http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgRocks painted with a crown and SpongeBob Squarepants are found at a Reasor’s Grocery story in Owasso, Oklahoma. The rocks are part of the Facebook group 918 Rocks! People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code. The group was inspired by Hunter Kelley, a Cherokee Nation citizen who survived cancer. 918 ROCKS!
Rocks painted with a crown and SpongeBob Squarepants are found at a Reasor’s Grocery story in Owasso, Oklahoma. The rocks are part of the Facebook group 918 Rocks! People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code. The group was inspired by Hunter Kelley, a Cherokee Nation citizen who survived cancer. 918 ROCKS!

Blind child in Oklahoma inspires Facebook group

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/28/2017 12:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) – Kimberly Politte cast the first stone and started a colorful rockslide.

Politte created the Facebook group 918 Rocks!

People in the group post photos of painted rocks they are hiding or have found in spots all over the 918 area code.

918 Rocks! once was an itty bitty group, but it has boomed in popularity. Barely half a year old, the group has almost 9,000 members.

The story behind the story — the person who inspired Politte to create 918 Rocks! — is her 8-year-old son, Hunter.

A cancer survivor, the young Cherokee Nation citizen can’t see all the colorful rocks.

“After we exhausted every option that was possible, the doctor decided that the only way to save his life was to remove his eyes,” Politte told the Tulsa World.

Since then, Hunter has been cancer-free. And that rocks.

Hunter was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a rare type of eye cancer, when he was 17 months old.

Untreated, retinoblastoma can spread to other parts of the body. Chemotherapy and radiation failed to eradicate the cancer, according to Hunter’s mother.

No parent should have to make this kind of choice, but Hunter’s left eye was removed in December 2010 and his right eye was removed the following month.

“I look at him every day and it touches my heart,” Politte said. “It makes me emotional because, just six or seven years ago, I could have lost him.”

Prosthetic eyes were crafted to look like Hunter’s eyes. Politte knows Hunter can’t see her when she looks into his “perfect” prosthetic eyes. But she said she connects with him on an emotional and “intuition” level more than she ever will with anybody else.

“He senses my emotions and I don’t have to say anything,” she said. “Just the tone of my voice, he knows.”

Like other boys his age, Hunter goes through phases when it comes to interests. He loves to read and uses a Refreshabraille device to dive into his favorites. He’s currently digging stories about Greek gods, including the Percy Jackson tales, and Harry Potter books. He loves to swim (even though he hasn’t got it quite mastered), loves Lego and even loves school. He has attended the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee since he was 3.

Hunter, of course, is the reason his mother, who lives in Claremore, commutes to Muskogee to work at Oklahoma School for the Blind. When asked how she feels about him, she said, “He is my world. I have given up a lot in life to make sure he gets the very best, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. He has inspired me to realize that a disability is not what should hold somebody back. They should not be defined by their disability. He can’t see, but he is advancing leaps and bounds. I have continued my college education because of him. I am currently a year and a half from graduating with my teaching degree. So he has been the reason why I do everything I do.”

Any good idea is worth borrowing. Politte borrowed an idea to launch 918 Rocks!

She said Hunter goes to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital every six months for check-up appointments. She couldn’t help but notice painted rocks on the hospital grounds. Web research told her the rocks were part of a venture called 901 Rocks. 901 is an area code in Memphis.

Politte became a participant, painting rocks to leave in Memphis. She and her mother talked about creating a similar group back home. They started 918 Rocks! in mid-September and invited a few friends. They placed rocks at random places —a bus stop, a gas station, a grocery store — for others to find.

“We just kind of played around with it,” Politte said. “It wasn’t anything we put a whole lot of time and effort into.”

Over time, all of Green Country became a staging ground for a painted rock version of an Easter egg hunt. Group members use the 918 Rocks! Facebook page to post photos of rocks they will distribute and clues about where to find them. Photos also are posted when rocks are discovered.

Besides rocks, what are group members spreading? Said Politte: “Smiles. Happiness. Joy.”
Excerpts of recent posts:

Pamela Shanholtzer-Robertson: “Had a really rough day today and then ... found my first rock. Just what I needed!”

Summer Dawn: “Found my very first rock tonight, hidden in a flower pot at Crossroads Church in Beggs. The strawberry rock is adorable!!”

Tiffany Contreras: “Found this at Indian Resource Center in #Tulsa. There was another beauty next to it.” Contreras said she didn’t take the other rock because she didn’t want to be greedy.

Politte said a goal of 918 Rocks! is to encourage families to spend time together by painting rocks, stashing rocks or searching for rocks.

“Let’s get off the phone,” she said. “Let’s not be so wrapped up in our social media and being stuck in our electronics. This encourages you to look around. Notice your surroundings. You may be walking into a gas station, and, if you’re not paying attention, there could be a rock right there in front of you.”

Politte said people are free to keep rocks they find or to “re-hide” them.

“The only stipulation is don’t put them inside a store that sells merchandise because it does look like you are shoplifting,” she said. “We try to discourage that. We also want people to, if they are going to place them inside of a business, ask permission for that first.”

Politte is pleasantly surprised that 918 Rocks! has mushroomed. She said membership in the group was 5,000 a couple of weeks ago. Considering the rapid escalation, count on that figure to soon double.

“I never would have imagined it turning into something like this,” she said, adding that she wants 918 Rocks! to get as big as it can.

“I don’t want it to be something that’s just a fad. I want it to continue.”

Politte spurred growth by adding Facebook friends to the group and by planting plenty of seeds. She said she has placed hundreds of rocks on 918 turf. Hunter chips in to help, using his imagination to, for instance, paint characters from books on rocks to be hidden.

“Seeing him every day and the things he does, it lets me know that I have done something right,” she said.

“There is nothing worse than having to see your child go through what he has gone through, and we still wake up every day and we have a smile on our face because he is here and he is doing great.”

Said Politte: “Something tragic has turned into something amazing.”

People

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
12/12/2017 12:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen JoKay Dowell on Nov. 7 received a 2017 Dream Keepers award from the Greater Tulsa Area Indian Affairs Commission and the city of Tulsa Human Rights Department as part of National Native American Heritage Month. The GTAIAC’s annual Dream Keeper Awards Banquet celebrates Native American leaders “who exemplify strong character and have made a difference through solid dedication to public service.” Dowell (Cherokee/Quapaw/Peoria/Eastern Shawnee) was awarded the “Will Anquoe Humanitarian Award.” The award “recognizes humanitarianism and overall contributions to the Native community but also recognizes those who bridge communication and understanding among diverse groups.” Dowell was honored for her “strong history of advocacy and activism in the areas of Indigenous peoples’ rights, human rights, anti-war actions, peace and the environment.” She has traveled to Central and South American Indigenous communities to collaborate on ways to address shared injustices and successes, stated the Dream Keepers booklet. In 2016, she and her daughter Anna delivered supplies to the Oceti Sakowin camp on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota and spent five weeks there to help resist the Dakota Access Pipeline. “I looked around the room at the awards banquet and saw so many people of our people who have made profound contributions to their tribe, the community, the world. I felt inadequate, undeserving,” Dowell said. “I brought my grandchildren with me so that they can see that even though there is little financial reward or gain in community work, in service to others, there is so much reward. In fact, it’s mostly volunteer work. Many times we take money from out own pockets, but even then there is much reward when someone thanks us for something we’ve done or when we are recognized by our own community, our tribes, our peers like these Dream Keeper awards.” Residing in rural northern Cherokee County, Dowell is also a photographer whose work has shown at Gilcrease Museum and a writer published in Indian Country Today, Native American Times, Native Oklahoma Magazine, First American Art Magazine, Native Americas Journal, the Cherokee Phoenix and Indigenous Women's Magazine. Dowell served as faculty-in-residence for the 2004 University of Oklahoma’s National Education for Women’s Leadership Conference. She earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northeastern State University and has won awards for creative writing. In 2011, as part of the 7th Generation Fund’s delegation, she attended the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues at UN headquarters in New York City. “I think each one of us has an obligation of service to our fellow human beings, to our home, Earth,” she said. “I’ve always been told that we Indigenous people have been given directions from the creator to take care of each other and Mother Earth and to demonstrate respect for all living things. I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
12/11/2017 12:15 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee actor and Nofire Hollow native Wes Studi sat down with the Cherokee Phoenix on Nov. 29 while attending the Tribal Film Festival Showcase at Circle Cinema to discuss his new film “Hostiles.” The film is set in 1892 and follows Capt. Joseph J. Blocker (Christian Bale) as he battles his hatred toward dying Cheyenne Chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) while being forced to escort him and his family from New Mexico back to ancestral lands in Montana. The film also stars Rosamund Pike, Adam Beach, Q’orianka Kilcher and Ben Foster, who portray characters that each adds layers to the story amid a harsh backdrop of the American frontier. The tagline of the film is, “We are all hostiles,” and reminds audiences that any character is capable of anything when called upon, either by choice or by circumstance. The Western premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in September before making its Oklahoma debut at Circle Cinema where audiences had the opportunity to catch one of three screenings and participate in a Q&A featuring Studi and the film’s consultants Chris Eyre and Dr. Joely Proudfit. “Hostiles” was scheduled to hit theaters nationwide on Dec. 22. Before the Nov. 29 screening, the Cherokee Phoenix sat down with Studi to discuss the film and what attracts the actor to projects. CP: Can you talk about your character, specifically the kind of journey he’s going to go on through this film? Studi: My character, when presented to me through script, was a matter of, ‘wow, this is going to be a challenge. This is going to be a challenge in that I have never done this before, this kind of role before.’ I have never even had this kind of experience before because I am a man dying a slow death over a period of a few months, and I’m described that way in the press for our film. So, yes, it’s kind of a daunting thing in that there is nothing in my background that I can call upon to feel what in the world it feels like to be a slowly dying person, but I gave it a shot and we’ll see at the Q&A if anybody believes me or not. (Laughs.) CP: Was there any other challenges coming in, mental or physical, that came with this character that was different from your other films? Studi: Mentally, the (Cheyenne) language is fairly foreign to me, but we had good instructors. We had plenty of time to work on the pronunciations, the ups and the downs and the flow of the language. That and just a lot of time outside. I believe I have one interior shot in the whole film. Everything else is exterior, so it was quite a challenge. But challenges are something I like. CP: Director Scott Cooper wrote this role with you in mind. Do you feel like you’re the go-to guy for this kind of role? Studi: Ah, Scott Cooper, the Prince of Darkness, had me in mind. That should scare me, don’t you think? (Laughs.) It’s great to have people think of you in terms of your past performances and to write with you in mind. I hope more of that happens in the future. CP: What would you tell people when they go into this film that they might get out of it? Studi: I think what the public can expect from our story is a good old-fashioned concept of a Western that has been brought to a contemporary audience. I think that will be able to take away from it’s story, the kind of world that we could be living in. And perhaps are in danger of living in a world like that again. It’s a cautionary tale in ways, but the message of it is so deeply hidden that is a very entertaining film in itself as a period Western. CP: What did you feel watching it for the first time? Studi: It really blew me away at first. I first watched it and I was simply almost dumbfounded. I was quiet for a good long while afterwards. I really had to absorb what I had just seen. It’s a very effective film in its own way. It left me incapable of conversation immediately thereafter. You know, some films you can walk out of and say, ‘oh, I like this. I like that’ or ‘I didn’t like this or like that,’ but this one…It’s thought-provoking. It absolutely is that, and it’s done in an entertaining way. CP: And in general, has there been a time where you’ve felt pressure to be the go-to Native American actor in Hollywood? Studi: I don’t feel pressure about that. I don’t mind being the go-to guy if it’s the right role. I’m not going to be competing with Jason Momoa (Pawnee actor) for a part, but I would very much like to be a functioning part of the entertainment industry. And that’s mainly what I’ve worked a larger part of my career for is to become not just a Native American actor but an actor in general. CP: And lastly, what attracts you to a project? Studi: My agents and managers, they work very hard looking for sort of crossover, jump out kind of roles that I haven’t done before. I’ve done so many of the wise old guys and somewhere I’m the warrior or the angry Indian. I’ve done a number of different kinds of parts as far as Native American parts go, but I’ve also been able to cross over into comedy with sort of “Street Fighter” and “Mystery Men” in a few films that sort of go outside the Native American sphere. That’s what I look for in terms of future roles is something different, something that I haven’t done before.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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: cookk@nsuok.edu">cookk@nsuok.edu</a>.
BY MARK DREADFULWATER
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="http://www.rakerknives.com" target="_blank">www.rakerknives.com</a> or Kirk’s Facebook page at <a href="https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/ray.kirk.5</a>. For more information on classes, call 918-207-8076 or email <a href="mailto: ray@rakerknives.com">ray@rakerknives.com</a>.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
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="http://www.discovery.com" target="_blank">www.discovery.com</a>. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
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.