Cherokee Nation citizen Coy Brooks, 14, wearing cap, shoots during the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament on the Feb. 24 at the Cherokee Nation’s Joe Thornton Archery Range in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Brooks won first place in the boys division. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Approximately 400 archers compete in ORES Tournament
Joe Thornton Archery Range Coordinator Brian Jackson, right, helps a student with his scoring sheet on Feb. 24 during the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament at the Cherokee Nation’s archery ranger in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. About 400 students competed in the tournament. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Approximately 400 archers from 30 schools across visited the Cherokee Nation’s Joe Thornton Archery Range on Feb. 24 to compete in the Oklahoma Rural Elementary Schools Tournament.
Brian Jackson, range coordinator, said the tournament was held to help students prepare for the state tournament.
“They wanted to host a tournament right before the state tournament, so we have 40 targets out there, over 400 archers and they’re going nuts out here,” he said.
Jackson said students could have scored a maximum of 300 points during the shoot.
“They will shoot at 10 meters, and they’ll shoot at 15 meters. They have three scoring rounds at 10 meters, three scoring rounds at 15 meters for a maximum of 300 possible points. Some of them will be in the top 280s, 290s,” he said.
Coy Brooks, 14, an eighth grade student from Brushy Public School, said while competing he’s trying to have “fun” and shoot the “best” he can.
“It’s been going pretty good. It’s a little bit cool, and it’s a little bit windy but it’s pretty good so far,” he said. “There’s a lot of good shooters out here, and it’s going to be real competitive. I just hope everybody shoots good.”
Brooks said he began shooting three years ago and shoots with his uncle, Nathan Brooks, who competes professionally.
“It’s something I like to do,” he said. “I shoot with my uncle. He’s a pro. I shoot with him during the summer, and it’s pretty fun. It’s helped me out.”
Maryetta Public School was named the team champion with an overall score of 3,144, which was tallied by the top 12 shooters, including four girls and four boys on each team. The school received a championship plaque for its win.
Kaitlynn Spradlin, of Peggs Public School, was the top shooter among the female division and scored 286 points. Brooks was the top shooter among the male division and scored 298 points. Both received plaques and Genesis Bows.
Jackson said when the kids weren’t shooting they were able to partake in other activities at the range.
“We built the human foosball field out there. There’s going to be a archery launcher out there to shoot targets flying through the air. There’s a tetherball pole. There’s Frisbee golf. So far they’re everywhere. There’s not a place on this 11 acres that there’s not some kids doing something, including the archery tournament,” he said.
Jackson said he hopes the range can host more schools.
“One reason we wanted this archery range to promote archery in our area but to also help some local schools,” he said. “So this is a really big kick off as far as what we look to do and hope to do in the future with our archery ranges, to host a lot of school tournaments.”
Jackson said the range is open from dawn until dusk seven days a week. Range targets are free while 3D targets are $5.
For more information, call 918-453-5000, ext. 7053 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
TULSA, Okla. – Taelor Barton grew up watching her grandmother, Edith Knight, cook. Those cooking sessions inspired Barton to become a chef and share her talent in creating food.
“My grandma did indeed have a huge part in me choosing to be a chef later on in life. It was something that we always did together,” the 26-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen said. “I think it started out as something to kind of keep me busy at first and then the more skills that I would learn, especially when I was away from her, I would come back and show her and then we’d cook together. Basically, she used food to extend care to us as children. It was such an important nurturing aspect of my upbringing that I couldn’t let it go. I had to kind of carry on in her stead, being a cook in the family.”
Barton said she began taking a creative role in cooking at age 13. “Even though I didn’t know much I still wanted to play with food and see what I could make.”
This love for cooking inspired Barton to study culinary arts while in high school. She later attended the Oklahoma State University-Institute of Technology’s culinary program in Okmulgee.
She said even today taking on that creative role when she was 13 affects how she approaches food.
Barton is now the executive chef at The Vault in Tulsa, where she showcases not only her cooking skills but also her heritage with her food.
“I created about 50 percent of the dishes here. There’s a set number of non-signature items that I will innovate new (with) every menu change,” she said. “I also have brought to the table our cauliflower wings and then a vegan dish, which is a stuffed acorn squash. Kind of has a little bit of Native American influence with smoked vegetables. It is a dish that appeals to meat eaters and vegans alike.”
The Cherokee Phoenix caught up with Barton on April 18 as she prepared Native-inspired dishes for a dinner at The Vault.
“It is going to have different stages of Native American cooking involved. A lot of the stuff will have some sort of newer European influence because of the settlers,” she said. “There will be fry bread because of the milled wheat. Also, I’m going to be using something that was very dear to me, something my grandmother taught me how to make was kanuchi.”
Barton said she became interested in creating a Native American-inspired menu while her grandmother was “fading in health.”
“I realized that after she would pass I would lose, possibly, a little bit of that Native American influence in my life. So I wanted to take advantage of it still being fresh in my mind, the things that she had taught me,” she said. “I wanted to make her proud, and I wanted to do it to bring honor to her.”
Barton said her grandmother died in March 2016, which left her wanting to honor Knight through cooking. Knight, who was a Cherokee National Treasure for tear dressmaking, was also known for making kanuchi, a traditional Cherokee meal made from hickory nuts.
Barton’s goal for the April 19 dinner was to “generate” interest in Native American cuisine.
“A lot of people have asked me before, “What is Native American to you?” At first I drew a blank because it is a culture that is not as mentioned every day like Italian cuisine. You know when a pizza’s Italian or spaghetti is somewhat Italian or a burger and fries is American. But where would those cultures be without the tomato, without corn. As I look more into it you realize that everything that is American has Native American influence in that,” she said.
Barton said she’s offered Native dishes such as bean cakes, wild onions and eggs and even kanuchi. She added that she wanted to feature these Native-inspired dishes because she believes it’s important to share it with the Tulsa area.
“As for as close as we are to Indian Country, surprisingly very little influence from the Native American cuisine is present in restaurants in a popular area such as Tulsa,” she said. “My aim is to generate interest and bringing more Native American culture back into the mainstream cooking.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – A passion for fencing and teaching others the sport encouraged Cherokee Nation citizen Kevin Stretch to begin a fencing program at the Academy of Performing Arts.
He said the first class began approximately three months ago and he hopes to get “a lot” of attention drawn to fencing.
“Currently I have six (students). It’s my first group, and they range from 6 years old, which is pretty young, to probably in their mid-40s. Two dads come with their children,” he said.
Stretch said he’s tried to start a fencing program for “years.” He said he started one in Tahlequah because the sport is “under promoted” in the area.
“When I moved to Tahlequah, there’s not a lot of opportunity. The opportunities are in Fayetteville (Arkansas) or Little Rock, Arkansas, or Tulsa, so it’s an hour and a half drive to get to fencing in this area. Plus, I think that it’s…under promoted in this area, and I’d kind of like to see us grow into a nice club where we can go fence with our people,” he said.
Stretch said his program focuses on foil fencing, where one hand is typically behind the fencer.
“What we do primarily is foil fencing, and it is a thinner weapon. It has a blunt tip on it so it doesn’t actually make a puncture wound. Foil’s kind of the finesse of the sport,” he said. “So there’s foil, there’s épée and there’s sabre. Sabre’s like the MMA (mixed martial arts) of fencing where it’s kind of a brutal sport. Foil fencing, the torso, not counting arms, is the target area. So when you make a touch on the torso then you get a point. The way we play it is the first to five points wins.”
He said in fencing different articles of protection are necessary when competing. He said some items worn are the jacket, which is form-fitting with a strap that goes between the legs, and a mask, which provides protection for the head and neck. The mask’s face is metal mesh. There is also the plastron, an underarm protector that provides extra protection under the jacket, and gloves, which provide protection for the sword hand.
As for his students, Stretch said they’ve done a “great job.” “I didn’t really have any expectations, and they’ve done a great job. Some of them are turning into great fencers. They’re learning off of each other.”
Logan Stansell, 14, of Tahlequah, is a student who began fencing because he wanted to “get in shape.”
“I use to be very out of shape, you know, unhealthy, and I wanted to change that. So I saw fencing as a good idea due to it being an interesting alternative to normal exercise. Something that can be fun and enjoyable while at the same time a good workout,” he said.
He said the sport is “amazing,” and it’s something he enjoys weekly. “I feel like I’m actually learning. You feel the progress. You learn when you’re getting better.”
Stretch said he’s been interested in fencing since college and started fencing at the Tulsa YMCA.
“I was playing racquetball at the time, and I noticed that they had fencing, so I started taking fencing there and did it for several years,” he said. “Then I moved, at one point, to Little Rock, Arkansas, and they have great fencing there. So I was fencing in Little Rock at the Central Arkansas Fencing Club, and then I arose to be an assistant coach there and that’s kind of where I got the interest of coaching.”
Stretch said his next class starts on April 14 and it’s a beginner’s class for ages 6 and up. He said students do not have to have equipment immediately because he starts them on “footwork.”
“What we do is…we have a few weapons for you to practice with. You won’t fence anyone else because you won’t have equipment, but after you’ve done it for a couple of weeks then we have a little basic fencing set that you can purchase online,” he said. “That usually runs about $150 for that basic setup, and it’s the jacket, the mask and the glove and the weapon.”
He said he eventually hopes to offer advanced classes.
“So what we’re hoping is that once we build up a small group then maybe we can have intermediate classes and maybe advanced,” he said.
For more information, call 918-803-1408 or visit the “Fencing in NE Oklahoma” Facebook group.
NEW YORK CITY – Cherokee Nation citizen Jennifer Kirby attended the 61st annual United Nations Commission on the Status of Women on March 10-15 as a Lutheran World Federation delegate.
Kirby said she heard stories and testimonies from women of other countries about their struggles to be heard by their governments on issues such as abuse, human trafficking, work and equal pay.
“Just the fact that you were so close to so many women and so many world leaders who are saying ‘we care about women’s rights, we care about women’s work, justice for women, women’s empowerment’ was really inspiring. I feel like that was a life-changing experience to be around so many people that are fighting for a lot of the same things across the world,” Kirby said.
She said she learned women from other countries struggle with speaking on certain issues and have to be “strategic” or “silent” in their fights because of dangers they face. In the United States, she said, it’s easier for women to speak and find allies and support on issues, but in a sense, solutions are still government-controlled.
Within her Lutheran delegation, Kirby heard stories from Indigenous women about what they face that affects them as well as their children and what hinders their empowerment to create change in their communities.
Kirby, of Oaks, Oklahoma, said within her family and community she has seen women be homemakers and caretakers of families but not reap benefits because of caregiving not being seen as real work.
“Women are seen as domestic workers, working from home, caring for other people, raising their children. But none of that is really recognized as work and if you looked at the impact and how much money that would cost over the span of their lifetime, they’re contributing a lot. If they were actually getting paid, that would be a lot of money. Things like that kind of make you think…how can we make changes to how women are treated and how women are recognized,” she said.
Kirby said she sees how the CN, of which she serves as the Human Services’ youth services and special projects director, has created equality for women in terms of paid maternity leave and women having leadership roles. However, she does not see those things happening in other places or businesses.
She said she would like to take her UNCSW experience and create a program at the Ebenezer Lutheran Church in Oaks for youths to create a safe place for them to talk about things they are going through such as sexual issues, birth control, home and school issues. She also wants to inspire young girls and let them know that they too can aspire to have a career and take leadership roles rather than be dependent upon someone.
“I grew up watching women be very dependent on men, and I think (it) really kind of struck a chord with me early on, not that I’m anti-relationship whatsoever. I love my husband, but I want a partner, someone who’s beside me, not someone who has to control the money or control what I do and things like that. I saw that growing up with some of the women in my family, and I think that’s probably why they told me ‘you do it on your own. You do things that you want to do. You work hard.’ I just feel that our girls are getting mixed messages now days,” Kirby said.
Kirby said though the UNSCW is in its 61st year, women still have a long fight ahead.
“We make so much progress and then things change and so we have to start back over. We have to educate. We have to fight,” she said.
VINITA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen J.J. Lind is a Brooklyn, New York-based artist and artistic director of Immediate Medium, a nonprofit performance and producing collective he co-founded in 2002. He’s created more than 20 works spanning theater, video, photography and performance that have been presented throughout New York City. He also has two film projects in development that explore his Native ancestry and home state of Oklahoma.
“Spooklight” is a film Lind is developing with filmmaker Gabrielle Demeestere. It is a “psychological and environmental horror film” that examines the deteriorating relationship between two Cherokee siblings and their non-Native half brother. It will be filmed in northeastern Oklahoma and feature performances by local Native actors and non-actors.
“Allotment” is a documentary by Lind and filmmaker Mark Lazarz. It is an “impressionistic portrait” of northeastern Oklahoma and its people that examines the legacy of enforced land ownership inside the CN. It is being filmed across over the course of four seasons and will feature interviews with local residents, tribal leaders, elders, politicians, church leaders, cowboys, artisans and local historians.
“Growing up it wasn’t cool to be Indian,” Lind said. “Most of my classmates weren’t into it, and those that were didn’t see me as part of their group because I’m tall and blond.”
While at Yale University, Lind said he longed to connect with other Native Americans.
“I only knew one other well in my time there, and he wasn’t very connected to his tribe. In this vacuum, I began a very academic exploration of my heritage. I took some courses in Native American culture and prehistory,” he said. “Yale has an awesome library, and I found more information than I could ever read. That experience still informs my work.”
While conducting research for a play on Vinita, Lind said he discovered papers of Elias Cornelius Boudinot, who was from Vinita and the son of the first editor of the Cherokee Phoenix, Elias Boudinot.
Lind said he tries to return home to Vinita when possible. “I’m back home usually three to five times a year. With this documentary project, I’ll probably spend a total of three months in Vinita this year.”
Lind said his northeast Oklahoma ties run deep. “On my mother’s side, all of my family other than me pretty much still lives in or near Vinita. My mom’s family is from White Oak. We still have our allotment out there. My dad and his parents died there. My grandmother was from Adair/Spavinaw area. She met my grandfather when he worked on the Pensacola Dam. They married two weeks later. After the dam was completed, they moved around the country and ended up on the south side of Chicago. My father and his siblings were raised there but moved back Oklahoma when my grandparents retired.”
Lind, who is part Shawnee, said his mom’s family was raised more traditionally.
“My mom grew up on their allotment land watching her grandfather perform ceremonies. He was known for divination. Growing up, my mother would be smudged by cousins and whatnot, but we never went to the stomp dances or anything,” he said.
But it’s his paternal grandmother who inspires many of his Native-based projects.
“I believe the real genesis of these projects began with the death of my grandmother on my father’s side. She was a small, quiet woman who helped raise me as my brother was often in the hospital with health conditions from birth defects, including hydrocephalus and spina bifada. We fished and foraged, and she taught me about plants and animals,” he said.
After her death, he said his sister Carrie saw a woman eating alone in a corner at Clanton’s Restaurant in Vinita, where his sister now works as a waitress.
“In her mind, this woman looked exactly like our grandmother. My sister introduced herself and apologized for staring. She explained to this women that she looked like her grandmother who had just passed,” he said. “This woman asked who her grandmother was, and my sister replied, ‘Christine Lind.’ This woman said she was sorry to hear that because she and Christine were friends.”
The woman was the late Annabelle Mitchell, acclaimed potter and Cherokee National Treasure.
“I knew Annabelle as a boy when my grandmother would take me along for lunches at Clanton’s. I don’t remember much about the specifics of their conversations, but I do remember thinking they were sisters. She teased my grandma about my having blond hair,” he said. “My sister and I were fortunate enough to spend a day with her shortly before she (Mitchell) passed. She had already had a stroke, but we were able to visit Wyandotte where she told my sister and I memories of our grandmother during their time at the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) school. She told of pranks, their classes, a boy named Runaway Scott that my grandmother loved, about not being allowed to see their male siblings or speak Cherokee.”
Lind said Mitchell told them about her pottery, how she got her start in her 40s, where she found her inspiration and the clay she used.
“The fact that she didn’t begin that journey until she was about my age remains an inspiration. It is never too late to deepen your connection to your people and culture,” he said.
He said her most emphatic advice to him was: “Know the history, the culture, all of it.”
“She inspired me to use my own work to unearth and remind us of our forgotten knowledge and traditions, our history and stories, to celebrate and contribute to both Cherokee and larger indigenous American culture, and to harness my art in the service of my people,” Lind said. “I am proud that she also inspired my sister to follow in her footsteps as a traditional potter.”
Through his projects, Lind said he is trying to convey to the public that we are guests on this land.
“Our knowledge of this land is not only contained in our culture, it is carried in our blood. I saw this knowledge in the hands of the elders at Spavinaw, many in their 70s and 80s, as my sister taught them to make their first pot. Their hands knew how to make it before my sister could even show them. These tiny pots made by grandmothers remind me that, as with grandmother spider, a lot can come from one tiny pot,” he said.
SALLISAW, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Justin Pettit grew up with a passion for radio broadcasting after listening to sports on the radio during his early years.
Pettit said he grew up listening to broadcasts of the University of Oklahoma Sooners and University of Arkansas Razorbacks basketball teams.
“Now, I do my own stuff. I do basketball or game of the week here on 105.1 (KXMX in Sallisaw). I do the play-by-play, the color (commentary), all my own stats, everything,” he said.
He initially thought about going into the radio broadcasting business in 2010 while working as realtor in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“I always had a passion for radio, and I got a note from one of my friends about doing broadcasting school, and it was all online so I was able to do it,” Pettit said.
In 2011, he graduated from the American Broadcasting School and started with Cumulus Broadcasting Inc. in Fayetteville. While there, Pettit honed his skills as a radio broadcast host by covering local and college sports.
In 2015, he became a host at Mix 105.1 FM with a show called “JP in the Morning.” He is also the station’s sports director.
“I’m on the air 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. having a good time, getting people ready for the morning, getting them ready for their job or school or whatever it is they got going on,” Pettit said.
He said one of his favorite aspects of the job is interacting with listeners and fans.
“I love the interaction. That’s probably my favorite part. We’re a local radio station. We’re not owned by any big company. We get to do whatever we want. So if there’s a big event happening across town that involves the kids or anything, we’re there. We go out and interact with all the people. They love us,” he said.
He said the radio station provides more than just a show to its listeners.
“We play a mix of music. We play country, rock, Christian, all of it. They know any type of music they like they know they can listen to us and we’ll have it there for them,” he said. “They know if they need any kind of breaking weather, if there is any news happening in and around the area they tune to us. We’re live on the air. A lot of radio stations aren’t live anymore. So if there’s an accident or a road’s blocked off or anything, the people know they can tune to us or call us and we’ll let them know where to be and where not to be.”
He said to work in radio his personality has to come through in his voice.
“In radio you got to have a big personality, and a lot of guys have a radio voice. I don’t really have one. I don’t put it on because when I go out with the public, we have a lot of interaction. People say ‘well you sound just like you do on the radio.’ Well I don’t put the big…radio voice on so that’s kind one of my trademarks,” he said.
Pettit said though the radio station is only 3 or 4 years old, the ratings “are up there with the guys” who have been in the radio broadcasting business for 30 or 40 years.
His fellow employees praised Pettit for his work ethic.
Delanna Nutter, sales director, said Pettit steps up when they need him to do extra voice work and that he is “always right on point.”
“I’m just a normal guy working the job that I love and living the dream,” Pettit said.
BULLHEAD CITY, Ariz. – After participating in BMX, or bicycle motocross, for the past few years, Cherokee Nation citizen Payton Sarabia, 7, had a successful 2016 when it came to taking home the gold.
Priscilla, Payton’s mother, said Payton won the Arizona State championship and three other races.
“This year she won the championship for Arizona State, taking home the first, and then we also competed for Gold cup, which is regional (District Championship). She competed in two gold cups, South Central (Regional Championship) and South West (Regional Championship). She won both of those receiving the number one,” she said. “The South Central was in Texas, which was a new track for her, new girls, and she went out there and she had a clean sweep, but she got first place on all three days of the championship so she came home the overall winner. Then the Southwestern was in Arizona, she also brought home first place that weekend.”
In 2015, Payton won the Arizona championship and third place for the DK Bikes Gold Cup Regional Championship, both in the 5-and-under girls’ class.
Priscilla said Payton is doing “awesome” and that her district championship win was not separated by age, gender or skill level.
“In that one she could have competed against a 30-year-old girl who’s been racing for five years or 10 years,” she said.
Payton said she enjoys racing and competing because when she wins it makes her “happy.” She said she also likes to travel. “I mostly like racing because I get to travel.”
Priscilla said thanks to Payton’s wins, a lot of groups have wanted to sponsor her with her main sponsor being Tuff Girlz Trophy Team, which is also the team for which she rides.
“After she got all of these wins she had a lot of sponsors that wanted to sponsor her and send her to various races and give her a discount and various gear for her,” she said.
Payton can also occasionally be seen racing in a purple tutu. Priscilla said Payton’s nickname is “Purple Pickle Flyin Tutu.”
“When she first started BMX she couldn’t decide between BMX or dance, so that was kind of how she got her name…is because she wore a tutu over her riding gear,” she said.
Payton said she practices “mostly everyday,” and Priscilla added that it’s a family affair.
“She’s gotten all of us on bikes to train and work with her,” she said.
Priscilla said she tells Payton to never “undermine” what she thinks she can do.
“Some of the riders that she beat…she never thought that she could beat. When she did she was excited, and she was really proud of herself. She felt like she accomplished something,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to teach her is accomplishments are great, that you can do anything that you put your mind too. You just got to work for it and stay determined and have confidence.”