Cherokee Nation citizen Tasha Atcity receives her crown as Miss Northeastern State University on Nov. 5, 2013. Atcity now has her eyes set on becoming Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 in December in Shawnee, Oklahoma. COURTESY
Atcity vying for Miss Oklahoma USA title
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tasha Atcity is preparing to compete for Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 in December, using the platform of inspiring disadvantaged youth. The Cherokee Nation citizen wants to be a voice by sharing her story and encouraging youths to defy stereotypes, as she did.
Competing in one, let alone three pageants, isn’t what Atcity dreamed possible five years ago while living at the Oklahoma United Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah after losing her home and income. She said she persevered and strived to “motivate and inspire individuals to pursue their dreams and goals”
“Five years ago if someone told me I would be competing in my third pageant, I would be like ‘oh goodness, you’re crazy’ because I didn’t know that was a possibility. But once I saw that it is a possibility that’s when I really opened my eyes. I realized that if I thought that stuff, then there are so many people that can think that way, too,” she said.
While living at the children’s home, Atcity received housing and support she didn’t have previously. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2015 becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.
“They (children’s home) helped me overcome the generational boundary of education along with helping me understand that my ‘mess’ was my message. They gave me the start I needed to become a confident young women,” she said. “I have a wonderful family, but because my parents were so focused on how we were going to make ends meet, there was a lot of questions I had that I didn’t know how to ask. And if I did ask, I’m not sure they would have been able to answer. So to give them the opportunity to be proud of who I have become, and for them to know they did every thing they could for me to be successful, and God did the rest, means so much to me.”
She grew up believing she could never be successful and remembers thinking she didn’t have the “capabilities to change her life.”
“When I was younger I would look at other people and think ‘wow, I could never be that successful.’ But those were just boundaries I was putting in place of myself. Nobody put those boundaries up. But now that I took those down, they can never come back up unless I put those road blockers in my way again,” she said.
Atcity competed in her first pageant on Nov. 5, 2013, winning the Miss NSU crown. In 2014, she competed for Miss Oklahoma, all the while maintaining her platform for disadvantaged youth.
“During my time at the children’s home and through my participation in the 2013 ‘Remember the Removal’ bike ride, I realized how extraordinary people can be and how you can truly use your life to impact others and inspire them,” she said. “So my goal was to compete in pageants to gain a title so that I could use that title to promote the platform to help disadvantaged youth and youth who are very advantaged, to understand that no matter what situation they were born into, what family they had or what situations they have been a part of in the past, right now they a have a decision to change their life and to impact the lives of others.”
She said competing for Miss Oklahoma USA would give her the opportunity to be the role model she wished she had growing up.
“I want to give young girls around me and in Oklahoma communities someone to look up to and say, ‘You know, her parents weren’t doctors, and she didn’t come from a family with a lot of money, but because of hard work and determination and because she believes in herself she was able to accomplish things she has set out to do,’” Atcity said. “A lot of the time we look at people’s social media, and we think ‘wow they were born perfect’ or that they must have had these situations given to them and that’s why they look so successful. But that’s not the case, so my goal is to go around a break those stereotypes and make people understand that it really is up to them whether or not they pursue a successful future.”
As part of the pageant, contestants will be judged in personal interview, on-stage question, fitness/swimsuit and evening wear, and Atcity said she’s preparing daily.
With the pageant alone costing $1,200, plus interview preparation, wardrobe, beauty accessories and coaching, the dollar amount to compete can be expensive. To help achieve her goal, Atcity opened a GoFundMe account for anyone willing to support her.
“Literally anything can help at this point. Pageants are very expensive. The entry fee alone is extremely expensive, but it’s worth it,” she said. “At this pageant I am representing Cherokee County. When I walk on that stage I am not there just for me, I’m there representing every young person who doesn’t know how important they are and how much they can make an impact.”
She also said she’s available for public speaking engagements. “I have four months to prepare, and in that time I really want to get out into the Cherokee County area and inspire and break down all those stereotypes that say ‘because you come from a specific background you don’t get to have this particular future.’ So I would love to share that with the community if they have opportunities for me share something like that and even if it’s on a personal basis with a young person.”
The Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 pageant is Dec. 15-17 at The Grand Casino Hotel Resort in Shawnee.
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen JoKay Dowell on Nov. 7 received a 2017 Dream Keepers award from the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and the city of Tulsa Human Rights Department as part of National Native American Heritage Month.
The GTAIAC’s annual Dream Keeper Awards Banquet celebrates Native American leaders “who exemplify strong character and have made a difference through solid dedication to public service.”
Dowell (Cherokee/Quapaw/Peoria/Eastern Shawnee) was awarded the “Will Anquoe Humanitarian Award.” The award “recognizes humanitarianism and overall contributions to the Native community but also recognizes those who bridge communication and understanding among diverse groups.”
Dowell was honored for her “strong history of advocacy and activism in the areas of Indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights, anti-war actions, peace and the environment.” She has traveled to Central and South American Indigenous communities to collaborate on ways to address shared injustices and successes, stated the Dream Keepers booklet.
In 2016, she and her daughter Anna delivered supplies to the Oceti Sakowin camp on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and spent five weeks there to help resist the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I looked around the room at the awards banquet and saw so many people of our people who have made profound contributions to their tribe, the community, the world. I felt inadequate, undeserving,” Dowell said. “I brought my grandchildren with me so that they can see that even though there is little financial reward or gain in community work, in service to others, there is so much reward. In fact, it’s mostly volunteer work. Many times we take money from out own pockets, but even then there is much reward when someone thanks us for something we’ve done or when we are recognized by our own community, our tribes, our peers like these Dream Keeper awards.”
Residing in rural northern Cherokee County, Dowell is also a photographer whose work has shown at Gilcrease Museum and a writer published in Indian Country Today, Native American Times, Native Oklahoma Magazine, First American Art Magazine, Native Americas Journal, the Cherokee Phoenix and Indigenous Women's Magazine.
Dowell served as faculty-in-residence for the 2004 University of Oklahoma’s National Education for Women’s Leadership Conference. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern State University and has won awards for creative writing. In 2011, as part of the 7th Generation Fund’s delegation, she attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN headquarters in New York City.
“I think each one of us has an obligation of service to our fellow human beings, to our home, Earth,” she said. “I’ve always been told that we Indigenous people have been given directions from the creator to take care of each other and Mother Earth and to demonstrate respect for all living things. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee actor and Nofire Hollow native Wes Studi sat down with the Cherokee Phoenix on Nov. 29 while attending the Tribal Film Festival Showcase at Circle Cinema to discuss his new film “Hostiles.”
The film is set in 1892 and follows Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) as he battles his hatred toward dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) while being forced to escort him and his family from New Mexico back to ancestral lands in Montana.
The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Ben Foster, who portray characters that each adds layers to the story amid a harsh backdrop of the American frontier. The tagline of the film is, “We are all hostiles,” and reminds audiences that any character is capable of anything when called upon, either by choice or by circumstance.
The Western premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September before making its Oklahoma debut at Circle Cinema where audiences had the opportunity to catch one of three screenings and participate in a Q&A featuring Studi and the film’s consultants Chris Eyre and Dr. Joely Proudfit.
“Hostiles” was scheduled to hit theaters nationwide on Dec. 22.
Before the Nov. 29 screening, the Cherokee Phoenix sat down with Studi to discuss the film and what attracts the actor to projects.
CP: Can you talk about your character, specifically the kind of journey he’s going to go on through this film?
Studi: My character, when presented to me through script, was a matter of, ‘wow, this is going to be a challenge. This is going to be a challenge in that I have never done this before, this kind of role before.’ I have never even had this kind of experience before because I am a man dying a slow death over a period of a few months, and I’m described that way in the press for our film. So, yes, it’s kind of a daunting thing in that there is nothing in my background that I can call upon to feel what in the world it feels like to be a slowly dying person, but I gave it a shot and we’ll see at the Q&A if anybody believes me or not. (Laughs.)
CP: Was there any other challenges coming in, mental or physical, that came with this character that was different from your other films?
Studi: Mentally, the (Cheyenne) language is fairly foreign to me, but we had good instructors. We had plenty of time to work on the pronunciations, the ups and the downs and the flow of the language. That and just a lot of time outside. I believe I have one interior shot in the whole film. Everything else is exterior, so it was quite a challenge. But challenges are something I like.
CP: Director Scott Cooper wrote this role with you in mind. Do you feel like you’re the go-to guy for this kind of role?
Studi: Ah, Scott Cooper, the Prince of Darkness, had me in mind. That should scare me, don’t you think? (Laughs.) It’s great to have people think of you in terms of your past performances and to write with you in mind. I hope more of that happens in the future.
CP: What would you tell people when they go into this film that they might get out of it?
Studi: I think what the public can expect from our story is a good old-fashioned concept of a Western that has been brought to a contemporary audience. I think that will be able to take away from it’s story, the kind of world that we could be living in. And perhaps are in danger of living in a world like that again. It’s a cautionary tale in ways, but the message of it is so deeply hidden that is a very entertaining film in itself as a period Western.
CP: What did you feel watching it for the first time?
Studi: It really blew me away at first. I first watched it and I was simply almost dumbfounded. I was quiet for a good long while afterwards. I really had to absorb what I had just seen. It’s a very effective film in its own way. It left me incapable of conversation immediately thereafter. You know, some films you can walk out of and say, ‘oh, I like this. I like that’ or ‘I didn’t like this or like that,’ but this one…It’s thought-provoking. It absolutely is that, and it’s done in an entertaining way.
CP: And in general, has there been a time where you’ve felt pressure to be the go-to Native American actor in Hollywood?
Studi: I don’t feel pressure about that. I don’t mind being the go-to guy if it’s the right role. I’m not going to be competing with Jason Momoa (Pawnee actor) for a part, but I would very much like to be a functioning part of the entertainment industry. And that’s mainly what I’ve worked a larger part of my career for is to become not just a Native American actor but an actor in general.
CP: And lastly, what attracts you to a project?
Studi: My agents and managers, they work very hard looking for sort of crossover, jump out kind of roles that I haven’t done before. I’ve done so many of the wise old guys and somewhere I’m the warrior or the angry Indian. I’ve done a number of different kinds of parts as far as Native American parts go, but I’ve also been able to cross over into comedy with sort of “Street Fighter” and “Mystery Men” in a few films that sort of go outside the Native American sphere. That’s what I look for in terms of future roles is something different, something that I haven’t done before.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Carrigan Bradley, of Fort Gibson, recently won the 2018 Miss Northeastern scholarship pageant.
Bradley, who also won the pageant’s talent competition, is a biochemistry major expected to graduate in 2020. She said she that after graduation she plans to continue her education with a doctorate in pharmacy.
Bradley said she’s looking forward to representing Northeastern State University and her platform “Words have P.O.W.E.R.” The idea for the platform began when Bradley auditioned for the “X-Factor” at age 15, and the harsh critique from judge Simon Cowell that prompted online backlash.
“My hope in creating this platform is to advocate for people in being kind to themselves with positive self talk, as well as being kind to others in their day-to-day conversations,” Bradley said. “As a titleholder, we get to be a voice and a role model for children of all ages to look to. I hope by speaking out about my experience and urging people to be kind and intentional with their words, I'll be able to change the way we speak to one another.”
CN citizen Kayse Stidham, of Grove, was named second runner-up and crowd pleaser. Stidham is an early childhood education major expected to graduate in 2018. After graduation, she said she plans to teach pre-kindergarten and continue volunteering in her Girl Scout Service unit.
During the pageant, more than $5,500 in scholarships and tuition waivers was awarded to contestants.
For more information about Miss Northeastern, email Kirsti Cook at <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk forged his first knife as a Christmas gift in 1989. Twenty-eight years later, he creates knives from steel for his livelihood.
“I’ve been retired since (20)04 and my knife-making is just what I do. I enjoy it,” he said.
The master knife maker works in a small gravel floor shop behind his house. Sounds of humming from the gas forge, knocking from the hydraulic hammer and the ‘ping’ from a hammer striking the hot steel echo throughout nearby woods. It’s there, he spends most of his day thinking of knife designs and bringing those ideas to life.
“I enjoy making knives. Right now I’m working on cross-between a little panabas and a karambit that is easy to make. It’s simple in design and it’s affordable. It’s always fun to figure out a new knife design and then figure out how to make it…easily, and it’s what I like to do.”
Kirk said he continually makes certain knives to keep in stock. He said he has the largest inventory this year that he’s had in a long time.
He takes custom orders, he said, but it should be a knife he’s used to making. He added that custom orders need to be planned and take more time to make.
“I don’t do wild, scary, scientific…blades,” he said. “I enjoy making using knives, mostly.”
Kirk said if someone custom orders a knife during the holiday season, he or she wouldn’t receive it until spring. “If I have something that they (customer) like, I might already have it in inventory. As far as a special knife of this design, this size, I couldn’t get to it.”
He said a special-ordered knife creates a “connection” between the maker and the buyer and adds more time to the creation process. “I do heirloom knives where I take some steel and wood…from a customer…and if it’s weldable, I’ll forge-weld it together, and I’ll add some of my steel and make a usable knife out of it. It takes longer sometimes. I made some out of a crescent wrench. How good of an edge it holds, I do not know, but the guy said it’s working good.”
Kirk said he sells knives ranging from $50 to $1,500 and offers discounts to veterans, active-duty military, police, fire fighters and Boy Scout leaders.
Along with forging knives to sell, Kirk also desires to teach his craft. He said he’s going to Auburn, Maine, in mid-November to teach a two-week introduction bladesmith class for the American Bladesmith Society. “It makes you feel good whenever someone shares your enjoyment…and you’re able to share it with them.”
Kirk said he plans to start a class at his shop next year and wants to hold sessions over multiple days instead of a few hours in the evenings. He plans to renovate a house on his property so attendees can have a place to stay.
“What my wife and I plan on doing is we’ll have a place for them to stay, and it will run about $400 for three days,” he said. “We’ll make my kind of knife, and they should be able to make two of them in three days.”
Kirk said, for the class, he’s going to accept two to four people per class. “If they pay $400, it’s like them buying two knives that they made plus they get to know how to do it.”
To purchase a knife, visit <a href="http://www.rakerknives.com" target="_blank">www.rakerknives.com</a> or Kirk’s Facebook page at <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5</a>. For more information on classes, call 918-207-8076 or email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.
“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.
Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.
Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.
“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”
In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment.
“I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.”
The location itself was also a factor.
“Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.”
In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways.
“I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.”
The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team.
“To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.”
Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble.
“To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.”
For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit <a href="http://www.discovery.com" target="_blank">www.discovery.com</a>. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
JAY, Okla. – As a little girl, Cherokee Nation citizen Brooke Hester dreamed of being a role model and representing her community as she watched pageant winners do so. Winning Ms. Oklahoma 2018 on Oct. 7 in Chickasha now allows her that honor.
From the Delaware County town of Jay, Hester began her pageant journey in elementary school by winning Little Miss Huckleberry in the town’s annual Huckleberry Festival. Since then, Hester has won Huckleberry Princess and Huckleberry Queen.
Having “presence and poise” is what drew Hester to start competing in pageants. “I always wanted to be able to represent my community,” she said.
During the Ms. Oklahoma competition, Hester was required to do a private interview with the judges, an opening dance number, an onstage personal introduction, as well as evening gown and talent portions.
To prepare, Hester said she spent hours writing and practicing her introduction speech, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, practicing modeling formations and mock interviews and walking around her house in her “pageant heels.”
“My experience competing in the Ms. Oklahoma pageant was truly amazing. I met some of the most incredibly talented and educated women while competing and brought home so many new friendships that I didn’t have before,” she said.
Along with her title, Hester also won best interview and best talent, singing Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.”
Hester’s platform is “Life is What You Give: Volunteerism,” and she’s an avid volunteer in her community.
As part of her volunteer efforts, she is as a member of the Jay Chamber of Commerce, director of the Miss Huckleberry and Miss Huckleberry Outstanding Teen pageants, director of the Miss Bulldog Pride pageant, director of the Mister and Miss Merry Christmas pageant, an active member of the Huckleberry Festival committee and Jay Chamber of Commerce Christmas Lighting Committee, Jay Summer Sports tee ball coordinator and coach, Little League assistant coach and Jay Youth Sports basketball coach.
“The more I give, the happier I feel. I love to help others, do good for them, and for my community. I promote volunteerism to others just leading by example. Volunteering can be so contagious,” she said.
As Ms. Oklahoma, Hester will spend the next year traveling to communities and events in Oklahoma.
“My next year will be a journey that I hope goes by very slowly because I won’t want it to end. Throughout my year I will continue volunteering in my community as well as others,” she said.
Hester said she would speak at schools, attend meet-and-greets and participate in parades across the state. She will also make appearances with the current Miss Huckleberry and Miss Huckleberry Outstanding Teen.
In 2018, Hester will also compete for the title of International Ms. in Orlando, Florida.
In the future, Hester plans to compete in the Mrs. Oklahoma pageant, which is for married women. She works at the CN Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, is married to her husband Caleb, and has three children.