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
Reporter
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.
TESINA-JACKSON@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 6139
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 STAFF REPORTS
08/03/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University has named Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen Sara Jo Barnett as the new director of the Center For Tribal Studies. She replaces Dr. Phyllis Fife, who retired in 2014, and Interim Director Alisa Douglas. “When Dr. Fife retired, I knew that I had to pursue this opportunity to return to the Center for Tribal Studies,” said Barnett. “So, I applied and luckily the committee valued my experience and passion for the mission of the center.” Barnett first began working at the center as an undergraduate student in 2001, obtaining a bachelor’s degree in developmental psychology before returning to obtain her master’s degree in school counseling. “As a first generation college student, the staff at the Center for Tribal Studies were instrumental in helping me through my degree programs and knowing what step to take next in my journey,” she said. Barnett has previously worked at Oklahoma State University as the director of an educational talent search program, an institutional grant writer for NSU and as a teacher at Sequoyah High School. Throughout her professional career, Barnett knew she wanted to someday return to NSU. “It’s like my career has come full circle. I am ready to continue the legacy and hope to expand partnerships with tribes, corporations and others to expand opportunities for our students,” she said. Barnett said that during her time as director she would also like to increase enrollment, develop programs to improve retention and graduation rates of Native students, help students take advantage of opportunities to engage in research and encourage participation in graduate degrees, study abroad programs and internships.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2015 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The RiverHawk Food Pantry, a 132-square-foot building that holds an average of 10,000 pounds of non-perishable food items and personal hygiene products, is now in its second year of operation. RiverHawk Food Pantry overseer Helen Lahrman said the pantry has been a huge asset to those in need in the Northeastern State University community. An NSU press release states the goods are available to current NSU students at two pantry locations. One is in the basement of the University Center at the Tahlequah campus, while the other is in Suite 211 of the Administrative Services Building at the Broken Arrow campus. Locations are open from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesdays and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Fridays. There are also donation drop-off locations on the Tahlequah and Broken Arrow campuses. During the pantry’s first year of operation it served 170 families, 345 individuals and averaged aiding 40 people weekly. Lahrman said although stocks were sufficient in 2014, having extra products and a fund to purchase items would help the pantry. According to the release, items most needed include peanut butter, noodles, rice, canned fruit, canned meats, pre-packaged items, mixed vegetables, personal hygiene items, laundry soap, household cleaning items and paper products such as toilet paper, paper towels and tissues. To view the RiverHawk Food Pantry donation site, visit <a href="http://bit.ly/1OaGatH" target="_blank">http://bit.ly/1OaGatH</a>. For more information, call Lahrman at 918-444-2644 or email <a href="mailto: lahrman@nsuok.edu">lahrman@nsuok.edu</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/30/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Head Start programs are accepting applications for children from infants through pre-school age for the upcoming academic school year. The tribe’s Early Childhood Unit is comprised of Head Start and Early Head Start, child development programs that focus on social development, kindergarten readiness, motor skills and incorporates Cherokee culture and language. CN Early Childhood Unit reserves at least 10 percent of its available slots for children with special needs. Applications are available at any of the programs’ 17 locations or mailed by request from the ECU office in Tahlequah. Applications remain in the system for one year. They are accepted year round. Other documents requested include a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood card, immunization records, a birth certificate and current verification of income. Income guidelines apply. Completed applications are to be mailed back to the Tahlequah office, PO Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. For more information or to find the nearest classroom, call 918-453-5757 or 1-888-458-4393.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/29/2015 04:00 PM
FLORENCE, Ala. – Education students from the University of North Alabama will travel to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, in September on a domestic study abroad trip to spend four days immersed in the Cherokee culture. The 20 students’ vans will purposefully follow the Trail of Tears route that many Native Americans were forced to walk after the passage of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. United Keetoowah Band citizens and UNA education assistant professor Gary Padgett will supervise the trip, which coincides with the Cherokee National Holiday. “The diversity experience is something all education majors have to have,” Padgett said. “This is a little more authentic and a little more local being just a nine-hour trip.” The students will visit sites such as the Cherokee Heritage Center, as well as learn about Cherokee games and traditions. The class is fundraising for the trip and hopes to raise $5,000 to cover costs. Donations can be made directly to UNA and sent to the program or at GoFundMe by clicking: <a href="http://www.gofundme.com/wa2jv4c4" target="_blank">www.gofundme.com/wa2jv4c4</a>.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/27/2015 08:21 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (AP) – The Cherokee Humanities Course, sponsored by the Cherokee Heritage Center, is taking applications for the fall academic semester at Northeastern State University. The three credit hour course is based on the belief that by studying the humanities, individuals can develop significant skills that empower them to work effectively toward improving their own lives and those of their families and communities. The course also removes obstacles that impeded access to higher education by providing tuition, books, child care and transportation at no cost to qualified students. The deadline for applications is Aug. 10. For more than 14 years, the CHC has provided hundreds of non-traditional students the opportunity of a higher-level education by creating a curriculum in Cherokee history, language and culture. A grant from the Inasmuch Foundation has made it possible for the CHC to support the tuition cost for students to take the course for college credit. Students may take the course in the fall and spring semesters for a total of six college credit hours in Indian studies. The course intends to create a bridge to higher education by developing the skills, confidence and motivation necessary to succeed. Priority is given to students not currently enrolled in a university or those considering returning to college. Those qualifying can also receive incentives such as mileage and child care reimbursements. The class is designed to bring to light ideas and experiences that have remained quieted in general history books. The course creates a collaborative learning environment in which personal experiences and oral traditions are respected. These classes are interdisciplinary, college-level humanities courses offering credit hours through NSU. The Cherokee Humanities Course was established by the late Dr. Howard Meredith, former professor and head of the American Indian Studies degree program at the University of Science and Arts. The course replicates the original Clemente course offered in New York City by academic scholar Dr. Earl Shorris in 1995. For more information about the Cherokee Humanities Course, call Tonia Weavel at 918-456-6007 or email <a href="mailto: tonia-weavel@cherokee.org">tonia-weavel@cherokee.org</a>. The CHC is the premier cultural center for Cherokee history, culture and the arts. For information on 2015 season events, operating hours and programs, call 1-888-999-6007 or visit <a href="http://www.CherokeeHeritage.org" target="_blank">www.CherokeeHeritage.org</a>. It can also be found on Facebook by searching “Cherokee Heritage Center.”
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
07/24/2015 08:42 AM
FORT GIBSON, Okla. (AP) – Among the events most interwoven into the history of Tahlequah is the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Despite the towering relevance of the Trail to Tahlequah, Park Hill and numerous other communities in Northeastern Oklahoma, misperceptions have arisen during the past couple of centuries, and they persist. Furthermore, the Cherokees were not the only people forcibly moved to Indian Territory, and some American Indians relocated voluntarily. On July 15, the Oklahoma Historical Society kicked off its Indian Removal Teachers’ Institute at the Fort Gibson Historical Site. It concluded on July 17 with visits to the Murrell Home and Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill. “In previous years, we’ve been covering the Civil War since it was the sesquicentennial,” David Fowler, OHS historical site director, said. “We polled the teachers to ask what they wanted, and they said they would like to understand the Indian Removal a little better.” Enrollment included 20 Oklahoma teachers. Among the participants was Jerry Johnston, a teacher at Longfellow Middle School in Enid and member of the OHS, who descended from multiple tribal lineages. “I had ancestors on the Trail of Tears on both sides – guards and displaced people,” Johnston said. “I thought traveling in the winter was part of the punishment, but it was easier to travel in the winter. Otherwise, they would have dealt with muddy roads, storms, and even more disease.” Jennifer Crumby, a second grade teacher at Shiloh Christian School, was also in attendance. “I love history, so I thought I would come here,” Crumby said. “I actually just got back from vacation, and we took a round-trip that included Kentucky, Tennessee and Florida, and I actually saw some of the place marked on the (Indian removal) trail maps. It was interesting to pull all of that together.” Fort Gibson was often the first stop for American Indians when they arrived in the territory. “One mission of Fort Gibson was supposedly to keep the arriving tribes from fighting with each other,” Omar Reed, historical interpreter for the Fort Gibson Historical Site, said. “They were also supposed to remove white settlers in the territory, and survey and establish the boundaries for each nation.” There was less friction between the southeastern Indians than with nomadic tribes that traversed to the west, and the Osage. The 1817 Battle of Claremore Mound was not forgotten, and Reed noted that “the Cherokees and Osage didn’t get along very well.” Political turmoil sometimes preceded intra-tribal violence. From 1837 until the Civil War, boundaries were surveyed, usually by the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers or under Army escort. Amanda Pritchett and Jennifer Frazee, OHS historical interpreters at the Murrell Home, organized the Indian Removal Teachers’ Institute with Fowler. “This workshop explains how to teach the Indian Removal in classrooms,” Pritchett said. “We visit places associated with all five (civilized) tribes’ Trails of Tears and there are classroom sessions.” Pritchett said each day has a different emphasis. On July 15 the focus was the removal, but on July 17 the session stressed “rebuilding and recovery.” The OHS also wants to remind educators about the historical sites. “We want them to know what our different sites can offer their students in the classroom,” Pritchett said. “They can also come out for field trips, and we can arrange hands-on educational activities.” Pritchett said there were some common misconceptions about the removals. “Each of the five tribes has a different history on the Trail of Tears with different experiences,” she said. “They each had a different experience. A lot of people think that everyone picked up and came here, but it was really a process over a 10-year period. Really, it was longer if you include some of the voluntary removal policies that started around 1800. So it was a process of several decades and several migrations. There were 13 different Cherokee detachments, and each had their own experience.” Before visiting the Park Hill area on July 17, the teachers took a bus to the Fort Smith (Ark.) Historical Site, the Sequoyah Cabin in Sallisaw and the Drennen-Scott house in Van Buren, Ark.