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Cherokee Southwest Township celebrates culture

08/12/2009 07:10 AM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Cherokee citizen Nick Nail hasn’t lived in the Cherokee Nation for more than 60 years, but he and about 100 other Cherokees celebrate their heritage thanks to the Cherokee Southwest Township.

The township is one of 12 CN-recognized organizations designated as an “official” Cherokee community outside the tribe’s jurisdiction in Oklahoma. In 2008, the CSWT became the first recognized community under the Cherokee Nation Community Association, which designates satellite groups as official Cherokee communities.

“We were very enthused to become the first satellite community,” said Nail, who is the CSWT’s meeting facilitator. “We’ve always felt we were an embassy anyway for the Cherokee Nation, so we were able to put this all together … it was a real honor for us.”

The CSWT was established in 1999 as a way for Cherokee citizens and their families to explore their heritage, nurture their Cherokee roots and learn more about Cherokee history and traditions, Nail said.

CSWT members consist of enrolled and non-enrolled Cherokees and their families. The group’s activities include monthly meetings and potluck meals with guest speakers and programs. The group also publishes a monthly newsletter, The Cherokee Compass, which includes Cherokee news and articles on history, culture, traditions and general interest.

Nail said his family moved from Oklahoma in 1943, but that hasn’t stopped him from returning to the CN once a year for the Cherokee National Holiday.

“(I) still have family in Oklahoma,” he said. “(I) used to compete in the blowgun competition.

“I’ve always enjoyed my Cherokee heritage and sharing with other Cherokees. We’ve always found it nice to find other families that are Cherokee. We just have a really good time together.”

CSWT member Sue Sleeper, who was born and raised in Santa Fe, said she has always held her Cherokee roots close.

“It’s very dear to my heart to be able to visit with other Cherokees for so many years,” she said. “You end up thinking you’re the only one. When we found this group it just brought our whole heritage to life, and it has just become a special integrated part of our lives.”

Patti Rawls, who was born in Tahlequah, Okla., said her heritage remains important to her and that she is happy to be a CSWT member. “(The group) keeps us all connected,” she said. “Kind of keeps us in touch with relatives back home.”

Charter CSWT member Gwen Forrester said both of her parents are on the Dawes Roll and had land in Oklahoma and that she’s proud of her Cherokee heritage.

“This group, Cherokee Southwest Township, has really enhanced my memories. I’ve taken the language classes…it’s just a wonderful part of my husbands life and my life, and our grandchildren’s lives,” she said.

At-Large Tribal Council Julia Coates said the reason people start satellite groups is because nearly 70 percent of Cherokee citizens don’t live in the tribe’s boundaries and they want to connect with the CN. She said satellite communities are a way to do that.

Along with celebrating the Cherokee culture with themselves, CWST members also receive periodic visits from CN officials and dignitaries, including the Principal Chief Chad Smith.

“We really appreciate the visits from the Cherokee Nation, Chad Smith and (his wife)Bobbie, At-Large (Tribal) Councilors, Julia (Coates) and (Jack) Baker,” Forrester said.

Communities wanting to apply for official CN recognition must meet requirements, including having had six months worth of meetings, established bylaws and permanent officers seated. Also, a majority of officers must be CN citizens.

Once those requirements are met, the group can submit an application to the CNCA board for chapter consideration. Once a community is chaptered under the CN’s non-profit umbrella, they are regarded as one of the CN’s official communities.


Special Correspondent
05/06/2015 02:00 PM
VINITA, Okla. — Twelve hundred pounds of crawfish and 450 pounds of fried catfish will help send some northeastern Oklahoma high school students to college. A fundraiser for its scholarship program, the Vinita Rotary Club hosted its inaugural Ales & Tails Crawfish Festival April 19 at the American Legion Rodeo Arena. Featuring performances from South of Vertical, Reverse Reaction and Jason Boland and the Stragglers, the crawfish boil brought in $31,000 to go toward college scholarships for Vinita-area high school students. Inspired by a similar event hosted by a Rotarian’s husband, the festival pulled in volunteers and vendors from beyond the Craig County community, including two members of Adair High School’s Future Farmers of America chapter, whose time was bought at a labor auction fundraiser. “We’ve been back here for a couple of hours, just breading catfish fillets,” Adair High School student Kayleigh New said. “We’ll be here for a couple more hours as well, wrist-deep in cornmeal. It’s what we were ‘bought’ for.” With more than 1.5 inches of rain falling in the area within 24 hours of load-in, the event’s host facility devolved into a giant mud pit, prompting organizers to do some fast-talking to keep some of its necessary contractors involved. “We had people come with mats and we basically leapfrogged them across the arena Saturday morning to get the stage set up,” event organizer Mary Hollabaugh said. “We stayed until midnight that night to do the same thing to get the stage out of there.” As of May 1, the Vinita Rotary Club’s scholarship committee had not decided how it will divvy up the influx of funds among area high school seniors. Of the 18 college scholarships most recently awarded by the Vinita Rotary Club, seven went to Cherokee Nation citizens. According to demographic data provided by the Oklahoma Department of Education, one-third of Vinita High School’s students are Native American. “We don’t necessarily ask whether our scholarship applicants are Cherokee,” Hollabaugh said. “It’s just worked out that way that we’ve been able to help out several area Cherokee students.” As the committee figures out who will benefit from the 2015 fundraiser, plans are already taking shape for the event’s 2016 edition. “We want to do this again,” Hollabaugh said. “It was just really nice to see the community come together and support something like that.”
05/06/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –The third annual ‘ONE FIRE Against Violence’ golf tournament will take place on May 8 at the Cherokee Springs Golf Course. ONE FIRE Victim Services is working alongside TERO to present the event and all proceeds will go to victims of child abuse and domestic violence. The four-person ‘Best Ball’ Scramble registration begins at 8 a.m. kicking off the event. Entry fees are $100 per person and include the green fee, sleeve of balls, driving range balls, door prizes and lunch. There is also a team price, which is $400 per team and allows four people per team. First-, second- and third-place winners will receive cash prices. If employees wish to attend they must use vacation time if they plan to miss work. If the tournament is canceled because of weather, officials will reschedule for the following Friday. For more information or to register, call Daryk Meigs at 918-316-3847.
05/05/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court on April 29 upheld a District Court ruling denying a tribal citizen’s request to require the Election Commission to provide early walk-in voting at each precinct in the tribe’s jurisdiction. The Supreme Court denied the appeal of Larry Paden stating that there was no substantial controversy with only offering walk-in voting in Tahlequah at the Election Services Office instead of at each precinct in the 14 counties. In 2014, Paden filed a lawsuit stating that the Election Commission had denied Paden and others equal protection of the law by providing early walk-in voting only at the Election Services Office. The Supreme Court states that the “heart of the controversy centers around Cherokee law mandating that the Cherokee Nation Election Commission provide in person absentee voting” at the Election Services Office. The court states the law makes it discretionary to the EC on the number of days allowed for early in-person absentee voting and what locations would be permitted to have it. “The Election Commission has determined for purposes of this election to allow three days of early voting at the Election Commission Office,” the opinion states. “The Election Commission has further determined that for reasons of cost, security and staffing that early in person absentee voting will only be allowed at the Election Commission Office located in Tahlequah, Okla.” Paden said this practice “constitutes an unfair denial of equal protection to Cherokees” who do not live in the Tahlequah area. “Because Cherokee citizens live literally all over the world, there will never be any circumstances which make the convenience of voting equal among the Tribe’s citizens,” the order states. “We find that the concerns of the Election Commission are valid and that the Commission’s imposition of reasonable restrictions upon Cherokee voters is not a denial of equal protection. Cherokee law permitting in- person absentee voting at the Election Commission Office and granting discretion to the Election Commission as to whether it should allow early in-person absentee voting at other locations and the Commission’s decision not to allow the same constitute a reasonable justifiable burden on Cherokee voters.” All five justices – James Wilcoxen, Troy Wayne Poteete, John C. Garrett, Angela Jones and Lynn Burris – signed the ruling.
05/03/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Rocky Mountain Cherokee Community Organization will host two fundraisers in May. A bingo game will be held at the organization’s community building on May 9 with a concession stand opening at 5 p.m. and bingo games beginning at 6 p.m. A gospel singing will begin at 5 p.m. on May 23. Concessions or a dinner will be for sale during the singing. The Rocky Mountain Community is located 5 miles west of Stilwell on Hwy 100. Turn onto Rocky Mountain School road and continue about 5 miles. The RMCCO Community Building is located across the road from the Rocky Mountain School softball field. RMCCO is affiliated with the Cherokee Nation’s Community and Cultural Outreach. Advancement of the Cherokee culture and communities in the Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdictional areas, as well the tribe’s many satellite communities, is important for the future of the CN. CCO is designed to strengthen Cherokee communities. For more information, call Vicki McLemore at 918-506-0487.
05/02/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – The National Park Service has proposed to modify the regulation governing the gathering of plants in national parks. The rule would allow citizens of federally recognized American Indian tribes with traditional associations to areas within specific units of the NPS to gather and remove plants or plant parts for traditional purposes. The gathering and removal allowed by the rule would be governed by agreements that may be entered into between the NPS and the tribes, and would also be subject to permits that identify the tribal members who may conduct these activities. The rule would prohibit commercial uses of gathered materials. To be published on April 20 in the Federal Register, “Gathering of Certain Plants or Plant Parts by Federally Recognized Indian Tribes for Traditional Purposes,” will be open for public comment for 90 days through July 20. “The proposed rule respects tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship between the United States and the tribes,” said NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “It also supports the mission of the National Park Service and the continuation of unique cultural traditions of American Indians.” Many units of the NPS contain resources important to the continuation of American Indian cultures. Indian tribes have actively sought the ability to gather and use plant resources for traditional purposes such as basketry and traditional medicines while ensuring the sustainability of plant communities in parks. At the same time, park managers and law enforcement officers need clear guidance regarding their responsibilities for enforcing park regulations with respect to the use of park resources by American Indians. The proposal provides an approach to plant collecting by members of federally recognized tribes that can be applied across the NPS. In drafting the proposed rule, NPS staff met with or contacted more than 120 Indian tribes. Tribal consultation that followed indicates that the approach taken in the proposed rule would address the need for gathering while respecting tribal sovereignty. Comments on the proposed rule should reference the NPS and Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) 1024-AD84, and can be submitted online through the Federal Rulemaking Portal: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>, which provides instructions for submitting comments; or by mail to: National Park Service, Joe Watkins, Office of Tribal Relations and American Cultures, 1201 Eye Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20005. Comments and suggestions on the information collection requirements in the proposed rule should be sent to the Desk Officer for the Department of the Interior at OMB-OIRA by fax at 202-395-5806 or by email to Comments by email should be sent to <a href="mailto:"></a> or by mail to: Information Collection Clearance Officer, National Park Service, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20240. Reference “1024-AD84” in the subject line.
05/02/2015 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Will Rogers Memorial Museum will host the “Will on the Hill” music festival beginning at noon on May 16. Rogers County native Beau Jennings and his band the Tigers will headline the festival. Jennings, who appeared in concert at the museum two years ago, will play his new album/project, “The Verdigris: in Search of Will Rogers.” To prepare for the project, Jennings, of Inola, retraced the steps in Will’s life, traveling from his Indian Territory birthplace to Alaska, where he and Wiley Post perished in a plane crash. As he traveled to major locations in Will’s life, he recorded new songs written on the way, inspired by nature and places. Activities will begin with a live podcast from noon to 1 p.m. with Bart Taylor, Will Rogers Memorial Museum assistant curator for education and Jacob Krumwiede, Museum assistant director, in an interview with Jennings about the process of writing his Will Rogers’ influenced album. “He will play a song or two on his acoustic guitar to show and talk about his songs,” Taylor said. Cody Brewer, associated with the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa, will be putting on a Will Rogers’ themed songwriting class for kids from 1-2 p.m. in the museum’s theatre. He will involve youngsters in songwriting and more specifically, writing about Will Rogers. He does this program at the Woody Guthrie Center, which builds kids’ excitement building as their creativity is aroused using Oklahoma history to tell a story. Other bands and performers are being lined up for the festival from 2-10 p.m. Those other bands include: “Annie Oakley,” an all-girl band founded by singer-songwriters Sophia and Grace Babb, is added to the list of musicians. Their music is described as Americana with a combination of folk, bluegrass, country, indie and soul. The sisters are descendants of both Comanche and pioneer Land Run stock and share the Ulster Scots heritage of Woody Guthrie and Merle Haggard. “Grazzhopper” has a foundation of bluegrass and country. Frontman Cody Brewer draws from influences of his family and surroundings. Grazzhopper’s songs discuss everything from trials and tribulations of life to the power of joy. Other bands and singers expected are Travis Linville, Dana Louise and Joe Mack. Linville has appeared on the David Letterman show and played multi-instrumentals with Hayes Carll on stages across North America, the United Kingdom, Australia, Denmark and Norway. Joe Mack is a singer, songwriter, producer, and teacher with a 30-year history of performing in a variety of situations. At the same time the grounds will be teeming with the Tulsa Windriders, a kite experience, artists and food trucks. Sponsors include Cherokee Nation, Cherokee Nation Businesses, Oklahoma Arts Council and Will Rogers Memorial Foundation.