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
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.” • 918-207-3825


10/01/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the Cherokee Nation Pediatric Behavioral Health System said they are determined to help youth and families with social and emotional development, as well as address any behavioral health concerns, with an endeavor called the HERO Project. Dallas Pettigrew, HERO Project administrative operations manager, said HERO stands for Helping Everyone Reach Out. “The thing about the HERO Project is we want it to be more than a clinic. A clinic is something that’s reactive, and it’s there to pick up the pieces when things are broken. The HERO Project is about much more than that,” he said. “We do a lot of preventative work in the community. We don’t really like to call it preventative work. We like to call it family strengthening. We work with parents and caregivers and teachers and daycare providers and everywhere the children go we want to be present so that we can make their environment the best possible place for them.” He said project officials “do as much work trying to keep things from being broken” as they do “putting them back together.” “With that said, we have a clinic that deals with children with behavioral issues,” he said. “It’s staffed right now with five full-time therapists who are using trauma-enforced care to take care of our kids and families.” Pettigrew said officials want to express to parents and caregivers that they are the experts when it comes to their children, but also remind them that officials are there to help. He said officials want to help children in any environment with which the child is involved. “Every environment that children interact in needs to be a safe place for kids to be,” he said. “The best place for children to get the kind of social and emotional development they need to be successful is the home.” Pettigrew said two services offered are the Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) and the PAX Good Behavior Game. He said Triple P is a family strengthening program, or a parent education course. “It’s not designed to tell parents they’re doing anything wrong,” he said. “What it does is give parents a series of options to address particular behavior from their children.” Pettigrew said the PAX Good Behavior Game is conducted with first grade students in the CN jurisdiction. “We try to get into every elementary school that will let us and we take PAX to them,” he said. “The way that it works is you play all of first grade and it changes a little bit throughout that one year, but at the end of first grade PAX can reduce ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) behaviors by 65 percent. What that leaves is the kids that honestly have ADHD and need those medications.” According to, the game teaches students to “flip on” their internal focus switch required for any learning. It teaches them how to work toward valued goals and to cooperate with each other to reach those goals. Students learn how to self-regulate during learning and fun and to delay gratification for a bigger goal. Pettigrew said in some cases trauma shows the same symptoms as someone who has ADHD. He said while children take part in PAX, this should help weed out those children with trauma problems. “The thing about trauma is it looks like ADHD,” he said. “By trauma I mean they witnessed domestic violence in their home or maybe they’ve been physically or sexually abused or maybe they’ve been neglected or maybe one of their parents is missing from their household or they’re living with someone with substance abuse or mental illness.” He said after experiencing one or multiple traumas often times a child will show ADHD-like symptoms. “When a child has had a couple of those then they start to get kind of fight, flight or fear. They start getting kind of edgy. They’re jittery. They don’t pay attention well in school. They might have short tempers. They might be loud and obnoxious to their peers in class. They might get frustrated easy,” he said. He said officials are finding that children are wrongly diagnosed with ADHD when instead they have been exposed to trauma. He said these misdiagnoses happen at “alarming rates.” Pettigrew said it is important that the CN is implementing the HERO Project. “We know that in Cherokee Nation we suffer a high rate of diabetes and heart disease, cancer, hypertension and stroke. All those things are preventable chronic health conditions that are triggered, at least to some extent, by adverse childhood experiences,” he said. “I believe that if we interfere with those multiple childhood traumas early on and treat them appropriately we can help people prevent obtaining these harmful habits that lead to these diseases.” He said the HERO Project would not only save the tribe’s health system billions of dollars, but it will also help extend CN citizens’ health. “It will teach our children how to be healthy and successful,” he said. “We’ll have better outcomes in education. We’ll have better outcomes in employment. We’ll have fewer needs for social services. Things will just be better all around.” For more information, call 918-772-4004.
09/30/2015 10:00 AM
VINITA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Vinita Health Clinic will host events in October to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The clinic’s Radiology Department will host a softball tournament beginning at 9 a.m. on Oct. 3 at the Bill Morgan Sports Complex. On Oct. 7, there will be a catered lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. that will include chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, salad and a roll all for $10. Everyone is encouraged to wear pink on Oct. 14 to support breast cancer awareness and the individual wearing the most pink will win. There will be a bingo night in the gallery of the clinic from 6 p.m. to 7:30. The event is open to the public. “We also have a pumpkin contest. Coolest pumpkin will get a prize. Also bring your change to vote for your favorite pumpkin. The pumpkin with the most money wins,” Denielle Robison, patient services coordinator, said. “We also will be selling breast cancer awareness T-shirts throughout the month of October.”
09/30/2015 08:42 AM
JAY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Dee Humphrey, a registered dental hygienist in tribe’s Sam Hider Community Clinic, has been published twice this year in Pennwell RDH magazine, a magazine that features all things dental. Because of her two published articles, she was given the opportunity to go to Las Vegas in July. “For winning the Oral Cancer Foundation contest of ‘Being a Part of the Change’ for writing an article to raise awareness and conducting the Tobacco Prevention Program: Never Using tobacco, I got the amazing opportunity to speak about the program at Under One Roof: The National Dental Hygienist Conference with over 1,500 hygienists in attendance,” she said. Humphrey was published in August on her program she developed about tobacco prevention. The program encouraged school-aged children to be “cancer killers.” “That empowers children to be agents of change in never using tobacco products of any kind,” she said. “It was satisfying to know that the children really responded to why it is important to never use tobacco products of any kind and to hear that they are taking what they learned and telling their parents to stop using tobacco products.” Her first article was published in April and dealt with a program she created on raising oral health prevention and awareness within the public school setting for special needs children. “The most satisfying moment was to see positive results within the special needs program and decrease dental diseases among our Native American children,” she said regarding a study she completed this year. Both articles were created and published with the intention of raising “awareness about prevention in the dental profession and to impact a nation.” She recently received a call from a participant’s parent from an area public school that reflected on the family’s long history with smoking. “A nurse from a local public school recently called me to mention that her own child got to participate in the program. He told his grandpa who smoked tobacco for over 35 plus years about what he learned and asked him to quit,” Humphrey said. “And, he did all because of what her son learned from the program. I also received handwritten letters from the children, which shows me how it will tremendously impact them for years to come.” To view Humphrey’s articles, go to <a href="" target="_blank"></a> and <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
09/16/2015 08:40 AM
MIAMI, Okla. (AP) – The free exhibit “Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness” is open to the public in the Charles Wilson Banks Gallery in Kah-Ne-You-Ah Hall at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. “Native Voices” discusses the notions of health and medicine among contemporary American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian people. The U.S. National Library of Medicine of Maryland is producing the traveling exhibition. NLM is a part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NLM is commonly known for its background in working with Native American communities to provide health information resources that are easily available to the public. Native Voices features interviews and works from Native people living on reservations, in tribal villages and in cities. A few of the exhibit’s topics include community-extending a healing hand then and now, individual-traditional healers and healing, and nature-a source of strength and healing. The exhibition is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until Oct. 23 and from 9:30 a.m. to noon on two Saturdays: Sept. 26 and Oct. 24. The exhibit is special to the college because it has appeared at much larger universities throughout the country. “We feel really fortunate because it’s sponsored by the National Library of Medicine,” said Rachel Lloyd, American Indian Center for Excellence project director. “We had the head curator come and install it for us. It was actually at the Cherokee Nation before us.” Lloyd said she thinks NEO was chosen to display the exhibit because of its large American Indian student population, which is currently 23 percent. “NEO typically ranks higher in the Diverse Issues in Higher Education, the name of the publication that ranks schools on the number of graduates they have in each of the racial group categories,” Lloyd said. “For Native American students, NEO ranks second nationwide in nursing graduates.” Caleb Cox, a Cherokee Nation citizen and NEO sophomore, is majoring in general studies at the college and will soon transfer to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, to pursue biomedical sciences. Cox said the exhibit has given him knowledge that he can use later in the real world. “I know a lot more about my own Cherokee culture, but it was really interesting to see that there is an overarching theme of how significant health is to Native American tribes in the U.S.,” Cox said. “Going into pre-med, it was interesting to me that I can learn about medicine while learning about my culture and heritage, at the same time.” There are headphones and tablets placed throughout the exhibit for viewers to learn about health and illness from various tribes in digital format. “The exhibit has virtual interaction, and there are interviews with people among different tribes across America,” Cox said. “It discusses how health is important to them and how they treat it, specifically in their own tribes.” The digital interviews capture stories from various individuals and the methods they use towards healthy living. One of the stories Cox described was about a tribe who cut down a tree in order to make a healing totem pole. “A tribe cut down the tree and blessed it,” Cox said. “The Healing Totem Pole traveled across the nation and ended up at the National Library of Medicine. It went through this long journey where it stopped at all of the different Native American tribes across America and they each blessed it.” Cox said even though each interview is different, the tribes all seek common ground when it comes to the health of Native American people. “They have different perspectives because they’re from different tribes,” Cox said. “How they handle health and wellness is the overall theme. One of the things they all emphasize is keeping the Native American culture alive and their view on health remedies.” “Native Voices” shares stories about recovery, renaissance and self-determination. It also exemplifies how the U.S. Native tribes utilize both traditional and Western methods to enhance overall wellness and health. Visitors to the exhibit may park along the west side of Kah-Ne Hall or in the lot west of Copen Hall to avoid parking tickets. All NEO faculty, staff and students should park in parking areas designated for their school-issued permits.
09/09/2015 01:28 PM
WASHINGTON – The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s American Indian and Alaska Native Task Force announced Sept. 1 the first-ever National American Indian and Alaska Native Suicide Prevention “Hope for Life Day.” The “Hope for Life Day” will be held annually on Sept. 10 in conjunction with World Suicide Prevention Day. The “Hope for Life Day” is part of the Action Alliance’s AI/AN Task Force’s efforts to change the conversation about suicide and promote hope, life, cultural resiliency, and community transformation. “Suicide prevention depends on bringing together native communities as ‘Hope for Life Day’ will do. IHS works with partners to create a safety net of services to protect individuals against suicide risk and maximize the effectiveness of programs,” said Indian Health Service Principal Deputy Director Robert G. McSwain, public sector co-lead of the AI/AN Task Force. “Every suicide affects the whole tribal community and that is why IHS provides staff and counseling resources in response to incidents of suicide. We are honored to participate in ‘Hope for Life Day’ to build awareness for communities to address the critical health need for suicide prevention strategies.” Native communities bear the largest burden of suicide among all racial/ethnic groups in the United States, with Native youth being disproportionately affected, according to Action Alliance. In Native communities, as in other communities, suicide affects not just the people who lose their lives, but also those who are left to survive: parents, siblings, friends, families, and communities. Stigma regarding mental health and suicide is also a pressing issue affecting Native communities. National efforts to increase public awareness about how suicide affects Indian Country are therefore greatly needed. To assist health professionals and grassroots organizers working in AI/AN communities, the AI/AN Task Force produced the “Hope for Life Day” toolkit. The toolkit contains community engagement strategies, tips for meeting with tribal leaders, promotional materials, and suggestions for cultural activities. “Hope for Life Day” provides the opportunity to equip tribal communities with suicide prevention tools, focus on the needs of Native youth, and spotlight current efforts for Native suicide prevention,” said Dr. Doryn Chervin, Action Alliance executive secretary and vice president and senior scientist, Education Development Center. The National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention is the public-private partnership working to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and make suicide prevention a national priority. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, through the Education Development Center, Inc., operates the Secretariat for the Action Alliance, which was launched in 2010 by former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates with the goal of saving 20,000 lives in five years.
09/08/2015 12:00 PM
VINITA, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation, Tulsa Vet Center and the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 50 organization will host two assistance events for veterans at the CN Vinita Health Clinic. The first event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon on Sept. 14 and the second will be from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Sept. 30. Individuals from the three organizations will be present to assist veterans with issues regarding claims, benefits and readjustments. For more information, call Matthew Tiger at 918-453-5693 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.