Credit scores mean more than people realize

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/20/2017 08:15 AM
MONKEY ISLAND, Okla. – Credit scores act as buffers between consumers and banks or institutions from which they wish to borrow money. Whether it’s for daily items, a car or a house, credit scores play roles in many expenditures, so it’s important to know about them and how they affect consumers.

Cherokee Nation citizen Brian Hartley, an Oklahoma State Bank employee, offers a two-sheet guide that provides a look into credit scores and what they entail. He said it’s important to first know what exactly a credit score is.

“A credit score is a scoring system to let creditors know what type of past history you had,” he said. “Meaning that if you paid on time and have not been in any trouble you’ll have a high score, and it tells creditors like a bank or an institution that the likelihood of this person paying is very high compared to someone who may have a low score. It’s the possibility that the low score is a person that could be very non-paying or late-paying or have some other issues that may have came into their past.”

Hartley said a credit score is determined from various factors.

“It’s anywhere from paying your bills to getting credit lines or getting a car installment payment or any type of other credit out there as well as medical. I mean, your whole life is tied to your credit score almost,” he said.
Cherokee Nation citizen Brian Hartley, an Oklahoma State Bank employee, offers a two-sheet guide that provides a look into credit scores and what they entail. He said it’s important to first know what exactly a credit score is. CREDIT.COM Brian Hartley
Cherokee Nation citizen Brian Hartley, an Oklahoma State Bank employee, offers a two-sheet guide that provides a look into credit scores and what they entail. He said it’s important to first know what exactly a credit score is. CREDIT.COM

Sierra gives ‘A Bright Start’ to childhood education

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
04/12/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra always dreamed of running his own business and educating children. That dream became reality when he opened an early childhood facility called A Bright Start Development Center.

It caters to children ages 0-12 years old with gross motor development and guided learning in a school-like atmosphere. “We try to run a routine similar to school. The kids (have) some group-setting experiences,” Sierra said.

He said he funded the business with his savings and help from family.

“A lot of the equipment we’ve been blessed to get donated…what could be thousands of dollars in equipment was donated,” Sierra said.

After working with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in 2015 to ensure compliance, including having proper equipment and passing necessary inspections, the center opened in February 2016 with four babies. Enrollment eventually grew to 30 children.
Children look out the window at A Bright Start Development Center, which is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra owns it and provides early childhood development skills and learning. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra helps a child during dramatic playtime on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Children learn early childhood skills such as piecing together puzzles and reading books on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Children look out the window at A Bright Start Development Center, which is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra owns it and provides early childhood development skills and learning. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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FTW! Game Co. finds success in Pryor

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
04/07/2017 08:00 AM
PRYOR, Okla. – For the past four months FTW! Game Co. – a video game, comic and novelty store – has operated in Pryor. And Cherokee Nation citizen Luke Nagel, who co-owns it with his wife Lori, said the business has been well received by the community and that people have expressed appreciation for the youth-oriented business.

“A lot of parents and mothers have come in and say that they’re really glad this is here because there wasn’t too many options left besides going all the way to Tulsa,” he said.

There were several locations they could have chosen, but Pryor, he said, was optimal.

“Because Hastings had just shut down and there’s only one Gamestop out here. There’s nothing really in the area besides driving to Tulsa…especially for retro games. We’re the only place in the area besides Claremore,” Luke said.

He and his family, including his mother, designed the store’s look from the ground up, including the logo. His daily activities include running the store and tracking inventory while Lori handles the marketing and finances.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Luke Nagel, Cherokee Nation citizen and co-owner of FTW! Game Co. in Pryor, Oklahoma, said his video game, comic and novelty store has been well received by the community. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Luke Nagel places inventory on shelves at his store FTW! Game Co. in Pryor, Oklahoma. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Luke Nagel, co-owner of FTW! Game Co., explains to a potential customer the rareness of this Sega CD, a CD-ROM accessory for the Sega Genesis video game console released in the 1990s. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Luke Nagel, Cherokee Nation citizen and co-owner of FTW! Game Co. in Pryor, Oklahoma, said his video game, comic and novelty store has been well received by the community. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribes economically thriving 30 years after Cabazon decision

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/22/2017 08:15 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Lindsay Robertson started his law career working on business development. He was familiar with laws regarding tribal sovereignty, but he was asked to combine the two areas starting in 1987.

On Feb. 25, 1987, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians in its lawsuit with the state of California. The decision ultimately allowed tribes to have gaming operations, even where states were given criminal jurisdiction over Indian tribes, The Journal Record reported.

California was a Public Law 280 state, which gave the state criminal jurisdiction over Indian lands. In the mid-1980s, the Cabazon and Morango Bands of Mission Indians operated bingo parlors on their lands. In 1986, the state tried to shut down the games, claiming they violated state regulations.

The Cabazon Band’s argument and the Supreme Court’s decision rested on the state not prohibiting gambling as a criminal act. The state did not have jurisdiction over the operations.

Robertson was working in Washington, D.C., at the time the decision was announced. He was one of the few attorneys familiar with Indian law. When the calls started coming in from tribes that wanted to open gambling operations, they were directed to him.
Patrons play electronic gaming machines at the Cherokee Nation’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. In 2016, Oklahoma collected a record $132 million in total tribal gaming exclusivity fees, a 3-percent increase from 2015. When the fees were first collected in 2006, only $14.2 million came into the state. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Patrons play electronic gaming machines at the Cherokee Nation’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa, Oklahoma. In 2016, Oklahoma collected a record $132 million in total tribal gaming exclusivity fees, a 3-percent increase from 2015. When the fees were first collected in 2006, only $14.2 million came into the state. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
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Ketchums open Fabric Notions crafts store

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
02/13/2017 08:30 AM
BARTLESVILLE, Okla. – After learning how to crochet at age 7, the craft bug hit Cherokee Nation citizen Shelli Ketchum hard and has stuck with her throughout her adult life.

In 2016, she realized her dream of operating a craft-inspired business, calling it Fabric Notions, after her husband and fellow CN citizen Kristopher lost his job. He helps her operate the business.

Shelli, who learned to sew in high school, said she’s a crafter by blood and that it is in her genes. She learned crafting from her grandmother, and the idea of owning a fabric store was perfect for her interests.

“But we wanted it to be a fabric and notions store. We didn’t just wanna offer fabric,” she said. “We wanted to be able to be able to offer something for everybody – for the embroider, for the sewer, for the quilter, the hobby makers, the clothing makers – that type of thing. So we’ve tried really hard to offer a variety of products and we’re continuing to get things in every week.”

Fabric Notions offers cottons, flannels, fleece, tapestry, satins and upholstery fabric. It also offers accessories such as sewing machine thumb drives, embroidery threads and small spool cotton threads – things that can be used more by the hobbyist.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Husband and wife duo Kristopher and Shelli Ketchum opened their business Fabric Notions in November in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Fabric Notions sells material as well as sewing and craft supplies. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Fabric Notions co-owner Kristopher Ketchum, right, helps Maryjane Mashunkashey seek material to use for possible gifts ideas. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Bolts of fabric line the walls of Fabric Notions, a store opened by Kristopher and Shelli Ketchum in November in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Husband and wife duo Kristopher and Shelli Ketchum opened their business Fabric Notions in November in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Fabric Notions sells material as well as sewing and craft supplies. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

CNT supporting Millsite Dam rehabilitation efforts

BY STAFF REPORTS
01/31/2017 04:00 PM
EMERY COUNTY, Utah – According to a Cherokee Nation Businesses release, CNB subsidiary Cherokee Nation Technologies is supporting the Natural Resources Conservation Service in its efforts to rehabilitate the Millsite Dam.

CNT is using its experience in unmanned aerial systems to collect imagery and elevation data to advance the USDA-led project, the release states.

The release states the collaboration is expected to enhance the dam by ensuring it meets current safety regulations and engineering standards while extending its life by 50 to 100 years.

According to the release, UAS support is safe, efficient and the least invasive method of gathering data and protecting the area’s natural resources. The method gathers high-resolution infrared sensor and color imaging data.

The release states the NRCS previously assessed Millsite Dam and concluded it didn’t meet safety and engineering standards for a dam with such high-hazard potential, meaning improper operation or failure could result in a potential loss of life.
A photo from an unmanned aerial system in Emory County, Utah. Cherokee Nation Technologies is supporting the Natural Resources Conservation Service in its efforts to rehabilitate the Millsite Dam in the county. COURTSEY
A photo from an unmanned aerial system in Emory County, Utah. Cherokee Nation Technologies is supporting the Natural Resources Conservation Service in its efforts to rehabilitate the Millsite Dam in the county. COURTSEY
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Henson successful in construction business

BY LINDSEY BARK
Staff Writer
01/25/2017 08:15 AM
PAWNEE, Okla. – At a young age, Cherokee Nation citizen Mike Henson followed in his stepfather’s footsteps working in construction. That eventually led him to create his own construction company in 2010.

After finishing a project for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers they offered him a $4 million contract.

“So that was really predicated on my past performance working for the Army Corps of Engineers, working on multiple projects in different states. So that’s why I created my company. I never really thought that I would be an entrepreneur, and it has since then just ballooned,” he said.

Henson said he has worked in construction since he was 15.

“As I got into college, it was a means for me to make ends meet. Our family didn’t have a lot of money, so I was responsible for everything that I had to do to make it through school,” he said.
Kuruks LLC workers install an access floor on Oct. 12, 2016, at the new Cherokee casino in Grove, Oklahoma. Kuruks, which is owned by Cherokee Nation citizen Mike Henson, has worked with the CN on several facilities. COURTESY Kuruks LLC employees work on an expansion project on the Stone Wolf Casino for the Pawnee Nation on Dec. 27, 2016, in Pawnee, Oklahoma. COURTESY Mike Henson
Kuruks LLC workers install an access floor on Oct. 12, 2016, at the new Cherokee casino in Grove, Oklahoma. Kuruks, which is owned by Cherokee Nation citizen Mike Henson, has worked with the CN on several facilities. COURTESY

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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Gallery opening fulfills dream of Fields

BY JAMI MURPHY
Senior Reporter – @cp_jmurphy
01/18/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It has been a dream of Cherokee Nation citizen Richard Fields to open a gallery where he could bring in fellow Cherokee artists and share what they’ve created. That dream came to fruition on Jan. 5 when he and his wife opened the 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery.

The gallery consists of Richard’s and his wife Sheila’s art, as well as Cherokee National Treasures, well-known area artists and up-and-coming artists.

“I made it all Cherokee artists, all Cherokee work…because we got a pretty good past, not just the Trail of Tears. That’s the sad part, but we got some good things too, you know,” he said.

The couple held a ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the gallery, which is located at 210 S. Muskogee Ave.

“We’ve been chasing (the gallery) for a while. We just didn’t know when to open it up. I got some really good artists. I’ve got some (Cherokee) National Treasures, three of them – Dorothy Ice, Bessie Russell and Jane Osti,” Richard said. “And I’ve got some really good up-and-coming artists or some that’s already been known such as Virginia Stroud, Daniel Horsechief, Matt Girty…I got Mary Horsechief…and I got a young guy, his name is Matt Stick.”
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Richard Fields, left, shows visitor Ryan Langston, of Locust Grove, Oklahoma, a bow he made. Fields and his wife Sheila opened the 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery on Jan. 5 in Tahlequah. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Baskets set in the 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.  All the artists showcased in the gallery are of Cherokee descent. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Pottery by Cherokee National Treasure Jane Osti set in the 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Artwork by various Cherokee artists hangs in the 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery. JAMI MURPHY/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Richard Fields, left, shows visitor Ryan Langston, of Locust Grove, Oklahoma, a bow he made. Fields and his wife Sheila opened the 4 Winds, 7 Clans Gallery on Jan. 5 in Tahlequah. JAMI MURPHY/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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