DURANT, Okla. – Ever since he was 2 years old, Cherokee Nation citizen Wyatt Rogers, of Rose, knew he wanted to be a bull rider.
He grew up watching his dad, Dusty Rogers, compete in rodeos as a steer wrestler and team roper. But bull riding was Wyatt’s favorite. He said he “always found it more entertaining” than any other event.
His mom, Christine Rogers, said she took Wyatt to a rodeo when he was 3 and he took part in mutton busting (sheep riding), and he was hooked ever since.
After riding sheep, Wyatt moved up to calves and rode his first bull at age 13. He competed in rodeos through a junior rodeo series and was able to hone his skills.
Wyatt, a 2015 graduate of Locust Grove High School, was also a member of the Oklahoma High School Rodeo Association. It was there he caught the attention of college rodeo scouts.
“I was fortunate enough to get some offers and just chose what school I thought would be best for me,” Wyatt said about attending Southeastern Oklahoma State University.
As a freshman at SOSU, Wyatt made it to the national level in June at the 2016 College National Finals Rodeo. He was also selected as one of three SOSU students to receive Athlete of the Year. He is the second rodeo athlete to receive the honor since 2009 and the second rodeo athlete to make it to the national level.
“I was kind of shocked that it was me,” he said. “I mean, I did good in the national ranking in rodeo, but I just never thought that I would win that (honor) at my school.”
Not only is Wyatt a success in college rodeos, but in professional rodeos, too.
Tuff Hedeman, a retired professional bull rider, called Wyatt when he was a high school senior and asked him to join the Championship Bull Riding tour. He competed in first professional rodeo in October 2014 and won big.
“When I went to that event in Mercedes, Texas, I was the only guy to go three-for-three, and I won a little over $42,000,” Wyatt said.
Though he got a late start in his first season, he completed his first full season with the CBR in July at the world finals in Cheyenne, Wyoming. He rode two out of four bulls and finished ranked eighth in the world.
Wyatt said he gets the inspiration from his father, who died in May 2014.
“I continue to rodeo just to honor him,” Wyatt said. “I just know he would want me to do my best, and he always pushed me to do my best, and I just rodeo for him.”
He said he also gets full support from his mom in his rodeo endeavors.
“There are some out there that will make a name for themselves, be it a name that people will remember,” said Christine. “I guess that’s something that I would like to see Wyatt be, somebody that leaves a mark on the world.”
Wyatt said his goal in bull riding is to be called a world champion at the annual competition in Cheyenne.
“Man, it’s just great knowing my dad competed there,” Wyatt said. “And you get to go to that legendary rodeo and compete on the same floor as every legend that’s been there (in rodeo, such as) Lane Frost, Tuff Hedeman. All the big names in rodeo have been there at one time, and it’s just an honor to know that you get to stand on the same ground as them.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After becoming interested in high school, Cherokee Nation citizen Cohle Fowler recently started competing in “full contact medieval combat,” which is known as “Buhurt” in Europe.
Fowler likens the combat style to fully armored mixed martial arts.
“There are a lot of ways you can describe it, but I usually tend to call it full contact medieval combat or steel combat,” he said. “In Europe it’s called Buhurt. Basically it’s kind of like armored MMA.”
He said the armor and weapons are researched to ensure they reflect a “distinct period of time.”
“There are a lot of groups that do role-playing or reenactments, and this is reenactment in the sense of the clothing, and the armor is all kind of researched and made sure that it comes from a distinct period of time,” he said. “So they try to be historically accurate, but it’s actually a full sport on top of that, too.”
Fowler said this is his first year to compete, but his interest arose in 2008 while at Verdigris High School.
“I had a friend who participated in a game that gets played in Tulsa called MELEE (Martial Enactment League Enabling Expression). It’s kind of like LARP, live action role-playing, but it’s not really focusing on kind of the imaginary side of it. It’s a little more physical than just like a soft touch game that a lot of people think of,” he said. “That kind of got me into fighting with shields and swords and learning about that and just kind of being interested in medieval things.”
He said when he was in college he decided to delve deeper into the sport, getting him to where he is today.
“Then in college I saw that there were like real fights happening with metal weapons and steel armor, and I was a football player so I knew I had some potential for it and I could possibly get into it. So basically just like seeing it happening I decided I wanted to do it,” he said.
Fowler said this year he’s competed in two tournaments, the first in Auburn, California, and the second at the Castle of Montemor-o-Velho in Portugal.
“The first one I did was in Auburn, California, earlier this year and that was the National Western Conference Championship. There are two national tournaments in the U.S. a year, and that’s part of the ACL (Armored Combat League), which is kind of like the American medieval combat league,” he said. “From that league we kind of pull talent together to create the USA Knights, which go and fight internationally. So the second tournament I fought in was the IMCF (International Medieval Combat Federation) World Championship.”
He said while competing in Portugal he fought in five-man and 16-man team events.
“In the multi-manned teams, those events are what they call melees, and so you’re basically fighting until everyone on the other team goes to the ground,” he said. “The rule is three points of contact, so it’s kind of similar to how tackling works in football. Once they’re down then they’re out of the match. It can be a lot more brutal because a lot of times people are getting beaten down.”
Fowler said his team won the 16-man team championship and took second in the five-man team event.
“The five-man pool is smaller. It’s kind of like the all-star teams for each country. I qualified for that in California and kind of made the team for the five-man,” he said. “I was really, really excited about that because once I kind of found out about this sport I started following certain fighters, and now I’m like on the same roster and fighting alongside a lot of these guys that I kind of idolized for awhile.”
Fowler said he believes the sport will eventually catch on in America.
“It’s as close to real tournament combat as you can get. Nobody’s going to get killed out there, but everybody’s in real danger of injury. It’s the closet thing you can get to seeing like a real medieval battle,” he said.
He added that he recently started a team in Tulsa and is looking for people to join. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
<strong>Armor, Weapon and Shield</strong>
Helmet: Klappvisor Bascinet or Bassinet – a long and narrow faceplate
Shoulders: Spaulders – solid steel plates that cover the shoulders
Elbows: Elbow cop – to protect the elbows
Knees: Articulate knee – to protect the knees
Arms: Splinted rembrace armor – worn on upper arm, Splinted vambrace – worn on lower arm
Legs: Splinted cuisses - worn on upper leg, Gated greaves – worn on lower leg
Torso: Corrozina – a plate of coats
Hands: Clamshell gauntlets – to cover the hands
Weapon: Flanged mace – a steel bar that’s like a hammer, Blunted steel longsword – used in the 14th/15th centuries
Shield: Buckler shield – a small, metal shield used to “punch” people and block
Total weight: 80 pounds
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Members of the Cherokee County Tri-Community (Welling, Eldon and Briggs) sanctioned horseshoe league represented Oklahoma July 25 through Aug. 6 in the 2016 National Horseshoe Pitchers Association World Tournament.
Cherokee Nation citizens Al Ross and Cale Matlock and United Keetoowah Band citizens Bill Vann and Gary Bearpaw were among the 934 pitchers from other states and countries.
Ross said he made it to the world tournament’s championship round for the first time since joining sanctioned horseshoe pitching 12 years ago. He placed sixth in the Class Senior Men A preliminaries.
“I’ve pitched in just about every type of tournament there is,” Ross said. “The competition is a lot stiffer in the sanctioned tournaments.”
Ross said he also enjoys seeing his grandson, Matlock, who pitched in his third world tournament in the Cadet Division. Matlock went undefeated in the preliminary and championship rounds. This was Matlock’s first world championship as he earned a gold medal, trophy and $300 scholarship.
Matlock said his grandfather helps him with practice and advice.
“If I’m doing something wrong, he’ll tell me,” Matlock said.
Vann, who joined sanctioned horseshoe pitching four years ago, said he first pitched in the NHPA world tournament in 2013.
“It was pretty intimidating, going from what I was used to straight to the world’s,” Vann said.
This year he pitched in the Open Men Division’s Class A2, winning his first class championship in the preliminary round.
“(It was) kind of strange what happened.” Vann said. “My second or third game…I realized I could play with these guys and everything just fell together.”
Vann won a trophy, $500 and eligibility to move up to the championship round for the first time.
“I didn’t want to leave the championship class without…winning or a zero by my name,” Vann said.
He placed ninth and won another $350.
Vann said a highlight for him was when the No.1 pitcher in the world, Alan Francis, took his photo at the trophy presentation.
Vann said he “thought that was pretty good,” but that his ultimate goal is to beat Francis.
Like Vann, Bearpaw also made it to the championship round after placing fourth in Class A1.
Bearpaw joined sanctioned horseshoe pitching four years ago and qualified for the championship round in every world tournament he has pitched in so far. This year, however, he pitched well enough to be officially rank as the No. 2 pitcher in the world. He also took home $2,275 in prize money.
“I surprised myself I made it that far,” Bearpaw said.
In the championship round’s opening game, he pitched a 95 percent ringer average.
“I was just concentrating on my ringers,” Bearpaw said. “I didn’t know it was that close to being a perfect game. I was wondering why everyone started clapping when we got done, then I looked at how many ringers I had.”
Bearpaw said he is ready for next year’s tournament, with the hope of breaking Francis’ 21-time world champion winning streak.
“I would like to be world champion…at least one time,” Bearpaw said.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Blakelee Lehnick, of Gore, recently started the advanced culinary arts program at Treasure Island Job Corps in San Francisco.
Lehnick worked in the food service industry for about four years before entering the culinary arts program at Talking Leaves Job Corps in Tahlequah, which he completed in July.
Lehnick hopes to be an executive chef someday.
“I am beyond grateful for the opportunities that have been given to me through the Job Corps program,” Lehnick said. “Not only has Talking Leaves Job Corps given me the skills necessary to advance in culinary arts, but also the knowledge of how to live independently as well as the confidence to dream big. I cannot wait to complete this next chapter of my life at Treasure Island Job Corps and be one step closer to a full time career in what I love doing.”
The advanced culinary arts program lasts about 14 months and includes completing courses in food and beverage, pantry chef, casual dining, baking, advanced pastry and fine dining.
To be accepted into the program, Lehnick had to have a GED or high school diploma, recommendations from instructors and staff, completed a basic culinary career technical training program and a good disciplinary record.
“We could not be prouder of Blakelee and his accomplishments,” said TLJC Center Director Jay Littlejohn. “This is a perfect example of how the Job Corps program is a stepping stone to launching careers for today’s young adults. Blakelee was a great student representative of Talking Leaves and will continue to be an exceptional advocate for Job Corps.”
For more information about the TLJC, visit <a href="http://www.talkingleaves.jobcorps.gov" target="_blank">www.talkingleaves.jobcorps.gov</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After almost four decades of helping people with their income tax returns, Cherokee Nation employee Sandy Long has decided to retire from the tribe’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance service that runs annually from late January to mid-April.
“I started doing income taxes for the Cherokee Nation in partnership with the IRS 37 years ago. Each year we’d have to get re-certified and training,” Long, a CN employee of 40 years, said. “When I first started, we had to do a whole week of training in Muskogee at the public library.”
Tax preparation became part of Long’s duties within the Education Services’ Adult Education division.
“We went out into the communities back then and did taxes in the community,” she said.
Long said carbon paper was used when she started. “So if you made a mistake, you had to go through, take your pages apart, erase and start again.”
When copy machines came along, she said the tax preparers “were in hog-heaven.”
“You just took the papers and made copies of it and gave it to the person and you were finished,” she added.
Long said this method was used for several years until computers and “Tax Wise” IRS-developed software became available. Long said the largest number of tax returns she prepared in a single year was 500.
She estimated that she’s averaged between 250 to 400 tax returns per year and has had clients who return every year. However, all things must come to an end.
“It’s just that I thought after 37 years of preparing taxes, it might be time to turn it over to a younger group of preparers. That’s the reason I’m stepping down this year from doing income taxes,” she said.
Tribal officials said the number of people who used the VITA volunteers to help them with tax-related tasks in 2016 was 1,837, up from 1,732 people in 2015. Volunteers also helped file 1,684 federal tax returns compared to 1,509 filed returns in 2015. Overall, the tribe’s VITA program helped garner a total refund amount of more than $2.3 million this year than 2015’s $2.1 million.
Long said she began working for the CN in 1976, not long after the tribal government began operating again. “It was my first job out of college. It’s been a good job here. It’s felt like family.”
She said there were around 200 employees when she started, far from the more than 4,000 employees today. “I used to know everybody. I still know quite a few.”
Long said during her career, she’s worked for several CN departments, including Education Services, Cherokee First and Communications. It was in Communications where she worked with Wes Studi before he became a famous actor.
Long said she plans to continue working as a special projects supervisor for Management Resources.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN, Okla. – Jewell Hummingbird Millsap is an active member of this small community in Adair County, volunteering at the Rocky Mountain Cherokee Community Organization and the Echota Baptist Church.
But her favorite way of serving the community is volunteering as a foster grandparent at the Rocky Mountain Elementary School five days a week assisting first grade students. The 80-year-old said she would be 18 years in as a “granny” when school opens in August.
“I’m known as Granny Jewell around that neighborhood,” Millsap said.
She said she and other “grannies” help the children who need extra attention with their reading skills. The teachers don’t always have the time to spend one-on-one time with their students, she said, so the “grannies” volunteer to assist the teachers.
Millsap said the children they help “get so excited when they start to learn.”
“You start teaching the kids that need help, and you can just see that rose blossoming and blooming,” she said. “A lot of them would be left behind if it wasn’t for us grannies. It’s a joy. It’s nothing but loving children and helping them.”
For her service over the years, in 2014 Millsap was honored in Oklahoma City with the Karen D. Jacobs Award for Exemplary Community Service. The award joined others she’s received such as Granny of the Year for Adair County and All-Around Granny, which covers 12 counties in eastern Oklahoma.
Millsap is also raising money to attend the 2016 National Foster Grandparent Volunteer Conference set for Nov. 1-4 in St. Louis. The event is educational as well as an opportunity for “grannies” to network with others in the Foster Grandparent Program.
Each foster grandparent is responsible for raising $350 to attend the conference, which covers the cost of conference registration, lodging and meals. Millsap must raise the money by Sept. 15.
Millsap said she hopes people would help send her and 19 other foster grandparent volunteers from the area “out of town” in November.
KI BOIS Community Action is the sponsoring agency for the Foster Grandparent Program. Checks should be made payable to KI BOIS CAF Foster Grandparent Program and sent to PO Box 727, Stigler, OK 74462. Please notate for which foster grandparent the donation is being made.
For more information, call Shaunda Noah at 918-465-3381 or Rosanne Stanley at 918-207-8909.