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
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
Senior Reporter
08/04/2014 08:27 AM
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Senior Reporter

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.
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.
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.

News

BY STAFF REPORTS
05/25/2015 08:00 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Bryan Pollard has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2003. In March, Vision Maker Media interviewed Pollard in Norman during the Native Media Summit at the Gaylord College of Journalism. The interview covers Pollard’s early career and the founding of Street Roots in Portland, Ore., the early history of the Cherokee Phoenix, the modern Cherokee Phoenix, and the failings of mainstream media in covering Indian Country, and the pioneering use of the Cherokee language in the Cherokee Phoenix. Pollard said the paper made its debut in 1828 and the founding editor Elias Boudinot wanted to create a news source that told stories about the Cherokee people, but not necessarily for the Cherokee people. “He (Boudinot) wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world that Cherokees were civilized,” Pollard said. “That Cherokees were able to govern themselves, that we were creative, that we were deliberative, that we were humorous, that we had many, many great qualities because at the time – you have to keep in mind – this was just prior to the era of Indian removal. So a lot of tribes were under pressure to be forced out of their homelands and the Cherokees were in the same situation.” Since working for the newspaper, Pollard has helped to expand the audience of the print and digital publication by implementing new products including an electronic newsletter, a radio show and online videos as well as giving the Cherokee Phoenix a presence in social media. “As a result, the Cherokee Phoenix is recognized as one of the best newspapers in the state of Oklahoma and all of Indian Country,” VMM reports. To listen to this broadcast in its entirety visit: <a href="http://www.visionmakermedia.org/listen/bryan-pollard" target="_blank">http://www.visionmakermedia.org/listen/bryan-pollard</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/22/2015 01:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – A measure by state Rep. Chuck Hoskin that’s intended to provide a degree of protection for highway maintenance vehicles and workers encountered little resistance in the legislature and was signed recently by the governor. House Bill 1113 by Hoskin, D-Vinita, establishes a safety zone around state highway and turnpike maintenance vehicles and employees. Transportation Department records indicate that 57 of their highway maintenance employees have been killed in work zones, while numerous others have been involved in accidents and close calls due to unsafe speed, proximity or inattention. Also, the Turnpike Authority recorded 50 injuries among its toll and maintenance personnel over the past three years, agency spokesman Jack Damrill reported. HB 1113 “may actually enable some hardworking Oklahoma man or woman to return home to his or her family after a tough day on the job,” Hoskin said. The bill sailed through the House unopposed, 96-0, and passed the Senate, 41-3. The bill was co-authored by Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Chouteau, and was sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada. With the signature of Governor Fallin, HB 1113 goes into effect Nov. 1. The new law will require any driver approaching a parked maintenance vehicle assigned to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation or the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to move over into another lane, if possible. “If the driver is not able to change lanes, or if to do so would be unsafe,” the motorist should proceed with “due caution” and slow to “a safe speed for the existing road, weather, and traffic conditions.” Such precautions already are mandated by state law when approaching any stationary emergency vehicle such as an ambulance or wrecker that is “displaying a flashing combination” of red and/or blue lights. Similar precautions are required when approaching a location where an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper or other law enforcement officer is writing a traffic ticket or working an accident. “For far too long we’ve inadvertently overlooked the real safety concerns of these public servants who put their lives on the line to keep our roadways safe,” Sherrer said. “This measure sends a message that we value their service and want them to be safe while performing their jobs.” A violation of the law will be a misdemeanor offense. For an initial violation, the penalty will be a fine of $5 to $500 or by a 10-day jail sentence. For a second conviction within a year, the penalty will be a 20-day jail term. For a third or subsequent violation within a year, punishment will be a jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $500. Hoskin said HB 1113 was prompted by a discussion he had with some highway maintenance workers from his legislative district.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 02:00 PM
The Cherokee Phoenix Editorial Board will be meeting via conference call at 9 a.m. CDT, June 2, 2015. To attend, please use the conference call information listed below. The meeting agenda is <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2015/5/9284_150602_EBAgenda.pdf" target="_blank">here</a>. Dial-in: 866-210-1669 Entry code: 4331082
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/21/2015 11:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Tulsa Veterans Center is partnering with the Cherokee Nation to create three new combat support groups at the Cherokee Nation Veterans Service Center. To enroll, veterans need to bring a copy of their DD214 or discharge papers that show their combat service. According to a release, the VSC staff understands the issues combat veterans go through and wish to give a safe and private place for these veterans to be around other veterans who can relate to their experiences. The Combat Support Group meets from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. the second and fourth Mondays each month. The Vietnam Combat Support Group meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the first and third Wednesdays each month. The Women’s Combat Support Group meets from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. the second and fourth Wednesdays each month. This group is open to any female who has served in a combat zone. Female combat veterans are encouraged to join other female combat veterans to talk about their experiences and to find others who can relate to your experiences. For more information, call Matthew Tiger at 918-453-5693.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/20/2015 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A wreath ceremony to honor Cherokee veterans will be held at 2 p.m. on May 22 in recognition of Memorial Day at the Cherokee Nation’s Veterans Center and Warrior Memorial located on the Tribal Complex. Those expected to attend include Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, veterans and their families. According to a CN press release, the program includes the raising of the flags and a solo performance by a Cherokee National Youth Choir member. “Cherokees have always honored and revered our warriors,” Crittenden, a U.S. Navy veteran, said. “We invite the public to join us and pay tribute to all the men and women who bravely fought and died for our freedoms.” The release states that there will be a reception and Code Talkers exhibit following the program. The exhibit includes 12 panels of World War I and II memorabilia to recognize soldiers from the Cherokee Nation and other tribes who used their Native languages to relay important military messages in unbreakable codes, the release states. It also features the 2013 Congressional Gold Medal awarded to the tribe in recognition of the dedication and valor of Native American code talkers during WWII, the release states. For more information, call 918-772-4166.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/19/2015 04:00 PM
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation recently renovated a park in Locust Grove for children of all ages to enjoy. The $30,000 renovation project helped provide new picnic tables, slides and a swing set for the park located on the corner of Delaware Street and Ross Avenue. “The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is constantly looking for project opportunities that not only benefit Cherokee children, but all children in our communities, and taking advantage of this opportunity at Locust Grove was a no-brainer for our group,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “This newly restored playground gives the children of the community a safe and fun place to come and just enjoy time in the sun.” The HACN used money from Housing and Urban Development funds for the renovation project. “The Cherokee Nation and the Housing Authority are doing so much to promote healthy families. This play structure will be a place for children to come and have fun while they stay healthy,” Tribal Councilor Janees Taylor said. “I appreciate Principal Chief Bill John Baker and the Housing Authority’s enthusiasm for this project for the Locust Grove community.” CN citizen and Locust Grove resident Amber Buckskin Swarer said the addition is exciting for the community, including her two boys. “We are just so excited to have somewhere we can take our kids,” said Swarer. “Before this, there was not really anything. Now we have something and can get our children outdoors and active, and we don’t have to drive to another town to take advantage of it.” Locust Grove resident Ema Parker said she is thankful the new playground equipment is age-appropriate for toddlers, such as her 13-month-old, Chett. “It’s nice to have somewhere with safe, clean equipment that I can bring my son to so that we can play outside, and I’m so glad they put in the baby swings because there wasn’t much catering to babies before,” said Parker. “I appreciate everything the Cherokee Nation and Housing Authority have done to help out and give the kids a good place to play here in Locust Grove.” For more information on the HACN, visit <a href="http://www.hacn.org" target="_blank">www.hacn.org</a>.