Range in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Brooks won first place in the boys division. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Joe Thornton Archery Range Coordinator Brian Jackson, right, helps a student with his scoring sheet on Feb. 24 during the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament at the Cherokee Nation’s archery ranger in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. About 400 students competed in the tournament. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Students from schools across Oklahoma shoot at targets on Feb. 24 during the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament at the Cherokee Nation’s Joe Thornton Archery Range in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Brian Jackson, range coordinator, said the tournament was held to help students prepare for the state tournament. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Coy Brooks, 14, wearing cap, shoots during the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament on the Feb. 24 at the Cherokee Nation’s Joe Thornton Archery Range in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Brooks won first place in the boys division. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Culture

Tiger wins Trail of Tears Art Show grand prize
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/18/2017 08:15 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Sac and Fox artist Tony Tiger took home the grand prize award for his work “Metamorphosis” at the Cherokee Heritage Center’s 46th annual Trail of Tears Art Show.

Winning artists for the show were announced April 7 during an opening-night celebration for the show, which can be viewed through May 6. The TOTAS is the longest-running Native American art show in Oklahoma and features a variety of authentic art. Featured artwork is available to purchase throughout the show’s duration.

CHC Interim Director Tonia Hogner Weavel said the show is open to any federally recognized tribal citizen. Artists competed for more than $14,000 in prize money in seven categories: paintings, graphics, sculpture, pottery, basketry, miniatures and jewelry.

“The art is the most prestigious in the country, and it is for sale to the public. The art show gives people the opportunity to see some of the most contemporary artists that are being featured nationally. So, we are pleased and happy to host this show,” she said.

Tiger said he has been participating in the art show for about 10 years, and this is the first time he’s won the grand prize.

“I was very surprised,” Tiger, who is also Seminole and Creek, said. “Artists have to have opportunities to exhibit their art, to sell their art, and this (TOTAS) is a wonderful way to do that.”

Cherokee Nation citizen Renee Hoover entered her contemporary double-wall baskets using round reed material in the show and won a first place award for her “My Mother’s Basket.”

“The Trail of Tears Art Show is really a special show. It recognizes the wonderful traditions of Native people and the artistry that we have. I especially like participating in it because of the quality of the art is outstanding. It’s very competitive, and I always come in worried ‘will I be good enough, will I be juried in?’ So, there’s a lot of anxiety,” she said. “It’s wonderful to also appreciate the artwork that’s here and the way we as Native people use our art to continue to allow our traditions and culture to thrive.”

For a complete list of awardees, visit www.Anadisgoi.com.

2017 TOTAS Winners & Awards

Painting: Roy Boney Jr., Cherokee Nation, “She Led Her By the Hand ”

Sculpture: Troy Jackson, Cherokee Nation, “Exodus, The Assembling of Displacement”

Basketry: Renee Hoover, Cherokee Nation, “My Mother’s Basket”

Pottery: Chase Earles, Caddo Nation, “Caddo Story of the Flood: Respect Land and Animals”

Jewelry: Toneh Chuleewah, Cherokee Nation, “Copper Style Bracelet”

Graphics: Brenda Bradford, Cherokee Nation, “Light Through Fire”

Miniature: Merlin Littlethunder, Cheyenne Nation, “Chiefs Meeting on Water Rights”

Emerging Artists: Kellie Vann, Cherokee Nation, “Bath Time for Super Heroes”

Bill Rabbit Legacy Award: Karin Walkingstick, Cherokee Nation, “Tsi-s-du”

Betty Garner Elder Award: Paul Hacker, Choctaw Nation, “The Chief”

Education

CN donates $14K to Kansas Public Schools
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/18/2017 01:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials donated $14,000 to Kansas Public Schools in Delaware County to help construct an indoor hitting facility for the school’s baseball and softball teams.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell presented KHS head baseball and softball coach Austin Graham the check at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.

“Schools today don’t have the extra revenue to dedicate toward the needs of extracurricular activities,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. “It’s great that the tribe can step up and help schools like Kansas partially fill the funding gap so that students can have amenities like the baseball and softball teams’ indoor hitting facility.”

Graham said that without the donation, the hitting facility would not be possible.

“The tribe’s help is huge,” Graham said. “We wouldn’t even be able to think about getting new batting cages or a building built without their support.”

The tribe donated the money from its special projects fund.

Council

Legislators resolve to protect tribally owned land
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/12/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At the April 10 Tribal Council meeting, legislators unanimously passed an act to protect Cherokee Nation-owned lands against ingress, egress and encroachment.

‘The Principal Chief will direct appropriate offices and staff within the executive branch to not allow any individual, company or any other entity to restrict ingress/egress access to any Cherokee Nation property, to not allow any encroachment on any Cherokee properties whatsoever and if any entity has restricted ingress/egress or encroached on Cherokee Nation property to begin negotiations or legal proceedings to resolve ingress/egress problems, or remove encroachments on Cherokee Nation property,” the legislation states.

During the March 21 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Dick Lay said he’s thought about the “protection” of tribal property since the tribe began purchasing more land.

“I’ve been thinking about this for years now, since we’ve started purchasing more property in the Cherokee Nation…the protection of our property and our lands, whether it be trust…or anything else,” he said. “I’ve checked with our legal counsel and with the assistant AG (attorney general) to make sure that this act does not interfere with any previous acts or resolutions or any other work that we’ve done previously in granting easements and that sort of thing.”

The bill follows the legislators rejecting a resolution in January to lease 190 acres of trust land in Adair County to Hunt Mill Hollow Ranch. The ranch is a hunting resort, and its owner wanted to lease the acreage to resolve a trespassing issue with the tribe. After purchasing approximately 5,000 acres nearly a decade ago, the ranch owner fenced in his property as well as CN trust land.

Legislators also unanimously authorized a right-of-way easement to Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company for the W.W. Hasting’s Hospital expansion. Ground was broken for a 469,000-square-foot addition in February.

During the April 10 Resource Committee meeting, Lay said he had concerns about a waiver in the right-of-way bill.

“We need power and gas and so forth, but I keep seeing, in fact, I see them on all three of these resolutions that are coming through Resources. Mr. Speaker and I, we’ve talked about these waivers of evaluation and waivers of bonds, waivers of compensation. Whenever I see a waiver, a red flag goes up, and forgive me for being so independent, but that’s just the way I am,” Lay said.

Joel Bean, of the CN Realty Department, said the waiver in place because the tribe wasn’t requesting any “compensation” for the land.

“For a project that we’re not requesting any compensation for, that’s the reason we’re asking for the wavier evaluation because there’s not really a reason for the tribe to spend three or $4,000 getting an appraisal done for the easement and the substation itself that we’re not going to be charging that company the money for,” he said. “The tribe itself isn’t going to charge for that easement itself, you know. If we’re charging for a pipeline going across our property or something like that we wouldn’t include the wavier unless it was for something that was supplying Cherokee Nation’s property or the business or the buildings or houses. Everything’s going to be supplied to the Nation.”

Lay said he didn’t “like” waivers but voted for the resolution “under protest.”

“What we’re doing here is a good thing. We need it. We gotta have it. But I’m going to vote for it under protest of all these waivers. I just don’t like these waivers because some of these things were built up and sent up for the protection of tribes at one time or another,” he said.

During the Tribal Council meeting, legislators also unanimously passed a resolution to allow the building of seven storm shelters for Head Start facilities in the tribe’s jurisdiction.

During the April 10 Education Committee meeting, Christina Carroll, of CN Grant Services, said the facilities were chosen because they are “Cherokee-owned facilities.”

“We can’t place them on state land or non-tribal facilities. So the seven facilities will be all various communities, and they’ll get shelters that fit their needs for each building,” she said. “They will be attached to the facilities. It’s not a under the ground or anything like that. It’s a additional room on the building and they will be FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)-rated buildings.”

Legislators also unanimously passed a resolution to sponsor a CN Scout Award for the Boy Scouts of America.

During the March 21 Rules Committee meeting, Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said by sponsoring the award “every Cherokee boy in scouting throughout the United States, or throughout the world, can achieve a Cherokee Scout Knot for their uniform.”

In other business, legislators:

• Increased the fiscal year 2017 capital budget by $375,000 to $279.9 million,

• Increased the FY 2017 operating budget by $2.02 million to $669.9 million,

• Approved Dewayne Marshall as a Sequoyah High School board of education member,

• Authorized CN to lease approximately 25 acres of tribal trust land on which a gym and ball field are located to the CC Camp Community Organization in Adair County,

• Authorized the BIA to update the tribe’s inventory of tribal transportation facilities,

• Authorized an application to the Federal Highway Administration for two bridges over Wickliffe Creek in Mayes County,

• Approved CN warehouse donations to Maryetta School, Boys & Girls Club in Delaware County, Disney Assembly of God Church, Spavinaw Community Building, Cedar Tree Baptist Church, Calvary Indian Baptist Church, Stilwell Public Library and the Neighborhood Association of Chewey, and

• Approved CN Education Service donations to Bluejacket Public School.

Health

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

Walters selected as NAIHC executive director
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/03/2017 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – Cherokee Nation citizen Anthony “Tony” Walters has been named the executive director for the National American Indian Housing Council, which recently restructured its management positions.

Walters will lead the NAIHC beginning April 3. Tony is from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, and most recently served as staff director and chief counsel to Sen. Jon Tester for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, a NAIHC press release states.

“He brings with him a strong background in advocacy and Indian law and policy, including the development of legislative strategies,” the release states.

His education includes a bachelor’s degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and juris doctorate from the Oklahoma University College of Law.

“The Board of Directors strongly believes Tony is the right person to lead our organization as we strengthen our advocacy at the federal level,” states the release.

Pamala Silas, the current executive director, will remain with the NAIHC as deputy director until Tony acclimates to his new role, according to the release.

“Pamala has done an outstanding job at the helm of NAIHC and we are grateful. The NAIHC is an ever-changing organization and Pamala’s organizational expertise has been instrumental to our success as we adapted to changes in our environment and the needs of our members,” the release states.

The NAIHC is composed of 278 members representing 463 tribes and housing organizations.
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