http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgSince 1909, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., has offered several Native American degree programs and courses, most of which are taught in Seminary Hall, shown here. Today, NSU is the only public institution in the U.S. to offer a teaching degree in a Native language. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Since 1909, Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., has offered several Native American degree programs and courses, most of which are taught in Seminary Hall, shown here. Today, NSU is the only public institution in the U.S. to offer a teaching degree in a Native language. TESINA JACKSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

NSU offers Cherokee language program

Former Reporter
12/07/2011 08:14 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – In a cooperative effort between Northeastern State University and the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokee Education Degree Program allows students to major in the Cherokee language and give them the capability to teach how to speak, read and write Cherokee.

“This cultural understanding opens all sorts of doors to careers, not jobs,” said Dr. Leslie Hannah, director of the Cherokee studies and language programs at NSU. “I make a distinct difference between jobs and careers. A job is something one does for a check. A career is something one does for life and these Cherokee language and culture courses change lives and create lifelong learners who in turn become life changers.”

The bachelor’s degree program started in 2005 after NSU and CN announced that the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education had approved the program. The CEDP was founded to prepare students to be teachers, speakers, readers and writers of the Cherokee language.

Since 1909, NSU has offered several Native American degree programs and courses. Today, NSU is the only public institution in the U.S. to offer a teaching degree in a Native language.

There have been 10 students who have graduated from the program. One of those students, Meda Nix, currently works at the CN Immersion School.

Nix teaches kindergarten at the school. She also has taught Cherokee at Rogers State College and currently teaches a Cherokee language night course at NSU.

“I see these younger students coming up and we need Cherokee teachers,” Nix said. “I really encourage them to stay with it and to get the education part of it, the Cherokee education part.”
She decided to apply for the NSU program after retiring from Indian Health Services. She graduated from the program in May after 4-1/2 years of taking courses.

Nix said she grew up hearing the Cherokee language from her family and her church.

“I guess I learned a lot because when I started the program it was kind of like déjà vu, you’ve heard it before, that’s kind of the way it was for me and one day it just came together,” she said.
Students who graduate from the program are not limited to working at the immersion school or even within the CN.

“A side benefit that I am uncertain anyone saw coming is a more complete understanding of how Native people think, which can allow the students to do most anything they want within Indian Country,” she said. “They are not limited to Cherokee Country as they hold an understanding of the Native way of seeing life.”

On average, approximately 30 students major in the program annually, with an additional eight to 10 who minor in it.

“Many of the students who take the language courses are not going to be majors. They simply want the language,” Hannah said. “Those who are majors claim a very personal and some even say spiritual experience in learning, relearning or honing their language skills. It becomes very personal for them when they reach a certain level of skill. I have noticed this in Cherokees and non-Cherokees alike. They are proud of their accomplishments, as well they should be.”

The courses offered in the program include Elementary Cherokee I, Conversational Cherokee I, Intermediate Cherokee I, Cherokee Conversational Practicum and Cherokee Cultural Heritage.

However, there is no certification in the Cherokee language so some students have to take another language such as Spanish or French and then get alternate certification in Cherokee by using their course work as a substitute.

“As things are currently structured that is one of the only two ways to get certification,” Hannah said. “Many will go the alternate certification route from the beginning, thus adding at least one, sometimes two semesters to their degree track. We are working with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages to solve this.”

When students graduate they should be able to speak, write and read the language; analyze the morphology, phonology and semantics of the language; critique literature and historical documents written in the language; and access the status of Cherokee speech communities, the effects of language endangerment and approaches to language revitalization. • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139


06/26/2017 04:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials recently donated $29,000 to the Alice Robertson Junior High School to help construct an outdoor classroom focused on environmental sciences. Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Tribal Councilor Don Garvin and Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. presented the check to Principal Peggy Jones and Indian Education liaison Jerrod Adair. “This donation gives our students at Alice Robertson Junior High an opportunity to extend their learning beyond what we could do in a regular classroom,” Jones said. “It gives our kids a hands-on opportunity to do a multitude of kinds of things in an interactive environment.” The donation is expected to provide students a new outdoor space for botany, horticulture, agribusiness and other environmental science hands-on classes and activities. Garvin said the donation would have a major impact on the learning and futures of students at Alice Robertson Junior High School. “As a former educator, I know the impact that a project like this outdoor space learning area can have on students,” Garvin said. “I’m so proud that the Cherokee Nation can step up and help our schools provide some special learning amenities to students that will have a lasting impact on their academic and professional careers.”
06/21/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A new cornerstone for capacity building was put into place June 14 at the United Keetoowah Band John Hair Cultural Center & Museum with the signing of a memorandum of understanding for cooperation between Northeastern State University and the UKB. “This memorandum solidifies the collaborative opportunities for both institutions. It will help to further our respective missions for developing learning opportunities and creating educational and economic success for the health and productive futures of our populations,” UKB Chief Joe Bunch. “Our tribe is honored to sign this MOU with the university. The alliance with NSU offers incredible resources, experiences and opportunities for both entities to forge new paths and grow together. The cooperative agreement with NSU, an outstanding regional university, represents new promise, hope and progress for enhancing and developing many of the important programs and services for the UKB going forward.” UKB Assistant Chief Jamie Thompson said the UKB Tribal Council unanimously endorsed the dedicated relationship, honoring NSU’s standards of excellence, quality teaching, challenging curricula, research and scholarly activities – particularly its goal to provide immersive learning opportunities for their faculty and students in service to the local community. “We envision the collaborative relationship to include capacity building areas of elder community services, sustainable language, kinesiology/recreation, Indian Child Welfare, child development, tribal libraries and technology and more. The tribe and university have also agreed to consider undertaking mutually beneficial, sanctioned research and grant-funded projects,” he said. After signing the agreement, NSU President Steve Turner cited the rich educational heritage of the Cherokee people and the university’s respect for the UKB as two key elements that led to the partnership. He also acknowledged the UKB’s commitment to higher education and deep roots with the university and the Cherokee Nation. “We seek collaborations such as this alliance with the UKB to advance or mission of helping all of our region to achieve professional and personal success in this multicultural and global society,” Turner said. “NSU continues to devote faculty and student services resources toward collaborative projects with the tribe and other American Indians that encourage, inspire and support tribal members to lead healthy and productive lives and to encourage the pursuit of post-secondary education at our institution.” The memorandum will be supported by a joint committee comprised of individuals from both the university and the tribe who will provide oversight for the activities and projects included in the alliance.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
06/16/2017 09:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – It has been more than a year since the last cohort for the Gates Millennium Scholars Program was announced, giving several Cherokee recipients time to reflect on the scholarship’s legacy and impact it has made on their lives. “It was just a huge, huge blessing,” Felicia Manning said. Manning is one of 326 Cherokees who are citizens of the three federally recognized Cherokee tribes to receive the scholarship during the program’s 16-year run, according to the American Indian Graduate Center, which oversees the GMSP. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation created the program in 2000. It funds any undergraduate study area and seven graduate study areas: computer science, education, engineering, library science, mathematics, public health and science. A 2010 scholarship selection, Manning recently completed her first year of graduate study in marine science at Jacksonville University in Jacksonville, Florida. The program also funded Manning’s 2016 study abroad trip to Mossel Bay, South Africa. While there she tagged sharks with Oceans Research, an organization dedicated to Southern African wildlife management and conservation via marine research. “That’s a group that I had been following for a long time,” Manning said. “The fact that they actually picked my school, and I’m partnered with them and I get to do my thesis work with them, that has just been so awesome. Gates (scholarship) definitely helped pave the way for me to do that.” The scholarship is also paving a better future for Wrighter Weavel, 20, a 2015 recipient. “I wasn’t even going to go to college, but when I found out that I got Gates, that opened so many opportunities for me to go anywhere I want, to experience any life, any culture in the entire United States,” he said. Weavel said he plans to transfer to the University of Oklahoma to complete his undergraduate studies in education or medicine, with an overall goal to obtain a doctorate. “I want to get my Ph.D. and I want to be called Dr. Weavel because I have a plan,” he said. “I want to have little ones, and I want them to look at me and see where I came from and to understand that it doesn’t matter the background you have, if you want to do something, you can do whatever you set your mind to.” Weavel said he has also benefited from the scholarship beyond financial assistance. “They offer mentors, which the mentors are a huge help,” he said. “They really help expand your mind on exactly what the scholarship can do for you.” Weavel’s mentor is Corey Still, 26, a United Keetoowah Band citizen who received the scholarship in 2009. Though initially interested in business and law, Still is now obtaining a doctorate in adult and higher education at OU. “I really began to fall in love with this idea of education and how we can help our communities through education,” he said. “I really wanted to be able to help other people and especially other students.” Still said he looks forward to joining the few Native American men with doctorates, which he decided to pursue because of the “faith” the GMSP puts into its scholars. “Whether they know it or not, that by selecting us as scholars and putting a little bit of faith into us, we’re going to go out and make something with those scholarships and with those degrees, that we’re going to make some type of impact within our community or greater society.” Still serves on the Gates Millennium Alumni Advisory Council as the American Indian Graduate Center liaison and said he appreciates the “communal and family ties” the GMSP creates. “You really see the impact this scholarship has, and not just within Indian Country, because the scholarship itself is for minority students in under-represented fields. And so you really see the connections that are created across cultural barriers and across the country and it really does become a family.” Of the Cherokee recipients, 313 are CN citizens, eight are UKB citizens and five are Eastern Band citizens. In its 16 years, the GMSP funded more than 20,000 scholars and awarded more than $934 million in scholarship funds. The program ended in 2016, but the Hispanic Scholarship Fund manages a new version. <strong>Editor’s Note: Reporter Brittney Bennett is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient.</strong>
06/14/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – More than 150 educators traveled June 7-8 to Northeastern State University for training in the latest science, technology, engineering and math teaching and learning techniques at the Cherokee Nation’s Teachers of Successful Students conference. For a fifth straight year, the CN funded the conference at no cost to teachers. To culminate the conference, the CN awarded a Creative Teaching Grant of $1,000 to 10 teachers to start STEM projects in their classrooms next fall. Angela Wall, who teaches preschool and kindergarten at Bluejacket Public Schools, said the $1,000 grant from the tribe would help the school in implementing a robotics lab for the lower elementary students. “This grant makes it possible for us to establish this lab. It’s not something covered in the daily material, and we will now be able to implement STEM projects in the lower grades,” Wall said. “I’m very appreciative of this grant.” Other teachers receiving $1,000 grants were: • Greasy Public School’s Maygen Clark for “To Infinity and Beyond,” • Maryetta Public School’s Tiffany Clawson for “Motivating Tiny Builders,” • Bluejacket Public Schools’ Amy Rogers for “Beginning Robotics and Coding for 4th-5th Grades,” • Afton Public Schools’ Jason Gibson for “Building Better Bridges,” • Cleora Public School’s Deanna Gordon for “STEM Activities with a Basis in Literature,” • Sallisaw Public Schools’ Christina Magie and Tara Mendrola for “Building Brains with a Maker’s Space,” • Justus-Tiawah Public School’s Desiree Matheson for “STEM in the Library,” • Wagoner Public Schools’ Stephanie Rexwinkle for “From Text to Film,” and • Cleora Public School’s Guy Matzenbacher for “Coding is Fun!”
06/09/2017 04:00 PM
NORMAN, Okla. – Two Cherokee Nation citizens are part of the 10 student journalists selected as members of the 2017 Native American Journalist Fellowship class by the Native American Journalists Association. CN citizens Kaitlin Boyse, a University of Central Oklahoma student, and Shea Smith, a University of Oklahoma student, will join eight other student journalists Sept. 4-10 at the National Native Media Conference as part of the Excellence In Journalism 17 Conference in Anaheim, California. According to a NAJA release, the NAJF is an opportunity for Native students to deepen their reporting and multimedia skills while learning from tribal journalists and industry professionals from across the country. “We are very excited for our incoming NAJF class and look forward to covering issues that matter to NAJA as well as Indian Country,” Victoria LaPoe, NAJA education chairwoman, said. “We look forward to our mentees learning not only from mentors, but from all members attending the conference.” The other student journalists selected are: • A.J. Earl, Portland State University, Comanche Nation, • Aliyah Chavez, Stanford University, Santo Domingo Pueblo, • Jaida Grey Eagle, Institute of American Indian Arts, Oglala Lakota Nation, • Jorge Martínez, Brown University, Jñatro/Ñuu Sau, • Kathleen Flynn, City University of New York, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, • Priestess Bearstops, Minneapolis, Oglala Lakota Nation, • Sarah Liese, University of Mississippi, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and • Tyler Jones, University of Kansas, Choctaw Nation. Under the direction of Val Hoeppner, digital media consultant, and LaPoe, students will work with mentors Tristan Ahtone, 2018 Nieman Fellow and Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma citizen; Graham Brewer, a journalist with The Oklahoman and CN citizen; Khloe Keeler, a reporter based in Colorado with KKTV 11 News and Ponca Tribe of Nebraska citizen; and Mark Fogarty, a correspondent with Indian Country Today Media Network. According to the release, NAJA serves and empowers Native journalists through programs and actions designed to enrich journalism and promote Native cultures. “NAJA’s most important role in Indian Country is to create the next generation of storytellers. This exemplary class of student fellows, mentored by our experienced professionals, will soon find their paths into tribal and mainstream newsrooms where they will have a voice in a more fair and accurate portrayal of our communities and cultures,” NAJA President and former Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Bryan Pollard said. “I look forward to meeting them at the conference and would encourage our members to stop by the student newsroom to offer encouragement.”
05/29/2017 03:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University’s Riverhawk Food Pantry is expanding into the newly named Rowdy’s Resource Room to offer students in need more assistance. In addition to food and hygiene items, the Rowdy’s Resource Room will provide clothes, school supplies and cleaning supplies at no cost. Student committee members Skye Boyce and Pate Thomas agreed they would like to see Rowdy’s Resource Room expand to benefit more students by bringing more awareness to the campus. “I would also like for us, in the future, to be able to partner with other community organizations to create bigger drives and to expand our efforts to be able to give back to the community that does so much for Northeastern (State University),” said Thomas. Accepted donations include food, hygiene items, school supplies, new or gently used clothing and business attire. “The resource room relies upon donations,” said Thomas. “It is the only way for us to acquire the items to provide to students in need.” Jacob Patrick, the center’s coordinator, said the two “major” motivations why people donate are “to help others that may be in need and to cut down on the waste that is produced when usable items are discarded.” Donations can be made at the Resource Room, located in the Leoser building by Pizza Hut Express. For more information, email Patrick at