Remember the Removal bike rider Tighe Wachacha celebrates on June 20 as he crosses into Oklahoma from Arkansas. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cyclists return after retracing Trail of Tears

Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians rider Marvel Welch of Cherokee, N.C., center, helps lead the Remember the Removal riders on June 21 into Tahlequah, Okla. At 53, Welch was oldest rider. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Friends and family greet LaTasha Atcity of Tahlequah on June 21 as she enters the Cherokee Courthouse Square in Tahlequah, Okla., during a welcoming ceremony for the Remember the Removal bike riders who retraced the northern route of the Trail of Tears. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians cyclist Hilary Gallegos, right, rides into the Cherokee Courthouse Square during a welcoming ceremony on June 21 for 22 Cherokee riders who retraced the Trail of Tears on the 175th anniversary of the forced removal. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, N.C., speaks on June 21 during a welcoming ceremony about the importance of the Remember the Removal bicycle ride. Cooper, who rode the trek in 2011, commended the Cherokee Nation for organizing the ride. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A map showing the route of the Remember the Removal bike ride from New Echota, Ga., the old Cherokee Nation capital, to Tahlequah, Okla., the current CN capital. COURTESY PHOTO
Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians rider Marvel Welch of Cherokee, N.C., center, helps lead the Remember the Removal riders on June 21 into Tahlequah, Okla. At 53, Welch was oldest rider. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Interim Executive Editor – @cp_wchavez
06/25/2013 08:36 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Marvel Welch, 53, the oldest of the 2013 Remember the Removal bicycle riders, helped lead the cyclists on June 21 into Tahlequah as they ended their journey to cheers by family and friends.

Welch was one of seven riders from the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians who joined 15 riders from the Cherokee Nation. Together, they rode through seven states in three weeks – from New Echota, Ga., to Oklahoma – to commemorate the Trail of Tears. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the beginning of the forced removal that began in May 1838 when Cherokees were captured and moved to Indian Territory.

Welch of Cherokee, N.C., said her Cherokee ancestors remained in their North Carolina homelands after the removal, but dispelled the thought that her ancestors were not affected.

“My grandfather French moved back to North Carolina (after living in Oklahoma) and brought my mother. He traveled back and forth between Tahlequah and Cherokee,” she said. “This journey has been truly amazing with the young spirits that are with me. They’re all younger. I consider them kids. Their energy has kept me going. The land, at the places we have stopped, you can feel our past relations with us.”

Welch said she struggled at times during the journey, once riding up a large hill in Tennessee’s Cumberland Gap. She said she refused to get off of her bike and walk as other riders saw her struggle and came back to encourage her and put their hands on her back without pushing as she made it to the top of the hill.

“It’s just the amazing the energy that was there and the togetherness. I thought I was here to watch over them, and they were watching over me,” she said.

LaTasha Atcity of Tahlequah said she’s known of the ride since 2009 when it was reorganized 25 years after the initial trek. She hesitated turning in an application for four years. After hearing more about the ride she thought it would be an “amazing experience” because she knew little about her Cherokee heritage or the Trail of Tears and saw the ride as a way to learn.

“That’s something that really motivated me – to figure out what my heritage is and (learn about) the ancestors that brought me where I am today,” she said. “When I struggled every single day or when it was hot and I’m hungry, I knew that there was an end. My ancestors didn’t really know what the end was going to be. I’m going to go home, and I’m going to be able to sleep in my bed and see my family. They didn’t have that opportunity.”

EBCI rider Tighe Wachacha helped film a documentary about the ride two years ago. He applied for the ride in 2012 but was not selected. He trained and applied for this year’s ride and made the cut.

“After I watched them complete the ride...I immediately knew I wanted to try it,” he said. “Yeah, my ancestors didn’t have to make the trip, but the people of the Cherokee Nation are cousins or brothers and sisters of mine. I get a sense of how they felt leaving my own family behind because I’ve got two girls and a wife at home who I’ve not seen in three weeks.”

Fellow EBCI rider Hilary Gallegos said the opportunity to take the journey gave her a chance to learn about a time in Cherokee history that her family barely discussed and to form a bond with Oklahoma Cherokees.

“I’m glad I had this opportunity to get to know the facts about the Trail of Tears and what happened and to let everyone know we’re still here,” she said. “I’m just overwhelmed with joy for getting to know those that are in this journey that will forever be my family.”

The riders pedaled 950 miles through Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma via a land route known as the Northern Route. Approximately 16,000 Cherokee people were removed from Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina in the spring of 1838. It’s estimated nearly 4,000 of them died during the roundup, incarceration and removal.

EBCI rider Yona Wade said he can imagine how Cherokee people felt leaving their homes as he left his in Cherokee, crossing the Tennessee River at Blythe Ferry and watching the mountains fade into the distance.

“The Trail of Tears is a very important part of Cherokee history as a whole and us as one people, so it was very important for me to participate in this to understand the trials and tribulations our people faced during their journey to Oklahoma,” Wade said.

During the welcoming ceremony, Casey Cooper, CEO of the Cherokee Indian Hospital in Cherokee, spoke about the importance of the ride and encouraged CN leadership to support it. Cooper, who took the ride in 2011, commended the CN for organizing it to instill leadership in youth and teach Cherokee history.

“I am confident that your investment in your future leadership will bring you more yield than anything else you could possibly invest in,” he said. “We hope that you endeavor to keep this alive and that you will continue to put all the resources necessary into ensuring that not only our tribe, the Cherokee Nation, the Eastern Band, UKB (United Keetoowah Band) and tribes across the country never forgets the Trail of Tears, but that our country never forgets the Trail of Tears.”

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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.
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. He was named interim executive editor on Dec. 8, 2015, by the Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
02/05/2016 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Officials with the eighth annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors are accepting applications for the next round of tribal elders to be recognized this year. Applications are being accepted until June 1 for the October event. During the event, 50 elders from federally recognized Oklahoma tribes and nations will be honored for their contributions to their tribe or nation, family, community state or nation. According to an AARP press release, AARP wants to honor at least one person from each of the 39 federally recognized tribes and nations in Oklahoma. Those nominated must be enrolled in an Oklahoma tribe or nation, must be at least 50 years old and living. The press release states, the AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors is the largest Native American recognition program in the state and since its inception in 2008 has honored 350 elders. The AARP welcomes the general public and Tribal governments to submit nominations. Nominations are being accepted at <a href="http://www.aarp.org/okindiannavigator" target="_blank">www.aarp.org/okindiannavigator</a> or by calling 405-715-4474. Eight Cherokee Nation citizens and one United Keetoowah Band citizen were among 50 honorees at the seventh annual AARP Oklahoma Indian Elder Honors held Oct. 6 at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. CN citizen Tom Anderson, director of the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center of the Oklahoma City Area Inter Tribal Health Board, was awarded the Dr. John Edwards Memorial Leadership Award. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Norman W. Crowe Jr., a CN citizen and former Marine and retired Army sergeant, was honored for volunteering at Indian nonprofit organizations such as the Indian Health Care Resource Center and Red Earth and serving on the Mayor’s Indian Affairs Commission in Tulsa. Carol “Jane” Davis, a full-blood CN citizen, was honored for assisting tribal citizens and families in the health care system as a licensed clinical social worker, often serving as an interpreter for patients who only spoke Cherokee. Dr. John Farris, a CN citizen, was celebrated for working to improve the quality of health care for American Indians in Oklahoma. For more than 10 years he has served as chief medical officer for the Oklahoma City Area Office of Indian Health Services and previously served as clinical director at W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital in Tahlequah. Howard Hansen Sr., a full-blood UKB citizen was honored for his service as Veterans of Foreign Wars commander and chaplain of the Grove Post and as service officer at the American Legion in Kansas, Oklahoma. He is a decorated veteran for his service in Vietnam. Doris “Coke” Lane Meyer, a CN citizen, was recognized for devoting much of her life to her community and Cherokee cultural activities involving the Cherokee Women’s Pocahontas Club, which was founded in 1899. She supports the club’s scholarship program, which sponsors young Cherokee women seeking higher educations. Ollie Starr, a CN citizen, was honored for promoting care issues for older Cherokees, securing grant money that has enabled young women to pursue higher educations and helping improve living conditions in Cherokee senior facilities. Bonnie Thaxton, a citizen of the CN and Delaware Tribe, was honored for more than 30 years of work with the War Mothers, Cultural Preservation and Elder committees. Dr. Pamela Jumper Thurman, a CN citizen, was honored for her work as a clinical psychologist and researcher. She has published extensively on issues challenging American Indians and Alaska Natives, especially issues such as methamphetamine treatment and prevention, violence and victimization and rural women’s issues.
BY TRAVIS SNELL
Assistant Editor – @cp_tsnell
02/05/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Launched during the 2013 Cherokee National Holiday, the Cherokee Nation is moving ahead with its Project 320K as the 2016 race to the White House heats up. Cohle Fowler, CN Government Relations legislative assistant, said he is coordinating the outreach initiative that aims to raise voter registration among the approximately 320,000 CN citizens. “Project 320K’s goal is to expand voter registration, and ultimately participation in all elections, including tribal, local, county, state and federal,” Fowler said. “We also aim to encourage parents to expose their children to the political process. When parents take their kids with them into the voting booth, it both demystifies the process for children, and teaches them that voting is an important part of citizenship.” Fowler said with more than 320,000 CN citizens, the CN has the ability to become a powerful voice if it registers and mobilizes its voting population. “In last year’s Cherokee elections, around only 7,500 votes were cast out of our tribe made up of over 320,000 citizens around the world,” he said. “Only 34 percent of voters participated in the state of Oklahoma’s general election last year, and turnout in the 2014 national midterm elections only 41.9 percent of voting age citizens participated which is the lowest rate in 45 years. Our hope is that through our efforts to educate Cherokee families on the impact of their vote and cultivate a positive culture around the process of voting, the Cherokee Nation will be able to stand as an example of civic responsibility in a nation seeing historic low turnouts at the polls.” Fowler said the simplest way CN citizens can participate is to register and vote. He added that sitting down with friends and family members to ensure they are registered is another way to participate. “Remind those friends and family to vote when elections occur. If you are really excited to get out there and make a difference, you can volunteer with us by registering and talking with possible voters at events and activities we attend,” Fowler said. He said Government Relations staff members, volunteers and CN Tribal Youth Councilors plan to attend community meetings to register voters throughout Oklahoma and At-Large events in states where CN citizens reside. “In addition to community meetings, we also set up at high-traffic events such as the Tulsa State Fair. In addition to our work out in communities, we also hold phone banks where we call to remind voters we have registered of upcoming deadlines or elections,” he said. “We are constantly learning and looking for new ways to reach out and change the culture around voting in our Cherokee communities.” While many presidential campaigns are focusing their mobilization efforts on baby boomers and millennials, Fowler said Project 320K is focusing on all tribal citizens. “We are focusing on all Cherokees, not on a certain age group,” he said. “We want to register people to vote, get people in the voting booths and teach kids that voting is a responsibility and a privilege for citizens.” As the brainchild of Government Relations staff members, the project is an ongoing program but officials are making a push this year because of the presidential elections. “Voting will be on everyone’s mind, but we also do this work in non-election years,” Fowler said. For more information or to volunteer, email <a href="mailto: cohle-fowler@cherokee.org">cohle-fowler@cherokee.org</a>.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Intern – @cp_bbennett
02/04/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board is searching for a permanent executive editor under the direction of a selection committee it created during a Jan. 25 meeting. Board Chairman Luke Barteaux, Vice Chairwoman Kendra McGeady and Secretary Lauren Jones comprise the committee. Barteaux said finding a permanent executive editor is critical because of “the decisions that need to be made for moving forward on policy issues.” The Phoenix is currently under the direction of Interim Executive Editor Will Chavez, who replaced Bryan Pollard after Pollard resigned Dec. 4. While Barteaux said he appreciates Chavez’s work and believes Chavez has been acting in the organization’s best interest, it is important that a permanent editor be named. “We don’t need a lot of change over, so if we have an interim and it ends up not being Will as a permanent editor, they may want to change something moving forward,” he said. “It would be better to have a permanent editor in place just for the stability of the paper.” According to the Independent Press Amendment Act of 2009, the executive editor must be at least 25 years old; have a bachelor’s degree in journalism or related field from a college or university, or an appropriate combination of education and experience; be of good character and have a reputation of integrity; be physically able to carry out the duties of office; certify he or she will adhere to the standards of accepted ethics of journalism as defined by the Society of Professional Journalists and endorsed by the Native American Journalists Association; have experience necessary for the successful operation of the publication; and be a Cherokee Nation citizen. Barteaux said the board might have additional requirements, though specifics have yet to be discussed. “It hasn’t been done yet, but I’m assuming that will be a discussion among the committee,” he said. “Really, just someone who can be completely unbiased and report the news to Cherokee citizens.” The tribe’s Human Resources posted the editor position on the CN website on Jan. 13 and closed it Jan. 19. It drew a pool of four applicants, which Barteaux said the board has not gotten a chance to review. “We just got the four resumes’ a couple of days ago and we haven’t really got a chance to look over those,” he said. “There may be someone perfect in there, so we don’t really know at this point and time.” Barteaux said the board wants to advertise the job again to create a larger applicant pool, partly because of minor discrepancies between what was posted by Human Resources and what he said is required by statute. “We have four right now that have applied, and we think there’s probably more out there that would apply if it’s posted in other areas with the different requirements,” he said. “The original job posting didn’t completely follow what the statutory requirements were, so people may not have applied that could have.” When asked to elaborate on the requirements, Barteaux said some were too restrictive while others were not restrictive enough. “I’ll just say that some of the requirements that were posted were a little more, I don’t know if stringent might be the word, than what was required in the law and a few other little things that weren’t posted on it,” he said. “The editor is required to be a Cherokee citizen. I don’t think that was posted on the website. I think the education requirements were off a little.” Barteaux said despite the job description’s wording not being approved by the board, the board has no ill will toward Human Resources. Julie Hubbard, CN Communication public relations supervisor, said Human Resources ran the job description for the executive editor position that was previously ran years earlier and that it can be revised as needed at the discretion of the Editorial Board if the board chooses. She added that Human Resources also has the ability to advertise the position locally, statewide or nationally. Barteaux also called the job posting a “courtesy,” as the editor position “is not a job that’s hired through the Cherokee Nation HR department.” However, Hubbard referred to the 2009 IPA stating that whenever an executive editor vacancy occurs the Editorial Board recommends to the principal chief an executive editor, but the chief makes the decision whom to appoint. Barteaux said he also didn’t know how long the search would take and that the time frame is free flowing and that applicants could send resumes directly to board members.
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/04/2016 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Summer Youth Program will take applications beginning Feb. 22 at all Career Services locations for the upcoming 6-week program. The program is for youth ages 16-21, who will work 40 hours a week at $7.25 per hour. Youth can work anywhere within the tribe’s jurisdiction so long as its not dangerous to the youth. This can include offices, banks, restaurants and tribal offices. A parent or guardian must accompany those interested in applying if under the age of 18 and all must apply in person. The program is open to any citizen of a federally recognized tribe. If a youth isn’t Cherokee he or she must fall within certain financial guidelines. CN citizens have no financial guideline. For more information on criteria needed to apply, call a Career Services offices. Bartlesville: 918-256-4576 Claremore: 918-342-7450 Jay: 918-253-3243 Miami: 918-256-4576 Muskogee: 918-781-6504 Pryor: 918-825-7988 Sallisaw: 918-776-0416 Stilwell: 918-696-3124 Vinita: 918-256-4576 Warner: 918-781-6504 Tahlequah: 918-453-5555
BY STAFF REPORTS
02/03/2016 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A Bright Start Child Development Center owned by Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra will host a “Parents’ Night Out” event on Feb. 5 at his new child care facility. The center is a Department of Human Services-licensed facility that is not only Cherokee-owned, but operated as well. Currently, there is a staff of three including Sierra, all of whom are Cherokee. “It’s $25 for your first child and $20 for each additional child,” Sierra said. “Children can be dropped off at 6:30 p.m. and must be picked up by 11 p.m.” He said children from infant to 13 years are welcome at the event, which will be first come, first-served until the center reaches capacity. “Drop off the kids at a licensed child care facility and enjoy an evening out with a peace of mind,” Sierra said. He said there would be age-appropriate activities as well as movies for the children to enjoy. If the event is a success he hopes to have another for Valentines Day weekend. The child care facility is accepting children for its daily day care, but currently is not accepting subsidies. Sierra said he hopes to have all paperwork completed to begin accepting DHS and CN subsidies soon. The center in located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave. For more information, call 918-207-5834 or 918-772-5155.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Intern – @cp_bbennett
02/03/2016 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A gem with ties to the Cherokee Phoenix went untouched for weeks on eBay before Cherokee researcher Dusty Helbling purchased it. And in January, he gave it to the Phoenix staff. “I got it, mainly because nobody realized what it was,” Helbling said. The piece is an artist proof titled “Sequoyah and the Phoenix” depicting Cherokee syllabary creator Sequoyah against a backdrop of the Cherokee Phoenix logo in shades of blue, red, black and brown. The Cherokee Phoenix is spelled below in embroidered syllabary characters. Under the proof is the title, the French words “bon a tirer” meaning “ready for press” and the artist name Phillip M., though the last name is unclear. Helbling’s discovery came about after searching for Cherokee-related items on eBay. “This was a one-of-a-kind artist proof that was on the Internet auction,” he said. “It was on for quite a while. They had one auction and nobody bid on it. They lowered the price by half. I thought it was going to go for quite a bit more than I could afford, but I was able to obtain it.” Though Helbling doesn’t know much about the proof’s origins, he does know the artist worked for a Georgia company. “The artist had started to make (the proof) but the company went bankrupt before they got to make any prints, so this is the only one in existence,” he said. Helbling drove from Ozark, Arkansas, to gift the piece. He had it framed and engraved as a way to honor John Foster Wheeler, who was one of the first printers of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. Wheeler was born in 1808 and began his involvement in the newspaper industry through an apprenticeship in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1822. The experience put him in contact with Isaac Harris, and in 1828 the two men became the first printers of the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper. While Harris eventually left after differing with Editor Elias Boudinot, Wheeler continued. He saw the U.S. government and the Cherokee Nation clash more than once over treaties and land rights, including the 1835 incident in which Georgia authorities destroyed the paper’s printing equipment. Later that year, Rev. Samuel Worcester, who had moved to Indian Territory, arranged a printing shop at Union Mission, which was north of Fort Gibson, and asked Wheeler to be his printer, making him the first printer in the territory. “Every turn, the guy was involved in history,” Helbling said. “That’s why I wanted to honor him as the first printer at the Cherokee Phoenix and also the first one in Indian Territory.” Helbling gave the proof to the Phoenix in part because of his love of history. The son of a professional golfer, Helbling grew up creating history of his own. He was the first 5-year-old in the history of golf to have a hole-in-one and was involved with the Professional Bull Riders in the 1940s and 1950s. Helbling said he is of Cherokee descent through his great-great-grandfather, which sparked his interest in Cherokee culture. He has spent much time researching the Cherokee people and visiting campsites along the Trail of Tears route in Arkansas and Oklahoma. His appreciation for Cherokee culture made gifting the proof an easy decision. “I just thought (the proof) belongs here, and I decided to purchase it and get it all set up with the engraving done to have it up here where it really should be,” Helbling said. The proof now resides in the Phoenix’s main office. Anyone with information regarding the artist or the proof’s origin can call 918-453-5269.