Scott fiddles her way closer to Cherokee culture

News Writer
10/17/2017 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. – For some it’s traditional games such as stickball or marbles. For other Cherokees it may be weaving baskets with traditional materials that bring them closer to their culture. But for 15-year-old Regina Scott, it’s the love for the fiddle and fiddle music that brings her in tune to Cherokee culture.

“I think it’s really cool that I am Cherokee and that I play the fiddle because the fiddle was part of the Cherokee culture,” Cherokee Nation citizen said. “I know there are a lot of people that are Cherokee that probably don’t have a direct connection to their culture, so I am really proud that I have the fiddle because I feel like it brings me closer to my Cherokee culture.”

The Tulsa native found an interest in the bowed-string musical instrument at age 5 when she began taking classical violin lessons from longtime violinist Jody Naifeh. However, it was hearing her cousin play the fiddle that sparked her curiosity for the instrument.

“My cousin was the only one that fiddled, and she doesn’t anymore. It was kind of a brief thing. But it’s really amazing that I even got into it because really no one in my family is musical. My mom told me that both of her grandmothers were musical...but really I’m the only one,” she said.

Scott continued taking violin lessons and began studying fiddling.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizen Regina Scott, left, receives the 2016 Grand Lake National Fiddle Champion award from fiddle player Jana Jae. Scott was the youngest to win the championship at age 14. COURTESY Cherokee Nation citizen Regina Scott practices playing her fiddle. She found an interest in the instrument after hearing her cousin play. COURTESY Cherokee Nation citizen Regina Scott, left, sits with violin and fiddle teacher Jody Naifeh before playing the National Anthem together at a Tulsa Drillers game in May. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Regina Scott, left, receives the 2016 Grand Lake National Fiddle Champion award from fiddle player Jana Jae. Scott was the youngest to win the championship at age 14. COURTESY

Cherokee history, culture scholar dies

Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/03/2017 12:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Dr. Duane King, a former Cherokee Heritage Center executive director, died at age 70 on Sept. 17 following a lengthy illness.

King was a former Gilcrease Museum director and was recognized as a Native American history and culture authority, especially Cherokee history and culture.

“Duane spent his life researching and writing about Cherokee history. His books, articles and research notes are invaluable. The legacy that he has left the Cherokee people will endure for generations to come. We owe him a great debt of gratitude,” Jack Baker, National Trail of Tears Association president and former Tribal Councilor, said.

King had been serving as director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at the Gilcrease Museum since 2014 and oversaw the center’s construction.

During his six years as Gilcrease Museum executive director, he also served as Tulsa University’s vice president of museum affairs. After joining Gilcrease in 2008, King helped lead the transition of museum management from the City of Tulsa to TU.
Dr. Duane King, the former director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at the Gilcrease Museum, center, gives Cherokee Nation citizens a tour of the museum’s archives in 2014. King was recognized as an authority on Native American history and culture, especially Cherokee history and culture. He died on Sept. 17 at the age of 70. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee historian Dr. Duane King shares Trail of Tears history before the unveiling of two interpretive markers about the forced removal of Cherokees in April 2014 at a cemetery near Westville, Oklahoma. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Dr. Duane King, the former director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at the Gilcrease Museum, center, gives Cherokee Nation citizens a tour of the museum’s archives in 2014. King was recognized as an authority on Native American history and culture, especially Cherokee history and culture. He died on Sept. 17 at the age of 70. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Alsenay joins Illinois architecture firm

09/29/2017 04:00 PM
Kankakee, Ill. – Carlile Architects, an architecture firm in Illinois, recently hired Cherokee Nation citizen Candace Alsenay as a computer-aided design technician.

A native of Park Hill, Oklahoma, Alsenay is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering.

Prior to joining the Carlile Group, she was a research assistant at OU’s Fears Structural Engineering Lab where she specialized in the mechanics and testing of concrete and the physical realties of working with various types of concrete mixtures.

While at OU, Alsenay was a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the University Innovation Fellows, was a Jerry Holmes Engineering Leadership associate, served as president of the Architectural Engineering Institute and was the financial liaison for OU’s Concrete Canoe team.

Her responsibilities at Carlile Architects will include residential and commercial drafting, development of construction documents, design and information technology management. She can be emailed at
Candace Alsenay
Candace Alsenay

Hardbarger selected for JET Program

News Writer – @cp_bbennett
09/20/2017 08:00 AM
OSAKA, Japan – Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger is putting together her inherent love for Japan with her newfound love for education so she can teach English for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.

“I am going to be paired with a Japanese teacher of English, so hopefully we will be able to cover each other’s weaknesses,” Hardbarger said of the yearlong program that began in August. “Ideally what will happen is we will team teach, the Japanese teacher giving explanations in Japanese when necessary, and me speaking only English to give them exposure to what native English speakers sound like and to get them to use the language in class more.”

The Sequoyah High School and Stanford University graduate first entertained the idea of living abroad after two visits to Japan, during one in which a host mother mentioned the JET Program.
After seeking her advice and that of a friend who had applied, Hardbarger completed the program’s three-phase application process.

The first phase requires the applicant to write a personal statement detailing what he or she would bring to the program and two recommendation letters. The second phase encompasses personal interviews that must be conducted at Japanese embassies or consulates around the United States. The final phase is acceptance and placement before orientation in Tokyo.

Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger will spend a year teaching English to Japanese students in Osaka, Japan, through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. According to the JET Program website, the program receives 4,000 to 5,000 applications each year and 1,000 to 1,100 people are selected to participate in Japan. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger will spend a year teaching English to Japanese students in Osaka, Japan, through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. According to the JET Program website, the program receives 4,000 to 5,000 applications each year and 1,000 to 1,100 people are selected to participate in Japan. COURTESY

Byrd travels to South Africa with other indigenous peoples

09/19/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Candice Byrd recently attended the 2017 Next Generation Program hosted by the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People in South Africa.

The association advocates for a safe collaboration space for different cultures and indigenous peoples from more than 100 countries. Out of 200 applicants, Byrd was the only Cherokee Nation citizen attendee and storyteller to attend, she said.

“The purpose was to throw strangers together from all different nationalities. There were about 10 people from South Africa, 10 people from the African continent,” Byrd said, “There were about eight of us all from different countries, I was the only indigenous North American there.”

Byrd attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in film, drama and television. She later earned a master’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Her master’s thesis focused on Native American storytelling.

“I noticed in my very fancy art school none of these stories were about Native Americans, ever. I had grown up around that and I found that strange, I wanted my thesis to shed a light on that,” she said.
Candice Byrd
Candice Byrd

Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame to induct Birdwell

09/15/2017 08:15 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Dwight W. Birdwell, a former chief justice of the Cherokee Nation’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites.

Birdwell, a Specialist 5 while in Vietnam, was awarded two Silver Stars for gallantry and two Purple Hearts for wounds received during battles.

Now a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, Birdwell will be inducted with 10 other honorees.

Birdwell was born Jan. 19, 1948, in Amarillo, Texas, but grew up in Bell in Adair County.

After graduating Stilwell High School in 1966, he entered the Army.
Dwight W. Birdwell Dwight W. Birdwell
Dwight W. Birdwell

Veterans Center worker, Cherokee advocate Vann dies

09/13/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Raymond Vann, a Cherokee Nation Veterans Center employee and longtime advocate of the less fortunate, died on Sept. 9 in Tulsa at age 74.

Vann was born on Aug. 15, 1943, in Watts to Pete and Nanny (Gibson) Vann. He joined a family of three brothers and seven sisters.

He attended school at Oaks Mission and Collinsville High School. On Oct. 13, 1966, he enlisted into the U.S. Army, serving in B Battery as a Pershing Missile Crewman. He was honorably discharged in September 1968 at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Upon leaving the military, he attended University at Mountain View College in Texas, attaining his associate’s degree.

He then worked at General Motors and retired after 30 years of service. Vann served as chairman for the nonprofit group Warpony for 19 years, helping the less fortunate in the CN jurisdiction.

For the past five years he served as an outreach coordinator at the CN Veterans Center, and was still employed at the time of his death.
Raymond Vann
Raymond Vann

Native American Festival to honor late Cherokee author

09/06/2017 12:00 PM
CUSHING, Okla. – Organizers of the third annual Native American Heritage Festival on Sept. 9 will honor the late Cherokee author and Cherokee Nation citizen Robert J. Conley as its grand marshal.

Conley – who was born on Dec. 29, 1940, in Cushing – died in 2014 at age 73.

However, in the 1970s he served as assistant programs manager for the CN. He also served as director of Indian Studies at Eastern Montana, Bacone and Morningside colleges.

He taught English at Morningside, Southwest Missouri State University and Northern Illinois University. He also held teaching and administrative appointments at the University of New Mexico and Lenoir-Rhyne College and served as elder-in-residence at the University of North Carolina.

In 2008, he joined Western Carolina University and served as the Sequoyah Distinguished Professor in Cherokee Studies and founding director of its Tsalagi Institute.
Robert J. Conley
Robert J. Conley

‘Forged in Fire’ contestant Kirk to compete in ‘Grudge Match’

09/05/2017 08:15 AM
PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. – Former “Forged in Fire” contestants are set to compete in the inaugural “Iron Mountain Metal Craft Grudge Match” forging competition Sept. 22-24 at the 14th Annual Old Mill Heritage Day.

Around 18 former “FIF” contestants, including Cherokee Nation citizen and master bladesmith Ray Kirk, will demonstrate their bladesmith skills in the “Grudge Match.” The audience will choose the winner.

“What we want to do is just share our time and meet the people that are ‘Forged in Fire’ fans, and sell some of our stuff,” Kirk said. “The thing that is exciting is that there’s that many of us from all over the country that will be there to play in the fire.”

During the three-day event, the bladesmiths will set up booths to sell their products, have forging demonstrations and take photos with fans.

After the competition, the contestants plan to give away their knives through a free drawing for festival attendees.
Cherokee Nation citizen and master bladesmith Ray Kirk is set to compete in the first “Iron Mountain Metal Craft Grudge Match” forging competition Sept. 22-24 at the 14th annual Old Mill Heritage Day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen and master bladesmith Ray Kirk is set to compete in the first “Iron Mountain Metal Craft Grudge Match” forging competition Sept. 22-24 at the 14th annual Old Mill Heritage Day in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. COURTESY


NSU Center for Tribal Studies to host Indigenous Arts Education Series
10/19/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Thanks in part from an Oklahoma Arts Council grant, the Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will host the Indigenous Arts Education Series in November for American Indian Heritage Month.

The series will include the following:

Nov. 2
Marcus Harjo (Pawnee/Seminole) will present “Creative Writing and Music Production Workshop” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Harjo uses writing, music production and live performances to promote his passions of youth outreach, cultural awareness and promoting healthy, drug-free lifestyles, specifically among American Indian populations. His workshop will focus on teaching participants how to use writing and music composition skills to enhance the delivery of their message. His workshop will conclude with a live performance.

Nov. 8
Sandy Fife Wilson (Muscogee Creek) will present “Shell Carving Demonstration” from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Wilson is an experienced artist having learned her art techniques through both formal education and traditional means as she comes from a long line of family artists. Wilson specializes in Southeastern design shell carvings, finger-woven items and Creek basketry. She will host a demonstration that will educate the audience on this traditional form of art and lead participants through the process using a direct, hands-on approach to instruction.

Nov. 14
Yatika Starr Fields (Muscogee Creek/Osage/Cherokee) will present “Becoming a Mural Artist” from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the University Center Redbud Room. Fields’ presentation will highlight his experience and work as a mural artist and provide attendees with some insight into the highly specialized field of mural art. This event will include a live art demonstration.
The Oklahoma Arts Council is the official state agency for the support and development of the arts. The agency’s mission is to lead in the advancement of Oklahoma’s thriving arts industry. Additional information is available at


GPI offers Native women journalistic opportunity
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
10/12/2017 10:00 AM
WASHINGTON – The Global Press Institute is offering Native American women an experience with its Tribal Nations training-to-employment program, which allows women who are enrolled citizens in a tribe the opportunity to become journalists even if they have no prior experience in the field.

Cristi Hegranes, GPI founder and executive director, said in 2016 GPI conducted a pilot of the Tribal Nation’s program and are “excited” to expand the program and accurately tell the Native American story with hopes to get women from Oklahoma involved.

“So much of the coverage that makes it to the national scale is so stereotypically driven, and it really demonstrates a lack of understanding of so much of what happened within communities, tribal governments,” she said. “So we are expanding Global Press Tribal Nations to work with women from a variety of different tribes and communities across the United States to join the Global Press program.”

Hegranes said the program includes “rigorous” training and “long-term” employment.

“Anyone who graduates from our training program will receive long-term employment to cover their community over the long-term working for Global Press Journal,” she said.

Those who are accepted into the program would take part in a weeklong training in Washington, D.C., before reporting in their communities.

“We’ll be bringing women from all different tribes together to spend a week together learning what we call the principals and the practice of Global Press Journalism,” she said. “Then everyone will go back to their communities and they spend a couple of months doing three to six stories working with Global Press editors and fact checkers and copy editors to produce really unique coverage from the community.”

Hegranes said it’s important to highlight that no prior journalism experience or basic education limit is required and that applicants must be 18 or older.
“Really the only thing that is required is a natural curiosity and passion for storytelling and really the time to commit to the training and the long-term story production from the communities,” she said. “On average we work with our reporters for more than five years after the training. So we’re really looking for people who want to make an investment in their future as journalists.”

Hegranes said this “extraordinary” opportunity offers these future journalists the chance to play a “pivotal” role in changing the narrative for their community.

“Global Press news stories reach about 20 million people around the world every month. So this is a huge opportunity to really increase accurate information, to really dive in beyond the stereotypes and tell really authentic, true, important stories that might otherwise never be told,” she said.

Hegranes said GPI has been developing independent news bureaus in under-covered parts of the world for the past 11 years.

“The way that our program works is we identify local women from these communities and we put them through a rigorous training process. Teaching them to be ethical, accurate, investigative, feature journalists,” she said.

The deadline to apply is Oct. 15. To apply, visit


Byrd builds on 18-year legacy of serving CN
News Writer
08/22/2017 12:00 PM
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.

“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.

“Our government didn’t begin serving our people until the 1970s. When I first moved to Northeastern (State University) in 1972 to get an education, it really opened my eyes to a lot of the issues our people were facing,” he said. “In the rural areas there were a lot of people who weren’t self-efficient, and I saw right then we still had many people out in the rural areas that needed help and needed an awareness that there is a tribe out there that should have a responsibility to take care of our people.”

As for his current term, deciding to run again for the Dist. 2 seat was an easy decision, he said, because of his love for serving the Cherokee people and because of his constituents who asked him to continue.

He spoke of elderly women who continues to set an example of how his constituents have not forgotten their Cherokee culture or who they are as a people.

“When people like that come up to me and ask me to run, it’s a real honor to have people with that kind of stature to say, ‘you need to run another time,’” he said. “The people will let you know when it’s time to run. You don’t have to consult them, they’ll let you know.”

During his time as Dist. 2 representative, Byrd has helped with projects to improve services for CN citizens, including the passing of a $900 million budget, a $100 million investment in Cherokee health care as well as a $200 million dollar expansion of the W.W. Hastings Hospital.

For this term, Byrd said he would continue working with the tribe to ensure rural area schools have shelter for inclement weather and that elders and veterans are taken care of.

“Our veterans seem to not be taken care of like they should,” he said. “When we give speeches and talks we all say, ‘we respect our elder’s and we respect our veterans,’ but we have many that are still homeless and not being served. I want to do anything I can to assist in making sure our elders and veterans are taken care of.”


Health Services introduces antibiotic guidelines
10/19/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Health Services is introducing a program to educate patients on alternative ways other than antibiotics to heal common illnesses.

According to recent information released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antibiotics are often misused for illnesses such as influenza and the common cold, and like other medications, they could have side effects.

According to the CDC, antibiotic resistance is a growing problem in the United States and across the world. The CDC states the main driving factors behind antibiotic resistance are the overuse and misuse of antibiotics.

Using the CDC guidelines, the tribe will more closely monitor antibiotic prescriptions and the use of antibiotics by patients throughout all CN health facilities.

Leadership at Health Services’ nine health centers and W.W. Hastings Hospital is also working to further educate staff on the proper use of antibiotics.

“We strive to educate our citizens and our doctors about the possible dangers of over prescribing medications and of building antibiotic resistance,” Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “Throughout Cherokee Nation Health Services, we treat more than a million patients per year, and it is so important that we stay vigilant and educated when prescribing.”

In 2012, Hastings Hospital began the antibiotic stewardship program within its inpatient care, and this year the program will expand to the tribe’s nine health centers, positively impacting the health and treatment of even more CN citizens.

“Antibiotics can be a life-saving or life-threatening intervention depending on how they are used,” Health Services nurse practitioner Whitney Essex said. “We are committed to improving patient outcomes by using antibiotics responsibly.”

The CN operates the largest tribal health system in the country. In fiscal year 2016, the tribe had more than 1.1 million patient visits. For more information, visit


OPINION: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Executive Editor - @cp_brandonscott
10/01/2017 04:00 PM
As you may have noticed, this month’s cover is a bit more colorful than usual. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we here at the Cherokee Phoenix wanted to help raise awareness about the importance of screening and early detection.

The probability of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 8, and breast cancer is the second-leading cause of mortality among women in the United States. Within the Cherokee Nation, Breast cancer is the second-most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cancer among women. These statistics, coupled with the fact that Native American women have some of the lowest breast cancer screening rates of any ethnic group, is a sobering reality.

Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but early detection is key to successful treatment. Women whose breast cancer is caught at an early stage have a 93 percent survival rate. A Breast Self Exam or BSE, Clinical Breast Exam or CBE and mammogram are all effective early detection methods. CBE and BSE instruction occurs at all CN health centers, and mammograms are performed at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center, A-Mo Health Center, Sam Hider Health Center and the Claremore Indian Hospital.

Additionally, the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control was established to ensure CN citizens were receiving quality treatment, access to clinical trials, patient advocates and instructions on screening and detection. In 2015, more than 2,000 women participated in the screening and early detection program provided by the CNCCC. It is my hope that the number of participants in this program continues to grow year over year.

Today, a pink ribbon is synonymous with breast cancer awareness. But I urge you to take more than just a passing glance at all of the pink you will see this month. I encourage you to take time to learn about the early warning signs, receive instruction on self-exams and make a plan to utilize the resources available through CN Health Services for clinical exams. And men, we should take an active role in the fight against breast cancer as well. Encourage the women you love to take the time for breast cancer screening. It just might save their life.


'Predator' actor Sonny Landham dead at 76
08/26/2017 02:00 PM
NEW YORK (AP) — Sonny Landham, the muscular action-movie actor who co-starred in "Predator" and "48 Hrs," has died. He was 76.

Landham's sister, Dawn Boehler, said the actor died from congestive heart failure Thursday at a Lexington, Kentucky, hospital. Landham was a brawny, deep-voiced actor and stunt man who played a bit part in Walter Hill's 1979 street-gang thriller "The Warriors" before the director cast him as the trigger-happy criminal Billy Bear in 1982's "48 Hrs."

Landham, who was part Cherokee and Seminole, was perhaps most known for playing the Native American tracker Billy Sole in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film "Predator."

Landham entered the movie business after working in pornography in the '70s. Later in life, he attempted brief and unsuccessful political campaigns.

He's survived by his son, William, and daughter, Priscilla.
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