http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgTsa-ha-ni Drowningbear, left, portraying “Rabbit,” speaks with Gwe-ti Harkreader, portraying “Cricket,” in “Why the Opossum’s Tail is Bare” April 4 at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman, Okla. Drowningbear and Harkreader were part of the Cherokee Nation Immersion School’s fifth grade class that attended the fair. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Tsa-ha-ni Drowningbear, left, portraying “Rabbit,” speaks with Gwe-ti Harkreader, portraying “Cricket,” in “Why the Opossum’s Tail is Bare” April 4 at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman, Okla. Drowningbear and Harkreader were part of the Cherokee Nation Immersion School’s fifth grade class that attended the fair. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Immersion students see variety of experiences

The animals (Cherokee Nation Immersion School’s fifth graders) pretend to laugh at the “Opossum,” portrayed by Tsit-luk Grayson, because the opossum’s tail is bare underneath the red cover, but possum does not know it. The scene is part of the story “Why the Opossum’s Tail is Bare,” which the class presented April 4 at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman, Okla. CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Wa-li-si Bird, portraying “Bear,” speaks during the production of “Why the Opossum’s Tail is Bare” April 4 at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman, Okla. The Cherokee Nation Immersion School’s fifth grade acted out the story and won second place. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The animals (Cherokee Nation Immersion School’s fifth graders) pretend to laugh at the “Opossum,” portrayed by Tsit-luk Grayson, because the opossum’s tail is bare underneath the red cover, but possum does not know it. The scene is part of the story “Why the Opossum’s Tail is Bare,” which the class presented April 4 at the Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair in Norman, Okla. CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
04/19/2011 07:01 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Providing different avenues for students to shine and gain new experiences is the mission of Cherokee Nation Immersion School.

One of those avenues was participating in the ninth annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair. The fair, held April 4-5, brought together students from tribes to compete against each other using their respective Native language skills.

CNIS students competed in 10 categories and brought home 12 awards and trophies.

CNIS Supervisor Rebecca Drywater, who has been with the school for four years, said 69 CNIS students and 48 families attended the fair.

“We have wonderful parental support. When the children do something or go somewhere, like on field trips, the parents will go and assist,” she said.

This was the first year the pre-kindergarten class competed. Davis said the pre-kindergarten students gained confidence performing in front of an audience and this year’s competition will get them ready for 2012.

“Going to competition and seeing other kids is good for them. They get to see other kids out there like them. It’s good for them to know there are other languages out there are being revived,” Davis, who is serving her first year as principal, said. “It’s good for them to know they are doing important work right here. Sometimes they think, ‘oh we’re at school,’ but they’re also saving a language.”

Drywater said judges at the fair were looking at how the students utilized their languages.

CNIS students performed plays, sang songs and told stories in Cherokee during the competition while judges from different tribes throughout the state judged them.

Drywater uses her music skills to help prepare students. She said the younger children start out the day with songs, and she has used the music from older pop songs such as “Under the Boardwalk” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” adding Cherokee words for the children to sing.

She said the children enjoyed the songs so much they insisted on singing them in the competition.

The CNIS has 25 teachers and 90 students beginning with a program for 3-year-old students. There is also a pre-kindergarten class of 4 year olds, kindergarten and then first through fifth grades. A sixth grade will be added in the fall, and after next year those sixth grade students will transition to seventh grade at nearby Sequoyah Schools. The school is part of Sequoyah.

Davis said she is excited about the future as the students transition to middle school and high school. She said discussions are being held about providing “different opportunities” for those students when they move to the upper grades.

“They need to know when they are finished here they are not finished. This is not the end of their journey. We want them to go out and teach the next generation,” she said.

Davis does not speak Cherokee, but has worked in public education for 25 years. She said she is learning more of the language from students and staff.

The CN citizen served as an elementary teacher before being principal at Grove for 12 years and then superintendent at Moseley Schools in Delaware County for six years.

She said she welcomed the challenge of working for the CNIS, but admitted because of her background, she was concerned about the students learning English and wanted to test their English knowledge.

“I honestly thought when I first came that we probably should introduce English as early as third grade. I have totally revamped that after being here,” she said. “I was more than comfortable this year introducing English after Christmas to the fifth grade. I think that’s early enough.”

Even with limited English instruction in school, Davis said immersion students are doing “great.” She said studies and research show the students are using twice as much as their brain learning two languages, which she has seen while observing her students.

“Until you actually experience it and see it, you’re not a believer,” she said.

The school also attracts observers, visitors and the media interested in how it operates. However, the older students have grown accustomed to the visitors, Davis said, and carry on with their work.

“We are building tomorrow’s leaders because these kids have no fears when it comes down to it. You can throw a camera in front of them and they will just go with it. They speak their mind.

They are accustomed to being in the limelight and that builds their confidence,” Davis said. “It also makes their performances better because they don’t deal with that nervousness and that fear because they are so used to having visitors.”

Drywater said she was shy in grade school, so she works with the students to help them become more outspoken, confident in themselves and to be leaders.

Ultimately, producing well-rounded, confident leaders to lead the tribe in the future is the school’s main goal.

“We are pioneers. We are establishing something that’s going to be great,” Davis said. “I honestly believe with this program we are going to produce some of the best leaders and the best well-rounded students. It is exciting, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

Cherokee Nation Immersion School classes and individuals who placed at the ninth annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair include:

Large group Song Pre-k – Second Grade
First Place – kindergarten – “Five Little Monkeys”
Second Place – first grade – “To Learn Cherokee”

Large group spoken language Pre-k – Second Grade
Second Place – second grade – “Three Sisters”

Large group song Third Grade – Fifth Grade
First Place – third and fourth Grade – “Quiet-Indian Asleep”

Large group spoken language Third Grade – Fifth Grade
Second Place – fifth grade – “Why the Opossum’s Tail is Bare”

Individual Spoken Third Grade – Fifth Grade
First Place – fifth grader Tsa-ha-ni Drowningbear – “Three Little Pigs”

Small Group Song Third Grade – Fifth Grade
First Place – fifth graders Tsa-ha-ni and Goga Drowningbear – “We Are Family”

Language Master Third Grade – Fifth Grade
(This category is for children who are growing up speaking their Native language in the home.)
First Place – fifth graders Tsa-ha-ni and Goga Drowningbear – “Spearfinger”

Poster Display
First Place – fifth grader – Tsa-ha-ni Drowingbear
Second Place – fifth grader – Goga Drowingbear

Video and Film Screening
First Place – fourth grader Yona Winn and third grader Sahmi Winn – “Scooby Doo”

Special Award Recognition
First Place – pre-kindergarten – “Cherokee Clans”

will-chavez@cherokee.org • (918) 207-3961
About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

Education

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/20/2018 12:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) – Stephen C. has been taught only math and English at a U.S.-run elementary school for Native American children deep in a gorge off the Grand Canyon. Teachers have left midyear, and he repeatedly faces suspension and arrest for behavior his attorneys say is linked to a disability stemming from traumatic experiences. The 12-year-old is among children from Arizona’s remote and impoverished Havasupai Reservation who are a step closer to their push for systematic reform of the U.S. agency that oversees tribal education, alleging in a lawsuit it ignored complaints about an understaffed school, a lack of special education and a deficient curriculum. The students’ attorneys say they won a major legal victory recently when a federal court agreed that childhood adversity and trauma can be learning disabilities, a tactic the same law firm used in crime-ridden Compton, California. They say the case could have widespread effects for Native children in more than 180 schools nationwide overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education and in schools with large Native populations. “Education is our lifeline and our future for our kids – and all students, not just down here, but nationally,” Havasupai Chairwoman Muriel Coochwytewa said. The BIE has “an obligation to teach our children. And if that’s not going on, then our children will become failures, and we don’t want that.” Havasupai students face adversity and generational trauma from repeated broken promises from the U.S. government, efforts to eradicate Native culture and tradition, discrimination and the school’s tendency to call police to deal with behavioral problems, attorneys say. U.S. District Judge Steven Logan wrote in a late March ruling that the students’ lawyers adequately alleged “complex trauma” and adversity can result in physiological effects leading to a physical impairment. He moved the case forward, denying Justice Department requests to dismiss some of the allegations but agreeing to drop plaintiffs from the lawsuit who no longer attend Havasupai Elementary School. Noshene Ranjbar, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona, said medical literature has expanded in the past 20 years to include trauma that isn’t linked only to singular events. In Native communities she’s worked with in the Dakotas and Arizona, “they agree the root of everything they suffer with is this unresolved grief, loss, trauma, anger, decades of disappointment on a huge scale,” she said. When students act out, schools too often turn to suspension, expulsion or arrest instead of finding what’s driving the bad behavior, she said. Usually, it’s “a hurt human being that is using the wrong means to cope,” Ranjbar said. The Public Counsel law firm pressing the Havasupai case also sued the Compton Unified School District – which is majority black and Latino – in 2015 over disability services for students with complex trauma. A judge said students with violent and traumatic pasts could be eligible for such services but didn’t apply the ruling to all who experience trauma. The U.S. Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment on the Havasupai ruling. Government attorney Cesar Lopez-Morales said at a hearing in 2017 that while trauma could result in a disability, federal agencies cannot assume every Native student with shared experiences is disabled. They would need specifics of individuals’ impairments and how those affect their lives. He said attorneys also failed to show the students were denied benefits solely because of disabilities. Havasupai Elementary School has three teachers for kindergarten through eighth grade on a remote reservation home to about 650 people and world-renowned for its blue-green waterfalls. The village of Supai can be reached only by mule, foot or helicopter, making it the most isolated of the BIE’s schools in the Lower 48 states. The reservation doesn’t have a high school. The students’ attorneys say the area is beset with high levels of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, family violence and low literacy levels. All 70 elementary school students qualify for free or reduced lunch and most are limited in English and math proficiency, and have special education needs. “What we know from the science is that, particularly unaddressed, the impact of trauma can impact the ability to learn, read, think, concentrate and communicate,” public counsel attorney Kathryn Eidmann said. The lawsuit seeks to force the government to provide services for special needs, a thorough curriculum, culturally relevant education and staff training to respond to trauma. Stephen C., whose full name is not listed in court documents, enrolled as a kindergartner but can hardly read or write now that he’s in seventh grade. His attorneys say he has an attention deficit disorder and experiences trauma from witnessing alcohol abuse at school and from his relatives being forced into boarding schools. At one point, he pulled a plug out of a computer monitor and faced a federal indictment, the lawsuit says. Some Havasupai parents have sent their children to boarding schools off the reservation rather than deal with inadequate educational services. Stephen’s guardian has considered it, too. But he said in a statement that tribal members want children with them in the canyon, to watch them grow and be a part of the community.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
04/13/2018 03:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of more than 100 female attorneys, also known as Girl Attorney LLC, on April 9 marched to the Oklahoma Capitol to stand in solidarity with public school educators who had been rallying for increased funding since April 2. Girl Attorney sent a letter on April 8 to Senate and House members. The letter, containing 628 signatures, stated: “The purpose of this visit is to meet with members of the 56th Legislature to discuss their plans to fully fund public education in Oklahoma. Various stakeholders have proposed possible solutions, and we expect our elected representatives to be able to speak intelligently about the merits and potential pitfalls of each. We also expect that a representative who is ideologically opposed to a particular proposal will be prepared to present a detailed alternative. We are business owners and taxpayers ourselves; if there is a means of providing a quality public education to our children without increasing taxes, then we would love to hear the details.” Among the group were several Cherokee attorneys, including Nikki Baker Limore, the Cherokee Nation’s executive director of Indian Child Welfare. She said she became involved after learning there were 27 children in his class to one teacher. “For a teacher with no aide, no intern, no assistance whatsoever to have to handle 27 5-year-olds, it was like herding cats,” Baker Limore said. “That’s what began my looking into the public school system, and that was eye-opening for me back at the beginning of the school year. I felt compelled.” She said she also sees how the lack of funding affects the 84 children attending public school while in ICW custody. She said it’s hard for those children, who sometimes deal with personal trauma, to receive individual attention, encouragement and redirection because of class sizes. CN Assistant Attorney General Alayna Farris said she sought ways to contribute to education reform and answered the call to march to the Capitol. “I would like people to know that the teacher walkout was a selfless act done for the students. Years of education cuts have landed us in this situation. I know the many teachers I have had over the years directly contributed to my success as an assistant attorney general for Cherokee Nation. I would not be where I am today without public education.” Cherokee Nation Business attorney Tralynna Scott also said she sees the struggles public school teachers face. “I get to see firsthand just how abysmal our school systems are now. There aren’t enough books. These kids can’t take books home in the evening to do their homework because they share books with other students. I just don’t understand how any expects them to really learn in that fashion.” She said she got the sense that many lawmakers were playing the “blame game” and that they were backtracking on deals that were made and then repealed. “Circumstances have changed, number one. Number two, the other thing that was on that deal supposedly, was the hotel-motel tax, which they turned right around and took off the plate. They repealed it. (Gov. Mary) Fallin signed that into that in law Monday, and in my world, in my legal world, if you make a deal, and you turn right around and don’t do part of that deal, that’s called breach of contract,” Scott said. Scott said the representatives she spoke with supported certain exemptions but weren’t able to get their bills heard. “None of them are willing to start a petition to suspend the rules where they can bypass (House Majority Floor Leader Jon) Echols and get it heard on the floor. That would take 68 votes to suspend the rules. But I directly point blank asked them ‘will you start that petition?’ No,” she said. She said Girl Attorney would continue advocating for adequate funding. “To the legislators, we are very serious. The entire state is very serious about changing public education, and if they don’t move forward with solutions then they will be voted out.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/13/2018 12:00 PM
MUSKOGEE – Northeastern State University is joining with universities around Oklahoma in its efforts to help working adults finish the requirements for bachelor’s degrees through the Reach Higher program. Reach Higher is a flexible program that provides an adult student the opportunity to work full-time, have a family and complete a degree online. The curriculum is specifically designed to help working adults succeed in the workplace. “Without this flexible and affordable option, many adult students would not be able to realize this lifelong dream of completing a bachelor’s degree,” Michelle Farris, Reach Higher program advisor, said. In May, senior Shawna Glass will complete a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership through Reach Higher at NSU. “I’m a single mother in my mid-30s, so I have to work during the day and be there for my kids and their busy schedules in the evenings. Traditional school was no longer an option for me,” she said. “The Reach Higher program has allowed me to still take care of my daily obligations while completing my degree online. My experience with the Reach Higher program has been a blessing. While it hasn’t always been easy, I have been able to reach my goal of completing my bachelor’s degree while still being able to work and take care of my children.” Students who are at least 21 years old, have completed at least 72 hours of college credits or have an approved associate degree with a minimum 2.0 GPA and who have completed general education requirements can earn a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/reachhigher" target="_blank">nsuok.edu/reachhigher</a> or call Farris at 918-444-5034.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
04/13/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix peeked in on Sequoyah High School’s drama department as it rehearsed for its upcoming adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical “Into the Woods,” which musically tells the darker side of the classic fairy tales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. “Into The Woods” will be held at the Sequoyah’s The Place Where They Play on the SHS campus. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on April 26, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 27 and 2 p.m. on April 29. For more information, visit <a href="http://sequoyah.cherokee.org" target="_blank">http://sequoyah.cherokee.org</a> or the Sequoyah Speech/Drama/Debate Students Facebook page.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/10/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications for its fifth annual ACT prep camp from June 4-9 at Northeastern State University. The camp is offered to rising juniors and seniors and provides 16 hours of intensive ACT prep instruction, as well as college workshops focusing on admissions, financial aid, scholarship opportunities and time management. At the end of the weeklong camp, students will take the official ACT test at NSU. All lodging, meals and testing expenses are provided by CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU. Applications will be accepted through April 21 and are available at <a href="http://www.cherokeenation.academicworks.com" target="_blank">cherokeenation.academicworks.com</a>. For more information, email <a href="mailto: j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org">j.sandoval@cherokeenationfoundation.org</a> or call 918-207-0950.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/08/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Northeastern State University Center for Tribal Studies will present three keynote speakers, two film screenings and presentations April 16-21 as part of the 46th annual Symposium on the American Indian. The Symposium’s theme is “Walking with our Ancestors: Preserving Culture and Honoring Tradition.” The keynote speakers are Daryl Baldwin, Dr. Lee Francis IV and Dr. Daniel Wildcat. All keynote speakers will be located in the University Center Ballroom. Dr. Lee Francis IV will speak at 9:30 a.m. on April 18. He is the national director of Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, the position he assumed after the passing of his father, Wordcraft founder, Dr. Lee Francis III. His work as a poet and scholar has appeared in journals and anthologies. He will explore the history of Native and Indigenous people in popular culture and highlight some of the efforts of “Indigenerds” worldwide to actively change the representations of Native people through dynamic and powerful expressions of self and culture. Daryl Baldwin will speak at 1 p.m. on April 18. Baldwin is a citizen of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. His ancestors were active in the affairs of the Miami Nation dating back to the 18th century, and he continues this dedication through his work in language and cultural revitalization. Since 1995, Baldwin has worked with the Myaamia people developing culture and language-based educational materials and programs for the tribal community. Baldwin’s presentation will look at the role of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, a Miami Tribe of Oklahoma-supported research center, whose mission is to serve the needs of the Myaamia people, Miami University and partner communities through research, education and outreach that promote Myaamia language, culture, knowledge and values. Dr. Daniel Wildcat will speak at 9:30 a.m. on April 19. He is a professor at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and an accomplished scholar who writes on Indigenous knowledge, technology, environment and education. A Yuchi citizen of the Muscogee Nation, Wildcat’s presentation examines the climate change-induced trauma already occurring and likely to dramatically increase in the next decades. This presentation will argue that to deal with this trauma, Indigenous people will need to rely on culture to express tribal resilience through exercises of Indigenous ingenuity. Two films will be screened during the symposium, “The Old School House” and “Te Ata.” “The Old School House” can be seen at 5:30 p.m. on April 16 in the Webb Building Auditorium. The film is the sixth feature documentary from the Native American Paranormal Project. It explores a building on the campus of NSU known as the Bacone House, which serves as the university’s Center for Tribal Studies. Over the past few decades, many staff and students have encountered unexplained sights and sounds in the Bacone House. In August 2017, the Native American Paranormal Project visited the old building and documented its time there. The findings and the history of the 150 year-old home are featured in "The Old School House.” “Te Ata” (TAY’ AH-TAH) “Te Ata” can be seen at 5:30 p.m. on April 17 in the Webb Building Auditorium. The film is based on the inspiring, true story of Mary Thompson Fisher, a woman who traversed cultural barriers to become one of the greatest Native American performers of all time. Born in Indian Territory, and raised on the songs and stories of her Chickasaw culture, Te Ata’s journey to find her true calling led her through isolation, discovery, love and a stage career that culminated in performances for a United States president, European royalty and audiences across the world. April 16-18 will also offer panels and presentations in the University Center Ballroom. Symposium activities are free and the public is encouraged to attend. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.nsuok.edu/symposium" target="_blank">www.nsuok.edu/symposium</a>.