http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgActor Viggo Mortensen takes a picture of Cherokee Nation citizen Samantha Isler and actress Meryl Streep in January at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Isler calls it the “best photo ever.” FACEBOOK
Actor Viggo Mortensen takes a picture of Cherokee Nation citizen Samantha Isler and actress Meryl Streep in January at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Isler calls it the “best photo ever.” FACEBOOK

Actress balances Hollywood, high school

Samantha Isler Samantha Isler
Samantha Isler
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
05/16/2017 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Samantha Isler’s life is one of maintaining a balance in all things.
Learning about this young woman’s movie-making might make you think “high-profile and Hollywood” — but she’s all about low-profile and Tulsa.

The Cherokee Nation citizen’s latest movie, “Dig Two Graves,” opened in theaters — a couple of weeks before she graduates from Bishop Kelley High School.

She’ll have another movie — appearing in the directing debut of Aaron Sorkin and playing a young version of Jessica Chastain’s character — that’s being pegged for awards-season this fall, at a time when she’ll be a freshman in college.

She’ll tell you that what she really enjoys is attending a game at her school or going out to eat with her family or walking around downtown Tulsa.

But attending the Cannes Film Festival in France or meeting Meryl Streep, well, those aren’t bad either.

“That was just so insane,” Isler said of her January evening at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, where she and her co-stars were nominated for “Outstanding Cast Performance” in the acclaimed “Captain Fantastic.”

In the film, she played one of six children being raised in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest by their father, played by Viggo Mortensen, who was nominated for a best-actor Oscar — and who served as photographer for her and Streep at the SAG event.

“That’s the best photo ever,” Isler told the Tulsa World. “I just honestly told her how much I loved her, and I started crying almost immediately.

“I was able to stop and have an actual conversation with her, and I told her that she’s my hero as an actress and in how she uses her platforms to stand up for what she believes in.”

But that’s one night in Hollywood, and Isler’s life is in Tulsa, where she treasures time with her family and friends and where she knows she made the right call to stay, rather than move to California for even more acting opportunities.

Her performances, professionalism and a keen eye for choosing thought-provoking material have made it possible for opportunities to continue coming her way no matter where she lives.

“When I first started acting, I didn’t expect anything, and I was discovered by a manager here in Oklahoma and started getting roles and auditions,” Isler said. “But I’m all about Tulsa because all my family is here and I genuinely love it here.

“I couldn’t imagine leaving for acting ... My family is my life, and education is an important part. It’s been the best decision I’ve made regarding my ideas about a career. I was born and raised here, and I have grandparents who moved here for me and my sister.”

Her roles, ranging from playing the daughter of Sean Hayes on a sitcom to a patient on “Grey’s Anatomy,” have given her a glimpse of other young actors who made the move to Hollywood.

“I meet aspiring actors, and I see how they have given up things like education, and I come home and it’s so nice being around all these really humble people who have dreams of being a doctor or a good soccer player and not worrying about how famous they are,” Isler said.

“Every day I know I made the right decision, coming back home to normal life.”

Her latest movie, “Dig Two Graves,” is being released four years after it was filmed and shortly after she had first made “Home Run,” a 2013 faith-based sports drama shot in Okmulgee when she was 14.

“It was kind of a crazy ride for (“Dig Two Graves”), and we thought it might not come out beyond some film festivals,” Isler said. “But then a distributor got involved, and it’s now in select theaters and on iTunes, and I’m really proud of that film.”

Her first starring role came in this supernatural suspense thriller in which a young girl is given a brutal choice that could result in bringing her brother back to life — if she will agree to someone else taking his place.

“I really enjoyed the character, Jake, because she’s a tomboy, and she’s strong-willed and fearless, and her priorities are very different than most 14-year-olds in movies these days,” Isler said.

“She’s dealing with loss, and with making a hard decision, and in films and TV shows too often a girl this age is complaining about school and guys and is very stereotypical.”

The role offered new challenges, like gutting a deer (“That wasn’t too bad at all”) and acting in a water tank for an underwater scene.

“That was one of the scariest things I’ve done in my life, going 12 feet under, and strapped in with scuba experts with me, and then I hear ‘action’ and drop the breathing apparatus ... It was crazy and my mother was scared to death,” Isler recalled.

“That makes it hard to stay in character, but it all worked out.”

Most things are working out for Isler these days, and she’s making plans for a fun summer: traveling that includes rafting, hiking and going to the beach, taking in some concerts and just generally being in the outdoors.

But not before graduation, as well as talking to a Circle Cinema audience with her “Dig Two Graves” director in tow to answer questions about the film and about her acting experiences.

“I think it’s nice to be able to do this, to let people know about the movie,” Isler said. “I’ve done these and found it interesting how much people really do care about a movie and how much they want to know how we feel about the movie.

“I think that’s really nice, and, of course, it’s nice that I’ll probably have many friends and family in the theater.”

Because family, and Tulsa, are what really matter to this young talent.

People

BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
05/22/2017 02:45 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. – Macy Rose recently received a 2017 U.S. Tennis Association Native American Scholar Athlete Leadership Grant. The 13-year-old Cherokee Nation citizen is the No. 17-ranked girl in USTA Southwest Girls 14 and under rankings. She recently won the Lobo Tennis Club Winter Junior Open, the Jerry Cline Junior Open in 2016 and captured the women’s open title at the USTA Southwest Indoor Championships. She is ranked No. 1 in New Mexico and is pursuing a top 20 national ranking. Originally from Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Macy’s mother, Wahlesah Rose, also a CN citizen, was a tennis player at Northeastern State University and has been a section and national-level volunteer for the USTA for almost 10 years. Macy’s father, Eric Rose, is the owner and director of tennis at Shellaberger Tennis Center in Santa Fe. “My mom taught me at the Tahlequah High School tennis courts. I would chase the balls around and eventually I started hitting them. I saw her teaching my cousins and other kids and playing, and I couldn’t wait to start hitting,” Macy said. “My parents let me come to tennis on my own. They both loved it. I told them my dream, and they told me how much hard work it is. I didn’t believe them, but now I do. It’s about the work and dedication each day to something, even when you don’t feel like it.” Along with submitting an essay to the USTA about how the game of tennis has impacted her life and information about her future tennis aspirations, Macy showed that she maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. She is of the Wolf Clan and attended the Cherokee Immersion Charter School until her family moved to Santa Fe when she was 7. “I’m from Briggs (Oklahoma). I still go home and visit all my family. Each birthday my cousins and friends still sing to me in Cherokee. My mom will yell phrases in Cherokee to me on court and, when she says my Cherokee name, I know she is serious,” Macy said. “It’s in me. It always has been, and it always will be. No matter where I travel to, my home and tribe is always in my heart. My clan is known as the protectors, and I can see that in my family. We are strong women. We enjoy caring for others, and we don’t give up on the tennis court or in life.” The USTA award Macy earned is a $750 grant for tennis training expenses such as travel, developmental lessons, facility usage, apparel and tennis supplies. At her mother’s urging, Macy gives tennis lessons to Native children younger than her in Santa Fe as part of Serve It Up Inc., which provides low-cost or free tennis lessons and clinics to Native American youth. “I enjoy teaching kids because they are so fun and energetic. They are always super happy and willing to have fun,” she said. Along with taking online classes for school to make time for tennis and traveling, Macy trains four to five hours daily, six days a week. “I follow the USTA’s player development plan that is a great guideline for my training so that I make sure not to over train and to make sure I don’t put too much stress on my body,” she said. “I never train seven days in a row because I need to rest and do other non-tennis things like shop or bake.” Her aspirations are to play tennis at Pepperdine or Stanford universities in California. “I love these schools because of their teams, their coaches and their campuses. I love California because their weather is outstanding year round. I want to major in business,” she said. Ultimately, her dream is to play tennis professionally, own a bakery because she likes to bake and start a clothing line. “My parents have always taught me to manage my money and to be responsible for it and to save and earn (money) for things I want,” she said. “I love to bake. Currently, I have my own cupcake business and have modeled for Native fashion designers I love fashion because I can express myself through pieces of cloth.” After her tennis career is over, she said she would “love to travel and watch younger generations of tennis players come up the ranks.” “I’m thinking I would love to be a commentator and open an academy giving scholarships to Native American youth to learn the game. Right now, I help teach and would love to still do that,” Macy said. “I love tennis. I love that I have to come up with the big shots, the big points and dig down deep to find what I need. I love that nobody else can do that for me. It’s just me.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/08/2017 08:00 AM
FORT GIBSON, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizens and Fort Gibson High School juniors Colby Leonard and Grayson Ramey are expected to travel to Germany this summer to play soccer on a team representing the United States. Putnam City North soccer coach Tom Pecore selected the two boys to play on the International Soccer Tour that will feature trips to Munich, Heidelberg and Cologne. The team is expected to play four international friendly matches from July 19-29. “We want these boys to be exposed to the best soccer training in the world,” Pecore said. Leonard and Ramey led the Fort Gibson Tigers to a regular-season District 4A-6 championship by scoring 26 and 16 goals, respectively. Leonard also broke several school records, including his own with a career number of goals of 61 as of publication. Overall, Fort Gibson was 13-2 and had won 11 straight games by a combined score of 57-3, including a 1-0 triumph over 6A Jenks and a 3-2 victory over Siloam Springs, the defending 6A Arkansas state champion, in the final of that school’s Panther Classic Tournament. According to a press release, Leonard and Ramey have been playing soccer together for 10 years and work well together on the field are best friends. “This is a tremendous opportunity for these two young developing soccer players,” Pecore said. “I have found that once they see how the games are played and how much critical training is involved, their personal game always improves.” This is the first time players from Fort Gibson have been invited to play on the tour. Pecore has taken teams to Spain, Germany, Austria and England. He said American players compete at a high level against most teams but lack the nuances of the game that are seldom taught in the United States. He added that Europeans grow up in an environment that demands technical and tactical excellence as they learn the game at a young age, whereas in America, the big emphasis is playing many games. While on the tour, the players will train with top German coaches at some of the most famous training facilities in Europe. “(Fort Gibson soccer) Coach Todd Friend has a reputation of developing great soccer players and my hope is that what these boys learn in Germany they will be able to bring back to their team at Fort Gibson and to any team they may play for at a higher level,” Pecore said. Between games the players will be provided with opportunities to see many of Germany’s most historic sites. They will first fly into Munich and their final destination will take them to Cologne where they will see the largest Cathedral in Europe outside the Vatican, the Old City and Mungerdorfer Stadium.
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.”
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
04/26/2017 08:15 AM
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.”
BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/29/2017 08:15 AM
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.