Ensign-Scroggins gives exotic animals home

Reporter – @cp_bbennett
06/26/2017 08:00 AM
BROKEN ARROW, Okla. – Since 1995, Safari’s Sanctuary has provided refuge to exotic animals that cannot be taken by zoos or returned to the wild. Cherokee Nation citizen Lori Ensign-Scroggins founded the nonprofit volunteer wildlife sanctuary and cares for more than 180 animals including lions, tigers, bears, snakes, lemurs, wolves and monkeys.

It took her purchasing an exotic animal from a breeder to open her eyes to the consequences of doing so.

“They ran ads in the Tulsa World for bobcats for sale, and I thought it was cool,” she said. “I was 18, and that just seemed awesome. So I bought one and had it in Tulsa city limits in my bedroom, litter box-trained as a pet.”

What the breeder did not tell her was that owning a bobcat inside city limits was illegal.

“In a nutshell, I was one of the bad people,” she said. “It was ignorance. I did not know. The breeders don’t tell you when they’re selling them. They want the money, so you have to learn it all yourself. You don’t get an owner’s manual.”
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizen Lori Ensign-Scroggins performs a quick checkup on a Canadian lynx while working at Safari’s Sanctuary, which she founded in 1995, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Two Paw, a tiger at Safari’s Sanctuary, was originally purchased as a pet. Cherokee Nation citizen Lori Ensign-Scroggins founded the nonprofit volunteer wildlife sanctuary and cares for more than 180 animals including lions, bears, snakes, lemurs, wolves and monkeys.  BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Hemi is a rambunctious 9-month-old, 170-pound cub with an affinity for the tub of water in his enclosure. The tiger is the first cub that Safari’s Sanctuary owner Lori Ensign-Scroggins has taken. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Safari’s Sanctuary is home to numerous animals including Apollo, a male wolf that came to the sanctuary after his owners could no longer physically or mentally care for him. The neglect left Apollo and his mate, River, timid and skittish of most humans. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Lori Ensign-Scroggins performs a quick checkup on a Canadian lynx while working at Safari’s Sanctuary, which she founded in 1995, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Turtle wins Miss Junior Indian Oklahoma crown

06/09/2017 08:00 AM
DURANT, Okla. – Former Junior Miss Cherokee Chelbie Turtle was recently crowned Junior Miss Indian Oklahoma by the Oklahoma Federation of Indian Women and will spend the next year as a goodwill ambassador for Oklahoma tribes.

The Junior Miss Indian Oklahoma competition was held in conjunction with the annual Miss Indian Oklahoma Scholarship Pageant in Durant.

As Junior Miss Indian Oklahoma, Turtle will promote the OFIW mission fostering friendship among Oklahoma’s Native American women, preserving culture and heritage, promoting education and uplifting younger Native women. Her platform is “The Value of Higher Education.”

“I believe education is important. Math, English, science, reading and writing – those core subjects – are important to younger children and really establish their future and how they view the world. I want to promote to kids that education is important,” Turtle, who served as the 2014-15 Junior Miss Cherokee, said.

Turtle said she learned the values of being a tribal ambassador from her mother, who is a former Miss Cherokee, Miss Indian Oklahoma and Miss Indian USA.
Chelbie Turtle
Chelbie Turtle

Gourd named new CHC executive director

06/07/2017 08:30 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Cherokee National Historical Society board of directors has selected Dr. Charles Gourd as the Cherokee Heritage Center’s new executive director.

Gourd is a Cherokee Nation citizen from Park Hill with a background in nonprofit fundraising strategies, donor relations and Native affairs.

As the executive director, Gourd will work alongside the CNHS board to ensure the CHC advances its mission to preserve, promote and teach Cherokee history and culture.

“I am honored to be selected for this position and have the opportunity to work with so many others who share my passion and long-term interest in the future of the Cherokee Heritage Center,” Gourd said. “This is also somewhat of a homecoming for me, as I was one of the first tour guides at CHC and also participated in the Trail of Tears drama when I was young. I have worked for the tribe off and on throughout my lifetime, but this position felt more like a calling than a job, so I came out of retirement to serve the Cherokee people.”

Gourd has more than 30 years of experience in grant research, writing, management and administration. He previously served as executive director for the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission and serves on federal peer review panels for federal agencies.

Holland selected as OU museum summer intern

05/31/2017 08:15 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – School may be out for summer, but for Cherokee Nation citizen Ashley Holland her research internship at the University of Oklahoma’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art is just beginning.

Thanks to a recent Mellon Foundation grant, Holland joins two other interns as they give a hard look at Native American art and history at the museum on the Norman campus.

Holland recently completed her first year of doctoral studies at OU in Native American art history. She will support exhibitions development and provide object research on the Cherokee materials held in the museum’s permanent collection. Her research interests include Cherokee art and contemporary Native American art. Holland earned her master’s degree in museum studies from Indiana University. Holland formerly served as assistant curator at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

Joining her are Mark Esquivel and Alicia Harris.

Esquivel has completed his first year of doctoral studies in Native American art history at OU. He will be supporting exhibitions development and providing object research on the work of Luis Jiménez, Emelio Amero and the Mexican photography materials held in the museum’s permanent collections.
Cherokee Nation citizen Ashley Holland, right, stands with fellow Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art summer interns. The three will perform research at the University of Oklahoma facility thanks to a Mellon Foundation grant. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Ashley Holland, right, stands with fellow Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art summer interns. The three will perform research at the University of Oklahoma facility thanks to a Mellon Foundation grant. COURTESY

Fostering, adopting children grows Cherokee family

Reporter – @cp_bbennett
05/30/2017 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Walking up to the front door of the McGavock home and seeing toys peppered across the yard, one would never think Mike and Danielle were ever hesitant to foster and adopt three children.

In fact, Danielle admitted to blindsiding her husband with the desire after more than a month of prayer.

“My initial reaction was no, but she was praying for me that my heart would change and God started working on my heart,” Mike said. “I started seeing how God had laid this before us and then we just started walking down that path.”

That path eventually led the couple to Sally Wilson, an assistant with the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare. Wilson informs families of the need for tribal foster homes for the more than 80 Cherokee children in foster care, as well as the approximately 1,400 children throughout the United States whose cases are being worked by ICW.

“It’s sad when our children are removed,” Wilson said. “They kind of get that sense of being away from their tribe, like the way it is for our citizens who live outside of this region.”
The McGavock home in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is decorated with photos of all three of their adopted children, including a collage of photos surrounding the letter ‘M’ for McGavock. Mike and Danielle served as foster parents before adopting. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Mike and Danielle McGavock said their family and Park Hill Baptist Church have been their support system throughout each foster and adoption process. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX The two older McGavock children look at the neighborhood from the front porch of their home, guitars in hand. The children were adopted through the Cherokee Nation’s Indian Child Welfare program. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The McGavock home in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, is decorated with photos of all three of their adopted children, including a collage of photos surrounding the letter ‘M’ for McGavock. Mike and Danielle served as foster parents before adopting. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Rose working hard on her tennis game

Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
05/22/2017 02:45 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. – Macy Rose recently received a 2017 U.S. Tennis Association Native American Scholar Athlete Leadership Grant. The 13-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen is the No. 17-ranked girl in USTA Southwest Girls 14 and under rankings. She recently won the Lobo Tennis Club Winter Junior Open, the Jerry Cline Junior Open in 2016 and captured the women’s open title at the USTA Southwest Indoor Championships. She is ranked No. 1 in New Mexico and is pursuing a top 20 national ranking.

Originally from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Macy’s mother, Wahlesah Rose, also a CN citizen, was a tennis player at Northeastern State University and has been a section and national-level volunteer for the USTA for almost 10 years. Macy’s father, Eric Rose, is the owner and director of tennis at Shellaberger Tennis Center in Santa Fe.

“My mom taught me at the Tahlequah High School tennis courts. I would chase the balls around and eventually I started hitting them. I saw her teaching my cousins and other kids and playing, and I couldn’t wait to start hitting,” Macy said. “My parents let me come to tennis on my own. They both loved it. I told them my dream, and they told me how much hard work it is. I didn’t believe them, but now I do. It’s about the work and dedication each day to something, even when you don’t feel like it.”

Along with submitting an essay to the USTA about how the game of tennis has impacted her life and information about her future tennis aspirations, Macy showed that she maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. She is of the Wolf Clan and attended the Cherokee Immersion Charter School until her family moved to Santa Fe when she was 7.

“I’m from Briggs (Oklahoma). I still go home and visit all my family. Each birthday my cousins and friends still sing to me in Cherokee. My mom will yell phrases in Cherokee to me on court and, when she says my Cherokee name, I know she is serious,” Macy said. “It’s in me. It always has been, and it always will be. No matter where I travel to, my home and tribe is always in my heart. My clan is known as the protectors, and I can see that in my family. We are strong women. We enjoy caring for others, and we don’t give up on the tennis court or in life.”
Cherokee Nation citizen Macy Rose is a Briggs, Oklahoma, native and recently received a 2017 U.S. Tennis Association Native American Scholar Athlete Leadership Grant. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Macy Rose is a Briggs, Oklahoma, native and recently received a 2017 U.S. Tennis Association Native American Scholar Athlete Leadership Grant. COURTESY

Actress balances Hollywood, high school

05/16/2017 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Samantha Isler’s life is one of maintaining a balance in all things.
Learning about this young woman’s movie-making might make you think “high-profile and Hollywood” — but she’s all about low-profile and Tulsa.

The Cherokee Nation citizen’s latest movie, “Dig Two Graves,” opened in theaters — a couple of weeks before she graduates from Bishop Kelley High School.

She’ll have another movie — appearing in the directing debut of Aaron Sorkin and playing a young version of Jessica Chastain’s character — that’s being pegged for awards-season this fall, at a time when she’ll be a freshman in college.

She’ll tell you that what she really enjoys is attending a game at her school or going out to eat with her family or walking around downtown Tulsa.

Actor Viggo Mortensen takes a picture of Cherokee Nation citizen Samantha Isler and actress Meryl Streep in January at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Isler calls it the “best photo ever.” FACEBOOK Samantha Isler Samantha Isler
Actor Viggo Mortensen takes a picture of Cherokee Nation citizen Samantha Isler and actress Meryl Streep in January at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Isler calls it the “best photo ever.” FACEBOOK

2 Cherokees selected for International Soccer Tour

05/08/2017 08:00 AM
FORT GIBSON, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens and Fort Gibson High School juniors Colby Leonard and Grayson Ramey are expected to travel to Germany this summer to play soccer on a team representing the United States.

Putnam City North soccer coach Tom Pecore selected the two boys to play on the International Soccer Tour that will feature trips to Munich, Heidelberg and Cologne. The team is expected to play four international friendly matches from July 19-29.

“We want these boys to be exposed to the best soccer training in the world,” Pecore said.

Leonard and Ramey led the Fort Gibson Tigers to a regular-season District 4A-6 championship by scoring 26 and 16 goals, respectively. Leonard also broke several school records, including his own with a career number of goals of 61 as of publication.

Overall, Fort Gibson was 13-2 and had won 11 straight games by a combined score of 57-3, including a 1-0 triumph over 6A Jenks and a 3-2 victory over Siloam Springs, the defending 6A Arkansas state champion, in the final of that school’s Panther Classic Tournament.
Cherokee Nation citizens and Fort Gibson High School juniors Grayson Ramey, left, and Colby Leonard are expected to travel to Germany this summer to play soccer on a team representing the United States. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizens and Fort Gibson High School juniors Grayson Ramey, left, and Colby Leonard are expected to travel to Germany this summer to play soccer on a team representing the United States. COURTESY

Blind child in Oklahoma inspires Facebook group

04/28/2017 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) – Kimberly Politte cast the first stone and started a colorful rockslide.

Politte created the Facebook group 918 Rocks!

People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code.

918 Rocks! once was an itty bitty group, but it has boomed in popularity. Barely half a year old, the group has almost 9,000 members.

The story behind the story — the person who inspired Politte to create 918 Rocks! — is her 8-year-old son, Hunter.
Rocks painted with a crown and SpongeBob Squarepants are found at a Reasor’s Grocery story in Owasso, Oklahoma. The rocks are part of the Facebook group 918 Rocks! People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code. The group was inspired by Hunter Kelley, a Cherokee Nation citizen who survived cancer. 918 ROCKS!
Rocks painted with a crown and SpongeBob Squarepants are found at a Reasor’s Grocery story in Owasso, Oklahoma. The rocks are part of the Facebook group 918 Rocks! People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code. The group was inspired by Hunter Kelley, a Cherokee Nation citizen who survived cancer. 918 ROCKS!


June 22, 1839: a bloody day in Cherokee Nation
Former Reporter,
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez &
Former Reporter
06/22/2017 12:00 PM
This is an archive story that the Cherokee Phoenix is publishing on the anniversary of the day that three prominent Cherokees were killed.

DUTCH MILLS, Ark. – On the morning of June 22, 1839, three small bands of Cherokees carried out “blood law” upon Major Ridge, John Ridge and Elias Boudinot – three prominent Cherokees who signed a treaty in 1835 calling for the tribe’s removal to Indian Territory.

Tribal Councilor Jack Baker said he believes “blood law” was the basis for the men’s assassinations.

“Although they did not follow all of the procedures, I do believe that was the basis for the executions,” Baker said. “I believe the proper procedure should have been followed. They should have been brought to trial and that was not done.”

The Cherokee General Council put the law, which had existed for years, into writing on Oct. 24, 1829.

According to Thurman Wilkins’ “Cherokee Tragedy,” the law stated “if any citizen or citizens of this Nation should treat and dispose of any lands belonging to this Nation without special permission from the National authorities, he or they shall suffer death; Therefore…any person or persons who shall, contrary to the will and consent of the legislative council of this Nation…enter into a treaty with any commissioner or commissioners of the United States, or any officers instructed for that purpose, and agree to sell or dispose of any part or portion of the National lands defined in this Constitution of this Nation, he or they so offending, upon conviction before any of the circuit judges aforesaid are authorized to call a court for the trial of any such person or persons so transgressing. Be it Further Resolved; that any person or persons, who shall violate the provisions of this act, and shall refuse, by resistance, to appear at the place designated for trial, or abscond, are hereby declared to be outlaws; and any person or persons, citizens of this Nation, may kill him or them so offending, in any manner most convenient…and shall not be held accountable for the same.”

It is thought that John Ross Party members carried out this law in the killings of the Ridges and Boudinot.

Major Ridge

He was born in the Cherokee town of Great Hiwassee, later a part of Tennessee. He was initiated as a warrior early and known by several names including Nunnehidihi, meaning “He Who Slays The Enemy In His Path,” and Ganundalegi, which meant “The Man Who Walks On The Mountain Top” or “The Ridge.”

He received the name Major while fighting with U.S. Gen. Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend during the Creek War in 1814. He used Major as his first name the rest of his life.

According to the Oklahoma Historical Society, in the1820s gold sparked a demand to get rid of Cherokee titles to lands within Georgia.

“While the federal government tried to create inducements to convince the Southeastern Indians to leave their homes, the discovery of gold in Georgia led to more aggressive demands for immediate removal,” the OHS website states.

While Congress debated the issues with removal, several Cherokees negotiated a removal agreement with the United States, according to the OHS.

“Major Ridge, a Cherokee planter and soldier, his son John Ridge, and his nephew Elias Boudinot conducted these negotiations with the United States despite the expressed wishes of the majority of their nation. Most Cherokees, including Principal Chief John Ross, protested and tried to stop Ridge and his so-called Treaty Party,” the OHS site states. “On May 28, 1830, while Ridge and his supporters negotiated terms of removal with the United States, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act.”

This law provided $500,000 to establish districts west of the Mississippi River, to trade eastern tribal lands for those districts, to compensate the tribes for the cost of their removal and the improvements on their homesteads, and to pay one year’s worth subsistence to those who went west, the website states.

Armed with this authority, Andrew Jackson, who was now president, authorized agents to negotiate and enforce treaties.

Major and 56 other Cherokees signed the Treaty of New Echota on Dec. 29, 1835. Major, who could not write, made his mark on the treaty. That ultimately led to his death.

According to “Cherokee Tragedy,” one of three bands of Cherokees sought to kill Major on the same morning as John Ridge and Elias Boudinot.

“Having learned that he had left the previous day for Van Buren (Arkansas), where one of his slaves lay ill, they had followed him down the Line Road. They discovered where he had spent the night, beneath the roof of Ambrose Harnage, at Cincinnati, Arkansas, and they rode ahead to form an ambush,” the book states.

Five men hid in the brush of trees where the road crossed White Rock Creek, now Little Branch, near Dutchtown, now known as Dutch Mills.

“At ten o’clock, Major Ridge came riding down the highway with a colored boy in attendance. Several rifles cracked. The Ridge slumped in his saddle, his head and body pierced by five bullets,” according to the book.

Those thought to have fired upon him were James Foreman, Anderson Springston, Bird Doublehead, Isaac Springton, James Hair and Jefferson Hair.

Major’s body was recovered by nearby settlers and buried in a cemetery in what is now Piney, Okla. He was later moved and buried near his home on Honey Creek in northern Delaware County.

John Ridge

John was born in Georgia to Major and Susannah Wickett Ridge in 1802.

Growing up, John attended school at the Springplace Mission in Georgia and then Brainerd Mission in Tennessee. In 1819, he went to the Foreign Mission School in Cornwall, Conn., which existed until 1827.

While attending the Foreign Mission School, he met his wife, the daughter of the school’s steward, Sarah Bird Northrup. The couple married in 1824. The biracial union caused uproar from the town of Cornwall resulting in John and his wife leaving.

According to Robert J. Conley’s “A Cherokee Encyclopedia” later that year, John went with his father and Chief Ross to Washington, D.C. to protest the possible removal of Cherokees from all lands east of the Mississippi River.

In 1830, President Jackson pushed his removal bill through Congress and it passed into law. In 1832, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Rev. Samuel Worcester v. Georgia that Georgia’s laws over Cherokee territory were illegal and unconstitutional. It ruled that the Cherokee Nation had sovereign status, however Jackson refused to enforce the ruling in favor of the Cherokees, which caused John to change his position.

Feeling that the Cherokees had no other course of action, he began to speak in favor of negotiating a removal treaty with the United States and on Dec. 29, 1835, along with others known as the Ridge Party or Treaty Party, he signed the Treaty of New Echota.

Those who signed the treaty were Cherokee Nation citizens but were not elected officials. After signing, he moved with his family to present-day Oklahoma in 1837.

The U.S. Senate ratified the treaty and although Chief Ross and others protested it, it led to the removal in 1838-39 known as the Trail of Tears. The U.S. Army began forcing Cherokees and their slaves (for those who had them) out of their homes. On Aug. 23, 1838, the first removal detachment of Cherokees left, and on Dec. 5, 1838, the 13th detachment left. It arrived in Indian Territory on March 18, 1839. Approximately 4,000 Cherokees died along the trail.

According to the treaty, Cherokees who wished to remain in the East could do so but would be required to become U.S. citizens by giving up their tribal status, a provision that was ignored during the removal.

Because the treaty surrendered all Cherokee land, Ross supporters, the Ross or National Party, regarded the Treaty Party as traitors.
On June 22, 1839, John, his father Major and Boudinot were assassinated for having signed the treaty.

According to “Cherokee Tragedy,” 25 men reached John’s house in the morning and, while he was still in bed, fired a gun at John’s head. The gun failed to fire. He was then dragged outside and stabbed 26 times in the torso and neck. While still alive, he was then stomped on and kicked, all in front of his wife, mother and son, John Rollin Ridge.

John was buried about 150 yards to 500 yards from his home in Polson Cemetery, which is located southeast of Grove, Okla. near the Oklahoma/Missouri state line in Delaware County.

Elias Boudinot

The sentiments among the Cherokee people in June 1839 in Indian Territory could be said were of misery, mistrust and resentment.

The last detachment of Cherokees forcibly removed from the East had arrived three months before and they were attempting to rebuild their lives. However, Chief Ross wished to reunite the tribe’s three factions, which lived together in what is now northeastern Oklahoma.

He called a meeting at an Illinois River camp ground located a few miles southeast of where Tahlequah now sits, and tried to get the Old Settlers, Cherokees who had settled the territory in the early 1800s, and members of the Treaty Party, Cherokees who had signed away Cherokee lands in the East, to reunite with his party or faction.

Boudinot, the Cherokee Phoenix’s first editor, his uncle Major Ridge and Major’s son, John, were members of the Treaty Party.

The two smaller factions declined any union with Ross, and the meeting broke up on June 21. Based on an 1890 statement by Allen Ross, John Ross’ son, men who had signed the 1835 Treaty and opposed John Ross as chief caused the anti-union dissention.

“After several days of endeavor to get together and having failed, some of the leaders of the emigrants called a secret meeting without the knowledge or consent of my father John Ross at what is now known as Double Springs about four miles northwest of Tahlequah for the purpose of making plans to effect an act of union,” Allen’s statement reads.

The discussion turned to the blood law passed by the Cherokee National Council that stated that any Cherokee who agreed or signed an agreement to sell Cherokee lands should forfeit their lives.

“Believing that the same men who had made the Treaty of 1835 were responsible for the failure of the Cherokee people to get together, this meeting decided that these three men (Boudinot and the two Ridges) should be executed as provided by the law,” Allen wrote. “The meeting further decided that this meeting must be kept from their chief because he would prevent it as he had once before at Red Clay before their removal.”

A committee was appointed to arrange details. Numbers were placed in a hat for each person present. Twelve numbers had an X mark after them, which indicated the executioners. Allen wrote he was not allowed to draw and was tasked to go his father’s home the evening before the executions and to stay with him and if possible keep him from finding out what was being done.

According to a letter written on June 26 by Boudinot’s friend and confidant, Rev. Samuel Worcester, Boudinot was living with Worcester at Park Hill near Tahlequah and was building a home about a quarter mile away. Worcester was at the construction site the morning Boudinot was killed.

“There he was, last Saturday morning, when some men came up, inquiring for medicine. He set out with them to come and get it and had walked but a few rods when he was heard to shriek, and his hired men, at and near his house ran to his help, but before they could reach the spot, the deed was done,” Worcester wrote. “They seemed to have stabbed Mr. Boudinot in the back with a knife, and then finished their dreadful work with a hatchet, inflicting seven strokes, two or three of which sunk deep into his head. To me he was a dear friend, a most intimate companion, and a most valued helper.”

An act of union was formed the next month and the newly formed council pardoned all parties connected with the assassinations of the Ridges and Boudinot.

Boudinot is buried in the Worcester Cemetery in Park Hill, about a mile from where the Cherokee Phoenix is published.
The three assassinations are thought to have helped form the basis of the July 12, 1839, act of union that brought together the Old Settlers and the Ross and Treaty parties.

Baker said Emmet Starr’s “History of the Cherokee Indians and Their Legends and Folklore” states that the Eastern and Western Cherokees came together to form one body politic. This, Baker said, led to the CN constitution two months later.


UKB, NSU officials sign MOU
06/21/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A new cornerstone for capacity building was put into place June 14 at the United Keetoowah Band John Hair Cultural Center & Museum with the signing of a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between Northeastern State University and the UKB.

“This memorandum solidifies the collaborative opportunities for both institutions. It will help to further our respective missions for developing learning opportunities and creating educational and economic success for the health and productive futures of our populations,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch. “Our tribe is honored to sign this MOU with the university. The alliance with NSU offers incredible resources, experiences and opportunities for both entities to forge new paths and grow together. The cooperative agreement with NSU, an outstanding regional university, represents new promise, hope and progress for enhancing and developing many of the important programs and services for the UKB going forward.”

UKB Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson said the UKB Tribal Council unanimously endorsed the dedicated relationship, honoring NSU’s standards of excellence, quality teaching, challenging curricula, research and scholarly activities – particularly its goal to provide immersive learning opportunities for their faculty and students in service to the local community.

“We envision the collaborative relationship to include capacity building areas of elder community services, sustainable language, kinesiology/recreation, Indian Child Welfare, child development, tribal libraries and technology and more. The tribe and university have also agreed to consider undertaking mutually beneficial, sanctioned research and grant-funded projects,” he said.

After signing the agreement, NSU President Steve Turner cited the rich educational heritage of the Cherokee people and the university’s respect for the UKB as two key elements that led to the partnership. He also acknowledged the UKB’s commitment to higher education and deep roots with the university and the Cherokee Nation.

“We seek collaborations such as this alliance with the UKB to advance or mission of helping all of our region to achieve professional and personal success in this multicultural and global society,” Turner said. “NSU continues to devote faculty and student services resources toward collaborative projects with the tribe and other American Indians that encourage, inspire and support tribal members to lead healthy and productive lives and to encourage the pursuit of post-secondary education at our institution.”

The memorandum will be supported by a joint committee comprised of individuals from both the university and the tribe who will provide oversight for the activities and projects included in the alliance.


Council confirms Barteaux as District Court judge
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
05/18/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – At the May 15 Tribal Council meeting, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Garrett swore in T. Luke Barteaux as a District Court judge after legislators confirmed his appointment.

Barteaux is completing the late Bart Fite’s term, which expires on Feb. 10, 2018.

Fourteen Tribal Councilors voted to approve the appointment, while Tribal Councilors Shawn Crittenden, Harley Buzzard and Buel Anglen opposed it.

Barteaux, 33, of Bixby, said he considers the appointment the “pinnacle” of his career.

“It’s something that I never thought would happen within this amount of time, but I’m extremely honored to have been appointed by (Principal) Chief (Bill John) Baker and confirmed by the Tribal Council. I look forward to helping protect our Nation through the legal process,” he said.

He said prior to the appointment his only experience as a judge was serving on the Oklahoma Trial Advocacy Institute.

“I’m a faculty member at the Oklahoma Trial Advocacy Institute, which trains attorneys, and I have, basically judging their performances and things like that,” he said. “I’ve been a panel member for judging the mock trial competitions for, I think it’s out of Pryor, the last two years.”

Barteaux said he has been licensed and acting on his own as an attorney since 2012, with his legal career officially starting in 2009.

“My legal career started back in 2009, and I think around 2011 I started basically practicing under the supervision of another attorney here at my current firm (Fry & Elder),” he said.

Barteaux also addressed concerns about discrepancies on his résumé with dates regarding his time acting as an attorney.

“My current position, I believe it said the dates were June of 2011 to current, and underneath it it said attorney or trial attorney, and there was a question regarding whether or not I was an attorney that entire time,” he said. “The reason it had been worded that way, and kind of stepping back, the jobs underneath were done the same way and it was just the main job. I work at Fry & Elder now and those are the dates that I have worked here, and the position underneath it is the main job I’ve had and the current job. So it was more of me trying to fit a resume on one page and someone brought up, I guess, wanting more of a full job history instead of just what the final job or main job while I was there.”

Legislators also unanimously authorized the establishment of a CN conservation district.

Bruce Davis, management resources executive director, brought the resolution to the May 15 Resource Committee meeting after a trip to the United States Department of Agriculture where he and others learned of 47 programs available to the tribe and its citizens that are not being utilized.

“The first thing we’ve got to do before we can apply for these programs are pass this resolution to start our own conservation district, the Cherokee Nation Conservation District, before we can apply for these monies,” he said.

According to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission’s website, a conservation district serves “as the primary local unit of government responsible for the conservation of the renewable natural resources.”

Bryan Shade, CN chief special project analyst, said the resolution would “authorize” Principal Chief Bill John Baker to establish the conservation district that would allow tribal citizens to visit it rather than the state’s conservation district. He added that establishing the district would help the tribe “streamline” certain operations.

“It’s the exact same thing the state of Oklahoma’s doing, but this district will exist in our 14-county area,” Shade said. “By taking on this function, right now the Cherokee Nation has to go through those state offices, get our lands put in the database, in the system, before we can take advantage of these programs. By establishing this conservation district we’ll be able to do this ourselves and help us streamline things.”

In other business, legislators:

• Increased the tribe’s fiscal year 2017 concurrent enrollment fund by $87,000,

• Increased the FY 2017 capital budget by $857,848 to $279 million,

• Reappointed Amber Lynn George to the Cherokee Nation Foundation board,

• Approved Wilfred C. Gernandt III to the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Care Agency governing board,

• Reappointed Dan Carter as a Cherokee Nation Businesses board member,

• Approved a resolution for Tribal Council to receive a confidential report monthly of all charitable donations and surplus equipment donations from all CN subsidiaries,

• Granted a right-of-way easement on an existing natural gas line to the Oklahoma Natural Gas Company for Cherokee Heights Addition in Pryor, and

• Authorized a sovereign immunity waiver for software agreement between Sequoyah Schools with Municipal Accounting Systems.


CN Health Services earns Public Health Innovation Award
06/22/2017 08:00 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Cherokee Nation Health Services recently received the Public Health Innovation Award from the National Indian Health Board at a national conference in June.

The Public Health Innovation Award is given annually to the tribal government, individual, organization or program that best exemplifies the advancement of public health for Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.

The tribe was recognized for its efforts at the eighth annual National Tribal Public Health Summit in Anchorage.

“Cherokee Nation Health Services strives to be a leader in health care throughout Indian Country,” Connie Davis, CNHS executive director, said. “On behalf of our Cherokee Nation Health Services employees, I thank the National Indian Health Board for this honor. It’s truly humbling for our team to receive this recognition, and I commend each and every one of our employees who make Cherokee Nation Health Services a first-class department.”

The tribe’s Public Health department educates citizens on healthy eating and exercise habits, and also addresses common challenges such as alcohol and tobacco use awareness within the tribe.

Senior Director of Public Health Lisa Pivec accepted the award and spoke about building public health infrastructure.

“The most rewarding aspect of the recognition is knowing we are honoring those who have gone before us to ensure we have this great Cherokee Nation to protect and preserve,” Pivec said. “I believe that any successes are the result of the work of so many citizens over the years, people devoted to paving the way for our next generations.”

In 2016, Pivec was also recognized by the NIHB with its area impact award. The award highlighted her impact on the tribe’s growing public health program since 1994, when Pivec helped start the tribe’s Healthy Nation program.

“Lisa led the development of public health at Cherokee Nation from its infancy, and the tribal nation is now the first Public Health Accreditation Board-accredited tribal public health system,” the NIHB said in a statement about the nomination. “Now, Cherokee citizens consider the vast number of prevention programs she developed as a part of their daily activities. Along with her staff, Lisa has created great changes in health among the Cherokee people she serves.”

In addition to presenting awards for public health innovation and area impact, the NIHB works with tribes on advocacy, training and legislation to better Native health care.

“Public health is about addressing the social determinants of health and strengthening the environments where we live, work, play, learn and worship,” Pivec said. “I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to serve and do work that doesn’t feel like a job but more like a life purpose.”


'Remember the Removal’ training has been rewarding experience
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
06/01/2017 04:00 PM
Some Cherokee Phoenix readers may have seen the “Remember the Removal” bicycle riders out on local roads the past two months training for the upcoming ride from New Echota, Georgia, to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, through seven states. I am one of 14 riders from the Cherokee Nation who will take part in this year’s ride.

For those of you not familiar with the ride, it is done annually to commemorate the forced removal of our Cherokee ancestors from their homelands in 1838-39. Most of our people left in the fall of 1838 in 13 organized detachments and endured a harsh winter in 1839 before reaching Indian Territory.

I was part of the group that did the first 1,000-mile ride in 1984, which was meant to educate people along the route about the forced removal and give students like me hands-on experiences that would foster leadership qualities, instill confidence and improve our self-esteem. A man named Michael Morris thought a bike ride from the old Cherokee homelands would be a good way to give us those experiences. He was right.

Because the ride was grueling and had never been attempted before, the 19 riders formed bonds that are still strong today. We survived two-lane mountain roads in North Carolina and Tennessee where some large trucks did not like sharing the road with us. I rode my bike into some weeds and bushes before a dump truck could nudge me into them on a mountain in Tennessee. We survived racism in Illinois and the patchy and hilly roads of Missouri before riding into northern Arkansas and taking on the Ozark Mountains. By then we were stronger. Our thighs were noticeably larger and much darker than that had been three weeks earlier, and we were confident we were going to finish strong.

I remember during the trip being excited about what view was over the next hill while riding with my small group of four riders nicknamed the “Coaster-Barelies” because we weren’t the fastest group, and we may have coasted a little too much going down hills when we had the opportunity. Jeff, Clayton and Marvin were like brothers to me when we finished, and it was hard to finish and go our separate ways.

For me the trip gave me confidence, and it showed me I am capable of a lot mentally and physically. It also gave me a hunger to seek out adventures, which has lasted to this day.

So, when I was asked last January if I would be the first official CN “Mentor Rider,” my sense of adventure wrestled with my common sense. I am now 50 and being around the bike ride the past few years I know the training is tough even for a 20-year-old. I thought about it for a couple of days and believed I could do it. My mind was going to drag my body along on another adventure. It has been great and tough as I imagined it would be. My legs seemed to remember what it is like to ride a bike for most of a day, but my left shoulder has been less cooperative. So, I keep a container of Icy Hot handy and hope the aroma of the liniment isn’t too strong for the other cyclists.

I’ve also had the pleasure of training with a good group of young people. These people from throughout the CN volunteered to take part in this ride, to put themselves through the pain riding a bicycle an average of 60 miles a day. They have already grown and changed during training, but they will grow and change even more before the ride is over. It happens every year. They might have varied reasons for doing the ride, but they all understand the most important reason is to honor our ancestors. Our tenacious ancestors. They would not give up on the trail and when they arrived here 178 years ago to rebuild.

Every year the riders are told they will not make this trip on their own. No matter how strong they are they will need the support of their fellow riders. It’s true, and we also need the support of the Cherokee people, so keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

I feel fortunate that I get to travel the trail again with some good people, and even though I’ve been down it before, I get to see what’s over the next hill with older and different eyes.


Barton delves into Native American cuisine
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.

Barton is now the executive chef at The Vault in Tulsa, where she showcases not only her cooking skills but also her heritage with her food.

“I created about 50 percent of the dishes here. There’s a set number of non-signature items that I will innovate new (with) every menu change,” she said. “I also have brought to the table our cauliflower wings and then a vegan dish, which is a stuffed acorn squash. Kind of has a little bit of Native American influence with smoked vegetables. It is a dish that appeals to meat eaters and vegans alike.”

The Cherokee Phoenix caught up with Barton on April 18 as she prepared Native-inspired dishes for a dinner at The Vault.

“It is going to have different stages of Native American cooking involved. A lot of the stuff will have some sort of newer European influence because of the settlers,” she said. “There will be fry bread because of the milled wheat. Also, I’m going to be using something that was very dear to me, something my grandmother taught me how to make was kanuchi.”

Barton said she became interested in creating a Native American-inspired menu while her grandmother was “fading in health.”

“I realized that after she would pass I would lose, possibly, a little bit of that Native American influence in my life. So I wanted to take advantage of it still being fresh in my mind, the things that she had taught me,” she said. “I wanted to make her proud, and I wanted to do it to bring honor to her.”

Barton said her grandmother died in March 2016, which left her wanting to honor Knight through cooking. Knight, who was a Cherokee National Treasure for tear dressmaking, was also known for making kanuchi, a traditional Cherokee meal made from hickory nuts.

Barton’s goal for the April 19 dinner was to “generate” interest in Native American cuisine.

“A lot of people have asked me before, “What is Native American to you?” At first I drew a blank because it is a culture that is not as mentioned every day like Italian cuisine. You know when a pizza’s Italian or spaghetti is somewhat Italian or a burger and fries is American. But where would those cultures be without the tomato, without corn. As I look more into it you realize that everything that is American has Native American influence in that,” she said.

Barton said she’s offered Native dishes such as bean cakes, wild onions and eggs and even kanuchi. She added that she wanted to feature these Native-inspired dishes because she believes it’s important to share it with the Tulsa area.

“As for as close as we are to Indian Country, surprisingly very little influence from the Native American cuisine is present in restaurants in a popular area such as Tulsa,” she said. “My aim is to generate interest and bringing more Native American culture back into the mainstream cooking.”
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