The Cherokee Nation’s Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services staff cut the ribbon at a May 4 open house for the tribe’s new lactation center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Nation opens breastfeeding center

Expectant mother Alayna Farris takes a tour of the nursing room during a May 4 open house at the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX The breastfeeding room of the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center offers a relaxing atmosphere, rocking chair and subdued lighting for nursing mothers. The center is located at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Expectant mother Alayna Farris takes a tour of the nursing room during a May 4 open house at the Cherokee Nation’s new Breastfeeding Services Center at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah, Okla. CHRISTINA GOOD VOICE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY CHRISTINA GOODVOICE
05/06/2011 06:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Alayna Farris is expecting her first baby this fall. And though she’s months away from meeting her new arrival, she’s already decided to breastfeed her baby.

“(I plan to breastfeed because of) the benefits of the immunities that will be passed on to my baby,” she said. “And just making sure that I’m making the right choices to have a healthy baby.”

The Cherokee Nation Women, Infants and Children Program Breastfeeding Services have been assisting nursing mothers for several years, but now the program has its own site at 1234 W. Fourth St., in Tahlequah.

The Breastfeeding Services group held an open house May 4 to show new and expecting moms where they can come for services and information such as peer counseling, educational information and expertise of other breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding Services Coordinator Brenda Carter said breastfeeding mothers need all the support they can get, and that’s the purpose of the center.

“We want our breastfeeding moms to feel special,” she said. “They’ve chosen to breastfeed, and we want to make sure they have the support they need. That’s one of the big reasons for people to continue breastfeeding, the support.”

The center has been a longtime dream of WIC Lactation Coordinator Euphemia John, Carter said. “She’s been our lactation coordinator for many years. In the back of her head she always had a special place for moms to come for support, classes and education.”

Support groups are a major aspect of the center, John said.

“That’s what we want to have here,” John said. “Support groups where women can support each other and share all their experiences they have. That helps them learn from each other.”

Farris said she’s always known she wanted to breastfeed her baby, especially since all her aunts breastfed their babies. “I saw how healthy all their babies were.”

She added that the center should be a great resource for new mothers.

“It’s more support,” Farris said. “The more support I can get in all aspects of having a new baby the better.”

John said the center’s atmosphere is a relaxed one, complete with neutral paint on the walls, photos of mothers and their babies and even a nursing room with a rocking chair, ottoman, subdued lighting, mural of a tropical beach on the wall and calming music.

“The subdued lighting is to have moms get comfortable sitting there, and get relaxed and comfortable,” she said.

WIC Nutrition Coordinator Pam Wedding said the mural is intended to relax mothers.

“The mural is another way of relaxing so that moms cannot feel tense,” Wedding said. “That’s counterproductive to the support. It’s a place with a comfortable chair where it doesn’t feel really clinical and medical.”

Farris said the entire center had the desired effect on her.

“It’s very relaxing,” she said. “It’s peaceful in here. It’s somewhere where I want to be.”

But Breastfeeding Services workers aren’t just helping nursing moms, they are also working to break the stigma of breastfeeding created by those who don’t understand the choice.

“It’s not just WIC that we have to educate,” Carter said. “It’s the different departments. And we’re working to do that.”

She said breastfeeding is generational in that it’s passed down in families, but some of the younger generations have ditched the method for bottle-feeding.

“My mom breastfed, but you know, (younger generations) skipped that,” Carter said.

She added that a state law supports breastfeeding mothers, a fact many people don’t realize.

John also said the CN WIC group is working with the Healthy Nation program to possibly create a billboard about breastfeeding to assist in that effort.

“I think when people don’t see it visually out there they’re not going to get used to the idea,” John said. “It has to be out there.”

Carter said the tribe is lucky that CN Medical Director Gloria Grim supports the breastfeeding movement.

“The Cherokee Nation allows its employee who are working mothers the appropriate time and a safe place to support the mother’s choice to breastfeed their baby, which mirrors the government’s guidelines on breastfeeding,” Grim said in an emailed statement. “We continually work to educate expecting mothers on the importance of breastfeeding and the health benefits to their baby. With the new lactation center, we provide mothers with a relaxing environment so they remain committed to breastfeeding their child. We have dedicated space in some Cherokee Nation health centers and hope to implement more in other facilities.”

christina-goodvoice@cherokee.org • 918-207-3825

Election

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
06/29/2015 12:58 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – According to certified results, the Cherokee Nation’s Dist. 1 Tribal Council seat goes to Rex Jordan after he defeated Ryan Sierra in the June 27 general election. Certified results show Jordan won by a vote count of 856 to Sierra’s 494 votes. Jordan received 63.41 percent of the ballots cast while Sierra received 36.59 percent. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Jordan but was unsuccessful. In a Facebook post, Sierra expressed his gratitude to those who supported him during his campaign. “I must first praise God for giving my family and me this opportunity. He is still in control no matter what,” he wrote. “The numbers are in and we did not gain enough votes to serve as councilman for district one. I want to thank each and every person who showed us support and gave us your vote. You are appreciated! I will continue to serve within my community and in anyway God sees fit. Best wishes to Rex Jordan. Serve the people well.” Dist. 1 covers the western part of Cherokee County and a portion of eastern Wagoner County. The EC certified the results from the general election on June 29. Jordan is expected to be sworn into office on Aug. 14, which is the tribe’s inauguration day.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/22/2015 12:34 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – To promote health and wellness among American Indians, Oklahoma City Indian Clinic will host its annual “Walk for Wellness” and health fair from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. on June 27 at Remington Park, 100 Remington Park. The event is free and open to the public. “Our staff members are dedicated to helping American Indians prevent and manage diabetes and pre-diabetes, and this walk and health fair helps promote those ideals,” Robyn Sunday-Allen, CEO of OKCIC, said. “Developing and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the first steps to changing the health risks that affect American Indians. The walk will provide attendees with valuable information on staying healthy while enjoying a fun, family-friendly environment.” The health fair will provide attendees with information on a range of clinic services, including medical, dental, prenatal, pediatric, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, family programs and behavioral health services. The one-mile fun walk begins at 9 a.m. Registration is available the day of the event, or participants can pre-register at <a href=" www.okcic.com/events/walk-for-wellness-2015/" target="_blank"> www.okcic.com/events/walk-for-wellness-2015/</a>. For more information about the walk or the clinic, visit <a href="http://www.okcic.com" target="_blank">www.okcic.com</a>. Providing a wide range of outpatient health care services to more than 20,000 American Indians in the Oklahoma City area each year, OKCIC is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the lives of not only their patients, but the general public as well. American Indians are at a higher risk for certain health issues, including childhood obesity and diabetes, and are more than two times more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes compared to other ethnic groups, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/18/2015 10:00 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will be sponsoring a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on June 25 in the large conference room at the hospital. The fair is meant to assist Native American veteran patients in applying for health care services they are eligible for through the VA. Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators, VA representatives and the Decorated American Veterans group will be on hand to assist with the application process. Veterans attending should bring their financial information (income and resource information) and their DD-214 military discharge papers. Veterans already enrolled for health care services through the VA should call 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6507 so that their files may be updated.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/10/2015 04:00 PM
WASHINGTON – To settle a complaint filed in 2008 by the Laborer’s International Union of North America, Indian Health Service has agreed to pay $80 million for allegedly forcing employees overtime without pay. The 2008 complaint was filed with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services by LIUNA on behalf of 10,000 IHS employees at clinics and hospitals in Indian Country. The IHS agency operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In a May letter written to tribal leaders, IHS acting director Robert G. McSwain stated that it’s important that IHS employees are properly compensated. “We believe that settling these claims now is right, the appropriate step, and the most fiscally responsible action,” he said. “This settlement allows us to avoid future litigation costs and the possibility of future awards totaling hundreds of millions of dollars. It will allow us to continue to focus our attentions going forward on the important task of serving Indian Country health needs.” In the original complaint, LIUNA claimed IHS did not allow its employees the right to option for overtime pay instead of compensatory time off, failed to compensate employees for their travel time and for off the clock employment. “This is a great victory for Indian Health Service employees,” said Terry O’Sullivan, LIUNA general president. “It took many years of hard work for the union to recover millions of dollars and achieve a fair solution for the mostly Native American workforce who has labored long and tirelessly to provide health services to Native people.”
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
06/03/2015 12:00 PM
SALLISAW, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation opened its new annex on June 1 at the Redbird Smith Health Center, doubling the size of the center and offering new services including mammography, a drive-thru pharmacy and physical therapy. RSHC Clinic Administrator Jerry Caughman said the opening includes an addition of 30,000 square feet, which makes the campus a total of about 63,000 square feet. “New services that have never been offered here are mammography, which we’re very excited to have. Then also we have physical therapy, which we haven’t been able to offer,” he said. “Our citizens have had to travel to Muskogee, Tahlequah, Stilwell. So it’s a real blessing for our citizens to be able to have this.” The center serves about 10,000 patients a month and the added services should also add new jobs. “So in a year we have approximately 120,000 visits,” he said. “With our additional services we will be adding staff to service those areas. We have approximately 120 employees right now. By the time the expansion and everything is over we’ll probably have close to 140.” Tribal Councilor Janelle Fullbright, of Sallisaw, who chairs the Tribal Council’s Health Committee, said during the annex’s opening that it was a “happy day.” “I wanna thank all the employees out here that put up with a lot of being crowded and scrunched up in mobile facilities, but it was well worth the wait,” she said. “The doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, housekeeping, people who take care of the grounds – everybody is important out here.” Tribal Councilor David Thornton, of Vian, said the best thing that is instilled in the people who visit the clinic and those who work there is pride. “I’d love to have a big pride sign across here (the entrance of the annex) because it helps our people have pride within their self when they come to work,” he said. “When they come to the doctor and get served, you can’t hardly beat that folks. And these employees that work around here are some of the best.” The tribe completed a $4 million renovation of the center’s main building in 2014, according to CN Communications. The renovation added dental space, a new fitness room, six rooms that double as storm shelters and a large community room available for public use. “The Redbird Smith Health Center expansion is further evidence of the Cherokee Nation’s commitment to provide first-class health care in state-of-the-art facilities,” CN Health Services Executive Director Connie Davis said. “Cherokee Nation Health Services wants our citizens treated by the best medical practitioners in the best medical facilities, and we are making that happen under the $100 million health care capital improvement plan. The Cherokee Nation health care system is not only an example of premier quality for Indian Country, but also the entire nation.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the expansion of services would also allow the tribe to provide more pediatric care, elder care and services specifically for women. “These are the kinds of world-class care options that will improve health care in Sequoyah County for generations of Cherokee families,” he said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/26/2015 04:00 PM
SALLISAW, Okla. – On June 1, Cherokee Nation’s Redbird Smith Health Center will open its expansion at 10 a.m. at 301 S. J.T. Stites Blvd. in Sallisaw. According to Cherokee Nation Communications, the tribe will debut the 30,000-square-foot annex that doubles the size of the health center. “The $10.7 million expansion adds radiology and lab, pediatrics, more outpatient space, optometry and pharmacy with drive thru. The addition also features a built-in community safe room,” according to a CN Communications release. “In 2014, the health center saw nearly 117,000 patient visits and is expected to serve up to 145,000 patient visits with the new services and facility expansion.” The tribe also recently opened the new health center in Ochelata, and are slated to open a new health center in Jay as well as an expansion in Stilwell in June. The event is open to the public and tours will be available after remarks from tribal officials.