Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is now operating an east Tulsa welcome center formerly operated by the state. COURTESY PHOTO
Tribe operating Oklahoma Welcome Center in Tulsa
TULSA, Okla. – The Oklahoma Welcome Center in east Tulsa on Interstate 44 officially began operating under the guidance of Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism on Aug. 1.
CN and Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department officials marked the partnership with a ceremony Aug. 1 at the welcome center, which is now called the Cherokee Nation Welcome Center. The facility is located at I-44 and 161st East Ave.
The 4,200-square foot center was in danger of being closed due to state budget cuts, but an agreement between the state and CN was reached, transferring daily operations to the tribe. The center will promote both Cherokee and Oklahoma tourist destinations in the area.
“This arrangement allows us to continue to be a good partner to the state of Oklahoma and to promote tourism in northeastern Oklahoma to travelers along I-44,” Molly Jarvis, vice president of Cultural Tourism at Cherokee Nation Entertainment, said. “We will continue to operate the facility as a welcome center for Oklahoma while using our guest service and tourism experience to promote the communities within Cherokee Nation’s 14-county jurisdiction.”
The welcome center will house an information desk, tourist destination information, maps, snacks and a gift shop featuring Oklahoma-related merchandise along with Cherokee art, jewelry and apparel. The tourism group will also use the center for office space for about 14 staff people.
“We are grateful to Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Entertainment for leading this effort to provide Oklahoma visitors with specialized materials, which showcase the tourism attractions in the Cherokee Nation as well as information about travel destinations statewide,” said OTRD Travel Promotion Director Sandy Pantlik. “Without this valued partnership, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department was considering closure of this facility due to budget cuts.”
Pantlik said more than 1.3 million visitors stop at Oklahoma’s tourism information centers annually.
The center’s lease will be renewed on a yearly basis, and CNE is not paying OTRD for the lease but will be responsible for paying for the center’s operating costs.
The center is the second partnership between the CN and OTRD. In 2010, the CN began operating a state welcome center at the Kansas, Okla., exit just off the Cherokee Turnpike.
The CN Welcome Center in Tulsa is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. For additional information, call 918-384-5987.
MINNEAPOLIS – On March 25, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community announced Seeds of Native Health, a philanthropic campaign to improve the nutrition of Native Americans across the country.
“Nutrition is very poor among many of our fellow Native Americans, which leads to major health problems,” said SMSC Chairman Charlie Vig. “Our Community has a tradition of helping other tribes and Native American people. The SMSC is committed to making a major contribution and bringing others together to help develop permanent solutions to this serious problem.”
The campaign will include efforts to improve awareness of Native nutrition problems, promote the wider application of proven best practices, and encourage additional work related to food access, education and research.
“Many tribes, nonprofits, public health experts, researchers, and advocates have already been working on solutions,” said SMSC Vice Chairman Keith Anderson. “We hope this campaign will bring more attention to their work, build on it, bring more resources to the table, and ultimately put Indian Country on the path to develop a comprehensive strategy, which does not exist today.”
According to the Seeds of Native Health website, approximately 16 percent of Native Americans suffer from type 2 diabetes and more than 30 percent of Native Americans are obese. Native Americans are 1.6 times more likely to become obese than others.
“Native health problems have many causes, but we know that many of these problems can be traced to poor nutrition,” said SMSC Secretary/Treasurer Lori Watso, who provided the original idea for the SMSC’s nutrition campaign. “Traditional Native foods have a much higher nutritional value than what is most easily accessible today. By promoting best practices, evidence-based methods, and the re-introduction of healthy cultural practices, we believe that tribal governments, nonprofits, and grassroots practitioners can collectively make lasting strides towards a better future.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://seedsofnativehealth.org/" target="_blank">http://seedsofnativehealth.org/</a>.
OKLAHOMA CITY – On April 2, the public is invited to the Oklahoma State Capitol’s first floor rotunda for a program concerning violence against Native women, which will be followed with the Monument Quilt viewing on the capitol’s east lawn.
The Monument Quilt is described as a bright red, hand-sewn story of survival. It is made up of numerous 4-square-foot pieces that are created by survivors of sexual assault or domestic violence.
There will 400 stories displayed on the lawn for others to read. Survivors and supporters will have the chance to add their stories on their own quilt square following the program and viewing.
According to a press release, the Monument Quilt is a physical space that provides public recognition to survivors and reconnects them with their community. The Monument Quilt seeks to change the public perception of who experience sexual violence by telling many stories, not just one.
The release states, Native American women suffer from the highest rate of sexual assault in the country, and non-Natives commit 80 percent of those assaults. A staggering 39 percent of Native women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The Native Alliance Against Violence is Oklahoma’s tribal domestic violence and sexual assault coalition. NAAV serves tribal programs that provide victims with the protections and services they need to have safe and happy lives.
FORCE and the NAAV are partnering to put on the event with hopes of bringing attention to the state of violence against Native women and to reconnect survivors to their community.
The April 2 program is at 10:30 a.m. to noon and the quilt viewing is from noon to 3 p.m.
PARK HILL, Okla. – The Friends of the Murrell Home Gift Shop have launched a brand new online store, which carries a variety of items relating to Cherokee history and nineteenth century life in Indian Territory.
The museum gift shop, housed at the Murrell Home Historic Site, sells history and language books, maps, historic toys, handmade reproductions, souvenirs and more.
A new line of heirloom seeds are also available in-store and online. These vegetable, flower and herb seeds are provided by Seed Savers Exchange, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic seed varieties.
The varieties sold at the Murrell Home are representative of nineteenth-century flora that would have been grown in Indian Territory. These vegetables and herbs will be planted in the historic site’s kitchen garden beginning this spring. Cherokee Trail of Tears beans, bloody butcher corn, Cherokee purple tomatoes and Moon & Stars watermelon are just a few of the twenty-four varieties now available for purchase.
All of the proceeds from the gift shop and online store benefit the Friends of the Murrell Home, the support organization for the Murrell Home Historic Site.
To view the new online store, visit <a href="http://www.mkt.com/murrellhome" target="_blank">mkt.com/murrellhome</a> or <a href="http://www.facebook.com/murrellhome" target="_blank">facebook.com/murrellhome</a>.
The historic site is located at 19479 E. Murrell Home Road, three miles south of Tahlequah. The museum store is open from 10 a.m. to5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, call 918-456-2751.
WASHINGTON – On March 25, Principal Chief Bill John Baker delivered testimony before the U.S. House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C.
Baker addressed the necessity for increased Indian Health Service funding and the significance of contract support costs.
“Cherokee Nation and other tribes have successfully litigated three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. These cases established the federal government is legally obligated to fully fund BIA and IHS contract support costs,” Baker said. “Last year, we negotiated a $29.5 million settlement with IHS to collect nearly a decade’s worth of underpaid contract support costs. Unlike the IHS claims, resolution to BIA’s case has been slow. We request that the Subcommittee encourage BIA to work harder to reach a settlement with tribes. We also request that the Subcommittee support the president’s fiscal year 2016 proposal to fully fund IHS and BIA contract support costs.”
Baker also discussed the CN’s commitment to invest its own $100 million for new and improved health facilities, but said IHS needs to pay its share for staffing doctors and nurses.
“We have invested more than $100 million from our casino profits to build, expand and renovate our health care facilities. We are the largest tribal health provider, seeing more than 1 million patient visits in 2014.
Last year, I testified before this Subcommittee and requested the IHS Joint Venture Construction Program be reopened,” he said. “We are deeply grateful to Rep. Cole, Ranking Member McCollum, and members of the Subcommittee for your efforts that resulted in IHS reopening the program in fiscal year 2014.
Cherokee Nation was selected as a Joint Venture project, and the tribe will fund construction of a new health care facility. We request that the Subcommittee ensure IHS meets its obligation by funding the staffing and operations for our Joint Venture facility.”
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) chaired the hearing. He was joined by ranking members Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.).
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – To help with staffing, travel and community members in need, the Cherokee Nation donated $30,000 to Friends of the Murrell Home, War Pony Community Outreach and the CN Color Guard.
Friends of the Murrell Home support and promote the Murrell Home Historic Site in Park Hill. The Murrell Home was built following the Trail of Tears for then CN Chief John Ross’ niece, Minerva Ross Murrell. The group uses donations to help cover museum staffing.
“Without this donation from the Cherokee Nation, a Cherokee citizen who works for us in the Living History Program would be out of a job,” said Murrell Home Site Manager David Fowler. “Because of that, we’re very appreciative of the help the tribe provides.”
War Pony Community Outreach is a nonprofit organization in Cherokee County dedicated to helping people across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction with living expenses. The group plans to use the donation to buy beds, washers, stoves and other household appliances.
“Whatever a community member that qualifies needs, we help provide it,” said Raymond Vann, who works with the outreach.
Making appearances at public events, funerals or other venues across the country, veterans who act as cultural ambassadors for the tribe make up the CN Color Guard of Native American. The Color Guard will use the donation for travel expenses.
WELLING, Okla. – A non-Cherokee couple that recently tried to partake in a new master-apprentice Cherokee language course offered by the tribe’s Cultural and Community Outreach is saying they were asked to leave the course after three sessions.
Doug and Judy Cotter of Welling tried to participate in the program in February after receiving a call from a participant. Doug said the pilot program pays three Cherokee speakers to interact with four students, so he said there was plenty of room in the classroom for him and his wife.
“I received a call from one of the participants that knew we were interested in the Master-Apprentice Program. They stated they would like for us to come sit in just as another example of people that could learn the language because he knew we had been studying it several years over here at NSU (Northeastern State University),” Doug said. “We were tickled to death and jumped at the chance.”
However, after three sessions, Doug said CCO Director Rob Daugherty called them into his office and told them they could no longer attend classes.
Doug added that he and Judy never got a straight answer as to why they couldn’t attend anymore.
“He (Daugherty) said ‘when my students start complaining I have to do something. This is for people who are being paid to be here. It’s for participants only, and you guys just can’t be here,’” Doug said.
He said he could not imagine that he and his wife somehow disrupted the classes they attended because mainly they just sat and listened to the Cherokee speakers.
The program aims to teach Cherokee Nation citizens to become second-language Cherokee speakers so that they can go into their respective communities and teach others in an effort to revitalize the language, Daugherty said.
Citizens will meet eight hours per day on weekdays through this fall, according to the program.
“It’s a very demanding schedule,” Daugherty said. “As CCO’s director, when it was brought to my attention by other participants that Mr. and Mrs. Cotter were attending classes regularly and not merely observing, nor were they Cherokee Nation citizens, or a member of any federally-recognized tribe that I know of, I simply explained to the couple that our program is for Cherokee Nation citizens, and we simply did not have the space, nor funding to allow them to be participants.”
Daugherty said the class is taught in a small office space and participants are paid stipends. Occasionally there are visitors who observe a class, and the Cotters were allowed to observe by one of the instructors.
Doug said he went in strictly as a volunteer and he and his wife did not expect to get paid.
“You have to be a member of the Cherokee Nation to even be considered for payment, so I didn’t expect to get paid,” he said. “I just think it would be a privilege to get to participate.”
He said he was even willing to teach the language for two years after completing the program, which is required of all students enrolled in the program.
“We welcome sharing our Cherokee language, and there are other online and community Cherokee language courses that are free and open to the public that the Cotters can utilize,” Daugherty said. “Moving forward, in our application for this program, we require participants be Cherokee Nation citizens, apply, be accepted and sign a contract with CCO, in an effort to avoid any public confusion.”
Doug said at first he was angry because he was invited to partake in the program and then was told he couldn’t.
“I didn’t understand. You’re volunteering, and you’re not causing any problems. Why would they not want someone to learn the language? In my opinion, the more people that learn it, the better. If the language is in dire straits, and we all know it is, the more people that can learn it and share it and spread it and teach it, the better off you’re going to be,” he said.