http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCierra Fields
Cierra Fields

Fields alleges teacher criticism over Pledge of Allegiance

Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/08/2017 12:00 PM
FORT GIBSON, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields said that on Feb. 28, during her first day of the trimester at Fort Gibson High School, a teacher criticized her for not standing up or partaking in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I sit down for the Pledge of Allegiance, as I do not believe in it, do not say it,” she said. “After this my teacher was like, “You know Cierra, we stand during the pledge in this class.’”

An article on names the teacher as Missy Parisotto. According to the school’s facility page, a Melissa Parisotto is listed as a teacher.

Fields said the teacher had her step outside of the classroom, into a location that’s separated by a divider, and told her why it’s important that she stand for the pledge.

“She went on the very long rant about how her father missed the first year of her life because he served in Vietnam, and then her husband was active duty in Afghanistan when she had four little ones at home that she had to raise on her own because he was fighting for this country and everything, and that I’m disrespecting them and I’m disrespecting her,” Fields said. “I kind of butted in there and said, ‘you realize I come from a military family. My father served for 10 years,’ and she questioned that and she was like, ‘then you’re disrespecting your father.’ By me not standing I was disrespecting my father, and I was being unpatriotic and everything. I tried telling her my father is actually the one who told me it is my choice to stand or not to pledge.”

Rick Fields, Cierra’s father, said he’s taught his daughter about the U.S. Constitution and the importance of her right to chose.

“The biggest issue, the flag is but a symbol. What is really important is the Constitution of the United States and the values that are embedded within the Constitution. It’s more important to uphold the Constitution than to focus on something like the flag,” he said. “The Supreme Court has ruled you can burn a flag, you can trample the flag, you can do pretty much whatever you want to do to the flag under freedom of speech. It’s also ruled that the right to not stand and recite the pledge is freedom of speech and that is protected. I did not serve 10 years in the military to have forced patriotism for my child. My child can decide what she feels is right and wrong.”

Cierra said the teacher told her that she would not have Cierra “disrespecting” her family and that “there’s an online course” she could take. Cierra said she then asked to see Principal Gary Sparks.

Cierra said Sparks later informed the teacher that Cierra had the right to sit during the pledge.

Sparks said both Parisotto and Cierra have their own stories of the situation.

“Basically they both have a story on it, and we followed up with both of them. We have to come to a consensus on that. I will say that this teacher’s a very upstanding lady and have had zero problems with her in the past,” he said.

Superintendent Derald Glover said the school has had students not stand for the pledge before.

“The teachers have asked them privately, respectfully, you know one-on-one, and then called the parents to find out if it’s OK with them and the parents have said, ‘no, we would like them to stand.’ If the teacher’s not aware, then they’ll ask them,” Glover said. “We also respect the First Amendment rights. It’s OK to ask a student why, and it’s kind of a teaching moment to ask why, get the answer and if it’s a reasonable reason. Now if the student had no reason to stand, they were just going to be disrespectful, then I think that’s another issue.”

Cierra said all she and her parents want is an apology, which as of publication had not received.

“We gave them three days where we said, ‘we just want an apology. That’s it.’ They refused. They defended her and called her a nice lady. So we said, ‘fine.’ We filed a formal complaint with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) about this. We just wanted an apology. If she just questioned why I sat it would have been fine. She started out with, ‘we stand in my classroom,’ which you can’t say, that it’s against the law, breaks the Constitution and is against the Supreme Court ruling (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette).”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 ruled that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

Sparks said an “apology” would be between the student and teacher.

“That’s between the student and the teacher because they’re the one that actually had the exchange,” he said.

Cierra said while representing the CN at certain events she does stand, just not when it’s representing herself such as in class.

“At events where I represent Cherokee Nation or veteran events and stuff like that I do stand. I get it then. When it’s just me, myself and I at Fort Gibson or something like that I’m not going to stand because I’m just representing myself,” she said. “Up until this point, most of this year I had one teacher who just wanted to know why I don’t stand. I explained it and she left it at that. Had a few kids ask and that was that.”

The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Parisotto for comment but did not receive a response as of publication.


06/16/2018 02:00 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic route that Ponca tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877.
06/16/2018 10:00 AM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear their cases. But an attorney battling the project says the "fight is not over." Groups fighting TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline appealed a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state. But the high court said in a Wednesday ruling that justices didn't "reach the merits of the case" because the lower court didn't have jurisdiction to weigh the appeal of the Public Utilities Commission's decision. Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, on Thursday called the high court's decision "disappointing," but said "this fight is not over." Martinez said the organization, one of the appellants, is regrouping and evaluating its options. "That's really disappointing that the court didn't reach the merits, because the risk to South Dakota's land and water resources is clearly there," Martinez said. "It's a shame that that did not get a closer look by the court." TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the pipeline developer is pleased with the court's decision. Keystone XL would cost an estimated $8 billion. The 1,179-mile pipeline would transport up to 830,000 barrels a day of Canadian crude through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with lines to carry oil to Gulf Coast refineries. TransCanada announced in April it was meeting with landowners and starting aerial surveillance of the proposed route. The company hopes to begin construction in early 2019. The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe and conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action appealed to the South Dakota high court after a judge had affirmed state regulators' approval for the pipeline. The Public Utilities Commission initially authorized TransCanada's project in 2010, but the permit had to be revisited because construction didn't start within the required four years. The panel voted in 2016 to accept TransCanada's guarantee that it would meet all conditions laid out by the commission when it first approved that state's portion of the project. Cunha said the company is working to get needed land easements for the pipeline in Nebraska. But Nebraska landowners have filed a lawsuit challenging the Nebraska Public Service Commission's decision to approve a route through the state. Separately in Nebraska, a husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm this week deeded a plot of their land to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project. Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe. The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic Ponca route that tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877. "What the impact will be, I don't know," Tanderup said. "But now, they'll have a voice in this issue. They will be a player at the table." It's not clear whether deeding the land to the tribe would hinder the company or create a new legal argument for the Ponca, given their status as a federally recognized Indian tribe. Brad Jolly, an attorney for the Ponca Tribe of Nebraska, said he was focusing more on overturning state regulators' approval of the pipeline in a case pending before the Nebraska Supreme Court. "I haven't gotten to all the what-ifs yet," Jolly said. The Keystone pipeline also faces a potential obstacle in a federal lawsuit brought by Montana landowners and environmental groups seeks to overturn President Donald Trump's decision to grant a presidential permit for the project.
06/15/2018 04:00 PM
CALHOUN, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 14 at the Gordon County Historical Society at 345 S. Wall St. This is part three of the chapter’s remembrance of the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. “The Journey To Indian Country” will be presented by past chapter president W. Jeff Bishop. The meeting is free and open to the public. The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history. For more information about the May GCTOTA meeting, email Walter Knapp at <a href="mailto:"></a>.
06/15/2018 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH – The Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In starts at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. Planes will begin landing at 7:30 a.m. on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip next to the ranch located at 9501 E. 380 Road. Admission is free, and there is ample parking. The annual event celebrates aviation and marks the anniversary of Will and Wiley’s Aug. 15, 1935, deaths in Alaska due to a plane crash. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 10 a.m. honoring those who have died in small plane crashes and lapel pins will be presented especially designed in tribute to crash victims Vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimental planes, bi-planes, helicopters and fly-overs are all part of the event as well as food and concessions, antique and classic cars, a Cherokee storyteller and kids’ activities. Special tribute will be paid to Dr. Bill Kinsinger, who departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in January on an animal rescue mission for Pilots N Paws to Georgetown, Texas, but never reached his destination. After being spotted on radar headed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was reported by searchers, “the pilot was slouched over and appeared unconscious.” Members of Dr. Kinsinger’s family will be on hand to receive a lapel pin. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a> or call 918-341-0719.
06/14/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation will commemorate the 175th anniversary of the 1843 intertribal peace gathering with the June 20 opening of a new pavilion, located east of the Cherokee National Capitol. The pavilion’s design pays tribute to the gathering by interpreting the look of the large log structure that hosted what former Principal Chief William P. Ross called “the most important Indian council ever held on the American continent.” “Chief John Ross saw the need for tribal governments to come together and stand united on issues that would ensure the survival of Native people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We hope this pavilion will serve as a reminder of that sacred event and of the power we yield when we unify our Native voice in an effort to preserve, promote and protect our cultural identities.” A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m. with special guests from the annual Cherokee Tri-Council meeting. The celebration will include performances by the Cherokee National Youth Choir and a hog fry lunch that is open to the public. In addition to opening the pavilion, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is hosting an exhibit about the historical event at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum through November 2019. The exhibit provides a deeper look at the momentous gathering, including who attended and what was discussed. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and is at 122 E. Keetoowah St.
06/12/2018 03:00 PM
SEATTLE – <a href="" target="_blank"></a> officials, as well as government and tribal officials, on June 8 announced plans to open its second Oklahoma fulfillment center in Tulsa, which is expected to create 1,500 full-time jobs. “We are excited to bring a second fulfillment center to Oklahoma and work alongside the state’s incredible workforce,” Mark Stewart, Amazon’s vice president of North America Customer Fulfillment, said. “Support from local leaders has been instrumental in our ability to come to Oklahoma, and we are grateful for their collaboration to bring thousands of new jobs with benefits starting on day one.” Amazon operates a sortation center in Oklahoma City, where it employs hundreds of people, and it recently announced an upcoming fulfillment center in south Oklahoma City. Amazon employees at the Tulsa fulfillment center, which is expected to be more than 600,000 square foot, will work alongside innovative technology created by Amazon Robotics. Employees at the Tulsa center will pick, pack and ship small items to customers such as books, household items and toys. “The Cherokee Nation is proud to be a part of a coalition that continues to locate quality jobs to northeast Oklahoma,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “The announcement of a new Amazon fulfillment center in Tulsa and more than a thousand new jobs will help build a strong economy for the next seven generations of Cherokees, as well as our friends and neighbors. We couldn’t be more pleased with the continued joint effort on economic development between so many state and local partners.” According to, full-time employees receive competitive hourly wages and a comprehensive benefits package, including healthcare, 401(k) and company stock awards starting on their first day. Amazon also offers maternity and parental leave benefits and access to programs such as Career Choice, where it will pre-pay up to 95 percent of tuition for courses related to in-demand fields, regardless of whether the skills are relevant to a career at Amazon. According to, since the program’s launch, more than 16,000 employees have pursued degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming and radiology. “Given its location near the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, this Amazon fulfillment center will undoubtedly have an historic impact on our tribal citizens and northeast Oklahoma at large,” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief James R. Floyd said. “A project like this is a rare opportunity, and we are honored to play a role in this partnership of state, local and tribal entities. This significantly enhances the opportunity for economic prosperity of our tribal citizens. We look forward to a long-term relationship with Amazon and see it as a wonderful opportunity. In addition to the Tulsa center, we have more than 10,000 citizens in the Oklahoma City metro area that we hope to utilize for employment.” To learn more about working at an Amazon fulfillment center, interested candidates can visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.