Teams compete head-to-head during the recent Cherokee Language Bowl held at Tribal Complex in Tahlequah, Okla. The bowl encourages students to study and use the Cherokee language. COURTESY OF CN COMMUNICATIONS

Students compete in Language Bowl competition

01/26/2012 07:59 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Recently, the Cherokee Nation held its annual Cherokee Language Bowl, a competition between CN-area students that encourages the study and use of the Cherokee language.

“The language bowl is a place where many of the students shine,” said Sue Thompson, CN Cherokee language specialist. “The competitive setting raises self-esteem while giving students an opportunity to show off not only the Cherokee words and phrases they have learned, but also the sounds of the Cherokee syllabary.”

The CN has held a language bowl for the past 11 years. According to the tribe’s website, this year more than 290 Cherokee students competed in 58 teams and collectively took home $6,000 in awards.

Each team consists of five players. They compete in several rooms ending with winners in each division for first, second and third place. Each student winning first place receives $50, second place receives $40 and third place receives $30.

“The Cherokee Nation is committed to preserving our language and keeping our youth connected to our culture in every way possible,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The language bowl contest is a way for our students to demonstrate those skills in a fun environment.”
Several schools represented more than one teach in each division.

Grove and Collinsville were the Division 1 first place winners, which included kindergarten through second grade. Collinsville also took home second place along with Kenwood. Belfonte – Bell and Kenwood rounded out that division in third place.

Third through fifth grade made up Division 2. Two teams from Grove and one from Salina took home first place. Claremore, Kenwood and Salina took second place and Collinsville, Kenwood and Claremore took home third place.

Division 3 consisted of middle school students in grades sixth through eighth. Two teams from Grove and one team from Pryor took home $50 each and the first place title. Second place winners were Pryor and two teams from Grove. Rounding out the division with third place finishes were Collinsville, Catoosa and Maryetta.

High School students in grades ninth through twelfth made up Division 4. Teams from Sequoyah High School and Grove won first and second place. Grove also won third place in the division along with Tahlequah.

All participating students and two guests of their choice will attend the Cherokee Language Bowl Awards Ceremony and luncheon on May 10 to receive awards and plaques.


10/02/2014 08:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Education Services will discontinue funding its Cherokee Language Program offered in cooperation with Northeastern State University beginning Jan. 1. This semester’s funding dropped to $25,000 from its usual $100,000. For the past nine academic years the program has received $100,000 annually from the tribe with the expectation that it would bring Cherokee speaking teachers to the Cherokee Immersion Charter School. That, however isn’t the case, officials said. “One of the biggest problems that we have at the school is supplying certified, in other words Oklahoma State Department of Education-certified, teachers who are fluent in Cherokee language. So we implemented this program nine years ago with Northeastern with the hopes that that would supply the number of teachers that we would need, but it hasn’t supplied the number we need,” Dr. Neil Morton, Education Services senior advisor, said. Officials said there have been nine program graduates from the bachelor’s degree program. Five were hired by CN with four working for the immersion school and one transferring from the immersion school to Sequoyah High School. Four other graduates were hired in positions with the tribe, including the Cherokee Language Program, Cherokee Heritage Center and CN College Resources. Morton said with the Cherokee Language Program’s redesign officials hope to provide more certified teachers that will be required to teach at the immersion school after graduation. “There have been some (students) that finished the program and decided they didn’t want to teach or that they didn’t want to teach little kids. So we’re proposing a program where we would pre-identify five students that have some level of proficiency in Cherokee and who are hopefully residing in a Cherokee community where they’re exposed to the culture and life ways of Cherokee people,” he said. “And those five would be immersed in our immersion program.” The students would complete 15 hours per week in the school performing duties under a certified teacher. “This way, they’re hearing the language every day, using the language everyday and hopefully increasing the usage of the language every day,” Morton said. “And included in that 15 hours will be an instructional block where Cherokee will be taught by our Translation Department.” He said a lot of it will be tied to what they’re exposed to in the classroom so that it would have meaning. “And all of our translators are first language speakers,” Morton said. “So we think that that will provide a better transition to an immersion teaching arrangement.” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said the contract would be similar to the CN Directed Studies Program, which is used to attract physicians and other professionals to work for the Nation after utilizing tribal college scholarships. “After four years, we expect five graduates each year to be certified to teach the Cherokee language to our young people and be proudly committed to serve the Cherokee Nation,” Baker said. “In addition to the immersion school, these graduates may be utilized in one of our satellite programs found in public schools across the Cherokee Nation.” Another reason for the change, Morton said, was that the school must follow the requirements that state schools follow after being qualified a charter school. That qualification requires the school to have the same requirements as Oklahoma public schools regarding subjects such as reading and language arts. “So our teachers will be encouraged to select a major, you know, which will lead to certification in their choice of what they would really like to teach,” he said. The immersion school begins teaching English in the third grade, but Morton said it will begin offering English on a limited basis in the second grade. Every child must be able to read on a third grade level or they can’t go to fourth grade, he added. “So we’re going to have to have some kids that can read in both languages,” he said. NSU will facilitate the program in the future, Morton said, but no one will lose a job. NSU plans to continue its Cherokee education major. However, Dr. Phil Bridgmon, NSU’s dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the “Cherokee Language Program has 3.5 equivalent faculty.” “One (professor) is in-kind from the Cherokee Nation, one is grant funded, and the remainder are NSU funded. The grant-funded position ends on Dec. 31, 2014,” he said. “Future staffing of the grant-funded position has not been determined. I expect a recommendation from the program faculty and department chairperson on staffing needs in the near future.” Bridgmon said NSU is excited for the repurposing of the funding for the Cherokee Language Program. “This continued program partnership will help keep the Cherokee language an integral part of the tribe’s culture and identity. Our goals remain growing student enrollment and graduating Cherokee language teachers,” Bridgmon added. The tribal program will be available to CN citizens only, but Bridgmon said the Cherokee degree offered through NSU is open to anyone. There are currently 15 Cherokee education majors in the program and Bridgmon said those students will “have no problem completing their degree” at NSU. According to officials, the CN Translation Department, along with others, will identify appropriate criteria for the selection process with hopes that the department will select five students in November. Each student’s scholarship will be an individualized funding package based on financial, academic and other eligibility factors, according to tribal officials. Officials will determine what each student qualifies for using a hybrid of scholarships available through the tribe’s Education Services. Those students are expected to begin the program with the 2015 spring semester.
10/01/2014 01:15 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Established about five years ago, the Center for American Indians recently underwent restructuring to expand programs while uniting students at Bacone College. “What we are trying to do basically is combine all of Indian students on campus together so that we’re all more united and we can expand our programs,” Dr. Patti Jo King, CAI director, said. King, who came from the University of North Dakota in 2013, became CAI director in January and is the interim chair of the college’s American Indian Studies program. Under new leadership, the CAI has grown to encompass all aspects of Native American students and programs, including coordinating American Indian scholarships, recruiting, overseeing cultural programs and supporting American Indian academic programs and degrees. “We are on a multipronged program right now to reinvigorate our relationship with the Native American community, which has included discussions with a number of tribes about a more developed relationship we might have with them in terms of providing for their higher education and needs,” Bacone College President Franklin Willis said. “We would like to really get back to our original mission, which is to provide for Native American higher education and have Native American tribes think of Bacone as their private school of higher education.” Almon C. Bacone, a missionary teacher, founded Bacone College in Muskogee in 1880. He started the school with three students in the Cherokee Baptist Mission at Tahlequah, Indian Territory. Seeing the need to expand after an increase in the student population, an appeal was made to the Muscogee Creek Tribal Council for 160 acres in Muskogee. The land was granted and in 1885 Indian University was moved to its present site. In 1910, it was renamed Bacone Indian University after its founder and was later changed to Bacone College. Today, it is a four-year school and has a student body including African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics, Caribbeans, Caucasians and Asians. In 1953, Bacone had 170 students with 152 of those students being Native American. In 2013, there were 965 students with 247 being Native American. Because of those numbers, King said there are people who ask if Bacone College is still a Native school. “It’s the same as it always has been, we’ve just increased the other people around us,” she said. “It’s a fine place for students because of the teacher-to-student ratio and there’s a lot of one-on-one. We get to know them very well, we’re more like a family.” At the CAI, which is across from the Native American student dormitory, students can study, play games, watch TV or participate in tribal cultural activities such as arts and crafts, basketry and stickball. “We have a lot of students from just all over the place and they feel homesick and they need a place to touch base and we try to bring the kids together,” King said. “It helps because they are having an intercultural experience by meeting these other kids and that opens a new world to them, and also we can be there for them and we can help them whenever they need help.” King said there are also culture clubs students can join while receiving academic credit such as tribal arts and crafts, the drum group and storytelling. A new fire pit was even built behind the center for the storytelling club. To expand CAI programs, King created a partnership with other departments, including the business, agricultural science and criminal justice departments, so students majoring in those fields could find a way to relate to and include their culture. “They have a business management degree program and so what we’ve done now is we have a partnership with them so we have a business management degree with an emphasis in American Indian business leadership,” King said. The CAI has created a Three Sisters Garden Project within the agricultural science department, which will help students create a community garden where they will learn to work together to harvest what they grow. The students will also learn entrepreneurship skills by taking the harvest to farmers markets and grocers. Stemmed from the Three Sisters Garden Project is a healthy living campaign that focuses on health and community awareness, addressing alcoholism while promoting alcohol awareness. The campaign will also promote tobacco and diabetes awareness. In the criminal justice department, a program was created to help Native students learn how to deal with tribal border and homeland security issues. The CAI also created a scholarship, the Alexander Posey Scholarship, which was named after Creek scholar Alexander Posey. The scholarship will benefit up to 100 Native American students. Students who live in dormitories on-campus will be eligible for the full $10,000 scholarship while those who live off campus will be eligible to receive $5,600. For more information about the CAI, call 918-687-3299.
09/22/2014 08:06 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Hailey Baskeyfield, 10, is a fourth grader at Jackson Elementary School in Norman. She was born with severe health problems causing her to have scoliosis of the spine, as well as missing some ribs, vertebra and part of her brain. She was also declared blind at 6 months old. She started learning Braille when she was 2 years old. Since then she’s learned other languages in Braille and speech, one of those languages being Cherokee. Tami Baskeyfield, Hailey’s grandmother, said Hailey was chosen at her school as a child with potential to learn languages at a fast pace. “Cedric Sunray began teaching her Cherokee, and what they did was they puff painted the syllabary and symbols,” she said. “She learned to read them by touch. He worked with her most of the school year, but only once a week. She took to it very quickly.” With Hailey’s knowledge of Cherokee, she began entering language competitions, one of those being the 2014 Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Museum in Norman. At the competition, Hailey told judges the Cherokee names of different objects she picked up from a table located on stage. After that she was instructed to go to the Braille writer, which is the equivalent of a typewriter, and typed specific Cherokee words. Then she went to a basket of index cards that had Cherokee syllables in Braille on them and named 40 of the 86 syllables before running out of time. Tami said after Hailey won the competition she was able to give the Braille writer its Cherokee name. “It was put through a panel of linguistics and approved,” she said. “My understanding is theoretically in 150 years from now if they’re talking about the Braille writer in Cherokee, the name she gave it is what it will be called. She named it ‘My Mommy’s Baby.’” Hailey said she named the Braille writer “My Mommy’s Baby” because she thought it was “pretty cool.” Aside from competing in Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair, Hailey has competed in the Oklahoma Braille Challenge, is a part of her school’s Gifted and Talented program and Indian Education Program and is a straight-A student. Tami said she is proud of her granddaughter, but believes “proud” does not even begin to explain how she feels about the challenges Hailey has overcome. “I’ve had her since birth, and I’ve seen the challenges that she’s been faced with and has overcome,” she said. “I see everything from day one to now and proud is such a wimpy word. It just doesn’t give justice to my feelings for her and what she’s accomplished. It’s beyond pride. I tell her all the time how proud I am and it just seems to always feel like it falls short of what is real.” The Cherokee syllabary in Braille is a new form to the language. Aside from Hailey and Sunray, the Commonwealth Braille and Talking Book Cooperative are working to help establish the Braille syllabary. Roy Boney, Cherokee Nation language program manager, said he has been working with the group to help get this new form of the Cherokee language available. “There’s a system called Unicode, which that’s the digital system that governs how languages are used on computers. Cherokee is in that system. And what they do is they go through and they ensure that every language that’s been encoded into the Unicode has a Braille equivalent,” he said. “So they got to Cherokee and saw that we didn’t have a Braille version and they wanted to make one.” With the Cherokee syllabary now available in a Braille format, the raised print can now be readily made using special printers. “It’s neat to see that the Cherokee syllabary has gone through all these changes, not really changes, but it adapts to every type of writing technology there is and this is another form of that for literacy,” he said. For more information about the Cherokee syllabary in Braille, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
09/08/2014 10:19 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Gov. Mary Fallin recently appointed Tribal Councilor David Walkingstick to serve on the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Indian Education. Walkingstick will serve on the 18-member council to make recommendations to the state board of education and the state superintendent of schools on issues affecting Native American students. “It truly is an honor to receive this appointment from Gov. Fallin. I thank my parents, elders, coaches, custodians and others who were all hands on deck in my life every day at Woodall and Tahlequah Sequoyah. They instilled the value of education at an early age,” Walkingstick said. “The Cherokee Nation has an extensive history of promoting education and culture, and there is proven research that cultural inclusion, which is Native language and culture-enriched curriculum, boosts test scores. It’s very important that our Native American students walk in both worlds.” Walkingstick serves as the federal programs director for Muskogee Public Schools, overseeing federal funding and compliance for the school district. Walkingstick is also a former teacher and athletic director for Bell Elementary School in Adair County. “David Walkingstick is a dedicated educator and mentor to students,” Fallin said. “He has been heavily involved in Cherokee Nation issues through his work on the Cherokee Nation Tribal Council.” Walkingstick graduated from Sequoyah High School in 1999 and has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond and a master’s degree in school administration from East Central University in Ada. He has served on Tribal Council since 2011. He was also named a 2013 “Native American 40 Under 40” recipient by the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.
08/27/2014 12:54 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Northeastern State University’s College of Liberal Arts are collaborating to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Cherokee Constitution. There will be a celebratory symposium at 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Aug. 28 at NSU-Tahlequah’s University Center Ballroom. The Cherokee Nation Color Guard will kick off the event. Following, there will be panels discussing the history of the tribe’s 1839 Constitution. Keynote speaker, Dr. Miriam Jorgensen, will speak during lunch. Jorgensen is a lecturer for both University of Arizona and Harvard University’s Executive Education programs in Native American Leadership. She also works at George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University as an adjunct professor in Community Development with American Indian Communities. For more information, email Dr. Diane Hammons at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
08/11/2014 12:23 PM
BY STAFF REPORTS TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Indian Youth Wrestling organization based in Tahlequah is selling T-shirts to raise money for club expenses such as new singlets and equipment. Cost per shirt is $15 plus $5 for shipping, with an additional option to donate more. The organization’s goal is to sell 50 shirts by Aug. 15. Customers should receive their shirts in the mail around Aug. 29. To place an order, go to the website and search for IYW or type in <a href="" target="_blank"></a> to be taken directly to the ordering page. will ship anywhere around the world. The organization has set out to provide its children with a strong work ethic, resilience and a sense of responsibility for their own destiny as well as lasting inner-strength and confidence. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or email Jillian Girty at <a href="mailto:"></a>.