The Dahlonegah Indians softball team celebrates its second-place trophy in the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Division II softball championship. In the front row, from left, are Callie Spears, Kynsi Grimmett, Adrianna Littledeer, Rumor Livers, Adrianna Jones and Kayden Duck. Back row, from left, are coach Kenny Limore, Krista Nofire, Jessie Sanchez, Sammie Duncan, Jaivyn Gann, coach Nate Bunch, Robyn Grimmett, Shelby Ross, Hayden Woods and coach Mike Girdner. COURTESY PHOTO

Dahlonegah takes 2nd in ORES softball tournament

Senior Reporter
10/28/2013 09:50 AM
STILWELL, Okla. – The Dahlonegah Indians played a marathon day of softball on Oct. 8 to reach the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Division II championship game and wound up taking second place.

In a tournament held in McAlester, the girls played five games to reach the championship game because of previous rainouts. Coach Mike Girdner said games had been rained out three times before being played.

“We had been rained out three weeks in a row. We had to stay motivated to play for three weeks,” he said. “We practiced the whole time, every day.”

Girdner coaches all of the girls’ athletics for the Adair County school and is assisted by coaches Nate Bunch and Kenny Limore.

On Oct. 8, the 12-member Dahlonegah team first lost 4-2 to Oak Grove in a made-up rainout game. In the second game the team defeated Jennings 5-0 before beating another Adair County school, Rocky Mountain, 3-2. For its fourth game the team defeated Grandview School from Comanche County, 5-2.

“And then we had to play Oak Grove again because we had to come through the loser’s bracket. We beat them 9-1 and that put us in the finals, and then we got destroyed by Zaneis. We ran out of pitching,” Girdner said.

When the day was over, the Indians played from 11 a.m. to 7:45 p.m. Zaneis Elementary, located in Carter County, defeated Dahlonegah 12-0.

“We took it on the chin. I told the girls if you get that far there’s no losers,” Girdner said. “Our little pitcher, she had thrown all of the games, and she wanted to pitch in the finals, so I let her throw. They were good...we didn’t have an answer for them.”

He said his team was disappointed but it also appreciated making it to the championship game.

“Their morale was good. They were somewhat disappointed they didn’t win the whole thing. They did their best, and I thought they took it pretty classy. They showed some real good sportsmanship to the other team,” Girdner said.

It was the first time the school had reached the ORES softball tournament. The team compiled a record of 14-5 during its two-month season.

“I am proud of the girls,” he said. “We had really good parent support. They made the trip (to the state tournament) as many times as I did, so that helped.”


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. • 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.


08/25/2015 08:00 AM
JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. – On June 9, Cherokee Nation citizen and pitcher Ryan Helsley was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals as the 161st overall pick in the fifth round of the Major League Baseball draft. “It was pretty awesome, especially coming from such a small town and a small school,” Helsley said. “Just to show people that it’s possible no matter where you come from if you just work hard and keep pressing for what you want.” A 2013 graduate of Sequoyah High School, Helsley is the second SHS player and CN citizen to be drafted in the MLB. He is also the first player from Northeastern State University to be drafted since 2009, the first NSU player to be drafted in the first five rounds and the first NSU player to be selected by the Cardinals since the draft started in 1965. Helsley said it was his parents who helped motivate him to practice and work hard. “I have to give a lot of credit to them,” he said. According to the NSU Athletic Department, Helsley made 21 starts in 26 appearances during his two years at NSU, compiling a 14-8 record and 4.06 ERA in 126.1 innings pitched. Helsley won the MIAA Freshman of the Year award in 2014 and was named to the MIAA Second Team. In 2015, he was named to the MIAA First Team, the only underclassmen to earn the honor. Helsley said after his freshman year in college, he became eligible for the MLB draft. “The summer after my freshman year I was in California playing baseball and my coach out there told me that he thought I’d be eligible for the draft because I turned 21 during the summertime and fell on the deadline of the draft,” he said. He said during the fall of his sophomore year, scouts began contacting him and by 2015 he was drafted. Helsley plays for the Johnson City Cardinals in the Advanced Rookie League. After the Advanced Rookie League the baseball classifications are Class A, Double A, Triple A and then the Major League. However, it varies when and into which division a player advances. The Johnson City Cardinals’ regular season begins in June and ends Sept. 1. The team plays more than 60 games. Helsley said he is a starting pitcher with a six-day rotation and his best pitches are his curve ball, changeup and fastball, which is clocked at 98 mph. As a Cherokee and a baseball player, Helsley said it was great to be someone that other Native Americans could possibly look up to and try to model after. “I’m trying to be the best role model that I can be,” he said.
Senior Reporter
08/21/2015 08:00 AM
KEYS, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen and knife maker Ray Kirk recently showcased his knife-making skills for the History Channel show “Forged in Fire” this summer. Kirk appeared in one of the series’ four episodes titled “Forged in Fire: The Moro Kris,” which aired Aug. 10. The show featured world-class bladesmiths competing against each other to create edged weapons from history. Each weapon’s history was told during the forging process and the final weapons were assessed and tested by judges. The show’s producers in May flew Kirk to Brooklyn, New York, to record the season’s final episode. Kirk competed against three experienced knife makers for a chance to win $10,000. Kirk, 70, has been making blades for more than 25 years and is the owner of Raker Knives and Steel, which he operates from home in Keys. He said a friend forwarded him an email about the show thinking he would be interested in taking part. “So, I emailed them (Forged in Fire producers) a picture of myself, a little bit about myself, and they said, ‘we’d love to have you.’ And then they sent me about a 30-page contract,” he said. He said recording the episode was intense and took three days. For continuity reasons he wore the same outfit. He said producers had photos made of all four participants from every angle to make sure their clothing and makeup looked the same every time when recording. He said if he had known he would be wearing the same overalls for three days he wouldn’t have packed as much. For the competition, Kirk made his signature Integral blade that he’s been making and selling for years. The knife makers were required to make at least a 9-inch blade, using materials provided by the judges, within a three-hour time limit, which was a different situation than Kirk is used to. The Brooklyn set had a large digital clock counting down as the four blacksmiths worked on their blades. Kirk chose to use two steel ball bearings that were 1-1/2-inches in diameter. He melted them and forged welded them together to get enough steel. He made it through the first round when one of the knife makers was sent home. For the second round, the three competitors were asked to complete the knife they had forged in the first round. Kirk continued making his Integral-style knife with a hidden tang or handle. He covered the tang with wood taken from a baseball bat to complete the handle. “I messed up my heat treat. I got in a hurry and wasn’t paying attention. When I quenched it (cooled it in water) I didn’t leave it in long enough and when I took it out I kept it out too long and the heat from the rest of it made it soft,” he said. The mistake showed up when the judges tested the four blades by cutting coconuts. Kirk’s blade cut one coconut, he said, and than it was “boing.” His blade failed to cut the others. “The edge wrinkled on it. I knew what I did,” he said. “You know it was different. You have a routine. Over the years you develop a routine so you don’t forget something. There, everything was changed. You lay awake at night thinking of all the things you could have done different.” He said he “loved” being a part of the show and “it was fun.” He made friends with the other competitors, and “a good friend” won the competition. Kirk began forging knives in 1989 from car springs. Today, he forges most of his knives from 52100 round bar steel. He also sells steel to other knife makers. He is a member of the Alabama Forge Council, the Knife Group Association of Oklahoma, the Kansas Custom Knifemakers Association and the Arizona Knife Collectors Association. For more information about Raker Knives and Steel, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or email or call 918-207-8076. For information about “Forged in Fire” visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
08/18/2015 03:44 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – On Oct. 16, Cherokee Nation citizen Becky Hobbs will be inducted into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame. The event begins at 8 p.m. and will take place at the Muskogee Civic Center. Hobbs will be inducted alongside Restless Heart, Tim DuBois, Scott Hendricks and Smiley Weaver. Hobbs and fellow inductee Restless Heart will perform during the induction concert, then a VIP reception will kick off the event. “The common thread with this group of inductees is Country Music,” said Executive Director for the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Jim Blair. “Tim, Scott and Becky are all being honored as recipients of the Mae Boren Axton Songwriting Award and Smiley as recipient of the Eldon Shamblin Sideman Award. Additionally, Tim and Scott were very instrumental in the formation and success of Restless Heart.” Tickets for the event are on sale now and can be purchased at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Hobbs is an award-winning songwriter and recording artist in Nashville. She has recorded seven studio albums. The likes of Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Conway Twitty and Alabama have recorded songs she has written. “I started playing the piano and writing songs when I was 9 years old in Bartlesville, Okla., and through the years I played music,” Hobbs said. Hobbs’ lastest endeavor has been the musical “Nanyehi: Beloved Women of the Cherokee.” In 2008, Hobbs composed and co-wrote the musical. Hobbs, who is a direct descendant of Ward, said she wanted to create the musical to pay tribute to her fifth generation great-grandmother. “Nanyehi: Beloved Women of the Cherokee” will be making a stop on Nov. 5-7 at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Tulsa. For more information about Hobbs, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
08/18/2015 08:30 AM
GULF SHORES, Ala. – The Oklahoma Fire 12-and-under fast pitch softball team finished fifth in the nation while using the Cherokee language while competing July 17-19 in the USSSA All-Star World Series. The team was the only Oklahoma representative and entered official tournament play against the Grand Bay All-Stars winning 9-2. The next day the team beat the Tyrone All-Stars, 9-6. However, the Fire lost the next two games with scores of 8-2 and 9-5, respectively. However, assistant coach Miranda King said the losses didn’t take away from the success of the season. “I couldn’t be more proud of them,” she said. “Of course, at the end when they got put out there was a lot of heartache and things like that, but I told them they didn’t have anything to hang their heads about.” Throughout the season King and head coach Bruce Lair put together talent that would eventually get them to Alabama. “We just set a goal at the beginning of the season that we wanted to go to the USSSA World Series and we gathered girls that wanted the same thing that we did,” she said. The coaches were unaware that while doing so, they were also building a team made up almost entirely of Cherokee Nation citizens, as 12 of the team’s 14 girls have Cherokee ancestry. “It was kind of just a weird deal how they came together,” Lair said. “They all come from different schools like Briggs, Lowery, some going to the Cherokee Nation. It wasn’t a planned deal. It just all came together that way.” The team used the discovery to its advantage during the USSSA All-Star World Series after King asked some of the girls who attend the Cherokee Immersion Charter School to come up with Cherokee phrases to use during games. “I’m usually on first base when we’re out running the bases, and Bruce is on third base, and I noticed one time there was a girl on third base so I yelled at her across the field,” she said. “I yelled a Cherokee phrase to her. The opposite team, their pitcher kind of stopped and looked at me and she ended up throwing a ball.” Though not Cherokee, Lair appreciates what the culture has brought to the team. “We have girls that can communicate in Cherokee and that’s different than anywhere else around,” he said. “Miranda will yell something out to them and they’ll know what to respond to. The other teams use cheat sheets or whatever you want to call them, but we don’t have to. We use Cherokee.” The team originally earned its way to the tournament by winning the Oklahoma championship in Bixby on June 21 and was rated No. 1 in USSSA standings going into the World Series. “I’m just really, really am proud of the girls and how they came together,” King said. “We ended up getting fifth in the nation. It wasn’t first place, but to me and to Bruce, they got first place in our heart. They did really well.” A new softball season began on Aug. 1 and King and Lair are again gathering girls for their 12-and-under and 14-and-under teams. For more information, call 918-399-9292 or email
Senior Reporter
08/14/2015 08:30 AM
BRUSHY, Okla. – Breanna Potter is fulfilling her dream of improving her community and surrounding Sequoyah County communities by using a $10,000 “Dreamstarter” grant she received earlier this year. She and Cindy Lattimore, Indian Capital Technology Center counselor, met with students from the county the last week of July at the Brushy Community Center. Potter, of Akins, said the youth group is called the Brushy Dream Team and focuses on training youths to be leaders in their communities. “We’re really big on trying to train our kids to be able to go out into the world and be leaders, whether that means to go out and move away and make a difference in other Native communities or whether it means to stay here and be community leaders or whether they decide to be a teacher or lawyer or they want to serve as mayor one day or maybe even serve on our Tribal Council,” Potter said. She said she has already seen the program make a difference in the youths involved because they have become more outgoing or opened up more to their instructors. Morgan Robinson, 14, a 10th grader from Vian, was one of the students from Vian, Brushy and Akins who participated in the weeklong program. “Today we are learning about our personalities and more about ourselves and finding out about what we want to do for our careers, which I already know,” Robinson said. “I want to go into marine zoology, and on the sidelines I want to be a photographer and work in graphic designs.” She said students also learned about applying for financial aid for college, preparing for the ACT test, taking college preparatory courses and gained leadership skills. “I got a lot of information that I’m glad to have,” she said. “I know more about what to look forward to, and I’ve gotten a head start I guess.” Along with learning leadership skills, the youths were given the opportunity to create a diabetes prevention program, Potter said. An entire day was devoted to wellness, she said, where the students learned about the negative effects of alcohol, especially in Native communities, and learned more about diabetes and the prevention methods that are available. Potter said “a good number” of the participating students either have relatives or friends who have diabetes. “Sequoyah County has almost twice the national average for diabetics, and the majority of those are Type II (diabetics). We have 1,300 (diabetic patients) that get served at Redbird Health Center every year,” she said. In April, Potter was invited to Washington, D.C., to meet with other “Dreamstarter” youths and attend the “Dreamstarter” Academy, where the grant recipients learned how to run their projects. “It’s a lot of responsibility. Some of the youth involved in the program are as young as 14. They want to make sure we are well prepared,” she said. In July, she returned to Washington for a Tribal Youth Gathering hosted by the White House. This is the first class of American Indian youths to receive “Dreamstarter” grants for projects that help them bring their dreams to life. Each of the 10 “Dreamstarter” recipients, who are all American Indian youths under age 30, are working with a community nonprofit on a project to increase wellness that is also supported by Running Strong for American Indian Youth. She said that in her “Dreamstarter” application she explained that her “dream” or project was for her community group, the Brushy Cherokee Action Association. Her application also explained how she wanted to use the funding and provided a detailed timeline and budget for how the money would be spent. Potter, 21, is a senior at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah majoring in special education with an emphasis in mild to moderate disabilities. She said her goal after graduating in May 2016 is to work in a high-Native population and teach in a junior high or high school. For more information about this year’s “Dreamstarters” or to learn how to help jumpstart dreams for Native youth, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Senior Reporter
08/12/2015 08:51 AM
TULSA, Okla. – After a competitive application process, Cherokee Nation citizen Linda Sacks has been selected to take part in Leadership Tulsa’s Class 54. Leadership Tulsa is a nonprofit organization that identifies, develops and connects leaders who impact the community through service. Sacks and 50 others will participate in a nine-month program beginning Aug. 27. They will be introduced to all sectors of city leadership, explore the systems and needs of the city, discuss a wide range of issues that Tulsa faces and develop skills and contacts to make a positive impact. Participants will also participate in service-learning opportunities such as nonprofit board internships and community projects. “I am honored to be chosen as one of 51 participants for Leadership Tulsa. When coming to the Cherokee Nation, my colleagues, Hunter Palmer and Zach Elseman, were on Leadership Tahlequah and their contribution to the Career Services Department and community influenced me to want to make this kind of statement and contribution for the Cherokee Nation as well,” Sacks said. “I to wanted to do my part and have a positive impact on the Nation and the efforts of everyone in Career Services.” Sacks was born in Tahlequah to first-language, Cherokee-speaking parents in a traditional home. A resident of Muskogee, she graduated from Muskogee High and received a journalism degree with a minor in biblical studies from Oklahoma Christian University. She also earned credits from Harvard University in her concentration and lettered in collegiate tennis, soccer and basketball. She said she realizes the responsibility and opportunity she has to serve with Leadership Tulsa and is humbled by the support of CN leadership and her Career Services directors Brenda Fitzgerald, Daryl Legg, George Roach and Diane Kelley. “The Tulsa market is very competitive, full of many bright and talented professionals who are well into their careers and just as deserving. To be chosen in this market in my first year of service to the Cherokee Nation and our citizens means a lot to me. I take great pride in being able represent the Cherokee Nation and our Career Services Group on this level in Tulsa,” she said. Sacks said she hopes to bring more attention and awareness to what the CN and the Career Services team do to make an impact on all of Oklahoma and in the Tulsa regional workforce. “With our Dislocated Worker Programs we are better able to serve our citizens by helping the general population in creating a stronger workforce and environment for everyone. I love building new relationships in the public and private sector knowing that in the end it is our citizens that benefit,” she said. “In cases like this everyone wins and our citizens and At-Large citizens in the Tulsa County are able to go work even in the private sector, and I am glad to be a part of this.”