This USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database shows that the Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County exceeded the federal requirement of lead levels of 15 parts per billion in drinking water once between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, at 21.4 ppb. COURTESY
Excessive lead found in 30 Oklahoma water systems since 2013
This USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database shows that the LRED (Woodhaven) water source in Cherokee County exceeded the federal requirement of lead levels of 15 parts per billion in drinking water once between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, at 17.5 ppb. COURTESY
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A sample of an Oklahoma prison’s drinking water had more than 12 times the allowable amount of lead when it was tested last year – an amount so high that officials question whether it could really be that bad or if the test could have been misleading.
The sample taken from the Charles E. Johnson Correctional Center in Alva was unusually high, but it came from one of 30 Oklahoma water systems that have been found to have lead levels that exceeded the federally allowable limit between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2015, according to an Associated Press analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data. They were among nearly 1,400 water systems throughout the country that registered excessive lead levels in that time, the analysis showed.
The ongoing crisis in Flint, Michigan, where residents have been without tap water for months, has highlighted how lead-tainted water can poison children. Even low levels have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Children age 6 and under and pregnant women – whose bones pass along stored lead to infants – are considered the most vulnerable to lead, which can also damage brains, kidneys and production of red blood cells that supply oxygen.
No amount of lead exposure is considered safe, but the federal government requires all water systems to maintain lead levels below 15 parts per billion in drinking water.
According to a USA Today analysis of the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System database, three water supplies within the Cherokee Nation had levels higher than 15 ppb: Oklahoma Ordnance Works Authority in Mayes County at 21.4 ppb, LRED (Woodhaven) in Cherokee County at 17.5 ppb and Skelly School in Adair County at 15.5 ppb to 27 ppb. Cannon MHP’s water supply in McIntosh County had a level of 18.6 ppb, according to the analysis. Part of the county falls within the tribe’s jurisdiction.
The Alva prison’s sample had 182 ppb. Oklahoma Department of Corrections spokeswoman Terri Watkins said authorities have reason to doubt whether the reported lead levels were accurate.
“That facility was built in the early ‘90s – there are no lead pipes,” Watkins said. “The water is all purchased from the city of Alva, and the city of Alva water tested fine. There was only one location inside the prison that tested high.”
Watkins said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality has scheduled another test of the prison’s water system, but she didn’t know the exact date.
When more than 10 percent of tap water samples in a local system contain lead levels of at least 15 ppb, the state steps in to review the water system’s treatment for corrosive properties and update the sampling schedule as necessary.
In a letter sent on March 31, employees of the Oklahoma Veterans Center in Talihina were informed that drinking water from the facility tested in 2014 may have been contaminated with high levels of lead. Authorities tested a sample at 97 ppb, which is more than six times the permissible level.
“Absolutely, we’re concerned, and that’s why we sent out the letter to warn everybody,” said Shane Faulkner, spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs. “There’s never been any type of people reporting being sick or not feeling well from the water. We’ve had nothing like that. So while we are showing precaution, it hasn’t really turned into a problem for us.”
The health effects of lead poisoning are often only apparent months or years after exposure. Although lead exposure is most harmful for children, adults can experience serious health problems after sustained exposure to lead.
For now, veterans center employees are not being told to avoid drinking the water unless they have a severely compromised immune system, Faulkner said.
TAHLEQUAH (AP) – Bassmaster has officially announced the 2018 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops will take place in Tahlequah.
Tour Tahlequah, more formally known as the Tahlequah Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the local sponsor and will partner with Northeastern State University, the Cherokee Nation and local businesses to bring the college fishing tournament July 19-21 to Lake Tenkiller and the city.
“What an honor it is to have the city of Tahlequah chosen for the 2018 Bassmaster Collegiate Fishing Tournament,” said Aubrey Valdez, Tour Tahlequah assistant director. “We are gearing up for this event and are excited to show our Oklahoma hospitality to fishermen and spectators. We already have an enormous amount of support from Northeastern State University, Cherokee Nation, city officials and many others, and know July will be here in a flash. We hope to make this a memorable occasion for everyone involved.”
Presented by Bass Pro Shops, the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship provides the opportunity for college anglers from across the country to compete at a national level. Anglers participating in the championship tournament must first qualify by competing in qualifying tournaments during the 2017-2018 season. At the national championship, one college angler will earn a berth in the biggest tournament in bass fishing: the Bassmaster Classic.
“Competing in a national championship tournament is the ultimate goal,” said Tyler Winn, Tahlequah sophomore and NSU fishing team member. “To think this tournament will be here in Tahlequah is unreal. Anglers from all over the country will fish on the lake I’ve grown up on.”
The Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship is a weeklong event. Anglers arrive on Sunday of tournament week, practicing the mornings of Monday through Wednesday, and competing Thursday through Saturday. While the anglers are on the water, tournament sponsors and staff collaborate to present a series of events for the anglers, fans and community.
Event attendance averages 1,000 to 1,500 spectators each day with weigh-in attendance reaching more than 3,000. Weigh-ins are broadcasted live on Bassmaster.com each day. The tournament week is captured and aired at a later date on ESPNU.
Tahlequah offers visitors the opportunity to engage in outdoor recreational activities while also being able to learn about Cherokee culture and shop and dine at locally owned businesses.
Jon James, NSU alumnus, is the field promotions manager for Dynamic Sponsorships. He played a key role in making Tahlequah a location to be considered for the national tournament. During James’ time as a student, the staff at NSU instilled confidence in him and pushed him to succeed.
“NSU played a vital role in helping me grow as a person and bringing the tournament to Tahlequah is a way to say thank you,” said James. “Tahlequah is a wonderful tourist destination and has beautiful fishery in Lake Tenkiller. This is a great place to take a family, and there aren’t many places that have a small town feel but still have the accommodations and resources to support an event like this.”
During the tournament, anglers will fish on Lake Tenkiller. However, the key events of the week will primarily take place at NSU. Events including the angler kick-off banquet, angler speaker seminar, sponsor outdoor expo and weigh-ins will occur on the university campus with Seminary Hall as an iconic backdrop. NSU will also be home to the estimated 90 teams of college anglers during their time in Tahlequah.
For more information, call 918-456-3742.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizens and members of the Tahlequah Chapter of the Blue Star Mothers on Feb. 8 dedicated a memorial stone honoring military veterans at the Cherokee Warrior Memorial adjacent to the Tribal Complex.
The stone reads: “Honoring our Military Sons and Daughters, Blue Star Mother’s OK21, Tahlequah, OK.”
BSMOK21 President Billie Walker and Founder Melody Parker dedicated the stone before a small group consisting of Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief and U.S. Navy veteran S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd and CN Veterans Center Director Barbara Foreman.
“It took a year to make this memorial a reality,” Walker said. “There are sons and daughters deployed now. This stone will be here long after they get home.”
The stone was Parker’s idea. “Each month our chapter sends boxes of items to our soldiers. Items like gloves, socks, anything we can afford that make their time away easier. It let’s them know we’re thinking of them. One hundred percent of the Blue Star Mother’s funding comes from donations.”
Crittenden said he was thrilled to see the addition to the Cherokee Warriors Memorial and is grateful from where it came.
“I served in the Navy in the 1960s. It meant the world to us when we received items from home. What the Blue Star Mothers did today and every day is important because the soldiers they help are out there for us. They deserve to know they aren’t forgotten,” he said.
For information on the Blue Star Mothers in Tahlequah, visit their Facebook page.
GLENPOOL – Native artists from Oklahoma and out-of-state tribes gathered to show their works and educate the public about their crafts Feb. 9-11 at the 31st Greater Tulsa Indian Art Festival.
The festival, the largest inter-tribal fine art show in the Tulsa area, also ranks among the best fine art shows for genuine Native art in the country. Chairman Robert Trepp said the event began in 1987 and was inspired by the cast of the 1984 American Indian Theater Company production “Black Elk Speaks.”
“It was really inspired by a lot of the cast from ‘Black Elk Speaks’ that was put on here in Tulsa, and it’s just grown through the years,” Trepp said. “It’s nationally known. It’s got a big emphasis on Eastern Woodlands cultures, which most shows do not have.”
Volunteers largely run the festival as it draws various artists including painters, potters and jewelers.
“We have artists from all over the country,” Trepp said. “I think for local artists it’s an opportunity for them especially to see each other again and to have that fellowship to share ideas, compare notes as to what they’ve been up to. And for our people out of state, it’s an opportunity for them to come and meet with our local artists.”
Trepp said the festival especially emphasizes citizens of local tribes, including Cherokees.
“The Cherokee are one of the largest tribes in the country, and they sit right here. Their territory wraps all the way around the Tulsa metropolitan area,” he said. “They have a huge influence on Native people and relationships with Native people here in Tulsa.”
The GTIAF 2018 Featured Artist was Jane Osti, a Cherokee National Treasure whose pottery piece “Woodland Song” was chosen for this year’s festival poster.
“This is one of the first shows that I did when I started doing art and selling art,” Osti said. “This is a good nurturing ground and you don’t get too big for it either. You can still do the show even though it might have been one of your starting shows.”
Osti said she’s been doing pottery for more than 30 years and makes her Woodland pieces “the traditional way.”
“I make pottery the old way, the traditional way of hand coiling and they are usually kiln-fired first and then wood-fired,” she said. “The designs and the shapes, a lot of them are from our very old pottery, but sort of moved around in a contemporary way. My teacher was Anna Mitchell, master Cherokee potter and that was the way she did pottery. Just about any Cherokee making pottery has either learned from Anna, or learned from one of us that has learned from her…”
Osti said most people only recognize Southwest pottery, but that she’s seeing a shift.
“A few people are noticing the Woodland Pottery and the Woodland works in general,” she said. “I make pottery and teach it. It’s the way I make a living, but it’s also to ensure that we keep doing our traditional work and passing it on, educating the general public and our customers about our Woodland pottery.”
Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Lee Smith conducted painting demonstrations to give the public a peek into his creative process.
“It’s hard for me to engage, and that’s what I want to do. I want to show it to people. That’s the reason I do it,” he said. “It gives them insight to the process I’m going through. It might make no sense to them on site, but it allows me to relax and get in my comfort zone.”
Smith said much of his work is influenced by nature, as well as from stories his grandmother passed down to him.
“My grandmother taught me little things like what bird makes this sound and how to grow tomatoes and all these core things that I didn’t know were important until I got older,” he said. “These birds and all these animals, all these things, they were like characters in a story to me, all of them throughout growing up. They seem to be the most honest depiction of things.”
He describes his work as “simple” and “a little tongue-in-cheek,” but hopes that it’s humorous to the public and inspires a “good” feeling.
Smith said he doesn’t worry about rules when it comes to medium or his vibrant color choices.
“As far as the rules, the technical training that I’ve had in grad school and undergrad where they tell you what paint to use on what surface and what type of brush and all that, I feel like it’s almost like they taught me what not to do,” he said. “It just is a little more liberating to break tradition.
The things just sort of find their place, and I’m just kind of like a landlord. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t do this.”
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s judicial branch has moved from its downtown location inside the CN Capitol Building to space in the recently built second story of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
The Capitol Building was built after the Civil War, completed in 1869 and occupies the center of Tahlequah’s town square. In 1991, the Tribal Council re-established the District Court to utilize the Capitol Building to hear civil, juvenile and adoption cases.
After 27 years and several attempts at a new facility, the CN court system has moved to a new and more modern location.
“We’ve been in the Capitol Building since 1991, whenever the council passed legislation allowing us to continue doing our District Court. We started out there and we pretty much outgrew this building as our caseload started growing,” Court Administrator Lisa Fields said.
The new location encompasses 15,385 square feet of more space and “state-of-the-art” equipment.
“It’s beautiful. It’s state of the art and it’s a really nice courtroom. It’s going to be large enough to hold our court customers or people that come to court,” Fields said.
The new location contains large and small courtrooms, offices for attorneys to meet with clients, new offices for all court staff members, District and Supreme Court filings counters and a separate location from the general public to allow CN marshals to bring in prisoners to have their cases heard. District Court judges and Supreme Court justices will also have their own chambers, which was not available at the Capitol Building.
Fields said everyone in the court system, including justices and other judiciary officials, were in agreement with the move.
“To say the least that we, meaning the justices and the district judges, are very excited and looking forward to the new courtroom. The facilities are very nice. I think it’s just a great move for the court system,” Supreme Court Chief Justice John C. Garret said.
Fields said the court system had a target date of Feb. 26 to begin filings at the new location with the first court docket scheduled for March 2.
The last docket in the previous location was Feb. 16.
Cherokee Nation Businesses officials said they plan to restore and refurbish the Capitol Building for future use as a museum for the public.
“We’re moving into the modern era I guess you could say. We’ve been in this old building, which we absolutely love, but we want to see it go back to its original state and for the public to enjoy it,” Fields said.
TAHELQUAH (AP) — Thirteen years ago, in an unguarded moment on her first day of kindergarten, Emilee Chavez spoke a single word of English. And a classmate immediately ran to tell the teacher.
“Hey,” the teacher raised her voice harshly, “you can’t use English here. Speak Cherokee, or don’t say anything at all.”
Chavez’s parents would have gotten in trouble if a teacher had caught them speaking a word of Cherokee, which is one reason the language began plummeting toward extinction. Schools banned it, so nearly an entire generation stopped speaking it.
For Chavez and her classmates, however, the Cherokee Immersion Charter School turned the tables. They were punished for speaking English.
Launched in 2001 on the grounds of the tribal headquarters, the school started with 23 students. But Cherokee is a hard language. Only nine made it all the way through the program.
“I didn’t say much for the first few weeks,” remembers Chavez, now a high school senior. “But when you’re around the language eight hours a day, every day, you can’t help picking it up. After a while, it’s just natural.”
Now the first batch of Cherokee immersion students is about to graduate from high school, a milestone in a grand experiment that is trying to revive the Cherokee language before it is too late.
They haven’t actually been immersed in the language since the seventh grade, when Chavez and her classmates began studying at the Cherokee Nation’s Sequoyah Schools, where all classes are taught in English. The question then was how far behind would they be compared to their non-immersion classmates, who had gone to English-speaking grade schools.
“We were behind,” Chavez said, especially in reading and writing. “But not for long.”
Now the former immersion school students are all near the top of their graduating class at Sequoyah, officials say. With their graduation upcoming, however, the program will face an even more critical test. Will they retain the language into adulthood? And will they pass it on to the next generation? Or will the tribe’s ancient language continue to fade?
“We’re not just going to walk away from it and forget it,” says Lauren Hummingbird, one of six immersion-school students who will earn their diplomas from Sequoyah this semester. “We’ve worked too hard and we care too much to let that happen.”
Growing up around her grandparents, who are fluent speakers, Hummingbird’s first words were in Cherokee, not English, making her the closest thing her generation has to a “native speaker.” Close listeners can even detect a mild Cherokee accent when she speaks English. But with most other speakers being her grandparents’ age, 17-year-old Hummingbird has to go looking for opportunities to practice her language skills.
Even her old immersion-school classmates tend to speak English to each other when they cross paths in the Sequoyah hallways, although Cherokee can serve as a useful code language when they don’t want other teens to know what they are saying.
“Even then,” Hummingbird says, “it’s usually a mix of Cherokee and English. When I really want to speak Cherokee, I go see my grandparents.”
After graduation this spring, she will spend a year working with the tribe’s Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program, a sort of immersion class for adults, where Hummingbird will be both a student and a facilitator. Then she plans to study linguistics in college before returning to Tahlequah to do exactly what tribal officials always hoped some of the immersion students would do when they grew up.
“I see myself coming back here and working with immersion to teach the language,” she says. “I honestly can’t see my future going any other way.”
Native speakers, however, continue to die off faster than immersion programs can replace them, with only 133 students enrolled in the entire grade school this semester, tribal officials say. For the foreseeable future, the Cherokee language will continue to decline.
“We’re not doing enough,” says Chuck Hoskin Jr., the tribe’s secretary of state. “But we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
When the tribe started the immersion school in the early 2000s, it also conducted an extensive survey to gauge how endangered the language really was. And the results were shocking: Only 10,000 fluent speakers remained alive, almost all of them past middle age.
Officials at the time estimated that without drastic efforts to reverse the language’s decline, Cherokee would be dead “within 30 or 40 years.”
Roughly half that time has now gone by, but not without the tribe’s making progress, Hoskin says.
Before the immersion school and the more recent adult apprentice program, native speakers weren’t being replaced at all as they died off. At least now, a new generation is learning to speak Cherokee.
“They amount to only a handful. We know that,” Hoskin says. “But you can see the dedication, the commitment. And that’s why I’m optimistic about the future of the language, because I can see how important it is to these young people.”
LONGMONT, Colo. – A new First Nations Development Institute report highlights that community foundations often fall short when it comes to philanthropic giving to Native American organizations and causes.
In its report titled “Community Foundation Giving to Native American Causes,” First Nations researchers find that on average only 15/100ths of 1 percent of community foundation funding goes to Native American organizations and causes annually.
The report looks at giving by 163 community foundations in 10 states. In all of the states studied, except Alaska, which was an outlier, the dollar amount of grants given to Native American organizations and causes was lower than might be expected given Native American population size and levels of need.
“Our data suggest that there is very little funding interaction between Native communities and local community foundations,” First Nations Vice President Raymond Foxworth, who was the lead researcher on the project, said. “Obviously we think that’s a problem that can be addressed, so we conclude the report by highlighting strategies and practices we think can expand collaboration between community foundations and Native nonprofits. Overall, we hope that community foundation giving can, in the long term, become more reflective of the rich diversity within states, and this includes supporting Native American organizations.”??
The states studied were Alaska, Arizona, California, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota. The full findings and recommendations can be downloaded at <a href="https://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/strengthening-nonprofit/reports" target="_blank">https://firstnations.org/knowledge-center/strengthening-nonprofit/reports</a>. If you don’t already have one, you will need to create a free online account to download the report.