TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens and sisters Faye Morrison and Kaye Callaway have been members of the Tahlequah Veteran’s of Foreign War Auxiliary since age 16. They said it’s one of the ways they give back to their country and community.
Morrison recently received her 50-year membership pin from the organization to which she said she was proud to have. She got involved with the VFWA because her parents were and it was just what you did back then, she said.
“We just were always a patriotic family,” Morrison said.
And patriotism is what has kept her a member for 50 years, he said.
“We just always had that in the back of our minds,” she said. “It was what our parents did, and we just felt like it was the thing to do. What little we could do to give back to serve our country in what way we could.”
Callaway, a retired teacher who recently received her 45-year pin, said during the years she hasn’t been as active as her sister because of different things that keep her busy, but she’s always tried to help.
“You know through the year I had the school, OEA – Oklahoma Education Association. Then during the summer, I worked with the Tahlequah Girls Softball League, so you know my year was full. But when it came to convention time, we’d usually all go to the state convention,” Callaway said. “And it was just kind of like that’s how we were raised to give back to the community. It’s not ‘give me something.’ It’s ‘what can I do for you.’”
Morrison said she and her sister remember their mother being involved in the VFWA. Before they were old enough to go into the Veterans Affairs hospital in Muskogee, she said, her mother organized bingo games there for veterans.
“I guess when it was not school time, of course, she couldn’t get a baby sitter and back then it was OK just to let your kids run around out in the parking lot. Of course, Honor Heights Park was right there. She did that for I don’t know how many years,” Morrison said, “probably at least 50 years. Once I got old enough I started going with her and helping her. For the last 30 years, I’ve been what they call the representative and it’s my job to go over and put the party on. Used to be hers, now it’s mine.”
Callaway said she enjoyed helping at the hospital as a young woman.
“It was really neat back then because we were young and we got to help all of these old men, you know. And at that time they had those cards where you slide the little red over when you get a number, and we would help them do that and ‘oh you missed one’ and, you know, their prizes were socks and bar soap, a tooth brush, a comb…and they thought they were getting a pot of gold,” Callaway said.
Morrison said sometimes she dreads driving to Muskogee, but that feeling leaves her when she gets there.
“Sometimes I think ‘Ugh, the second Tuesday of the month and I’ve got to go to Muskogee, drive over there, hot cold, rain, shine,’” Morrison said. “But you make somebody happy, even if it’s just one person.”
The VFWA has received more than 300 combined years of volunteer service from all the female members in sisters’ family, all of which are or were Cherokee, dating back to the 1950s.
Not only have the women been involved, but they have also had men serve as well, including their father Luther Hammons and brother Jerry E. Hammons.
To be a VFWA member, a woman 16 years or older must have a family member that has served in a foreign war. Dues are $10 per year.
For more information on the VFW or VFWA, Morrison asks people attend a potluck luncheon at 11;30 a.m. at the VFW on the second Monday of each month, and bring a dish.
The VFW also provides donuts and coffee to veterans from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the first and third Wednesday of each month from. It will host its annual bean dinner from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Veteran’s Day. The dinner is free to all veterans. For those who haven’t served it’s $3. Bingo is every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. The VFW is located on Choctaw Street near the Choctaw and Bluff Street intersection.
BY STAFF REPORTS?
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The White House has named Cherokee Nation citizen Daryl Legg a “Champion of Change” for going from a three-time convicted felon to someone who’s helped positively change the lives of dozens.
Legg was sentenced to prison three times for drug possession, but turned his life around and now runs a work re-entry program helping other Natives overcome similar obstacles.
Legg, 43, of Sallisaw, is the Nation’s director of vocational programs, which includes a new program called “Coming Home.” The program helps former prisoners get back on their feet upon release, including help with jobs and housing.
Since the program started in September, 53 of the 55 formerly incarcerated participants have stayed out of prison, with the majority maintaining steady jobs.
“I’m thankful I belong to a tribe that gives me the freedom to do what I love and give back,” Legg said. “The feeling of being able to be trusted again is an awesome feeling, and I’m thankful to the Cherokee Nation and the White House for this award. More than anything, I’m glad to see the reentry issue getting the attention it deserves.”
On June 30, Legg was honored at the White House with 14 other recipients. The “Champions of Change” award is given to ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities. The White House says it received more than 900 nominations for the category Legg was honored in, which is re-entry and employment for the formerly incarcerated.
Legg has been a director of CN vocational programs since 2009. It’s the same program that years earlier offered him the opportunity to learn employment skills after being sent to prison twice in Arkansas and once in Oklahoma.
Legg eventually graduated from Northeastern State University with a major in psychology in 2006 and worked his way up to a director before starting “Coming Home.”
“Daryl has helped the Cherokee Nation develop one of the most progressive reintegration programs in Oklahoma and across Indian Country. His humanity and commitment make him a deserving White House Champion of Change honoree,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Like Daryl, I believe we can’t just give up on people after incarceration. We must open doors of opportunity for our people, not keep them closed.”
The “Coming Home” program is for citizens of federally recognized Native American tribes. Applicants must contact the program within six months of release to be considered for participation.
For more information on the program, call Legg at 918-453-5000, ext. 3832 or email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
For more information on the “Champions of Change” award, visit <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions" target="_blank">www.whitehouse.gov/champions</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
TULSA, Okla. – Oklahoma’s Native American community presented a special tribute at the BOK Center to honor Tulsa Shock guard and Cherokee Nation citizen Angel Goodrich and the Atlanta Dream’s rookie Native sensation and All-Star MVP Shoni Schimmel.
Schimmel is a citizen of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation in Washington.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker joined Muscogee (Creek) Principal Chief George Tiger and Osage Nation Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear for pregame activities.
“Angel and Shoni both had outstanding college careers and now have taken that next step as a pro. They are immensely talented and successful and true role models for young Native people,” Baker said. “Without really asking for it, they have become ambassadors for tribal citizens nationwide and that carries some extra pressure. I respect them for their class and maturity as much as I do for their creative brand of basketball. All of Indian Country want to see them thrive because there is so much Native pride in seeing them win and receive the highest accolades.”
The MCN Office of Public Relations, in coordination with the Tulsa Shock, presented a pregame event that featured more than 50 dancers representing most of the state’s 38 federally recognized tribes.
Native Americans dressed in their respective traditional attire covered the arena floor in an intertribal dance accompanied by the drumbeats and songs of a local singing group the “Redland Singers.”
“Through the athletic talents and accomplishments of Native American athletes such as Angel and Shoni, they’ve united and inspired youth and tribal members, not only in Oklahoma, but across the United States,” Tiger said. “Native Americans are showing their pride and appreciation wherever they appear, pride in their accomplishments and pride in their traditions and cultures. It is a unifying phenomenon that we want to perpetuate.”
This was the first meeting between the Shock’s second year guard and the Dream’s rookie sensation. Both were highly recruited following successful collegiate careers at Kansas University and the University of Louisville, respectively.
The Shock lost to the Dream 85-75. The two teams were to play each other again on Aug. 15 in Atlanta.
PARK HILL, Okla. – Since the opening of the Ancient Village in 1967, working at the Cherokee Heritage Center has been a tradition for Rex Smith and his family.
Rex, who works maintenance and grounds keeping at the CHC, started working in the recently razed Ancient Village with his mother, Betty Smith, in 1967. From 1970 to 1985 he worked with the Trail of Tears drama and, after some time away, came back in 2000 to work his current position.
“I just, overall, have fun out here. Still enjoy it,” he said. “This is where I started at and hopefully this is where I end my career as a worker. Unless something goes wrong, this is where I want to be for the next 10 years.”
Rex said that in the past there have been six sisters and four brothers in his family who worked at the CHC. “I’ve had a good relationship with my family and my kids,” he said.
According to a June 2013 Cherokee Phoenix article, work began on the CHC on Feb. 23, 1966 and the Ancient Village opened in 1967. The amphitheater, which hosted the Trail of Tears drama, opened in 1969. Construction of the CHC’s museum, which was designed to resemble a Cherokee longhouse from the old Cherokee country in the southeast, began in 1973 and it opened a year later.
In 1985, the museum was remodeled and more technology was used for its exhibits, and in 2001, in cooperation with the National Park Service, a permanent Trail of Tears exhibit was installed in the museum that utilizes artifacts and statues to tell the story behind the forced removal of Cherokee people from their southeastern homes in the late 1830s.
“This is one of the places I started at and I knew I could do this, this is fun, exciting and I love to do what I get to do out here,” Rex said.
Today, he works with his daughter, Feather Smith-Trevino, who works as a villager in the new Diligwa village. His grandson, Calvin, also occasionally works in the village, and his son, Justin, used to work at the CHC but now works at the John Ross Museum.
“It’s kind of the family business,” Feather said. “My grandmother was one of the first villagers out in the Ancient Village in 1967, so my dad grew up out here, and then I came out here when I was volunteering in 2001. I worked with the drama for five years before I actually started here in 2006.”
Smith-Trevino, who works in the Diligwa village, said working with her family has been fun and has helped her learned a lot about her Cherokee culture.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s been really rewarding to be out here all these years,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot about my culture during that time, but it’s also nice to get to educate people. The culture, it really defines who I am, who we are. It’s one of those things that when I was younger I didn’t realize exactly how important it was to me, but as I grew up I kind of got to realizing that everything about me revolves around the Cherokee Nation, and it really helps to define who I am. It’s been rewarding and has led me to what it is that I want to do and has helped me figure out what I want to be in life.”
STILWELL, Okla. – Three months after her death, the loss of Betty Starr Barker is still being felt by her friends and admirers.
Barker died March 4 at age 85. Her family said she believed God intended for her to be a participant of life, not a spectator. She was active in civic and community organizations, including the Adair County Retired Educators, Stilwell Area Chamber of Commerce and Stilwell Kiwanis Club. She was honored as a 50-year member of the Alpha Delta Kappa teacher’s sorority. She chaired the committee that published the History of Adair County in 1991 and was on the Adair Family Reunion Book Committee that in 2003 published “The Cherokee Adairs: A family history.”
Oklahoma Trail of Tears of Association President Curtis Rohr worked with Barker in the association for about 12 years and knew her more than 15 years. He said Barker was “a great worker” and was proud of her Cherokee heritage.
“She was really good historian and genealogist and knew family histories. And Betty was very, very dependable,” Rohr said.
Barker and Rohr worked with the National Park Service to establish two Trail of Tears markers in Stilwell. He said she was “instrumental” in getting the platforms to hold the artwork at two historic sites associated with the Trail of Tears. One marker sits at the restored Stilwell train depot, now a museum, and two markers are at the Stilwell Cemetery.
The three markers include the artwork of Cherokee artist Dorothy Sullivan and provide background on the Trail of Tears and the supply depots used by Cherokee people following the removal.
Rohr said he misses Barker’s “willingness to help out wherever she was needed.”
“She was just a great person, and a great one to work with. She was very appreciative of anything concerning the Cherokees and her heritage,” he said.
National Trail of Tears Association President and Tribal Councilor Jack Baker said Barker is remembered for her work in getting the Trail of Tears markers placed in Stilwell, but also for helping compile Adair County’s history. Three historical groups from Watts, Westville and Stilwell were to compile that history when the project was first discussed in 1990.
“Everyone was talking about doing the history, but no one did anything about it, and I thought we should combine all three of these organizations into a committee to do the book. So I asked Betty if she would chair that and she agreed to do it, and of course she spent hours and hours and hours and hours on that. It was a major undertaking, but of course she was the person that could handle it,” Baker said. “Betty was willing to do what ever was necessary to preserve our history and culture, and whatever task was asked of her, she was more than willing to do it. She was a very dear friend, and I miss her very much.”
A native and life-long resident of Stilwell, Barker was the daughter Floyd and Ada Barnett Starr. She was born in 1929 on her father’s Cherokee allotment and was the youngest of 12 children. She graduated Stilwell High School in 1945 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1949 education from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah. She later returned to NSU to obtain her master’s degree. She and Bill Barker were married in 1950 and were the parents of Dianne Barker and William Lee (Billy) Barker.
Betty was an educator for almost 40 years and spent more than 31 years teaching at Stilwell Elementary School. Although she retired in 1989, she continued to teach adult literacy and general education development classes.
Roy Hamilton, project manager for Cherokee Nation History and Preservation, said he was her student at Stilwell Elementary. He said Barker spent extra time helping him learn after he was forced to transfer from a consolidated school in Wauhillau, west of Stilwell.
“I was in the fourth grade. I had such a rough time integrating that she gave me special attention. I think if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be where I am today because she paid so much attention to me and the other kids too,” he said. “She knew we were having problems because we were brought up Cherokee. She just gave us that little extra attention that made it possible for us to get through.”
Hamilton said he took speech therapy because he spoke English with a dialect he picked up listening to his Cherokee-speaking uncles when they spoke English.
“She would assure me that there was nothing wrong me that they were just trying to help my speech,” he said. “And it was because of her that I discovered books. In my first summer there I read 138 books. I’d read one and she would bring one out to the house from the library and take the other one back for me. She just really changed my life. From then on she was my aunt Betty.”
Proud to be a CN citizen, Barker promoted also Cherokee history. In September 2012, she was honored as an Elder Statesman of the CN, and in October 2013 she was one of the Oklahoma AARP Indian Elder honorees.
She was also a member of the Goingsnake Historical Society and the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association. She served in various offices in those organizations. In addition, as a descendent of Nancy Ward, beloved Woman of the Cherokees, Barker was an active member of the Nancy Ward Society.
The project of which she was most proud was the restoration of the Kansas City Southern Railroad Depot in Stilwell, which was dedicated on May 7, 2004. Today, it houses the offices of Stilwell Area Chamber of Commerce and Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association, along with a museum and historical archives.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Dirteater has had a passion for bull riding ever since he was a young child growing up in Hulbert.
Dirteater, 25, holds the 20th rank in the Professional Bull Riders’ Built Ford Tough Series, which is the major league of bull riding.
“Dreams come true for those who work while they dream,” said Dirteater. “Believe in yourself and your ability. If you want it bad enough, you’ll get it.”
In 2007, Dirteater became a professional bull rider and made his first PBR finals in 2008. During his seven years as a professional he has won two Built Ford Tough Series.
In his career he has encountered injuries such as a broken femur and a torn anterior cruciate ligament that kept him from riding. He used his injuries as motivation to get back out on the dirt field.
The support from Dirteater’s family and community helped him get back to what he loved. He now hopes to show native youth’s the importance of having a support system.
“There are a lot of Natives that have talent to be anything they want. They just need to have the guidance and support from their community and family,” Dirteater said. “For me, it’s been a long road and I’ve been through a lot of adversity, but I’ve fought my way through it. If you be true to the game, the game will be true to you.”
For more information on the PBR Built Ford Tough Series, visit <a href="http://www.pbr.com" target="_blank">www.pbr.com</a>. For more information on Ryan Dirteater, visit <a href="http://www.rldirteater.com/" target="_blank">http://www.rldirteater.com/</a>.