Former Sequoyah High School football coach Brent Scott, shown here during a 2007 game, has filed a wrongful termination suit, along with former Assistant Athletic Director Dale Miller, against the Cherokee Nation. In October, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association ruled Scott and eight SHS football players ineligible to participate with the team for rules violations regarding summer camps. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

2 terminated Sequoyah employees file suit

Larry Grigg, former Sequoyah High School boys basketball coach and athletic director, instructs his players during a 2007 game. Grigg was recently terminated from Sequoyah Schools along with former Assistant Athletic Director Dale Miller and former Sequoyah football coach Brent Scott. Scott and Miller have filed wrongful termination suits. TRAVIS SNELL/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Larry Grigg, former Sequoyah High School boys basketball coach and athletic director, instructs his players during a 2007 game. Grigg was recently terminated from Sequoyah Schools along with former Assistant Athletic Director Dale Miller and former Sequoyah football coach Brent Scott. Scott and Miller have filed wrongful termination suits. TRAVIS SNELL/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY TESINA JACKSON
01/15/2013 08:37 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Former Sequoyah High School employees Brent Scott and Dale Miller have filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Cherokee Nation District Court against SHS Superintendent Leroy Qualls and the CN after receiving notifications of their firings on Dec. 7.

“They were given a 30-day notice and their employee ended on Jan. 7,” former Principal Chief Chad Smith, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said.

According to court documents filed on Dec. 21, the plaintiffs allege Qualls, who signed the termination letters, violated their rights to due process by “terminating their employment without cause.”

Qualls declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

Court documents state that Qualls did not consult or get the consent or approval of the SHS board of education to terminate the plaintiffs as required by CN law and that he breached employment agreements with the plaintiffs by failing to perform in good faith.

“They have a constitutional right to due process and pre-termination hearings,” Smith said.

Scott, who was the head football coach; Miller, the former assistant athletic director; and former Athletic Director Larry Griggs, who is not part of the suit, were placed on administrative leave after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association declared in October that 12 football players played during the season while ineligible. The OSSAA decision forced Sequoyah to forfeit all nine regular season victories, its district title and its spot in the Class 3A football playoffs.

Scott was scheduled to appear before the OSSAA board on Jan. 9 for a reinstatement hearing, but it was continued to February.

The OSSAA declared the players and Scott ineligible in October because in the summers of 2009 to 2012 Sequoyah paid for players to attend sports camps, a violation of OSSAA rules. Eleven of the 12 players were later reinstated to play the next season’s sports. However, quarterback Brayden Scott, Brent’s son, was not reinstated.

Scott was hired as head football coach on Aug. 9, 2004. Miller was hired on March 16, 1992, and Grigg was hired on Aug. 4, 1997.

Smith said Scott and Miller aren’t currently working. The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Grigg but was unsuccessful.

Smith also filed a temporary injunction motion, which if granted, would prohibit the school “from terminating the plaintiffs employment until their case may be heard on the merits.”

The temporary injunction hearing was scheduled for Jan. 2 but was continued until Feb. 6.

“We should have a full hearing on whether Qualls had the authority to fire them,” Smith said. “My request is to keep them (Miller and Scott) on the payroll.”

Nothing has been scheduled in another wrongful termination case filed by three other SHS former employees against the CN administration.

Plaintiffs Geary Don Crofford, Teresia Knott and Louie Jackson filed a suit on Nov. 2 in the District Court against Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Chief of Staff Chuck Hoskin Sr. and Education Services Director Dr. Neil Morton after being laid off during a June reorganization of the school.

“We intend on winning all of these cases,” CN Attorney General Todd Hembree said. “The Sequoyah High School employees that were laid off and/or terminated, we did so within the Cherokee Nation policy, procedures and law and we look forward to winning these cases.”

Crofford, former dean of academics; Knott, former dean of leadership; and Jackson, former dean of students, were laid off along with five other Sequoyah employees. Two of the eight employees have been rehired in different positions at Sequoyah.

“They have the right to file their suit,” Hembree said. “I’ve never begrudged anyone from having their day of court when they think they have been wronged, but in this instance they haven’t been. It was a decision that was made, like I said, in accordance with the policies and procedures of the Cherokee Nation, but I don’t think any more or less of them for bringing their day in court.”

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org


918-453-5000, ext. 6139

About the Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter.    

In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, Tesina first started working as an intern for the Cherokee Phoenix after receiving the John Shurr Journalism Award in 2009. Later that year, Tesina received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., and in 2010 joined the Phoenix staff as a reporter. In 2006, Tesina received an internship at The Forum newspaper in Fargo, N.D., after attending the American Indian Journalism Institute at the University of South Dakota. She also attended the AIJI summer program in 2007 and in 2009 she participated in the Native American Journalists Association student projects as a reporter. Tesina is currently a member of NAJA and the Investigative Reporters & Editors organization.

Education

BY TESINA JACKSON
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.
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
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="http://www.cbtbc.org/cherokee" target="_blank">www.cbtbc.org/cherokee</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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: hammonsa@nsuok.edu">hammonsa@nsuok.edu</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 booster.com website and search for IYW or type in <a href="http://www.booster.com/iyw" target="_blank">www.booster.com/iyw</a> to be taken directly to the ordering page. Booster.com 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="http://www.facebook.com/IndianYouthWrestling/info" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/IndianYouthWrestling/info</a> or email Jillian Girty at <a href="mailto: jillian.girty@cn-bus.com">jillian.girty@cn-bus.com</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/10/2014 08:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Applications are being taken by Cherokee Nation Career Services to fill open slots for the 2014 fall semester Registered Nurse Scholarship Program. Applications will continue to be taken until all openings are filled. Applicants must already be accepted to an associate of applied science in nursing degree program and currently enrolled full time in their respective program. Students attending private and/or proprietary schools such as Tulsa Tech, ITT, University of Phoenix and Brown Mackie are also not eligible to apply. Students needing to meet general education requirements as well as students pursuing a bachelor’s of science in nursing and/or master’s of science in nursing should contact the College Resource Center for funding assistance at 918-453-5465. For questions or to request an application, email RN Scholarship Manager Jan Grogan at <a href="mailto: jan-grogan@cherokee.org">jan-grogan@cherokee.org</a> or call 918-207-3873.