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 LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
07/11/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s College Resources continues to provide scholarships to concurrent, undergraduate and graduate students to help them continue their educational endeavors. College Resources serves 147 high schools in the jurisdiction and surrounding counties. In the 2017-18 school yea, 4,325 undergraduate and graduates students and 417 concurrent students received financial aid. “We’re primarily focused toward high school juniors and seniors and then the current students that we have trying to keep them in school and trying to make sure they meet the deadlines,” Jennifer Pigeon, CN Education Services’ fiscal management and administration manager, said. College Resources provides concurrent enrollment scholarships, high school valedictorian and salutatorian scholarships, undergraduate scholarships, graduate scholarships and financial assistance for directed studies. Concurrent students who are high school juniors receive financial aid for tuition, books and fees for up to six hours of general education courses. Seniors only receive financial aid for books and fees due to a state waiver that pays for tuition. Senior valedictorians and salutatorians receive a one-time scholarship upon graduating high school. Valedictorians receive up to $1,000 and salutatorians receive up to $750. Undergraduate and graduate students receive up to $2,000 per semester. “Once they’re accepted, undergrads are required to maintain a 2.0, concurrent a 2.5, and our graduates just need to remain in good standing with the college that they’re in,” Pigeon said. She said to renew their scholarships students must turn in their grades and community service hours. One hour of community service is required for every $100 received. Pigeon said students taking part in directed studies are limited to a University of Oklahoma rate of an equivalent degree meaning. For example, if a student is studying to become a doctor, dentist, or lawyer and do not choose to attend OU, College Resources will pay up to whatever OU’s rate would charge by paying for the tuition, books, fees, any required equipment and a housing stipend. CN citizens and citizens of federally recognized tribes are eligible to receive College Resources financial aid. However, federally recognized tribal citizens besides CN citizens are only awarded if they qualify for the federal Pell grant known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The award varies based on the number of applicants. College Resources also provides a computer lab at the W.W. Keeler Complex equipped with six computer stations, printers and scanners to help students with the application process, and College Resources staff also participate in college and career fairs such the tribe’s College and Career Night to promote scholarship opportunities to students. Information, applications and deadlines for the 2019-20 school year can be found at <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/College-Resources" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/Services/Education/College-Resources</a> or by calling 1-800-256-0671, ext. 5465 or emailing <a href="mailto: collegeresources@cherokee.org">collegeresources@cherokee.org</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/08/2018 02:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Tuition will increase at 21 of Oklahoma's 25 higher education institutions. The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education on Thursday approved tuition and fees for each of the state's colleges and universities. Only the University of Oklahoma, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Eastern Oklahoma State College and Murray State College did not seek a tuition increase. The Oklahoman reports that several college presidents cited the need to raise faculty and staff pay as a reason for the increase. The increases range from $130.80 at Carl Albert State College to $480 at both Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. Tuition at Oklahoma State University will rise by $280.50.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/03/2018 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An anti-tax group seeking to roll back a package of tax increases approved by the Oklahoma Legislature to help fund a teacher pay raise said Monday it is abandoning the effort. The Oklahoma Supreme Court's recent decision to toss the group's ballot initiative didn't leave enough time to gather the 42,000 signatures needed to place the question on the November ballot, said Ronda Vuillemont-Smith, one of the organizers of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite. "The court really cut us short on time," Vuillemont-Smith said. The anti-tax group led by former U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn was seeking a public vote to repeal tax hikes on cigarettes, fuel and energy production that were approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature earlier this year to help fund an average teacher pay raise of $6,100. The tax increases took effect on Sunday. But the Supreme Court ruled a description of the proposal on signature pages was insufficient and that its ballot title was misleading. The court said the group would have to start over with a new petition and gather the required number of signatures by July 18. Lawmakers were seeking to placate teachers frustrated with low pay and dwindling state funding. Despite the raise, teachers walked off the job for two weeks this spring and descended on the Capitol seeking more funding for public schools. Vuillemont-Smith said the group was not opposed to raising teacher pay, but said state leaders should have found other ways to fund the raises without raising taxes. The tax increases were the first in Oklahoma in more than two decades since voters approved a constitutional requirement that any tax increase receive a three-fourth's vote of the Legislature or be approved by a vote of the people. Opposition to the tax hikes has come at a political cost . Many of the anti-tax Republicans in the House who voted against the package faced primary opposition this year. Two GOP incumbents were defeated in last week's primary election. Several others were forced into a primary runoff after failing to secure a majority of votes in the primary.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
06/25/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Cherokee Nation citizen LaNice Belcher, a junior at Oklahoma City University, is going into her third and final year as an instrument music education major in the fall. Belcher attends OCU’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music. She said she takes 16 to 17 credit hours per semester while attending rehearsals as a bassoon player and teaches every evening at a music-based, after-school program called El Sistema. “That’s probably the best part of me going off to school because I work with inner city youth in downtown Oklahoma City, and so the program’s really great. We feed them, they get homework help, and we have classes for them,” Belcher said. Belcher said she was interested in instrument music education to become a teacher upon graduating from OCU. But in light of the recent Oklahoma teacher walkout, she’s considering other options such as obtaining a master’s degree in bassoon performance, nonprofit leadership, or getting a degree to become a radiology technician. “When I came to this program it was just so music-heavy I thought I was starting to burn out a little bit. I was starting to lose the focus of where the love originally came from. For me to be able to balance that and have the medicine side of things is like really vital,” she said. Before the end of this past spring semester, Belcher was elected OCU’s Collegiate National Association for Music Educators’ president for her local chapter to help create opportunities for her fellow music educators. She’s also involved in an upcoming collaboration called Project 21, where she’ll work with a local group at OCU to work with music composition majors, give fellow musicians the opportunity to play modern music compositions and get to know future colleagues such as music directors in the Oklahoma City area. For the summer, Belcher said she has an internship in OKC for the Inasmuch Fellowship to work with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art and the Paseo Arts Association to do grant research, fundraising, event planning and social media outreach. She also will continue her job at El Sistema throughout the summer and into the fall semester. “I take pride in the things. I want to do them well. If can’t do them well I won’t do them,” Belcher said.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
06/20/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Crystal Young on May 4 was named the Tahlequah Public School District Teacher of the Year for the 2017-18 school year. She is a third grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary. Young was first awarded Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year in April, which put her in the running for the district award. “It’s just super humbling, I think, when you get something like that, that you know your peers chose you,” she said. In the fall, Young will begin her seventh year at Cherokee Elementary and plans to teach fifth grade. Before joining Cherokee Elementary, she taught two years at the tribe’s Head Start. However, teaching wasn’t her first desire. She said she initially wanted to become a lawyer and work in juvenile justice. “Growing up, we lived in poverty. My dad struggled with addiction and things like that. So some of these students that I see, I was right there. I know exactly what they’re going through, and I wanted to show kids that hard work will get you where you need to be, and perseverance and work ethic and all those attributes, honesty, integrity, those things matter,” she said. While attending college, she realized she worked well with children and changed her career path from lawyer to educator. Aside from teaching, Young is the Cherokee language bowl sponsor and Together Raising Awareness for Indian Life sponsor for Cherokee Elementary. She said she exposes her students to Cherokee culture and to diabetes awareness through the TRAIL’s 12-week curriculum. “When they’re an adult, this is going to help them. I’m hoping that we’re setting a good foundation for them to be not only good readers, good writers, good mathematicians but just healthy, good individuals,” Young said. She said there are struggles with being a teacher and that she was one of the many teachers who rallied at Oklahoma City in April for more education funding. She said she believes it’s important to show students that when faced with adversity sometimes not going with what has always been done is acceptable. “It’s OK to be willing to stand up for what you feel like is right and standing together and being able to bond,” Young said. She said the rewards and struggles of being a teacher go hand in hand when coming in every day and giving her best while at the same time knowing so many kids rely on her. “I feel like everything I’ve done or wanted to do has been, at the root of it, has been I wanted to help people. I guess just to encourage people and motivate people to be the best they can be,” she said. Winning the district award puts Young in the running for Oklahoma State Teacher of the Year, which will be announced in October at the Tulsa State Fair.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
06/20/2018 09:45 AM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Thirty-five high school and college students attended the University of Arkansas’s Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative fifth annual Native Youth in Food and Agricultural Leadership Summit June 7-14 at the university’s law school. Representing 20 tribes from across the nation, each student studied in one of four educational tracks pertaining to agricultural business and finance, agricultural law and policy, nutrition and health, and land use and conservation planning. “What we hope is that young people who are coming here are already leaders in their communities and tribes back home, and we hope what they take away with them are the skills they need to be that next generation of leaders and help develop their tribal food and agricultural systems in their own farms and ranches back home across the country,” Erin Parker, university research director and staff attorney, said. Parker said the summit started five years ago via a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help youth who go into food and agricultural careers in Indian Country know the problems agricultural producers face, specifically Native American producers, and how to solve those problems. “We know from our work at the Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative that Indian producers face legal barriers, financial barriers that no other producer in the country faces when it comes to agriculture. Obviously dealing with an additional regulatory system through the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) around land usage and land management, it creates a lot of potential problems,” Parker said. Cherokee Nation citizen and Oklahoma State University junior Zachary Ilbery attended the summit for the fifth year in a row as a student leader and presenter. He focused on the agricultural business and finance track. “This year I was asked to apply in the agri-business and finance sector. I currently work as a loan officer/appraiser intern for Oklahoma AgCredit. I know a little bit in the business and credit side of things, so I was asked to apply to come back and dig deep into that sector,” Ilbery said. Ilbery said he wants to learn more about how agriculture in Indian Country differs. “Within Indian Country a lot of the times we don’t have the access to credit. We don’t have the access to capital. The way we manage we our natural resources is different from the way the USDA may want to manage our natural resources,” he said. “The Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative really is a groundbreaking opportunity for Native American, Alaskan and Hawaiian youth from all the around the nation to teach about our agricultural business and finance, credit, natural resource use.” He said he’s obtaining a degree at OSU in agricultural education, minoring in agricultural land real estate and is pre-agricultural law. He said he hopes to become an agricultural lawyer for the CN or the USDA to help improve agricultural laws. “Within the Cherokee Nation right now we have our bison herd. We have our natural resources division within the Cherokee Nation, and that’s something that the Cherokee Nation does focus a lot on is their agricultural practices. Going back and implementing some of our agricultural practices in a large perspective to better our community, to help us become self-sufficient and food sovereign, and in order to be a sovereign nation, you have to be food sovereign,” Ilbery said.