http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgThe Verdigris Cardinals celebrate their 75-62 victory over Heritage Hall to win the Oklahoma Class 3A boys basketball state championship. The win is the second in the school’s history. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Verdigris Cardinals celebrate their 75-62 victory over Heritage Hall to win the Oklahoma Class 3A boys basketball state championship. The win is the second in the school’s history. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Cherokee Nation jurisdiction schools compete at state

Sequoyah High School sophomore guard Jack Ragsdale goes in for a contested layup during the quarterfinal matchup against Atoka on March 10 in Yukon, Oklahoma. Atoka eliminated the Indians from the Class 3A basketball tournament. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Sequoyah High School sophomore guard Bobby Cade hits an easy layup during the quarterfinal matchup against Atoka on March 10 in Yukon, Oklahoma. Atoka won 71-67. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen and Adair Lady Warrior Olivia Ratcliff dribbles past a Washington defender during the semifinal game on March 11 at Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Sequoyah Lady Indians senior Taylor Owl is fouled by Raegan Roten of Washington as she goes for a layup during the quarterfinal game on March 10 in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Washington ended Sequoyah’s season in the first round. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Jace Shepherd of Fort Gibson drives past an Anadarko defender during the semifinal game March 11 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen Seth Martin of Fort Gibson shoots during the semifinal game against Anadarko on March 11 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.  MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Sequoyah High School sophomore guard Jack Ragsdale goes in for a contested layup during the quarterfinal matchup against Atoka on March 10 in Yukon, Oklahoma. Atoka eliminated the Indians from the Class 3A basketball tournament. MARK DREADFULWATER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
03/23/2016 04:30 PM
3A Boys

Verdigris Cardinals win state title

Multimedia Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Verdigris boys basketball team defeated Heritage hall 75-62 to win the Class 3A boys state championship at the State Fair Arena. The win is the second state championship in school history.

“This is my first one,” Verdigris head coach Randy Upshaw said. “I didn’t know what to feel but it feels pretty sweet.”

In a repeat matchup from the 2015 final, the Cardinals found themselves wanting to avenge the 11-point loss they sustained from the Chargers.

The first quarter saw back and forth action and ended with a 17-all tie. The second quarter was much the same, however the Cardinals gained a 2-point advantage going into halftime 33-31 behind Verdigris junior Brewster Peacock scoring 17 of his 24 points in the first half.

Verdigris entered the third with precision shooting from senior guard Trevor Moyer as he knocked down back-to-back 3s.

Up seven at the end of the third, the Cardinals did not let the Chargers get any closer. Peacock and his 24 points and eight rebounds led the 29-1 Cardinals. Senior Laef Payne had 17 points and Moyer finished with 13 points.

“We knew the way they play defense that we were going to have to be composed, handle the pressure and handle the ball,” Upshaw said. “Their the defending state champion. Their really athletic and we just played like we’re capable of.”

The Cardinals’ road to the final saw them battle Lincoln Christian in the quarterfinal game. Verdigris led the entire game beating the Bulldogs 57-45 behind Payne’s 25 points and 11 rebounds.

In the semifinal game against Atoka, No. 2 Verdigris started the game with a 9-2 run. However, the No. 3 Wampus Cats battled back taking the lead going into the half.

Verdigris came of the locker room swinging. Peacock and Payne’s strong 3-point shooting helped the Cardinals build a seven-point lead after the third quarter. In the fourth, Verdigris’ defense and strong outside shooting propelled them to an 80-60 victory.

“Your goal every year is to get to the state tournament,” Upshaw said. “Only one team can win it but as the season went along, I think it was a more realistic goal that we could win it. We didn’t play real well Thursday against Lincoln, but we played really good against Atoka and it carried over today.”

Indians lose in first round

Multimedia Editor

YUKON, Okla. – The Sequoyah High School boys team couldn’t overcome two long scoring droughts during its 71-67 loss to No. 3 Atoka in the first round of the Class 3A basketball tournament on March 10 at Yukon High School.

Atoka, coming from the same area, had double-digit victories over every opponent during its playoff run and went into the tournament as the No. 3 seed.

The Wampus Cats started by shooting well from the outside and built a 10-0 lead. Senior guard Kyle Sanders ended the Indians’ scoring drought at the 3:49 mark in the first quarter with two points.

“I wish we wouldn’t have started the game down 10,” SHS head coach Jay Herrin said.

Atoka led going into halftime, 36-27. The Indians’ offense came out of halftime with a 20-10 run that gained Sequoyah its first lead at the end of the third quarter, 47-46.

“Our kids don’t know how to quit,” Herrin said. “They’re going to fight until the very last second. That’s all they know, and that’s how we bring them up through our program. That’s what we believe in doing. Sometimes we come out on the topside and sometimes we come out a little short, but the effort is always going to be there. So I was proud of the kids the way they come out in third quarter and it was huge.”

However, the Wampus Cats used their size with another scoring run of 19-5 to start the fourth.

“They’re so big and they jump well and are athletic,” Herrin said. “They just got us outsized so much and it’s tough. You’re going to lose some of those battles and the best you can do is try hard every time to get a body on them, but still the ball is going to find those big guys.”

The Indians battled, but Atoka’s lead was too much. In the end, SHS stayed closer to Atoka than any team had all postseason.

SHS junior guard Tyeus Daugherty had a game-high 27 points. SHS senior post Hunter Soap finished with 10 points, and sophomore post Adam Saine scored nine.

The 71-67 loss ended the Indians’ season with a record of 22-8.

3A Girls

Adair girls lose to Washington

Multimedia Editor

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – Seeing the Adair High School girls basketball team appear in the Class 3A state basketball tournament is nothing new. The Lady Warriors have qualified for the tourney for the past 11 years. However, for the seventh straight year, the Lady Warriors were eliminated from the tournament without winning the gold ball.

No. 3 Adair lost to No. 1 Washington 56-53 in the semifinal game on March 11 at Carl Albert High School.

With both teams coming off close first-round wins and low-scoring first halves, this game was no different. Both teams were aggressive defensively in the first half and neither team shot well. The half ended with Adair behind 15-13.

Washington’s shooting improved in the third quarter by starting with a 16-4 run.

“We talked before the game that we would always deal with adversity throughout a game,” Adair head coach Scott Winfield said. “That was the big-time adversity.”

Washington outscored Adair 21-9 in the third for a comfortable 14-point lead. However, Adair battled back with outstanding play from junior forward and Cherokee Nation citizen Olivia Ratcliff, senior guard Abbey Stephens and junior forward Keni Lippe.

“I thought we battled back and did a good job,” Winfield said. “I actually thought we played better when we got behind because I thought we played a little tight early. When we got behind, we played a little looser and I thought we ended up playing pretty well later in the game.”

Adair cut the Washington lead to one with less than a minute to play. However, Washington made and Adair missed key free throws down the stretch.

Adair loses two players to graduation, including Stephens, and Winfield said his team is already looking forward to next season.

“Our goal is to back where we left off. Maybe a game farther,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking forward to.”

Adair advanced to the semifinals by defeating the Perkins-Tryon Lady Demons, 38-36. Lippe scored 31 in the contest.

SHS girls end season in first round

Multimedia Editor

MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – The top-ranked Washington Lady Warriors ended the fifth-ranked Sequoyah High School Lady Indians’ chance at a championship repeat by beating them 42-38 on March 10 at Carl Albert High School.

During the low-scoring affair, SHS took an early lead 9-7 at the end of the first quarter. With neither team shooting well, Washington outscored the Lady Indians 7-4 in the second quarter to go into halftime up 14-13.

“We have not shot the ball very well for a while,” SHS head coach Larry Callison said. “We just had to battle to get points.”

The third quarter was nearly a mirror image of the first half with neither team securing a large lead. Each team scored 13 points in the frame and the Lady Warriors clung to a one-point lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We’ve won games on defense and it hasn’t been our offense all year, it’s been defense,” Callison said. “We held them low enough, but we just didn’t put the ball in the hole enough.”

Washington outscored the Lady Indians in the fourth 15-12 securing the four-point win.

“I’ve said this all year long, we’re not the most talented team,” Callison said. “These girls have just played their rears off and we’ve had to put pieces together in the puzzle and do some things they are not used to doing. Honestly, I didn’t know we’d get this far but I knew we would play hard.”

The Lady Indians will return 12 players for the 2016-17 campaign, and Callison said they’ll be a tough team to beat. “I’m proud of them. I think we’ll be really good next year, so I’m looking forward to that. No one wants to lose, but I’m proud of them.”

Sequoyah ended the season with 22 wins and 6 losses.

Kansas girls end season with first-round loss


MIDWEST CITY, Okla. – The Kansas High School girls basketball team was eliminated from the Class 3A basketball tournament on March 10 at Carl Albert High School.

The 43-18 loss to Alva ended the Comets’ season at 21-7.

No. 8 Kansas led No. 2 Alva early in the first quarter. However, Alva scored the 15 straight points to go ahead 17-3. A late second quarter bucket ended the Lady Comets’ 12-minute scoreless streak in the first half. The Ladybugs’ defense limited Kansas to only five points at halftime.

Alva’s defensive strategy continued as they pressed in the third quarter holding Kansas to only five points in the frame.

Kansas matched Alva’s scoring in the fourth quarter 8-8 but the game had already been decided as the Ladybugs built a 20-point lead going into the quarter.

4A Boys

Fort Gibson boys fall in state title game

Multimedia Editor

OKLAHOMA CITY – A Cinderella story. That term has been used to describe many sports teams’ improbable postseason runs. However, the Fort Gibson Tigers run to the Class 4A state championship game was just that – a Cinderella story.

The Tigers lost four starters from the 2014-15 campaign and were not expected to reach the state quarterfinals.

“I’m very proud of our guys,” Fort Gibson head coach Gary Hendrix said. “We lost four starters from a state tournament team last year. We had a lot of inexperience and our kids just kept getting better and kept working. They believed in themselves and their great kids. It’s a great run for us to be here.”

The eighth-seeded Tigers drew No. 1 Harrah in the first round, and with the Panthers having key starters with NCAA Division I collegiate commitments, victory seemed improbable.

The Tigers led throughout the game, but Harrah battled back after Fort Gibson’s scoring runs. Harrah clung to a 44-43 lead with 15 seconds to go after a made 3-point bucket. Then Tigers junior guard Rico Ybarra hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to give Fort Gibson the 46-44 victory.

“It was a great game,” Hendrix said. “We were fortunate to win and hit a big shot.”

Cherokee Nation citizens Seth Martin and Jace Shepherd finished the game with nine points and eight points, respectively.

In the semifinal game, Fort Gibson defeated the Anadarko Warriors 53-48.

The Tigers jumped out early with strong shooting from behind the 3-point arc. They hit five 3s in the first quarter to end the frame up 18-14. Unable to keep up the scoring pace, Fort Gibson gave up the lead through the second quarter to go into halftime down 27-23.

The Tigers trailed in the third quarter as the Warriors slowed down the game. They stalled by holding the ball at half court for nearly 2 minutes in the frame. A Fort Gibson bucket at the closing seconds of the third ended the stall.

The Tigers regained the lead in the fourth. A Warriors’ basket with 3.8 seconds left put the Anadarko within three, 51-48. However, controversy over the time clock marred the game’s closing seconds. Anadarko’s press forced the Tigers to call timeout. After the timeout, Fort Gibson’s Shepherd full-court pass led junior Kyle Dortch too far and as he jumped out of bounds, he threw the ball back in bounds. The ball rolled towards the sidelines and Martin picked it up and was immediately fouled sending him to the line to shoot two free throws. The clock was supposed to start immediately when any inbounds player touches the ball. However, it did not start until Martin picked it up. Only .7 seconds ran off the clock.

Martin sank both shots and the Tigers secured the 53-48 victory, sending them to the championship game.

“Our kids amaze me,” Hendrix said. “We’re playing really well and I’m just really proud of them.”

CN citizen Cole Hamilton led all players with 11 rebounds.

With any Cinderella story, it must come to an end. Fort Gibson lost to Douglass in the championship game, 57-45.

The Trojans used strong outside shooting for an early lead. The Trojans’ defense held the Tigers to 10 first quarter points ending the frame up 18-10. The Tigers found their shooting touch in the second quarter to cut the lead to 23-22 to close the half.

Douglass took control of the game in the third outscoring the Tigers 22-10 to increase its lead to 45-32 after three quarters. The Tigers outscored Douglass 13-12 in the fourth, but the game was already decided.

Hamilton had six points and seven rebounds. Shepherd also had six points.

“It was fun, real fun,” Hamilton said of his career. “It sucks that it is over, but it all has to end.”

The Tigers lose only Hamilton, and Shepherd said they are already looking forward to next season.

“No one thought we were going to be here,” Shepherd said. “We weren’t picked to win regionals or area or even a game at the state tournament. We proved a lot of people wrong and I’m proud of my team for that. This just shows all of our hard work is paying off. We just have to go back to Fort Gibson and work even harder and push ourselves to exhaustion each and every night to get back here.”

4A Girls

Hilldale ends season in semifinal game


OKLAHOMA CITY – The Hilldale High School girls basketball team ended its season with a 49-34 loss to Harrah High School in the semifinal game of the Class 4A state basketball tournament on March 11 at the State Fair Arena.

With Hilldale only down two points, 29-17, going into the fourth quarter, Harrah outscored the Lady Hornets 20-7 in the final stanza. The 15-point victory propelled the Lady Panthers into the championship game and ended Hilldale’s season at 25-5.

In the quarterfinal game, Hilldale jumped out to an eight-point advantage over Plainview after the first quarter and never gave up the lead. The Lady Hornets outscored Plainview in three of four quarters to secure their spot in the semifinal game.

Hilldale’s Katie Kirkhart had 22 points to lead her team.

The Lady Hornets made their second consecutive state tournament appearance under head coach Scott Hensley.

Fort Gibson girls upset by Broken Bow


BETHANY, Okla. – The Fort Gibson Lady Tigers were handed their first loss of the season during the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state basketball tournament on March 10 at Southern Nazarene University.

No. 7 Broken Bow overcame a 10-point deficit in the second half and won, 47-43. It was the Lady Savages first state tournament win since 1936.

Fort Gibson cruised through the playoffs with double-digit victories in its first five playoff games. It seemed the No. 1 Lady Tigers were on their way to another victory with their offense firing on all cylinders in the first half. However, a 10-point lead vanished as Broken Bow’s trapping defense turned up the pressure in the second half. During a stretch, the Lady Tigers went 0-for-6 from the field and managed to score two free throws.

In 2016, the Lady Tigers made their 12th straight state tournament appearance going in undefeated. Their last defeat was a semifinal game loss to Locust Grove in last year’s state tournament. Fort Gibson is expected to return every current roster player for 2016-17.


Claremore falls to Woodward in OT


TULSA, Okla. ¬ – The Claremore High School girls basketball team lost to Woodward High School in the Class 5A state basketball championship game 50-41 on March 12 at the Mabee Center.

In a rematch of the 2001 championship game, Woodward built a 12-4 lead in the first quarter behind the 3-point shooting from Brennley Cloyd and Addison Rowley. Claremore battled back in the second quarter to lead 19-18 at halftime.

In the third, Claremore increased its lead to four points. The frame ended with the score 34-30.

Claremore did not score in the fourth quarter, however, and the Boomers only scored four points to send the game into overtime.

Claremore’s scoring drought continued in overtime as it did not score until the 1:57 mark. That allowed the Boomers to build an unsurpassable lead.

Claremore’s season closed with 23 wins and 6 losses.

To reach the championship game, the Zebras defeated Carl Albert 54-47 on March 10 at Memorial High School.

Claremore’s strong shooting from everywhere on the floor kept the Zebras ahead throughout the game. However, Carl Albert kept it close until Claremore’s Lauren Chancellor hit 5 of 6 from the free throw line.

The win gave Claremore its 12th straight and 18 of its last 19.

In the semifinal game, No. 5 Claremore upset No. 3 Shawnee 54-44 on March 11 at the Mabee Center. Again Claremore’s hot shooting was the catalyst to victory.

Shawnee battled back from 11 points down in the fourth quarter. However, after tying the game at 42 midway through the fourth Claremore finished the game with a 12-2 run.

The Zebra’s 6-foot-2 post player Lauryn Blevins had 10 points.

Pryor boys, girls end season in first round


TULSA, Okla. – For the first time in the school’s history, the Pryor Tigers and Tigerettes played games in the state tournament on the same day. However, both team’s quests for the gold ball were short-lived.

The Tigers made their second consecutive trip to the Class 5A state tournament. This year’s trip ended as it did a year ago, with a loss to Lawton Eisenhower in the quarterfinals, 73-54.

No. 10 Pryor led twice during the game, however, those leads were in the first two minutes of the first quarter. The Eagles led the rest of the way behind Mookie Douglas’ game-high 21 points.

Pryor ends its season at 19-9.

On the girl’s side, the No. 10 Pryor Tigerettes lost to No. 3 Shawnee 49-38.

In a low-scoring affair, the scored was tied at 12 going into the half.

Senior guard Kelsie Kerns was the only scoring spark for the Tigerettes in the first half and into the third scoring 13 of 15 team points.

The third quarter saw back-to-back ties, but Pryor never gained the lead. Shawnee went was up as many as 14 points in the fourth quarter. Pryor cut the lead to seven, but that would be as close as the Tigerettes got. They ended the season with a 15-13 record.


Muskogee girls lose in 6A semifinal


TULSA, Okla. – Midwest City ended the Muskogee girls basketball team’s bid for the Class 6A state championship by beating them 74-67 on March 11 at the Mabee Center.

It wasn’t an easy victory as it took a double overtime effort for the Bombers to secure their spot in the championship game. The Bombers led for most of the game but Muskogee fought back from nine-points behind in the fourth quarter. Muskogee’s Aaliyah Wilson tied the game at 60 with a 28-foot 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game to its first overtime. The Lady Roughers built a five-point lead in the first extra frame but let it slip away as the Bombers tied the game for a second overtime. Midwest City forged ahead in the second overtime to secure the win.

Muskogee advanced to the semifinal game by defeating Edmond Santa Fe 58-46 on March 10.
About the Authors
Mark Dreadfulwater has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2006. He began as a graphic designer, a position that exposed him to all factions of the organization. Upon completing his journalism degree from Northeastern State University in 2009, he was promoted to media specialist, switching his main focus to videography and visual journalism while maintaining his design duties. In 2012, he was promoted to multimedia editor.

He is a member of Native American Journalists Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Society for News Design. • 918-453-5087
Mark Dreadfulwater has worked for the Cherokee Phoenix since 2006. He began as a graphic designer, a position that exposed him to all factions of the organization. Upon completing his journalism degree from Northeastern State University in 2009, he was promoted to media specialist, switching his main focus to videography and visual journalism while maintaining his design duties. In 2012, he was promoted to multimedia editor. He is a member of Native American Journalists Association, Society of Professional Journalists and Society for News Design. • 918-453-xxxx


12/10/2017 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Carrigan Bradley, of Fort Gibson, recently won the 2018 Miss Northeastern scholarship pageant. Bradley, who also won the pageant’s talent competition, is a biochemistry major expected to graduate in 2020. She said she that after graduation she plans to continue her education with a doctorate in pharmacy. Bradley said she’s looking forward to representing Northeastern State University and her platform “Words have P.O.W.E.R.” The idea for the platform began when Bradley auditioned for the “X-Factor” at age 15, and the harsh critique from judge Simon Cowell that prompted online backlash. “My hope in creating this platform is to advocate for people in being kind to themselves with positive self talk, as well as being kind to others in their day-to-day conversations,” Bradley said. “As a titleholder, we get to be a voice and a role model for children of all ages to look to. I hope by speaking out about my experience and urging people to be kind and intentional with their words, I'll be able to change the way we speak to one another.” CN citizen Kayse Stidham, of Grove, was named second runner-up and crowd pleaser. Stidham is an early childhood education major expected to graduate in 2018. After graduation, she said she plans to teach pre-kindergarten and continue volunteering in her Girl Scout Service unit. During the pageant, more than $5,500 in scholarships and tuition waivers was awarded to contestants. For more information about Miss Northeastern, email Kirsti Cook at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
11/24/2017 10:00 AM
PARK HILL, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ray Kirk forged his first knife as a Christmas gift in 1989. Twenty-eight years later, he creates knives from steel for his livelihood. “I’ve been retired since (20)04 and my knife-making is just what I do. I enjoy it,” he said. The master knife maker works in a small gravel floor shop behind his house. Sounds of humming from the gas forge, knocking from the hydraulic hammer and the ‘ping’ from a hammer striking the hot steel echo throughout nearby woods. It’s there, he spends most of his day thinking of knife designs and bringing those ideas to life. “I enjoy making knives. Right now I’m working on cross-between a little panabas and a karambit that is easy to make. It’s simple in design and it’s affordable. It’s always fun to figure out a new knife design and then figure out how to make it…easily, and it’s what I like to do.” Kirk said he continually makes certain knives to keep in stock. He said he has the largest inventory this year that he’s had in a long time. He takes custom orders, he said, but it should be a knife he’s used to making. He added that custom orders need to be planned and take more time to make. “I don’t do wild, scary, scientific…blades,” he said. “I enjoy making using knives, mostly.” Kirk said if someone custom orders a knife during the holiday season, he or she wouldn’t receive it until spring. “If I have something that they (customer) like, I might already have it in inventory. As far as a special knife of this design, this size, I couldn’t get to it.” He said a special-ordered knife creates a “connection” between the maker and the buyer and adds more time to the creation process. “I do heirloom knives where I take some steel and wood…from a customer…and if it’s weldable, I’ll forge-weld it together, and I’ll add some of my steel and make a usable knife out of it. It takes longer sometimes. I made some out of a crescent wrench. How good of an edge it holds, I do not know, but the guy said it’s working good.” Kirk said he sells knives ranging from $50 to $1,500 and offers discounts to veterans, active-duty military, police, fire fighters and Boy Scout leaders. Along with forging knives to sell, Kirk also desires to teach his craft. He said he’s going to Auburn, Maine, in mid-November to teach a two-week introduction bladesmith class for the American Bladesmith Society. “It makes you feel good whenever someone shares your enjoyment…and you’re able to share it with them.” Kirk said he plans to start a class at his shop next year and wants to hold sessions over multiple days instead of a few hours in the evenings. He plans to renovate a house on his property so attendees can have a place to stay. “What my wife and I plan on doing is we’ll have a place for them to stay, and it will run about $400 for three days,” he said. “We’ll make my kind of knife, and they should be able to make two of them in three days.” Kirk said, for the class, he’s going to accept two to four people per class. “If they pay $400, it’s like them buying two knives that they made plus they get to know how to do it.” To purchase a knife, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or Kirk’s Facebook page at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. For more information on classes, call 918-207-8076 or email <a href="mailto:"></a>.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them. “Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said. Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill. Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection. “One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.” In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment. “I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.” The location itself was also a factor. “Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.” In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways. “I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.” The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team. “To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.” Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble. “To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.” For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
11/16/2017 08:15 AM
JAY, Okla. – As a little girl, Cherokee Nation citizen Brooke Hester dreamed of being a role model and representing her community as she watched pageant winners do so. Winning Ms. Oklahoma 2018 on Oct. 7 in Chickasha now allows her that honor. From the Delaware County town of Jay, Hester began her pageant journey in elementary school by winning Little Miss Huckleberry in the town’s annual Huckleberry Festival. Since then, Hester has won Huckleberry Princess and Huckleberry Queen. Having “presence and poise” is what drew Hester to start competing in pageants. “I always wanted to be able to represent my community,” she said. During the Ms. Oklahoma competition, Hester was required to do a private interview with the judges, an opening dance number, an onstage personal introduction, as well as evening gown and talent portions. To prepare, Hester said she spent hours writing and practicing her introduction speech, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, practicing modeling formations and mock interviews and walking around her house in her “pageant heels.” “My experience competing in the Ms. Oklahoma pageant was truly amazing. I met some of the most incredibly talented and educated women while competing and brought home so many new friendships that I didn’t have before,” she said. Along with her title, Hester also won best interview and best talent, singing Loretta Lynn’s “You Ain’t Woman Enough.” Hester’s platform is “Life is What You Give: Volunteerism,” and she’s an avid volunteer in her community. As part of her volunteer efforts, she is as a member of the Jay Chamber of Commerce, director of the Miss Huckleberry and Miss Huckleberry Outstanding Teen pageants, director of the Miss Bulldog Pride pageant, director of the Mister and Miss Merry Christmas pageant, an active member of the Huckleberry Festival committee and Jay Chamber of Commerce Christmas Lighting Committee, Jay Summer Sports tee ball coordinator and coach, Little League assistant coach and Jay Youth Sports basketball coach. “The more I give, the happier I feel. I love to help others, do good for them, and for my community. I promote volunteerism to others just leading by example. Volunteering can be so contagious,” she said. As Ms. Oklahoma, Hester will spend the next year traveling to communities and events in Oklahoma. “My next year will be a journey that I hope goes by very slowly because I won’t want it to end. Throughout my year I will continue volunteering in my community as well as others,” she said. Hester said she would speak at schools, attend meet-and-greets and participate in parades across the state. She will also make appearances with the current Miss Huckleberry and Miss Huckleberry Outstanding Teen. In 2018, Hester will also compete for the title of International Ms. in Orlando, Florida. In the future, Hester plans to compete in the Mrs. Oklahoma pageant, which is for married women. She works at the CN Sam Hider Health Center in Jay, is married to her husband Caleb, and has three children.
11/10/2017 12:00 PM
BOISE CITY, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Weston Henson served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2007-12. During his time in the USMC, Henson was part of two international tours and earned the rank of corporal in the 3rd Battalion Second Marines. Born Dec. 21, 1987, Henson grew up in Westville, attended Westville Public Schools and graduated in 2006. He initially planned to play college football at Southeastern State University in Durant and obtain a degree in wildlife biology, but his playing career did not pan out. So he decided his next career choice would be to enlist in the USMC. After enlisting in March 2007, Henson was sent to San Diego for basic training. After six months, he was sent to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, which also served as his base camp. While at Camp Lejeune, Henson became a small-arms and weapons repair specialist. “While in the (United) States I was responsible for care of maintenance of all the weapons for our battalion. While deployed, I was a gunner for my platoon and also in charge of the weapons for my company,” he said. In 2010, Henson was called for duty overseas. His first assignment was a humanitarian tour in Haiti following its 2010 earthquake. Then he was sent to South Africa. His tour also included a training mission in Europe, and when it ended he began a second tour and was sent to Afghanistan to help train Afghan allies and support other Marines during combat. He said serving in Afghanistan was not easy. Henson said supplies were scarce and a “good night’s sleep” was something he and other Marines “could only hope for.” Henson lost a good friend in battle and endured battle wounds himself, but found a way to keep going. During a skirmish with the Afghan enemy, Henson caught shrapnel in his right knee. As the only marine with an injury during that time, his fellow marines dubbed the firefight “The Battle of Wounded Knee.” Henson also suffered injuries from other combat missions. In one incident, a 60-pound improvised explosive device or IED blew up his transport vehicle. In another incident, his armored vehicle hit a 120-pound IED, which was the biggest-known IED at the time, and he suffered from head trauma. That injury earned him a Purple Heart. In addition to the Purple Heart, Henson received the Combat Action, Afghan Campaign, Sea Service, Good Conduct, National Defense, Global War on Terrorism, North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Humanitarian medals. In 2012, as overseas deployments began to slow, Henson decided not to re-enlist but to pursue a college degree. He attended Missouri State University in Springfield and received a degree in natural resources. He now works as a soil conservationist for the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. “The best part of being a marine is the pride we take in ourselves from our fighting abilities to how we carry ourselves, and also the brotherhood you form with the men you fight beside,” he said. “To me, being a Cherokee veteran is showing the pride, ethic and spirit of our people to not only the people we know but also to all of the people in the world where we may travel or fight and to honor those who came before. To me, serving isn’t about self but selflessness, to put others before yourself and hope that if you do so they may never have to go through what you have.”
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
11/10/2017 08:00 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Dwight Birdwell, a native of Bell in Adair County, earned two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts while serving in Vietnam in 1968. He was assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Calvary, 25th Infantry Division. The then-20-year-old Spc. 5 Birdwell was the gunner on a 52-ton M48 Patton tank. He was efficient with the weapons provided to him and used them to save his fellow soldiers in two battles. For his bravery and service, the former Cherokee Nation Judicial Appeals Tribunal chief justice was inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21. About 50 of his friends and family members attended the ceremony to honor him and 10 other honorees. “I want to thank the Cherokee Nation and other folks who came from back home, many of whom I’ve known since I was 3 years old, all the way from bean fields, strawberry fields, hay-hauling fields and what have you,” he said after receiving his OMHOF medal. “I must say without hesitation that I want to also remember and honor the 70-something people I served with while I was in Vietnam from (19)67 to (19)68 who were killed in action and did not make it back. Their faces and their memories will forever be in my heart. Thank all of you, again, for this humbling honor. It’s something I will treasure the rest of my days.” Troop C was responsible for securing the main supply route between Saigon and Tay Ninh in South Vietnam. On Jan. 31, 1968, Birdwell and his unit were outside Saigon at Cu Chi, resting after weeks of field operations. At dawn and without warning, an estimated 70,000 Viet Cong guerillas and North Vietnamese soldiers attacked major cities in South Vietnam. Their main target was Saigon. Another target was the American command center at Tan Son Nhut, southeast of Saigon. An airbase was also at Tan Son Nhut, which is where Birdwell’s unit, numbering less than 100 men, fought a Vietnamese force numbering approximately 1,000 men. Troop C moved from Cu Chi to take up positions along Highway 1 on the west side of the airbase, heading off any withdrawing enemy soldiers attacking the base. The column of three M48 tanks and 10 armored personnel carriers or APCs quickly made it to the blacktopped Highway 1. Unknowingly, the column pulled onto the highway just as the 1,000-man force prepared to attack the air base. As the column passed huts that paralleled the highway to the west, rocket-propelled grenades were fired from the huts knocking out the lead tank and three APCs. The M48 Patton tank was equipped with a .50-caliber machine gun and a 90mm main gun. Birdwell, the gunner in the second tank, and his commander didn’t immediately realize what had taken place. When the tank commander finally returned fire and shot into the huts, a return barrage of fire seriously wounded him. Upon realizing his commander was wounded, Birdwell dragged him to safety in the highway’s ditch. Birdwell then climbed on the tank and returned fire with the main gun and the .50-caliber machine gun. RPG rounds were shot at the tank but missed, Birdwell later recalled. His firing kept the enemy at bay and the tank sheltered the more vulnerable APCs behind it. During the battle’s mayhem, Birdwell realized that no one was firing from the vehicles ahead of him. He also realized that some were on fire and enemy soldiers had clambered atop one of the disabled APCs. “They were monkeying with the M60s (machine guns),” he recalled. “I couldn’t believe it. I fired on them with the .50-cal., and hit about half of them. The burst really spread them out.” Birdwell’s tank became the center of Troop C’s survival. Troops who had crawled into the ditch found shelter behind it, and because of his constant machine-gun fire and cannon fire, the enemy couldn’t overrun the column. “Birdwell was part of that 10 percent that are good soldiers and understands fighting,” Albert Porter, who fought alongside Birdwell that day, said. Birdwell fired the main gun but eventually used all 64 rounds and all the .50-caliber ammunition. Troop C eventually received artillery and air support and evacuated the wounded. For his bravery under fire, Birdwell was awarded the Silver Star. He received a second one later in 1968 for rescuing fellow soldiers. That incident occurred on July 4 after he had moved up in rank. Now a tank commander, he was at the end of a column of APCs and two other tanks moving through the An Duc village, which was occupied by North Vietnamese Army sympathizers. Upon entering the village, the column was attacked and had to retreat. After the unit regrouped, it was discovered an APC had been disabled by enemy fire and left in the village along with its crew. Birdwell and his tank crew returned to the village three times to rescue stranded soldiers. “When no one else wanted the job, I volunteered my tank and crew to go back into the village to rescue the abandoned APC crew members,” Birdwell said. Birdwell, with the help of author Keith William Nolan, told about his service in Vietnam in the 1997 book, “A Hundred Miles of Bad Road: An Armored Cavalryman in Vietnam, 1967-68.” The book is no longer printed but is available on, Birdwell said. And he still gets requests to sign his book. “Just about every week, someone contacts me and asks, ‘can I send you the book to sign?’ It’s humbling to do that. I tell them, ‘if I write in your book it’s going to deface it, and it won’t be worth anything.’ That’s, of course, a joke.” He said he has mixed emotions about writing the book. Looking at it from the standpoint of the men he served with who were killed in combat, he said their families have gained an understanding about the conditions their loved ones served in, sometimes more details about how they died and the “nature of the relationships they had with other members of the unit.” “It served as a unifying force. For example, there’s a lady in California whose brother was killed in our unit, and now she’s good friends with a lady in New York whose husband also served. It’s been like a spider web for making good connections,” Birdwell said. “On the other hand, I sometimes feel bad about some of the stories about how people died. You kind of hate for a brother or sister to learn what really happened or maybe how horrible the event was, so I have some doubts on that, but otherwise, overall, I’m glad I wrote the book.” Birdwell was honorably discharged in December 1968 after serving nearly three years in the Army. He was also awarded a Bronze Star, for meritorious service. He said, since his service, he has joined a Veterans of Foreign Wars group in Wauseon, Ohio, because a friend of his from there “insisted” he join. He’s also a member of the 25th Infantry Division Association and the 3-4 Cavalry Association. He served on the tribe’s JAT, now the Supreme Court, from 1987-99 and served as chief justice in 1995-96 and 1998-99. At 69, he still practices law in Oklahoma City and plans to continue. “You know a lot of lawyers work until they die. I suspect that’s what I’m going to do. If I didn’t do that, I’d like to be at Bell. I’d like to be living at Bell,” he said. “There’s nothing like waking up in the morning at Bell and walking out barefooted and getting dew between your toes, smelling that hickory smoke and maybe some fresh coffee. We used to hear the canning factory whistle. I’m sure that’s long gone. During the night we could hear the KCS (Kansas City Southern train) all the way to Bell. What a sweet sound, and hearing owls during the night and maybe a coyote or wolf. There’s nothing like living at Bell, in my opinion.”