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

Fields alleges teacher criticism over Pledge of Allegiance

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
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 muskogeenow.com 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.
About the Author
Stacie Guthrie started working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2013 as an intern. After graduating from Northeastern State University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications she was hired as a reporter.

Stacie not only writes for the Phoenix, but also produces videos and regularly hosts the Cherokee Phoenix radio broadcast.

She found her passion for video production while taking part in broadcast media classes at NSU. It was there she co-created a monthly video segment titled “Northeastern Gaming,” which included video game reviews, video game console reviews and discussions regarding influential video games.

While working at the Phoenix she has learned more about her Cherokee culture, saying she is grateful for the opportunity to work for and with the Cherokee people.

In 2014, Stacie won a NativeAmerican Journalists Association award for a video she created while working as an intern for the Phoenix. She was awarded first place in the “Best News Story-TV” category.

Stacie is a member of NAJA.
stacie-guthrie@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000 ext. 5903
Stacie Guthrie started working at the Cherokee Phoenix in 2013 as an intern. After graduating from Northeastern State University with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications she was hired as a reporter. Stacie not only writes for the Phoenix, but also produces videos and regularly hosts the Cherokee Phoenix radio broadcast. She found her passion for video production while taking part in broadcast media classes at NSU. It was there she co-created a monthly video segment titled “Northeastern Gaming,” which included video game reviews, video game console reviews and discussions regarding influential video games. While working at the Phoenix she has learned more about her Cherokee culture, saying she is grateful for the opportunity to work for and with the Cherokee people. In 2014, Stacie won a NativeAmerican Journalists Association award for a video she created while working as an intern for the Phoenix. She was awarded first place in the “Best News Story-TV” category. Stacie is a member of NAJA.

News

BY LINDSEY BARK
News Writer
08/17/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Dr. Mike Dobbins, of Fort Gibson, said he’s ready to serve his first term as the Dist. 4 Tribal Councilor and looks to improve the Cherokee Nation’s health care system. Dobbins will take his councilor seat with 37 years of experience in health care, practicing dentistry for 20 of those years. “I chose to run because from a distance I’ve become quite familiar with the Cherokee health system, and there are some great things about it. The framework’s in place…and a lot of good has transpired. With my experience I feel like I can lend some expertise to help improve the system. That was my primary motive in running for council...to see what I could do to improve the health care system,” Dobbins said. He said he has more to learn about the CN Health Services and how it functions on a daily basis. Dobbins is also involved in higher education, teaching at dental schools for the past 17 years and assisting Cherokee students interested in health care. “I’ve assisted multiple Cherokee students with scholarship opportunities, not only with Cherokee scholarships, but with other Native American scholarships and try to help them go through college with little-to-no debt as possible,” he said. He said in Dist. 4, he’s also heard concerns from CN citizens about housing issues. “I’m also knowledgeable of the fact that there’s a lot of other Cherokee needs (including) infrastructure, housing, elder care. I’m also sensitive to those areas as well. I plan to be a multi-purpose councilman,” Dobbins said. “I’m on the outside right now, but I intend to see (and) get familiarized with the housing program and make sure that citizens of District 4 are considered for any housing possibilities.” The 2017 Tribal Council election was Dobbins’ second attempt at becoming a CN legislator. He said he learned from his “mistakes” four years ago and that it was a “less stressful” campaign this time around. “I ran four years ago and lost by two (votes) to an 18-year incumbent,” he said. “You learn by experience, and I enlisted more help, actually, this time. I tried to do a lot of myself four years ago. I’d say…most importantly I learned what not to do rather than what to do.” Dobbins said he has an obligation to serve not only the CN citizens who helped or voted for him, but also those who did not. “I’m their councilman now, and I feel a deep debt of obligation to fulfill that duty,” he said. “I just look forward to serving the Cherokee people on the council. I do have a busy schedule but I feel like I will be accessible. I have a busy schedule outside my councilman responsibilities, but my councilman responsibility will be my priority.”
BY LINDSEY BARK
News Writer
08/16/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – E.O. Smith, of Vian, on Aug. 14 will begin serving his first term as the Dist. 5 Tribal Councilor after winning a July 22 runoff election. He will take the seat being vacated by Tribal Councilor David Thornton. Smith won the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Uriah Grass by receiving 52.26 of the vote. He previously spent eight years as a CN Food Distribution warehouse manager in Sallisaw. His platform includes improving education, employment and health care for Cherokees. “I want to help. There’s some of these families, they don’t need to live in the condition they live in. (Cherokee) Nation is strong but I’d like to help make it stronger. I just care about people…I just want to make things better for District 5,” he said. Born in Mexico, Smith moved to Vian with his mother and father at age 2. “My dad was a farmer, and back then there wasn’t any farm aid or anything, and a flood wiped them out and they lost everything they had. So he had to move out to Mexico and worked in the oil fields, saved up money to come back home,” he said. After seeing his father’s work ethic and ability to move back to the United States to become a business owner, Smith followed in father’s footsteps by becoming a business owner, operating two stores in Vian for 29 years. Smith was also involved with youth and youth sports, coaching sports teams for more than 42 years. “That’s my passion. That’s what I love to do. I like working with kids,” Smith said. As a councilman for the city of Vian, Smith said he see too many young people, Cherokees and non-Cherokees, with no desire to work and wants to motivate them to find jobs. Smith said in his travels in the CN, about 85 percent of people he talked to brought up improving health care, especially for elders. “Overall, I just want to help improve things. I’m for all the programs we got going. I don’t want to cut any. I’d like to see some improve,” he said. He said he had a tough election but is ready to get his feet on the ground and see what lies ahead of him as a Tribal Councilor to improve programs and other issues in the CN and Dist.5 “We all want good things for the (Cherokee) Nation, or we wouldn’t be running. I’m just so excited for this chance. I can’t wait to get started. I really want to try to help. I’m 66. I feel good and this may be my last chance to do something good,” Smith said. Smith said he is creating an office in Vian where he will be available from 9 a.m. to noon five days a week and will also be accessible by phone at 918-705-1845. “Let’s pull together and help me make this a good four years. Let’s don’t fight. Let’s pull together,” Smith said.
BY CHANDLER KIDD
Intern
08/16/2017 12:00 PM
JAY, Okla. – After winning a July 22 runoff, Mike Shambaugh is the new Tribal Councilor for Dist. 9, which covers the southern half of Delaware County and part of eastern Mayes County. The current chief of police in Jay, whose has been involved with law enforcement for 28 years, said he’s a goal-oriented person, and it’s been a lifelong goal to serve on the Tribal Council. Shambaugh obtained that goal after by earning 54.96 percent of the vote in the runoff against Cherokee Nation citizen Clifton Hughes. “The opportunity came up, and I thought it would be a great time to run and I won,” he said. Shambaugh said he began his career in law enforcement as a patrolman and worked his way to a district attorney investigator. As Jay’s chief of police and holding an administrator position, Shambaugh is accustomed to dealing with people’s problems in a professional way, he said. “You have to learn to listen as an administrator. Everybody has a story to tell when they have a problem,” Shambaugh said. “The first thing that is out of my mouth is ‘What can I do to help you today?’ I want to know how to help them or where I can send them to get help.” He said he’s most excited to be working and meeting people of Dist. 9 while representing the CN as a whole. He also said he plans to incorporate his experience with doing paperwork to help CN citizens get services while he serving for the next four years. “A lot of people have trouble doing paperwork with the Cherokee Nation because it is pretty extensive in some areas. Well, I would be willing to sit down with them and even write it out for them if they were having trouble filling it out,” he said. Shambaugh added that he believes it is important for people outside of the CN to know the Cherokee people are here to help. He stated that the Nation is always pushing forward to make things better for its people. During his time as a tribal legislator, he said wants to work to improve elder care. “I have already had four of five phone calls from people who need help, and my job hasn’t even started yet. Whether it is handicap ramps or something else,” he said. “Health care, elder care and education are three big things with me, and the Cherokee Nation has shown that these are important issues with them also.” Shambaugh said he’s proud of his Cherokee heritage, and to honor it while on the Tribal Council he said he plans on incorporating his board position at the United Way in hopes of delivering school supplies to schools in the CN that need assistance. “My mother was full blood, and my family as far back as I first remember spoke mainly Cherokee when I was young. Everything that I have seen with the Cherokee Nation has made me proud because the Nation has made great strides to help their citizens,” he said. Shambaugh and the other eight Tribal Councilors who won seats in this year’s elections were inaugurated on Aug. 14.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
08/15/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The former Cherokee Nation Marshal Service building located west of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex has had many uses since it was built in the 1980s, but its days are numbered. The building will soon be taken down to provide more parking for the Tribal Complex, on which a second story was recently added to provide more office space and accommodate the tribe’s courts. “The building will be disassembled rather than demolished,” CN Construction Project Administrator Paul Crosslin said. “We’re hoping we can save some parts for future construction projects.” Crosslin said he is not certain when the building will be disassembled. Tests such as tests for asbestos levels first need to be completed. “We’re hoping to start the disassembly next week (week of Aug. 14) but that decision hasn’t been made yet,” he said. Longtime CN employees estimate the building was constructed in the mid-1980s as a green house with no insulation. In the 1990s, the building housed the Cherokee Gift shop. “I worked there when I started in 1992,” Cherokee Gift Shop General Manager Linda Taylor said. “That was before the gift shop was moved to the front of the Cherokee Nation Annex building. CNMS Capt. Danny Tanner said the building housed the CNMS from 2001 until this past March. “Our new location (inside the Cherokee Nation EMS building east of the Tribal Complex) was actually built for the Marshal Service, but the CN Election Commission ended up moving in,” he said. Tanner said he was grateful the CNMS was able to move to its new location. “This is where Cherokee Marshal Service should be located.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/15/2017 10:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Nearly 20 Cherokee children competed in three age divisions on Aug. 12 at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center for the titles of Little Cherokee Ambassadors. But only six walked away earning crowns. Salina Elementary School fifth grader Leah Gardner was crowned as the 2017-18 Little Cherokee Ambassador in the 10-12 age category. Gardner, 10, is captain of her school’s Cherokee Language Bowl. She gave a demonstration on basket weaving as her cultural presentation. She also correctly named stickball as a traditional Cherokee game, answered 18 as the age that Cherokee Nation citizens must be to vote and knew the Cherokee Female Seminary was the first institution of higher learning for Cherokee girls west of the Mississippi River. “I’m really excited to be a Little Cherokee Ambassador, and I’m looking forward to all the parades,” Gardner said. Joining her in the male division of Little Cherokee Ambassador is Heritage Elementary School fourth grader Preston Gourd, 10, of Tahlequah. Alayna Paden, a fourth grader at Cherokee Immersion Charter School, and Cooper Dorr, a third grader at Lowrey Elementary School in Tahlequah, won in the 7-9 age division. Winning in the 4-6 age division were Avery Raper, 5, who attends Pryor Learning Center, and Dante Anguiano, 5, a kindergartener at Heritage Elementary School in Tahlequah. The competition kicked off the 65th annual Cherokee National Holiday, which runs Labor Day weekend. The Junior Miss Cherokee competition was slated for 6 p.m. on Aug. 19 at the Tahlequah Armory Municipal Center. The Miss Cherokee Leadership Competition will be held at 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 at Cornerstone Church in Tahlequah.
BY STAFF REPORTS
08/14/2017 09:45 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation will have nine Tribal Councilors sworn into office at 10 a.m. on Aug. 14 at Sequoyah High School’s gymnasium. The nine Tribal Councilors who will be administered the oath of office by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Garrett are Joe Byrd (Dist. 2), Mike Dobbins (Dist. 4), E.O. Smith (Dist. 5), Frankie Hargis (Dist. 7), Mike Shambaugh (Dist. 9), Harley Buzzard (Dist. 10), Victoria Vazquez (Dist. 11), Janees Taylor (Dist. 11) and Mary Baker Shaw (At-Large). The legislative branch consists of 17 members representing the 15 districts inside tribe’s jurisdiction and two at-large seats representing citizens outside the boundaries. Councilors are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU1u8efDqQQ" target="_blank">Click here to</a>watch the live feed of the inauguration.