Sixth grade students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School dance to the song “The Twist” while singing the song’s lyrics in Cherokee. The class won first place for its performance during the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Immersion students win trophies at language fair

Cherokee Language Immersion School sixth graders show off their first place trophy for winning the Sixth through Eighth Grade Large Group Song category at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. From left are Lauren Hummingbird, Alayna Harkreader, Maggie Sourjohn, Sean Sikora, Cambria Bird, Cree Drowningbear, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson and Cheyenne Drowningbear. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Language Immersion School sixth graders show off their first place trophy for winning the Sixth through Eighth Grade Large Group Song category at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3 in Norman, Okla. From left are Lauren Hummingbird, Alayna Harkreader, Maggie Sourjohn, Sean Sikora, Cambria Bird, Cree Drowningbear, Emilee Chavez, Lauren Grayson and Cheyenne Drowningbear. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
04/05/2012 02:36 PM
NORMAN, Okla. – Students from the Cherokee Language Immersion School did well during competition April 2-3 at the 10th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History at the University of Oklahoma.

The theme of this year’s fair, which hosted about 600 students from more than 20 Oklahoma tribes, was “I Am My Language.” Along with showing off language skills, students also had the opportunity to compete in art, essay and poetry competitions using their respective languages.

The immersion school’s second, fifth and sixth grades won first place awards for their respective performances using the Cherokee language. The school’s first graders won second place for their presentation and the kindergarten class received a fourth place prize. The performances were judged on use and knowledge of language and creativity.

The immersion school also placed in the film and video competitions. The sixth grade won first place for its “Tsalagi” DVD produced in the Cherokee language. Immersion school fifth grader Jolie Morgan placed second for her Cherokee language video, and the school won third place in the Third through Sixth grade category for the video “Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi.”

The winning immersion school classes and individual winners each received a trophy, and all of the students who competed in the language fair received a medal and a T-shirt.

“Our children at the Cherokee Nation immersion program have so much fun every year. ONAYLF has been so far the only place outside the school that offers our kids a place where they can practice their language in a public setting,” said parent Andrew Sikora, whose son Sean participated at the fair with the sixth grade class. “I will not exaggerate if I say that ONAYLF is a language highlight of the year.”

Students in grades kindergarten through high school are invited to the fair, which provides a venue for them to speak their Native languages publicly. The event also gives students the opportunity to dress up in traditional clothing and regalia.

Judges for the fair’s competitions are volunteers from Oklahoma tribes who speak or appreciate their Native languages.

CN citizen Christine Armer once served as a judge for the fair but now coordinates it. She is a Cherokee language professor at OU and said the fair is one of her favorite events of year because it brings her joy to see youth interested in their culture and language.

“My grandfather once told me that language is who you are,” she said.

She said if the next generations of students take an interest in their languages and see their importance, there’s hope that the cultural values found in Native American languages will be around for many generations.

Languages represented at the fair included Apache, Arapaho, Cayuga, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Comanche, Coushatta, Dakota, Euchee, Hasinai (Caddo), Ho-Chunk, Jiwere (Otoe), Kanza (Kaw), Keres, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Mohawk, Muskogee (Creek), Navajo, Osage, Pawnee, Pima, Prairie Band Potawatomi, Sauk, Seminole, Seneca, Shawnee, Shoshone, Ute, Wichita and Zuni.

For more information about the language fair, visit http://nal.snomnh.ou.edu/onaylf or visit the fair’s Facebook page.

will-chavez@cherokee.org


918-207-3961

About the Author
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M.

He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life.
He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association.

Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.
WILL-CHAVEZ@cherokee.org • 918-207-3961
Will lives in Tahlequah, Okla., but calls Marble City, Okla., his hometown. He is Cherokee and San Felipe Pueblo and grew up learning the Cherokee language, traditions and culture from his Cherokee mother and family. He also appreciates his father’s Pueblo culture and when possible attends annual traditional dances held on the San Felipe Reservation near Albuquerque, N.M. He enjoys studying and writing about Cherokee history and culture and writing stories about Cherokee veterans. For Will, the most enjoyable part of writing for the Cherokee Phoenix is having the opportunity to meet Cherokee people from all walks of life. He earned a mass communications degree in 1993 from Northeastern State University with minors in marketing and psychology. He is a member of the Native American Journalists Association. Will has worked in the newspaper and public relations field for 20 years. He has performed public relations work for the Cherokee Nation and has been a reporter and a photographer for the Cherokee Phoenix for more than 18 years.

Culture

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter
07/29/2015 08:22 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Stories and memories are ways to remember people who have died, whether their smile is remembered or their views, there is a way to catch a glimpse of the past. With the hopes of a 2016 release, people will get a look into former Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller’s life as told by her loved ones and colleagues in the PBS documentary “Mankiller.” Documentary producer and director Valerie Red-Horse, who is of Cherokee descent, said she is honored to share Mankiller’s legacy, the Cherokee Nation’s first and only female principal chief who served 1985-95. “As someone who is of Cherokee ancestry, there are so many similarities in my life that I often find myself in tears as we’re filming this project. It’s just really hard for me because my father was born and raised in Tahlequah and then brought out to San Francisco on the (Bureau of Indian Affairs Indian) relocation program, just like Wilma’s family,” Red-Horse said. “When I hear some of the things she went through, it was like part of my life story is reflected in that.” Red-Horse said she is working with fellow producer Gale Anne Hurd, of Valhalla Entertainment, who is known as the “First Lady of Sci-Fi” and has produced films such as “The Terminator,” “Aliens” and “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.” Hurd is also an executive producer on “The Walking Dead” and the upcoming companion series “Fear the Walking Dead.” Red-Horse said this isn’t the first project they have worked on together. They also created “True Whispers: The Story of the Navajo Code Talkers” and “Choctaw Code Talkers.” She said Hurd is a great person to work with when it comes to honoring Native traditions and stories. “She has a total heart for philanthropy and for the Native community. She’s always very supportive. She always refers to traditions and cultures and never wants to come in as the Hollywood entity,” she said. Red-Horse said she is glad to be producing the documentary because she and others on staff believe “Wilma Mankiller is a woman that deserves to have a documentary.” “What happened was when her widower, Charlie Soap, and his team of producers were doing the ‘The Cherokee Word for Water,’ that film came to our attention and it came to the attention of PBS,” she said. “PBS does not get involved with narrative feature films, the Native (Vision Maker Media) arm doesn’t, so they had reached out to me and started a dialog with me saying, ‘look, you’re one of our veteran film makers is this something that you might consider doing the real life story of Wilma.’ I said, ‘we would be very interested in that.’ We started talking to the family and they liked the idea.” She said the difference between the “The Cherokee Word for Water” and the “Mankiller” documentary is that the documentary will be a work of non-fiction that tells Mankiller’s life story and not just focus on the Bell Waterline project. She said the documentary covers Mankiller’s life from before her family’s relocation to San Francisco to when she died on April 6, 2010. “We’ve covered the early years. We went back to (Mankiller) Flats and we interviewed her family where she was raised and talked about the early years before the relocation,” she said. “We’re going to cover San Francisco, she was there for about 20 years and then she came back (to Oklahoma) in 1977.” Red-Horse said they interviewed influential people in Mankiller’s life, ranging from former Principal Chiefs Ross Swimmer and Chad Smith to current Principal Chief Bill John Baker and everyone in between. “We’ve interviewed people in Oklahoma who worked with her, who were apart of her administration, her family, her friends, political allies. We’re interviewing everyone,” she said. “We’re trying to get a good cross section of anyone who knew her or worked with her. We have interviews from Gloria Steinem (and) I think we’re going to be able to get one from (former President) Bill Clinton.” Red-Horse said she is amazed by how many people Mankiller’s message of “working together” reached. “…what she called gadugi, which is a good way, the Cherokee way. I just feel it’s a message that everyone needs to hear today. I don’t feel that it stopped when she passed away or was out of office, I think it’s a message that really resonates today,” she said. Red-Horse said Vision Maker Media, an arm of PBS, funded the documentary, as well as a Kickstarter campaign that Valhalla Entertainment started. She said the delivery date of the documentary to PBS is set for Dec. 31, 2015, but she was unsure of an official broadcast date other than sometime in 2016.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter
07/28/2015 08:33 AM
ROCKY MOUNTAIN, Okla. – The July heat and age doesn’t deter Flint Rock Ceremonial Grounds Chief Bird Wolfe from taking part in a stickball game on the grounds. Members of the grounds gathered on the Fourth of July to play stickball, share a meal, fellowship and take part in a stomp dance that night. “All are welcome here to dance and play stickball,” he said. Bird, 68, has been coming to Flint Rock since he was 8 years old, when the ceremonial fire was moved about 100 yards west to where it sits now. He can’t recall exactly how long the grounds have been there, but he said in his lifetime the grounds have not changed, and the ceremonies are the same. He carries Cherokee traditions and ceremonies handed down to him. He passes on that knowledge, he said, and strives to treat people right, “talk to them good, and appreciate them for what they do.” One person Bird has shared his knowledge with is his nephew, Nathan Wolfe, who said has led stomp dances at the grounds since he was 5 years old. “Ever since then I’ve just picked up on things and what people have taught me I just try to hold on to it and teach it to others,” Nathan said. Flint Rock members meet the first Saturday of the month and play stickball on Sundays at the grounds. Nathan said about 40 people regularly attend the grounds and participate in the stickball and ceremonies. “Sometimes we have a crowd and sometimes we don’t, but we keep going, even in the rain,” he said. He said people who visit the ground are “welcome to jump in at any time” to join in the stickball games or the dances. Some grounds make visitors wait a set amount of dances before they can participate, he said. “Here, we welcome anybody as soon as they get here,” he said. Nathan said the grounds close out its dancing season in October with two dances, on the first and fourth weekends. The last dance celebrates the grounds’ birthdate, and a hog fry and an all-night dance is held followed by a stickball game on Sunday morning. He emphasizes that the Flint Rock ceremonial fire was not moved to Tahlequah to the Echota ceremonial grounds. In 1998, Bird stepped away from the grounds as chief after his son Edward died. One of his brothers took over his duties while he was away. In that time some of the members left and established a fire and grounds near Tahlequah called Echota. He said just as it is common for people to leave their church and start their own church, it is also common for people to leave a ceremonial ground and start their own. He said people should have more patience with a ceremonial ground when things are not going well and think about their children who will inherit the lessons taught there and the grounds themselves. “This ground here is pretty much the original place. The fire never did move. A lot of people think you can take coals or ashes and you got a piece of that fire, but it don’t work that way. When you have to move it, you have to move the whole thing and what’s underneath, and none of them got that. It’s right here,” Nathan said. He said the only time the fire was moved was when there was a dispute over land the grounds once sat on, about 100 yards east of its current site. “Here nobody owns it. It’s for everybody,” he said. “No one can stake a claim to any of this stuff because it was given to our people in the beginning.” He said to keep the grounds going, parents get their kids involved in the grounds and traditions even when they are not at the grounds. “We teach them the differences between different cultures. We teach them to try to understand each other instead of holding a grudge against each other and say one is better than the other,” he said. “The people here, I know there’s not a whole lot like most grounds, but still their hearts are just as strong, and we want everybody’s heart to be strong.” Nathan said a person’s heart has to be good and really “in it” to be a part of the ceremonial grounds. You have to be a “good person” for the people. Also, the grounds are not just for traditional people. It’s for everybody, all indigenous people and whoever needs it, he said. “The medicine is here that the Creator put on earth for all of us to benefit our health and well-being, to nourish ourselves,” he said. “All we ask is people recognize that we’re still here. We’ve been here just as long as the others. That fire is old. There’s a lot of good that comes out of here. Anybody is welcome to come at anytime and go anytime they want. All we ask is if they come within our boundaries to have an open heart and good fellowship toward one another.” To reach the grounds, from Stilwell turn right on D0834 Road, which is approximately four miles west of Stilwell, from 100 Highway. Then follow the wooden arrowhead markers pointing to the Flint Rock Grounds. People may also call Nathan Wolfe for more information at 918-772-0868.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/22/2015 11:44 AM
INDIANAPOLIS – Cherokee Nation citizen Lisa Rutherford received the Harrison Eiteljorg Purchase Award for a war chief’s mantle made of turkey and goose feathers titled “In Times of War.” The mantle, which is worn over the shoulders like a cape, will be a part of the museum’s permanent collection. Award winners were announced at the 23rd annual Eiteljorg Indian Market and Festival held on June 27-28. Thousands of fans of Native art and cultures, families and collectors attended the market and festival that featured more than 140 Native artists. Artists were awarded more than $28,000 in prize money and ribbons within 10 divisions. The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western art seeks to inspire an appreciation and understanding of the art, history and cultures of the American West and the indigenous peoples of North America. The Eiteljorg is located in downtown Indianapolis’ White River State Park, 500 W. Washington. For information about the museum and to learn more about exhibits and events, call 317-636-9378 or visit <a href="http://www.eiteljorg.org" target="_blank">www.eiteljorg.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/16/2015 10:13 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The next meeting of the Tahlequah Writers group is 2 p.m. on July 18 in the Cherokee Arts Center at 212 S. Water Street behind the Spider Gallery. Social activist Dr. J. Wade Hannon will discuss his written works. Hannon published his collection of poems, LOVE AND REVOLUTION, in 2010 and authored professional papers, along with articles and poetry in anthologies. He has a doctorate in counselor education and lived and taught in Fargo, North Dakota, and Chicago before coming to Tahlequah. Following the meeting, a new group of writers focusing on playwrighting will meet at the same location at 4 p.m. The public is invited to come to both meetings. Janis Contway, founder of the Oklahoma Playwrights Association, recently brought new Oklahoma-written scripts to Arts on the Avenue, working with the Tahlequah Community Playhouse. Bryn Smith recruited TCP readers as presenters of the works, entertaining local attendees in June. Those interested in the art of writing for live performances can learn the mechanics of playwrighting. The meeting is to gauge interest in forming a local playwrighting group. Tahlequah Writers is an informal group comprised of published writers and aspiring writers of a variety of genres. Attendees include poets, fiction writers, historians, essayists, humorists, playwrights, scriptwriters, and more. Meetings discuss the art of writing as well as the business of publishing and promotion. For further information, email <a href="mailto: karcoocoo@att.net">karcoocoo@att.net</a> or call 918-207-0093. People can also visit Tahlequah Writers on Facebook.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/14/2015 10:27 AM
TAHLEQUAH - A Youth Stickball Tournament, ages 8 to 12 years-old, is scheduled for Saturday, July 18, 2015 beginning at 9 a.m. The tournament will be hosted by the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma. The Warriors will battle the NDN Outlaws and Nighthawk Juniors in a double elimination game. The event is free to the public, bring your lawn chairs and come and support our tribal youth. The game will be played at the George Wickliffe Education Building on the UKB tribal complex located just off Hwy. 62. Take Willis Road to Whitmore Lane, first building on your left. For more information contact Wes Proctor, 918-506-0765.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/14/2015 08:33 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – As Southern states left the Union following the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, opposing factions in the Cherokee Nation maneuvered to secure political advantage. Principal Chief John Ross proclaimed neutrality and resisted pressure from Arkansas to ally with the Confederacy. On July 12, 1861, Stand Watie, who had been organizing a battalion to support the secessionists, accepted a commission in the army of the Confederate States of America. The abandonment of Indian Territory by federal troops and rebel victories at Bull Run in Virginia and Wilson’s Creek in Missouri compelled Ross to ally the Cherokees with the South. Although they were now on the same side, relations between Ross and Watie remained as strained. The treaty with the Confederacy obligated the tribe to raise one regiment for the defense of the Nation, but both men recruited regiments loyal to them. The first significant action in Indian Territory occurred near the end of 1861 when rebel forces moved against a band of neutral Indians that coalesced around Opothleyahola, an 82-year-old Creek leader at odds with the mixed-blood leadership of his tribe. Pressured by the Confederates, he and his neutral Indians withdrew to the north. In November and December, Confederate forces fought two indecisive battles with Opothleyahola’s band. In a final confrontation on Dec. 26, 1861, rebel troops, augmented by Watie’s regiment, routed their opponents and sent them fleeing through a snowstorm into Kansas. One of Watie’s officers, Lt. Clem Rogers, father of Oklahoma humorist Will Rogers, scouted Opothleyahola’s position before the engagement. The tide began to turn against the rebels in Indian Territory in early 1862 with a Confederate defeat at the Battle of Pea Ridge in northwestern Arkansas on March 7-8. Watie’s regiment fought with distinction, assisting in temporarily capturing a battery of Union artillery. Later, it scouted for the Confederate army and covered its withdrawal. Throughout the engagement, Watie’s command was the only Native American unit that remained cohesive despite the chaos of battle. The Union victory at Pea Ridge made Indian Territory vulnerable to Union invasion. Watie was ordered to the northeastern corner of the CN to screen against incursions from Kansas and Missouri. Adroitly avoiding Northern patrols seeking to pin him down, the Cherokee commander flanked the Yankees and launched a two-prong attack far to their rear near Neosho, Missouri. In his first independent command, Watie not only forced the enemy to withdraw from Indian Territory, but also demonstrated his skill in hit-and-run tactics. Throughout the rest of the war, he would prove himself a master of guerilla warfare. On June 1, 1862, a Union force of regimental size, with artillery support, marched south to destroy Watie. Six days later, the Northern commander attacked at Cowskin Prairie just as the sun set. Heavily outnumbered and outgunned, Watie and his men took advantage of the dark to elude the enemy, although they had to abandon provisions and livestock. Several weeks later, a 6,000-man Union force, including two Indian regiments recruited from the survivors of the Opothleyahola campaign, launched an all-out invasion of the CN. Reaching Fort Gibson near the Arkansas River after routing rebels at Locust Grove on July 3, the Union commander, Col. William Weer, sent a patrol to Park Hill. It “captured” Ross, who made no attempt to flee despite repeated warnings of the enemy’s approach. When the Union invasion force withdrew from the CN in July, Ross accompanied it and rushed to Washington to convince Lincoln that he had allied with the South only because the Union had abandoned Indian Territory and left him no choice. The next month, Watie’s supporters elected him principal chief of the Cherokees to replace Ross, who, they pointed out, had deserted his post. The Confederates controlled the CN most of the remainder of 1862, but in a series of battles over the next year, Union victories destroyed the South’s ability to provision its army in Indian Territory and forced Watie to do what he did best – employ guerilla tactics against his stronger opponents. At the Battle of Old Fort Wayne on Oct. 22 and Prairie Grove on Dec. 7, Confederate armies were defeated despite the steady performance of men under Watie’s command. On Dec. 22, Watie could organize no effective defense of Fort Davis on the south side of the Arkansas River near the mouths of the Verdigris and Grand Rivers. Col. William Phillips, who commanded the Union Third Indian Home Guard Regiment, burned the Confederate supply depot. In April 1863, Phillips drove Watie out of Fort Gibson, occupying it and most of the CN for the Union until the end of the war. Watie countered on July 1-2 with a daring raid on a Union supply train moving down the military road where it crossed Cabin Creek. High water in the stream prevented the Confederate colonel from consolidating his command and forced him to fall back empty handed. Later in the month, Gen. James Blunt, commander of the Union Army of the Frontier, crushed the rebel army at the Battle of Honey Springs. Although Watie was elsewhere, his presence would not have changed the outcome. No longer able to provision his entire force, Watie furloughed many of his men and called them to duty to exploit Union vulnerability. Watie lacked the manpower and resources to challenge the Union army in conventional battle, but with intelligence about its location, provided by a network of informants loyal to the South, he attacked at times and places advantageous to him. On Nov. 12, Watie wrote his wife that he had seized Tahlequah where Pin Indians were holding a council. He killed all who resisted and burned the council house. Captured Union Indians, including Ross’ nephew, William Potter Ross, were not harmed. Passing through Park Hill, the Cherokee colonel could not resist the opportunity to settle old scores. He torched Ross’s palatial home, Rose Cottage. Col. Phillips spurred his men to rid him of the marauding Confederate colonel. A sizable portion of Phillip’s command fought a skirmish with Watie on the banks of the Barren Fork of the Illinois River on Dec. 18. The commander of the Union force claimed he inflicted greater casualties than he suffered but did not deter Watie from a raid into Missouri. Despite inadequate support and troops with little combat training, in May 1864, Watie’s success earned him promotion to brigadier general, the only Native American to earn that rank on either side during the Civil War. He immediately demonstrated the wisdom of his promotion by two victories. In June, he captured the J.R. Williams, a Union riverboat steaming up the Arkansas with supplies for the garrison at Fort Gibson. In September, he participated in a raid that captured a Union wagon train carrying supplies and munitions valued at $1.5 million to the Second Battle of Cabin Creek. These were victories made more remarkable by the limited resources available to Watie and the growing strength of the Union in Indian Territory and all other fronts. They also had no impact on the outcome of the war.