Pettit thrives as radio show host

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.

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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EC votes to require two staff, one commissioner in vault

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham &
JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/01/2017 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Election Commission, with one commissioner and its attorney absent, held a special meeting to discuss the approval of past meeting minutes and take possible action on items for the upcoming Tribal Council elections.

On the agenda were items including vault sign-in procedure, delivery drivers and candidate financials as well as possible action on new badges for EC employees.
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Nanabelle’s Boutique promotes feeling ‘good’ at any size

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
01/19/2017 08:15 AM
PRYOR, Okla. – Nanabelle’s Boutique in downtown Pryor has a mission to motivate women and assist them in purchasing trendy clothes that will help them feel “good” no matter their sizes.

Owner and Cherokee Nation citizen Jennie Marlin, 22, said her boutique offers a broad range of clothing sizes because it was “needed.”

“I started this boutique because I thought there was something we needed in downtown Pryor that wasn’t even being offered in other places,” she said. “I, as a plus-size woman, would like to look trendy, and I wanted to be able to do it and still be able to afford it, especially being younger and going to college. When you walk in you’ll be able to find everything in our store in a size small through 3X.”

She said after gaining experience as a part-time manager for a retail store she decided to “take a chance” and open a shop.

“I started a pop-up shop when I was 20 years old at a little event we had in downtown Pryor. I kind of got some good feedback from that, so I decided while I was in college that I was going to open up a little spot in the back of an antique mall. Then whenever I did that I got even more great feedback, and social media was really positive and I just keep growing and growing. So about 10, 11 months ago I opened here in Pryor,” she said.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation citizen Jennie Marlin, 22, owns Nanabelle’s Boutique in Pryor, Oklahoma. The boutique offers clothing in sizes small to 3X. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Jennie Marlin, owner of Nanabelle’s Boutique, offers a variety of clothing at the boutique, including graphic T-shirts and jewelry designed by her. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Courtney Parker, of Pryor, Oklahoma, speaks with Nanabelle’s Boutique owner Jennie Marlin while shopping. Marlin said her boutique offers a broad range of clothing sizes in downtown Pryor. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Jennie Marlin, 22, owns Nanabelle’s Boutique in Pryor, Oklahoma. The boutique offers clothing in sizes small to 3X. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Winning essay contest benefits all of SHS

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
01/18/2017 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Through the efforts of Sequoyah High School senior Maddie Lamb, she and her fellow students received a DJ’d dance party and taco festival on Jan. 9.

This past fall, the 17-year-old Muskogee (Creek) Nation citizen entered an essay contest through the Get Schooled Foundation’s “2016 Homecoming Court.” After her essay made the top 20, Lamb received the most online votes.

“You had to enter 150 words about how to prevent bullying in your school,” she said.

She is the Junior Miss Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and bullying prevention is a part of her platform, which she said made her decide to enter the essay contest.

“My platform is teen dating, violence, abuse and awareness. And so I told how that tied in with bullying,” she said. “And so I ended up winning… that’s crazy!”
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Sequoyah High School senior Maddie Lamb helps paint a mural in the school’s old gym after an essay she wrote to the Get Schooled Foundation won her and the school prizes. The foundation provided funding to create the mural. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Sequoyah High School students finish panting a mural in the school’s old gym that reads “We Are The Future.” The Get Schooled Foundation provided funding for the mural after SHS senior Maddie Lamb won an essay contest sponsored by the foundation. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Sequoyah High School senior Maddie Lamb helps paint a mural in the school’s old gym after an essay she wrote to the Get Schooled Foundation won her and the school prizes. The foundation provided funding to create the mural. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Kachina’s Clothing Store opens in Tahlequah

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
01/06/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Angela Locke recently opened a clothing store named Kachina’s after her grandmother’s Kachina doll collection that was passed down to her.

Locke is from Los Angeles where she manufactured clothing for department stores.

“This was a transition. This is our first retail store…we’re able to give such great prices and good quality clothing, so we wanted to bring that to Tahlequah,” she said. “We’re hoping to get the (Clothing Assistance Program) voucher program from Cherokee Nation to afford the kids some better quality clothing at better prices. So if that happens, we’ll open another nine locations within the next year.”

Locke has been in the fashion business for about 16 years. In that time, she said she has established relationships with manufacturers that allow her to offer such great prices.

“Over the years of my experience, I have a lot of connections, and I’m able to get affordable or deals from factories and suppliers that other stores aren’t able to access,” she said. “We manufacture some of it (clothing) and some of the items come from wholesalers and overseas suppliers.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Angela Locke, a Cherokee Nation citizen, opened Kachina’s Clothing Store on Dec. 8 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Her long-term goal includes opening nine other stores in the tribal jurisdiction for Cherokees to have a place to purchase affordable clothing through the tribe’s voucher program. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Marla Stone sets up a shoe for display in Kachina’s, a new clothing store located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. CN citizen Angela Locke owns the store. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Along with clothing and coats, Kachina’s Clothing Store, located along Mimosa Lane in Tahlequah, offers makeup, nail polish and jewelry. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Angela Locke, a Cherokee Nation citizen, opened Kachina’s Clothing Store on Dec. 8 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Her long-term goal includes opening nine other stores in the tribal jurisdiction for Cherokees to have a place to purchase affordable clothing through the tribe’s voucher program. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Crotty blacksmithing at young age

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy &
STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
11/21/2016 08:00 AM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – In a small self-built shop outside his home, Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty turns a hand-crank blower as flames swell in his coal-fired forge. He then places iron in the fire. Not an odd sight to see a blacksmith do such acts. However, Crotty is no ordinary blacksmith. He’s only 14.

It was after watching blacksmith re-enactments at age 10 that the craft sparked a fire in him.

“I saw some of the stuff they were making, and I thought it was really cool. They were making cookware and knives and all kinds of stuff, so I though it would be fun to try it,” he said. “I started when I was almost 11. And the first thing I made was a little letter opener out of a horseshoe, and made it in my first blacksmith meeting, and I melted it in half the first time I ever tried to make anything.”

Other blacksmiths told Crotty of the Saltfork Craftsmen Artist-Blacksmith Association in which he could learn more about the craft. So he joined and now attends as many meetings as possible.

“They get together and they make stuff…teach each other different skills…and learn as much as they can,” he said. “They just took me right in and said ‘here, go make something.’ So I went and did, and from there I went to every meeting and made as much as I could and it just took off from there.”
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Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty is a 14-year-old blacksmith from Muskogee, Oklahoma, who has been working the trade for about three years. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty turns a hand-crank blower to induce flames within his coal-fired forge at his blacksmith shop in Muskogee, Oklahoma. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Brendan Crotty holds a knife he made from a horseshoe. The 14-year-old has been blacksmithing for about three years. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Brendan Crotty made these soldiers and anvil and hammer using his blacksmith skills. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX The two soup cans are model propane forges Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty made to illustrate what insulation materials worked best to hold in heat, as well as which was more cost effective. The larger forge on the right is pat of a science project. The traveling forge on the left is one Crotty made from repurposed parts. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Brendan Crotty is a 14-year-old blacksmith from Muskogee, Oklahoma, who has been working the trade for about three years. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CHC hosts 1,800 youths for Cherokee Heritage Festival

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
11/18/2016 08:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – More than 1,800 school-age children from surrounding schools attended the annual Cherokee Heritage Festival on Nov. 3-4 at the Cherokee Heritage Center.

CHC Interim Director Tonia Weavel said 371 students visited the first day and 1,449 students visited the second day.

“We have schools today from Tulsa, McAlester, Roland, Marietta, Dahlonegah, Muskogee and others.” Weavel said. “The Cherokee Heritage Festival is a fantastic fall event where we’ve invited children to come and learn about the Cherokee culture.”

Weavel said students who attended received “hands on and up close” lessons on Cherokee culture and history. “So we’re glad they’re here. It’s going to be a good day.”
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Students and teachers learn the basics of Cherokee basket weaving during the Cherokee Heritage Festival on Nov. 3 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. The festival ran Nov. 3-4 with more than 1,800 students attending. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Students and teachers learn the basics of Cherokee basket weaving during the Cherokee Heritage Festival on Nov. 3 at the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill, Oklahoma. The festival ran Nov. 3-4 with more than 1,800 students attending. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Chuculate wins Oklahoma Transit driving award

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Media Specialist – @cp_rgraham
11/14/2016 08:15 AM
GROVE, Okla. – In October, Cherokee Nation citizen and Pelivan Transit driver Geremy Chuculate brought home the gold for Pelivan Transit by winning the 2016 State Champion Rookie of the Year in the shuttle bus category at the Oklahoma Transit Driving Champions’ Bus Roadeo in Oklahoma City.

But that’s not his only asset, said Pelivan Transit dispatcher Suzie Lauderdale. Lauderdale said while Chuculate is one of her newest drivers, he is also one of the most respected by his peers.

“Geremy is awesome,” Lauderdale said, “and our clients just love him.”

The 42-year-old Chuculate said while the number of passengers may change from day to day, the gratitude he receives from his passengers doesn’t.

“So on any day during our week, pickups will be anywhere from 45 on a slow day and possibly up to 75 on a busier day,” he said. “I really do enjoy helping Cherokee Nation citizens as well as the Grove public. A lot of people really rely on Pelivan Transit because they’re either injured or don’t have a ride or they don’t have a vehicle, or they’re elderly and they need help getting onto a vehicle. We have the ramps and the lifts to get them on and secure properly, so they really appreciate the rides we give them.”
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Geremy Chuculate, a Cherokee Nation citizen and Pelivan Transit bus driver in Grove, Oklahoma, was recently awarded the Oklahoma Transit Driving Champions’ 2016 OTA Roadeo Rookie of the Year award. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Geremy Chuculate, a Cherokee Nation citizen and Pelivan Transit bus driver in Grove, Oklahoma, helps a load a wheel chair-bound man into the Pelivan bus Chuculate drives. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Geremy Chuculate, a Cherokee Nation citizen and Pelivan Transit bus driver in Grove, Oklahoma, was recently awarded the Oklahoma Transit Driving Champions’ 2016 OTA Roadeo Rookie of the Year award. ROGER GRAHAM/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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said he eventually hopes to offer advanced classes.

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

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

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