How much Cherokee is he?
The older Cherokee lady named as Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker’s great-grandmother on his (campaign) brochure is my great-grandmother, too.
Ebben, my grandfather; Nancy Osage; Phillip Osage; and Mary Osage are all listed on the Dawes Rolls. Nancy was less than a full blood. She was married approximately five times. One gentleman was a Frenchman by the name of Dubois. Out of that union came Audey Baker, who was less than half Cherokee.
Audey married a white man, out of which came Tim Baker, who was then less than a fourth Cherokee. Tim married a white woman and had children, so John must be less than an eighth Cherokee.
My mother is Mary Osage Helton. She’s 96 and still living. She still talks about how difficult her life was with Audey Baker and John Carey as an aunt and uncle. How little they helped her and her family when they went through difficult times. Nancy Walker was married to men with the following last names: Osage, Dubois, Carey, Leathers and Tiner.
I may have misspelled a name; something might be slightly incorrect, but if it is, it’s not out of trying to tell something that’s not true. I am telling my story from things that I learned from my mother.
I am writing out of concern for the Cherokee people’s having the best person to lead them into an unsure future. Rather than being from a family known for self-promotion, I feel that I want someone who has demonstrated a real concern for the Cherokee people to lead the tribe.
This information was unsolicited. I want the Cherokee people to have the opportunity to know how little Cherokee Mr. Baker really is. In my opinion John Baker needs to make his Certificate Degree of Indian Blood card information public.
Editor’s Note: Tribal Councilor Bill John Baker is listed in the Cherokee Nation Registration as having one-thirty second degree of Cherokee blood. Former Principal Chief John Ross was listed at one-eighth Cherokee, while Principal Chief W.W. Keeler was also one-thirty second. Former Principal Chief Ross Swimmer is listed as one-quarter, while Wilma Mankiller was half Cherokee. Current Principal Chief Chad Smith is listed at half Cherokee, too. The Cherokee Nation does not have a blood quantum for citizenship or for holding office. Citizens only need to have a Cherokee blood ancestor listed on the Final Dawes Rolls.
As you may have noticed, this month’s cover is a bit more colorful than usual. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and we here at the Cherokee Phoenix wanted to help raise awareness about the importance of screening and early detection.
The probability of a woman being diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime is 1 in 8, and breast cancer is the second-leading cause of mortality among women in the United States. Within the Cherokee Nation, Breast cancer is the second-most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cancer among women. These statistics, coupled with the fact that Native American women have some of the lowest breast cancer screening rates of any ethnic group, is a sobering reality.
Breast cancer cannot be prevented, but early detection is key to successful treatment. Women whose breast cancer is caught at an early stage have a 93 percent survival rate. A Breast Self Exam or BSE, Clinical Breast Exam or CBE and mammogram are all effective early detection methods. CBE and BSE instruction occurs at all CN health centers, and mammograms are performed at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center, Vinita Health Center, Three Rivers Health Center, A-Mo Health Center, Sam Hider Health Center and the Claremore Indian Hospital.
Additionally, the Cherokee Nation Comprehensive Cancer Control was established to ensure CN citizens were receiving quality treatment, access to clinical trials, patient advocates and instructions on screening and detection. In 2015, more than 2,000 women participated in the screening and early detection program provided by the CNCCC. It is my hope that the number of participants in this program continues to grow year over year.
Today, a pink ribbon is synonymous with breast cancer awareness. But I urge you to take more than just a passing glance at all of the pink you will see this month. I encourage you to take time to learn about the early warning signs, receive instruction on self-exams and make a plan to utilize the resources available through CN Health Services for clinical exams. And men, we should take an active role in the fight against breast cancer as well. Encourage the women you love to take the time for breast cancer screening. It just might save their life.
With such a large population across the globe, it is important we keep all Cherokees as informed and up to date as we can. The value of staying connected is especially important when the Cherokee Nation is involved in high-profile national efforts like the hurricane relief efforts in south Texas.
The CN has almost 360,000 citizens, and more than 224,000 of our enrolled citizens live outside the tribe’s northeast Oklahoma jurisdiction. Tribal citizens in at-large communities across Oklahoma and the United States are a vital part of our government and are important to our success.
Ensuring citizens feel connected to their government and remain informed and updated on the issues and policies is critical. At-Large Tribal Councilors Mary Baker Shaw and Wanda Hatfield reminded me recently of how important this is, particularly for citizens who live far from home. They encouraged me to do more to spread the world about CN’s online content, which can be accessed for free. Below you will find out how to access some of our award-winning websites, television shows and publications.
<a href="http://www.cherokee.org" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org</a> – official website of the CN
Every program and service offered by the tribe is highlighted and profiled here. Applications and essential contact information are available here. On the homepage are links to the various media platforms where you can follow the official CN and stay plugged in: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We just recently launched an Instagram account as well.
<a href="http://www.cherokeesatlarge.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeesatlarge.org</a> – resource for at-large Cherokees
At-large citizens have a unique site, dedicated exclusively to connecting CN citizens residing beyond the tribe’s 14 counties with information on federal and tribal programs and services. The site features unique information for CN citizens on home loans and Indian Health Service health care options. There are details about higher education scholarships available to any Cherokee, no matter where you live.
<a href="http://www.anadisgoi.com" target="_blank">www.anadisgoi.com</a> – our award-winning online newsroom
Every CN and Cherokee Nation Businesses media release, op-ed and photograph we produce and send out is housed here. Also, an online copy of the Anadisgoi magazine can be viewed.
<a href="http://www.osiyo.tv" target="_blank">www.osiyo.tv</a> – our Emmy-winning television show
“Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” has a new home. It can be viewed live in Oklahoma on Sundays on OETA and on the following stations in neighboring states:
Oklahoma Statewide – OETA (PBS) Sundays at 3:30 p.m.
Tulsa – RSU-TV Thursdays at 7 p.m., Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m.
Fayetteville and Fort Smith –- KHBS/KHOG (ABC) Sundays at 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.
Joplin – KSN (NBC) Mondays at 12:30 p.m. and KODE (ABC) Sundays at 9 a.m.
FNX-TV – Check your local television listings or <a href="http://www.FNX.org" target="_blank">FNX.org</a> for times.
Full episodes of “Osiyo, Voices of the Cherokee People” as well as the individual stories from the show can be streamed online at www.osiyo.tv. The show profiles exceptional citizens, current events and stories on Cherokee history and cultural preservation.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a> – our independent, award-winning newspaper
The Cherokee Phoenix, the tribe’s historic paper, is online, and viewers can read every story as seen in the hard-copy edition. I encourage all CN citizens to read the Phoenix, one of the few tribally owned free press publications in Indian Country. Call 918-207-4975 to order a monthly home newspaper subscription of the Cherokee Phoenix.
<strong>Social Media Platforms</strong>
Stay connected with CN through official social media.
Facebook: <a href="http://www.facebook.com/TheCherokeeNation" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/TheCherokeeNation</a>
Twitter: <a href="http://www.twitter.com/CherokeeNation" target="_blank">www.twitter.com/CherokeeNation</a>
YouTube: <a href="http://www.youtube.com/CherokeeTV" target="_blank">www.youtube.com/CherokeeTV</a>
Instagram: <a href="http://www.instagram.com/thecherokeenation" target="_blank">www.instagram.com/thecherokeenation</a>
<strong>Keep Current by Mail</strong>
In order to receive hard copies of our tribal publications and mailers, keep your current address on file with CN’s Registration department. These publications include the quarterly Anadisgoi Magazine and our annual report. Address correction forms are available here: <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/Services/Tribal-Citizenship</a> or call 918-458-6980.
These are all excellent ways for Cherokees to interact, participate and remain connected to our government at no cost.
Preserving and defending our culture and values is important to all of us as Cherokees. One of our biggest responsibilities is protecting the air, water, land and habitat of our natural world. All Cherokees should feel an innate desire to protect these resources for our current and our next seven generations. It’s our sacred obligation.
Instead of being part of the problem that contributes to more global climate change and decay, we are taking the lead in becoming part of the solution and looking for forward-thinking ways to preserve our natural resources. I recently signed two new executive orders that will take steps toward better protecting our natural resources.
The first will reduce the carbon emissions of our tribal operations by 25 percent by the year 2027. Scientific evidence tells us that global climate disruption is threatening our very existence. Continuing to put more pollutants in the air is devastating to Mother Earth. As part of our efforts to lower carbon emissions, we have entered into a major wind energy project that will provide 200 megawatts of clean energy.
We are also constructing a solar energy canopy at the tribal headquarters that will provide clean energy to the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex, and it will allow visitors and employees the opportunity to charge electric vehicles.
The second executive order limits the use of Styrofoam. Styrofoam is a source of trash that has long-term negative effects for our environment, including our waters. Going forward, we will use recyclable or compostable materials whenever we can so that we’re not leaving today’s problems for future generations to solve.
We will never stop looking for ways to protect this beautiful earth that our Creator gave us. Almost two years ago I appointed Sara Hill, our first-ever secretary of Natural Resources, to proactively protect the future of our water and all of our natural resources. I encourage everyone to put more thought into their daily actions. One way to do that is to look for ways to avoid using Styrofoam at home and at work, and take the pledge to avoid using it whenever you can. I hope our partners will follow our lead and join us in making this commitment.
Cherokee Nation remains a leader in Indian Country when it comes to environmental programs. We will use a $300,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to create a national tribal mentoring program that focuses on the development and reporting of water quality assessments.
CN staff will help tribes across the country use a new EPA reporting tool. This online system allows states, territories, tribes, the EPA and other partners to submit water quality data using an integrated reporting process.
During the past year, we have been active within our 14 counties and across Indian Country when it comes to the conservation of water. Now, with this grant from the EPA, a new door has been opened for our environmental programs. Tribes across the country will have a strong mentor and partner in the CN. Not only does the CN depend on the technical ability and excellence of our Environmental Programs staff, but tribes across the country depend on them, too.
Our environmental programs will play a vital role in educational efforts and outreach to tribal water programs. We are looking forward to working with various EPA regional water programs and tribal water staff across the nation.
Remaining a leader in environmental preservation supports CN’s economic, social and cultural well-being and balance. This charge will always remain one of our greatest obligations.
Protecting the environment and practicing conservation principles have always been important to the Cherokee people. It’s fitting that the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday theme is “Water is Sacred.” It is something that resonates with all of us as Cherokees. Water is sacred to our people and has been forever. Water has been part of our ceremonies. Water has sustained us with food and an ability to grow our crops. Water is something we share and celebrate with our families. Our close relationship to water, the land and the traditional knowledge about our natural surroundings has always been part of who we are. Cherokee values and these historic ideas, established over multiple generations, about ecological preservation benefit all of northeast Oklahoma.
Over the past year, Cherokee Nation has put a focused effort to preserve water rights and natural resources. We have been active within our 14 counties and across Indian Country when it comes to conservation of our water. CN established the office of the secretary of Natural Resources to address a various environmental issues. Secretary Sara Hill oversees the programs and services related to preservation and conservation of our air, land, water and animal and plant life.
As a tribal government, and as Cherokees, we have a responsibility to protect the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the land we live on. We will unequivocally fight for the rights of our people to live safely in their communities. We have a right and a responsibility to protect our water. It is our duty for the next seven generations.
An excellent example of our renewed conservation efforts was a recent federal court decision naming CN the court-appointed steward of restoration efforts of Saline Creek in Mayes County. David Benham, a CN citizen originally from the Kenwood area and a property owner along the creek bank, personally sued Ozark Materials River Rock for the extreme damage done to the water. The company, which will pay for the restoration effort, mined at the foot of the creek, removing the gravel at the lower reaches. Erosion upstream redirected the creek and eroded vegetation, which in turn increased stream temperature and algae growth.
It is appropriate that the court appointed CN as the steward of Saline Creek and will manage the recovery of the damaged areas and easement. Saline Creek has spiritual as well as historical significance to CN citizens in that area. Additionally, it is one of the most beautiful creeks in northeast Oklahoma.
Earlier this year, Secretary Hill’s team defended the Arkansas and Illinois rivers, as CN played a critical role in preventing Sequoyah Fuels Corporation from disposing radioactive waste near important waterways. We are working with the company to find appropriate off-site disposal.
Recently, the tribe also earned a $75,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency that will help support the critical environmental work that we do at the local level. The partnership between CN and the EPA benefits our people, our environmental endeavors, and the health and beauty of northeast Oklahoma.
Together with the EPA’s federal dollars, we can sustain the environmental protection efforts that preserve our clean air, healthy land and fresh water. The CN created a five-person board, the Environmental Protection Commission, which works with Secretary Hill to help the tribe administer its environmental programs and develop community and education programs.
The CN is also a founding member of the Inter-Tribal Environmental Council, an organization that helps protect the health of Native Americans, tribal natural resources and the environment. This tribal organization was created to provide support, technical assistance, program development and training to member tribes nationwide. Today, almost 50 tribal governments are members and share best practices.
Our tribal government strives to build a better future for our people and fights for the rights of our people to live safely in their communities. Protecting the environment through CN’s active and progressive conservation programs is one of the most important things we can do to ensure we achieve that goal.
When the U.S. Surgeon General visited with Oklahoma tribal leaders last May, he declared that the “prescription opioid epidemic that is sweeping across the U.S. has hit Indian country particularly hard.” This statement especially applies to the Cherokee Nation, where opioid-related overdoses have more than doubled in recent years and more and more Cherokee Nation citizens suffer from opioid addiction. The opioid epidemic has affected every facet of our society: from our economy and our hospitals to our schools and our homes. Our children’s health and well-being is especially threatened by the epidemic, putting the future of the Cherokee Nation itself at risk.
When I was elected Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation in 2011, I made a commitment to protect the health and welfare of our nearly 350,000 citizens about half of whom live inside our sovereign tribal boundaries in northeast Oklahoma. We are made up of many small communities and we feel the impacts of the opioid epidemic every day, as we watch our friends, neighbors, children and parents grapple with the consequences of opioid addiction. That’s why I take this epidemic so seriously and why we have taken proactive measures to fight it. To curb abuse at the point of care, our doctors and hospitals implemented a prescription monitoring program (“PMP”). Long before it was required, our healthcare system also adopted information technologies to stop illegal distribution of prescription opioids.
Despite our best efforts, the crisis is still raging through our community. This is a matter of life and death, which is why we are doing everything in our power to prevent bad actors from flooding the Cherokee Nation with prescription opioids. Large distributors and retailers operating in the Cherokee Nation—McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health, Inc., AmerisourceBergen, CVS Health, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., and Walmart Stores, Inc.—have fueled this epidemic by saturating our society with these highly-addictive painkillers, ignoring obvious warning signs that these drugs are not landing in the right hands. We pay for our citizen’s health care from cradle to grave and this epidemic has cost us hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention the thousands of lives lost and ruined. That’s dollars we could be using for our schools, hospitals, roads or new housing projects. I cannot stand by as Cherokee Nation citizens suffer while these companies continue to make huge profits at our expense.
We must act now to protect our future – the next generation. No one has felt the impact of the opioid crisis more than our children. For children born into families struggling with opioid addiction, their tragic story is one of a cycle of abuse and neglect. According to a recent study, pregnant Native American women are up to 8.7 times more likely to be diagnosed with opiate dependency or abuse. This translates to a high volume of Cherokee babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome – a disease with lifelong physical, mental, and emotional impacts on the child. Many of these babies must stay in the hospital for weeks and some must be immediately transferred to Tulsa-area hospitals via emergency helicopter to receive life-saving care. These infants are then immediately placed in our foster system. Cherokee families are torn apart before they have a chance to succeed and our children, families, and communities suffer as a result.
Enough is enough. The opioid epidemic is ripping apart families, straining our society’s resources, and wreaking havoc across the Cherokee Nation. That is why we’ve taken matters into our own hands, and are going to make sure distributors and retail pharmacies are held accountable for their negligence and greed. If the drug distributers and retailers in our communities fulfilled their duty to act as a “check” on the system by monitoring, reporting, and preventing illegal opioid activity, the epidemic could have been stopped. My hope is that this case will bring justice to our Nation and serve as an example to other communities dealing with the social and financial strains of the opioid epidemic.
Some Cherokee Phoenix readers may have seen the “Remember the Removal” bicycle riders out on local roads the past two months training for the upcoming ride from New Echota, Georgia, to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, through seven states. I am one of 14 riders from the Cherokee Nation who will take part in this year’s ride.
For those of you not familiar with the ride, it is done annually to commemorate the forced removal of our Cherokee ancestors from their homelands in 1838-39. Most of our people left in the fall of 1838 in 13 organized detachments and endured a harsh winter in 1839 before reaching Indian Territory.
I was part of the group that did the first 1,000-mile ride in 1984, which was meant to educate people along the route about the forced removal and give students like me hands-on experiences that would foster leadership qualities, instill confidence and improve our self-esteem. A man named Michael Morris thought a bike ride from the old Cherokee homelands would be a good way to give us those experiences. He was right.
Because the ride was grueling and had never been attempted before, the 19 riders formed bonds that are still strong today. We survived two-lane mountain roads in North Carolina and Tennessee where some large trucks did not like sharing the road with us. I rode my bike into some weeds and bushes before a dump truck could nudge me into them on a mountain in Tennessee. We survived racism in Illinois and the patchy and hilly roads of Missouri before riding into northern Arkansas and taking on the Ozark Mountains. By then we were stronger. Our thighs were noticeably larger and much darker than that had been three weeks earlier, and we were confident we were going to finish strong.
I remember during the trip being excited about what view was over the next hill while riding with my small group of four riders nicknamed the “Coaster-Barelies” because we weren’t the fastest group, and we may have coasted a little too much going down hills when we had the opportunity. Jeff, Clayton and Marvin were like brothers to me when we finished, and it was hard to finish and go our separate ways.
For me the trip gave me confidence, and it showed me I am capable of a lot mentally and physically. It also gave me a hunger to seek out adventures, which has lasted to this day.
So, when I was asked last January if I would be the first official CN “Mentor Rider,” my sense of adventure wrestled with my common sense. I am now 50 and being around the bike ride the past few years I know the training is tough even for a 20-year-old. I thought about it for a couple of days and believed I could do it. My mind was going to drag my body along on another adventure. It has been great and tough as I imagined it would be. My legs seemed to remember what it is like to ride a bike for most of a day, but my left shoulder has been less cooperative. So, I keep a container of Icy Hot handy and hope the aroma of the liniment isn’t too strong for the other cyclists.
I’ve also had the pleasure of training with a good group of young people. These people from throughout the CN volunteered to take part in this ride, to put themselves through the pain riding a bicycle an average of 60 miles a day. They have already grown and changed during training, but they will grow and change even more before the ride is over. It happens every year. They might have varied reasons for doing the ride, but they all understand the most important reason is to honor our ancestors. Our tenacious ancestors. They would not give up on the trail and when they arrived here 178 years ago to rebuild.
Every year the riders are told they will not make this trip on their own. No matter how strong they are they will need the support of their fellow riders. It’s true, and we also need the support of the Cherokee people, so keep us in your thoughts and prayers.
I feel fortunate that I get to travel the trail again with some good people, and even though I’ve been down it before, I get to see what’s over the next hill with older and different eyes.