Cherokee Nation citizen Cheyanne Hodge, 16, of Tulsa, Okla., works on a news story as part of “Project Phoenix” on July 10 in Santa Clara, Calif. The Native American Journalists Association conference project exposes high school students to journalism and how it impacts Indian Country. “Project Phoenix” honors the first Native American newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee students learn journalism basics at NAJA conference
United Keetoowah Band citizen Brittney Bennett, 21, of Kansas, Okla., takes part in the “Native Voice” project at the annual Native American Journalists Association conference in Santa Clara, Calif. Here she works on a news story on July 10. The project strives to help college students gain hands-on experience in print, digital and broadcast media under the guidance of Native professional mentors from across the country. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY WILL CHAVEZ
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Two Cherokee students from Oklahoma traveled to the annual Native American Journalists Association conference in July to learn the skills of good journalism.
Cherokee Nation citizen Cheyanne Hodge, 16, of Tulsa was part of “Project Phoenix,” which exposes high school students to journalism and how it impacts Indian Country. “Project Phoenix” honors the first Native American newspaper – the Cherokee Phoenix, which was first printed on Feb. 28, 1828, in New Echota, Ga.
United Keetoowah Band citizen Brittney Bennett, 21, of Kansas took part in the “Native Voice” project, which helps college students gain hands-on experience in print, digital and broadcast media under the guidance of Native professional mentors.
Hodge will be a junior this fall at Will Rogers College High, a college prep school. Along with learning more about journalism, she wants to become a veterinary technician.
She said she spent her week as a “Project Phoenix” student shooting videos, gathering stories and interviewing people, and “more and more” she’s also looking at journalism as a career.
She said what interested her about journalism is that “you have a voice and that people can hear you.”
“There are so many things offered to you because you get to go and see things that other people don’t,” Hodge said.
She added that the most important thing she learned from mentors was to learn how to write news and shoot video.
“That’s a lot for me because I didn’t have any experience,” she said. “I’ve definitely learned to be patient. We’ve been in this (news) room from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep. You just have to put your all into it.”
Mentor Benny Polacca, a reporter with the Osage News in Pawhuska, Okla., said the students are exposed to all disciplines used by today’s reporters. They wrote news stories for the newspaper published during the conference, wrote stories for the “Native Voices” website and created audio and video assignments using Apple technology.
“In the end we are giving the children an opportunity to learn the tools of the trade, especially during this time when we’re seeing a shift in ways of communication, a shift toward online and computer gadgets, including smart phones,” Polacca said. “I think this is a good opportunity to introduce students to those skills because in the end we would really like to see more Native journalists working in the field, and these are the tools of the trade they need.”
Bennett attends the University of Oklahoma where she’s studying public relations.
“I’m here to get a better feel for journalism and kind of learn the ins and outs that I haven’t gotten to (learn) because I am a PR major. It’s similar in a lot of ways, but different...especially this year since they are going more digital,” she said. “I haven’t really worked with a lot of the equipment. Being PR you don’t take that many broadcast classes or any editing classes, so that is definitely new to me.”
Bennett was selected as a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholar and has been named to the President’s and Dean’s Honor Roll at OU multiple semesters.
She said the first few days of the “Native Voice” project was spent learning the “nuts and bolts” of journalism. From there the students produced short stories about local events, and then produced short videos on local attractions.
She graduated to helping work on a web story about the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay area, which is not recognized by California or the federal government. She said it required her to make “a lot of calls” and do research. She also worked on a print and video story about NAJA raising more than $10,000 for a fellowship.
NAJA oversees “Project Phoenix and the “Native Voice” project.
She said during the week she got rid of the misconception that a journalist has to have the “nicest equipment” and work “in the nicest studio” to be successful. She learned there are phone applications and computer programs she can use to help her report news.
Bennett is focusing on a career in the film industry and doing public relations work for Native American actors and films. She landed an internship at the Oklahoma Film and Music Office’s PR department for the fall semester. She plans on graduating next May.
Polacca said students participating in the student projects have the opportunity to network, meet other Native American journalists and possibly find a place to work in the future.
“Who knows, maybe in the future the students will work for someone in the field whether it’s a journalist working with the student project program or whether they are here as a conference participant,” he said.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN, Okla. – The Rocky Mountain Community Organization is hosting two events in August at its community building near Stilwell.
RMCO will host the Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association at 6 p.m., Aug. 22. ACH&GA volunteers will be on hand to discuss area history and genealogy. Beans and cornbread will be served at 5:30 p.m., and everyone is welcome to attend.
The Adair County Historical & Genealogical Association is a non-profit organization maintained by volunteers. Located in the rehabilitated 1915 Kansas City Southern Railroad Depot in Stilwell, the association collects countywide research materials, genealogies of county families and artifacts of historical and cultural significance.
Volunteers provide research and genealogical assistance to individuals interested in learning more about their family’s past. Tours of the county history museum provide access to artifacts that provide a deeper appreciation of the county’s history.
Also, at 7 p.m., Aug. 26, RMCO will host a Movie Night where “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” will be shown. Admission is free, and the concession stand will open at 6 p.m. Seating is available, but moviegoers are welcome to bring their own chairs. People also have an opportunity to win a door prize by signing in when they arrive.
For more information, call 918-696-4965.
OOLOGAH, Okla. – For more than 20 years, the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore has paid homage to Will Rogers and Wiley Post with an annual fly-in at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch.
Rogers, a Cherokee Nation citizen, and Post, a famed aviator, died in a plane crash on Aug. 15, 1935, in Point Barrow, Alaska. Tad Jones, the museum’s executive director, said this year commemorates the 82nd anniversary of their passing.
“His (Rogers) character is what we want to try to keep alive. He was a guy that respected everybody, which I think it’d be great for our entire nation now to show that respect towards others,” he said. “I know Will Rogers, if he was here, he would love it because he was a man that just loved action activities, and this event has just gotten to be huge over the last number of years.”
The event kicked off at 7:30 a.m. Jones said people and planes began arriving as early as 6:45 a.m.
The free event offered more than 100 planes, a car show, Cherokee storytelling, 19th century games for children and the opportunity to tour Rogers’ birthplace home.
The planes landed on an airstrip adjacent to the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch allowing visitors to get an up-close look at them.
“You get to walk around with the planes, so it’s not just looking at them from a distance. But when they land you can walk out among the planes, and sometimes they’ll let you sit in the cockpits,” Jones said.
Rogers’ great-granddaughter, Jennifer Rogers-Etcheverry, said the event is a great way to continue Rogers’ legacy while helping others learn his story.
“This is what I love the most is seeing these young children out here with a mixture of older generations because that’s who needs to learn about Will Rogers is these up-and-coming children,” she said. “I am just so grateful that people want to continue his legacy, and to bring their families out to something that’s a tradition like this. And what better place than his actual birth home.”
Rogers-Etcheverry said seeing people honor Rogers’ means “everything” to her.
“There’s nothing negative when you talk to people who remember him or have heard about him, it’s always positive,” she said. “He was such a role model to so many people, so that means everything to me.”
Tribal Councilor Keith Austin said the tribe annually contributes to the museum and ranch to ensure they remain “healthy and strong.” This year the CN gave $25,000.
“This is a state of Oklahoma facility, and they are really struggling with their budget,” he said. “It’s important to us as Cherokee people to support this and make sure that it remains healthy and strong.”
For the past three years there has also been a National Day of Remembrance during the fly-in for those who have died in small airplane crashes.
“We have Will and Wiley who died in a small airplane crash, and so we want to honor anyone who has died in a small airplane crash. You hear a tragedy with the big airplanes, but there is a lot of people who have passed away in small airplane crashes,” Jones said. “At 10 o’clock (a.m.) we have a National Day of Remembrance that we put on Facebook all over the country, and we honor those that have died in small airplane crashes. We have a 35 second moment of silence, which is for 1935 when Will Rogers and Wiley Post died.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.willrogers.com" target="_blank">www.willrogers.com</a>.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dr. Mike Dobbins, of Fort Gibson, said he’s ready to serve his first term as the Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor and looks to improve the Cherokee Nation’s health care system.
Dobbins will take his councilor seat with 37 years of experience in health care, practicing dentistry for 20 of those years.
“I chose to run because from a distance I’ve become quite familiar with the Cherokee health system, and there are some great things about it. The framework’s in place…and a lot of good has transpired. With my experience I feel like I can lend some expertise to help improve the system. That was my primary motive in running for council...to see what I could do to improve the health care system,” Dobbins said.
He said he has more to learn about the CN Health Services and how it functions on a daily basis.
Dobbins is also involved in higher education, teaching at dental schools for the past 17 years and assisting Cherokee students interested in health care.
“I’ve assisted multiple Cherokee students with scholarship opportunities, not only with Cherokee scholarships, but with other Native American scholarships and try to help them go through college with little-to-no debt as possible,” he said.
He said in Dist. 4, he’s also heard concerns from CN citizens about housing issues.
“I’m also knowledgeable of the fact that there’s a lot of other Cherokee needs (including) infrastructure, housing, elder care. I’m also sensitive to those areas as well. I plan to be a multi-purpose councilman,” Dobbins said. “I’m on the outside right now, but I intend to see (and) get familiarized with the housing program and make sure that citizens of District 4 are considered for any housing possibilities.”
The 2017 Tribal Council election was Dobbins’ second attempt at becoming a CN legislator. He said he learned from his “mistakes” four years ago and that it was a “less stressful” campaign this time around.
“I ran four years ago and lost by two (votes) to an 18-year incumbent,” he said. “You learn by experience, and I enlisted more help, actually, this time. I tried to do a lot of myself four years ago. I’d say…most importantly I learned what not to do rather than what to do.”
Dobbins said he has an obligation to serve not only the CN citizens who helped or voted for him, but also those who did not.
“I’m their councilman now, and I feel a deep debt of obligation to fulfill that duty,” he said. “I just look forward to serving the Cherokee people on the council. I do have a busy schedule but I feel like I will be accessible. I have a busy schedule outside my councilman responsibilities, but my councilman responsibility will be my priority.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – E.O. Smith, of Vian, on Aug. 14 will begin serving his first term as the Dist. 5 Tribal Councilor after winning a July 22 runoff election. He will take the seat being vacated by Tribal Councilor David Thornton.
Smith won the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Uriah Grass by receiving 52.26 of the vote.
He previously spent eight years as a CN Food Distribution warehouse manager in Sallisaw.
His platform includes improving education, employment and health care for Cherokees.
“I want to help. There’s some of these families, they don’t need to live in the condition they live in. (Cherokee) Nation is strong but I’d like to help make it stronger. I just care about people…I just want to make things better for District 5,” he said.
Born in Mexico, Smith moved to Vian with his mother and father at age 2.
“My dad was a farmer, and back then there wasn’t any farm aid or anything, and a flood wiped them out and they lost everything they had. So he had to move out to Mexico and worked in the oil fields, saved up money to come back home,” he said.
After seeing his father’s work ethic and ability to move back to the United States to become a business owner, Smith followed in father’s footsteps by becoming a business owner, operating two stores in Vian for 29 years.
Smith was also involved with youth and youth sports, coaching sports teams for more than 42 years.
“That’s my passion. That’s what I love to do. I like working with kids,” Smith said.
As a councilman for the city of Vian, Smith said he see too many young people, Cherokees and non-Cherokees, with no desire to work and wants to motivate them to find jobs.
Smith said in his travels in the CN, about 85 percent of people he talked to brought up improving health care, especially for elders.
“Overall, I just want to help improve things. I’m for all the programs we got going. I don’t want to cut any. I’d like to see some improve,” he said.
He said he had a tough election but is ready to get his feet on the ground and see what lies ahead of him as a Tribal Councilor to improve programs and other issues in the CN and Dist.5
“We all want good things for the (Cherokee) Nation, or we wouldn’t be running. I’m just so excited for this chance. I can’t wait to get started. I really want to try to help. I’m 66. I feel good and this may be my last chance to do something good,” Smith said.
Smith said he is creating an office in Vian where he will be available from 9 a.m. to noon five days a week and will also be accessible by phone at 918-705-1845.
“Let’s pull together and help me make this a good four years. Let’s don’t fight. Let’s pull together,” Smith said.
JAY, Okla. – After winning a July 22 runoff, Mike Shambaugh is the new Tribal Councilor for Dist. 9, which covers the southern half of Delaware County and part of eastern Mayes County.
The current chief of police in Jay, whose has been involved with law enforcement for 28 years, said he’s a goal-oriented person, and it’s been a lifelong goal to serve on the Tribal Council.
Shambaugh obtained that goal after by earning 54.96 percent of the vote in the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Clifton Hughes.
“The opportunity came up, and I thought it would be a great time to run and I won,” he said.
Shambaugh said he began his career in law enforcement as a patrolman and worked his way to a district attorney investigator.
As Jay’s chief of police and holding an administrator position, Shambaugh is accustomed to dealing with people’s problems in a professional way, he said.
“You have to learn to listen as an administrator. Everybody has a story to tell when they have a problem,” Shambaugh said. “The first thing that is out of my mouth is ‘What can I do to help you today?’ I want to know how to help them or where I can send them to get help.”
He said he’s most excited to be working and meeting people of Dist. 9 while representing the CN as a whole. He also said he plans to incorporate his experience with doing paperwork to help CN citizens get services while he serving for the next four years.
“A lot of people have trouble doing paperwork with the Cherokee Nation because it is pretty extensive in some areas. Well, I would be willing to sit down with them and even write it out for them if they were having trouble filling it out,” he said.
Shambaugh added that he believes it is important for people outside of the CN to know the Cherokee people are here to help. He stated that the Nation is always pushing forward to make things better for its people.
During his time as a tribal legislator, he said wants to work to improve elder care.
“I have already had four of five phone calls from people who need help, and my job hasn’t even started yet. Whether it is handicap ramps or something else,” he said. “Health care, elder care and education are three big things with me, and the Cherokee Nation has shown that these are important issues with them also.”
Shambaugh said he’s proud of his Cherokee heritage, and to honor it while on the Tribal Council he said he plans on incorporating his board position at the United Way in hopes of delivering school supplies to schools in the CN that need assistance.
“My mother was full blood, and my family as far back as I first remember spoke mainly Cherokee when I was young. Everything that I have seen with the Cherokee Nation has made me proud because the Nation has made great strides to help their citizens,” he said.
Shambaugh and the other eight Tribal Councilors who won seats in this year’s elections were inaugurated on Aug. 14.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The former Cherokee Nation Marshal Service building located west of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex has had many uses since it was built in the 1980s, but its days are numbered.
The building will soon be taken down to provide more parking for the Tribal Complex, on which a second story was recently added to provide more office space and accommodate the tribe’s courts.
“The building will be disassembled rather than demolished,” CN Construction Project Administrator Paul Crosslin said. “We’re hoping we can save some parts for future construction projects.”
Crosslin said he is not certain when the building will be disassembled. Tests such as tests for asbestos levels first need to be completed.
“We’re hoping to start the disassembly next week (week of Aug. 14) but that decision hasn’t been made yet,” he said.
Longtime CN employees estimate the building was constructed in the mid-1980s as a green house with no insulation. In the 1990s, the building housed the Cherokee Gift shop.
“I worked there when I started in 1992,” Cherokee Gift Shop General Manager Linda Taylor said. “That was before the gift shop was moved to the front of the Cherokee Nation Annex building.
CNMS Capt. Danny Tanner said the building housed the CNMS from 2001 until this past March.
“Our new location (inside the Cherokee Nation EMS building east of the Tribal Complex) was actually built for the Marshal Service, but the CN Election Commission ended up moving in,” he said.
Tanner said he was grateful the CNMS was able to move to its new location. “This is where Cherokee Marshal Service should be located.”