The Locust Grove Cardinals, with coaches in back, won the United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series baseball championship in their first appearance on July 17-18 in Bixby, Oklahoma, in the 8-and-under, coach-pitch division. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Locust Grove Cardinals win inaugural USSSA World Series
Cherokee Nation citizen Ayden Littledave competes against the Vinita Dirty Dawgs on July 17 during the United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series in Bixby, Oklahoma. COURTESY
BIXBY, Okla. – The Locust Grove Cardinals, an 8-and-under, coach-pitch baseball team from Locust Grove, competed in its first United States Specialty Sports Association Global World Series July 17-18, winning its division.
The Cardinals have 12 members, nine of who started as a team two years ago. About two-thirds of the team are Cherokee Nation or United Keetoowah Band citizens.
Since forming, the team has won weekend tournaments, two state championships and its first world series. Though not affiliated with a league, the team is considered a “tournament team,” meaning it only competes in weekend tournaments around the state.
“(In the) World Series play, we didn’t have intentions up there. Really, I just wanted them to go up there for the experience and have fun, so I just told them ‘all I want you to do is try hard. I mean just play hard and if we win, that’s great. If we don’t, just know that as long as you tried hard that’s all that matters,’” head coach Mike Witt said.
The team started slowly in the 2017 spring season because of inclement weather limiting its playing time and finding a place to practice.
“Our expectations kind of went down for a little bit, but they ended up fighting back hard at the end of the season, doing really well and peaking at the right time,” Witt said.
To prepare for the World Series, the team practiced up to three days a week with two-hour practices.
“We did most of our practices right…on the (Locust Grove High School) football field because we didn’t have a field all year because there’s so many teams in little league, and we weren’t in the league, so we weren’t first priority. So we had to make do with what we had,” Witt said.
To qualify for the World Series, the Cardinals had to win its division in the USSSA State Championship East tournament in Broken Arrow.
“State tournament is where it really changed for them. The atmosphere just changed. We started bringing a radio and letting them have their own (music) playlist and that really loosened them up…and it just seemed like it really helped them play better. In the World Series, it’s just a totally different ball games because everybody’s the best there,” Witt said.
UKB citizen Kamden Feeling, pitcher and right field, said he was “excited” when he learned his team was going to the World Series.
CN citizen Ayden Littledave, centerfield, said the team was “happy” it was able to win. He was also selected for the USSSA Global World Series All-Tournament Team.
“It’s cool because we get to have big giant rings, and it makes us happy that we won,” Littledave said.
Though the team went 0-4 in pool play, it went 5-0 in tournament play that led to its victory. It beat the Arkansas Express in the final game.
Witt said the Locust Grove community and the parents of the team members were supportive in helping send the team to the World Series. He said for next season, he wants to win again.
“I think we got the kids and the coaches to do it. Everybody’s bought in I think. Parents are great. This year, we wasn’t expecting to do as good as we did do. They had us bumped up in a higher division first, we struggled with that a lot, but we ended up doing really good. So that just shows the character of the team. They battle hard and fight hard,” he said.
TAHLEQUAH – Three local Cherokee youths competed in the U.S. Kids Golf – Tulsa Spring Tour held between March and June that consisted of seven tournaments.
Kylie Fisher, Edwin Wacoche and Chase Jones also competed in the season-ending Tour Championship at the Cherokee Hills Golf Course at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa on June 10. They received points based on how they finished in each tournament with each player with the most points winning the division.
Fisher, of Tahlequah, competed in the Girls 7-Under Division and won all seven tournaments played at Tulsa-area golf courses, plus the championship on June 10 with a score of 36 for nine holes. Wacoche, of Tahlequah, won the Boys 6-under Division and Jones, of Park Hill, won the Boys 10 Division.
Fisher also recently won the U.S. Kids Golf Texas State Invitational for girl’s 7-under held June 18-19, by shooting 35 and 35 for a score of 70. The competitors in the tournament played 9 holes each day at the Brookhaven Country Club in Farmers Branch, Texas.
“We were surprised she won it. She shot her best score to date in that tournament,” her mother Shauna Fisher, said.
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Arts Center, in conjunction with the Spider Gallery, will host an art exhibit by local Cherokee artist J. Wade Hannon titled “Returning to the Cherokee Nation: A Selection of Paintings from Before and After” from July 6 to Aug. 3.
In 2014, Hannon moved to Tahlequah from Chicago’s south side where he lived and worked. His family was part of the migration out of the Cherokee Nation between 1930 and 1950.
The paintings in the show feature works completed in Chicago as well as works finished since relocating to Tahlequah. His work is primarily abstract done in acrylics with items added such as glitter and mica flakes as well as shells and feathers he’s collected. He’s been referred to by some as the “Jackson Pollack of the Cherokee art world.”
“Being Cherokee has always been a part of my identity. When I found the opportunity to move to Tahlequah it made perfect sense to me. I have enjoyed the camaraderie with other Indian artists and have grown as an artist and a person being here,” he said. “I started painting in the ninth grade and continued painting off and on until about five or so years ago when I took up the brushes full time.”
Hannon earned a doctorate in counseling from the University of Arkansas. He worked in mental health counseling after that until obtaining a position at North Dakota State University in Fargo where he was a professor in the master’s and doctoral programs in counseling. Along the way he fathered two children.
A reception, featuring wine, cheese and crackers and other adult beverages will be held at 5:30 p.m. on July 6 in the Cort Mall located downtown. The show will run during the Spider Gallery’s business hours.
For more exhibit information, call 918-453-5728. For more information about Hannon, call 539-832-9858 or email <a href="mailto: email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials honored CN citizen Sammy Houseberg on June 21 with the Medal of Patriotism award for his service in the military.
The Medal of Patriotism Awards is given at monthly Tribal Council meetings. Tribal Councilors can nominate a person to receive the award.
Houseberg is also a “Remember the Removal” alumni rider who rode in 2016 as a CN Elder Ambassador. He was in town to watch this year’s riders come in the same day he received the patriotism award. Originally from Stilwell, Houseberg has resided in Pearl City, Hawaii, since he was honorably discharged from the Army.
During his 22 years of service, he rose in rank from private to first sergeant, armor senior sergeant, platoon sergeant to senior scout/section leader.
He also attended Air Assault reconnaissance and surveillance training with his cavalry squadron where he became capable of short notice deployments in support of combat operations all over the world to provide reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence assets to commanders.
Houseberg was honorably discharged as an E-8 first sergeant in 1994.
He said he was proud to receive the Medal of Patriotism and that it “probably beats all of my other awards.”
In addition to the Medal of Patriotism, he earned several decorations, medals and ribbons during his service including an Army Commendation Medal with five Oak Leaf Cluster, an overseas service ribbon, two Purple Hearts with one Oak Leaf Cluster, an Army Service ribbon, a Combat Infantryman’s badge, four overseas service bars, a Bronze Silver Star medal and six Vietnam Campaign medals.
“The military was good for me. It got me out to see the world. I got to learn how to work and deal with people. It was good to me. It was fun,” he said.
After receiving the award, Houseberg attended the welcome home ceremony for the 2018 RTR bike ride.
“The Removal bike ride taught me a lot about my history. I knew nothing about where my family comes from, where they were or anything,” he said.
He said he learned his family originated from Georgia and was one of the first families to be removed.
He added that he could not express how important it was for him to be back in Oklahoma to see the cyclists come in.
“I just feel like a part of them and riding with the RTR you become brothers and sisters when you do that. Kind of like being in the military, once you’ve done it you all get together, and you stay in touch with all the young riders I rode with,” he said.
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Cooper Keys is a 4-year-old with a passion for motocross. Born in 2013, Cooper began riding his 2004 Yamaha PW50 in February after finding tri-cycling slow and monotonous.
With half a dozen races under his belt on the peewee dirt track at Jandebeur’s Motor Sports Park in Okmulgee, he’s notched five third-place finishes and one second-place finish.
Cooper competes in the 50cc shaft drive/air cooled and 50cc beginner divisions and is the only 4-year-old racing against 5-to 7-year-olds.
“We got him a starter balance bike when he was about a year and a half old,” CN citizen and Cooper’s mother Emily Keys said. “Balance bikes don’t have pedals or training wheels, so he just kind of pushed himself around until he eventually got to where he could ride around without using his feet.”
Emily said Cooper soon began riding down hills, balancing perfectly on the bike that was designed for pushing around the yard.
“When he outgrew the balance bike, we got him a bicycle that resembled a dirt bike, which he mastered in no time,” she said. It was around then that Emily and her husband, Justin, began thinking that Cooper’s abilities” weren’t “normal.” Cooper’s agility was only surpassed by his constant request for a real (motorized) dirt bike,” she said.
“He was just gung-ho, and would not be quiet about it. My husband had a mini-bike when he was little but only rode it around the field, so we really knew nothing about dirt bikes or the sport,” Emily said.
She added that it was eventually her parents who sprang for Cooper’s first dirt bike, as a Christmas present. She said she thought he would just want to ride around the field with it. But that wasn’t the case. Cooper wanted to ride all the time.
“We were concerned about him racing at such a young age, so we just started at the bottom, learning everything we could on teaching Cooper how to ride safe and smart. We purchased every piece of safety gear a kid could have. Now the poor (child) looks like (a) mix between an astronaut and the Terminator when he’s all suited up to go,” Emily said. “He’s had some crashes but that hasn’t deterred him in the least.”
Cooper’s father and CN citizen Justin Keys said Cooper’s can-do attitude was only one of the qualities he noticed.
“It makes me really proud that he has such good sportsmanship and how he strives to make himself better. I mean he’s pushing himself more than anybody. He gets out there with a ride, ride, ride attitude and he never gives up. More than once, I’ve seen him fall down, get up and want to go again. You can’t teach that.”
“We don’t want him hurt, and it is scary putting him on such a fast bike, but we’ve done all we can,’ Emily said. “We continue to teach him about safety, and we can’t let our fears get in the way of something he’s that passionate about.”
TAHLEQUAH – Spectators who attended the Cherokee Nation’s All-Indian Rodeo on June 2 at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds got to see team and calf roping, mutton busting, steer wrestling, trick riding, sharp shooting, calf riding, bronco riding, barrel racing and bull riding.
Overall, there were 270 entries to the traditional rodeo, but because of roping team deviations and multiple event entries, the exact number of competitors was unknown. Cherokee Phoenix was there and produced a highlight video of the event.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/6/42327__peo_180606_CNrodeo_rg_ts.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the list of All-Indian Rodeo 2018 winners
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizen Kallup McCoy II is running the Trail of Tears’ Benge Route to Oklahoma to honor his Cherokee ancestors and raise awareness and funds for his nonprofit organization – Rez HOPE Recovery.
McCoy said he started running May 14 in Cherokee at Kituwah Mound, and is expecting to arrive in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, on June 28 after completing a 1,095-mile journey.
“I was initially interested in the removal (Remember the Removal) ride and I found during the application process that if you have a felony conviction on your record that you was automatically excluded. I am person in long-term recovery from substance abuse,” he said. “So I wanted to do the Trail of Tears in remembrance of our ancestors, and I decided that instead of doing the removal ride, I would run it.”
The Benge detachment began on Oct. 3, 1838, in Fort Payne, Alabama, and crossed into Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas before finishing on Jan. 11, 1839, in Indian Territory, near present-day Stilwell, Oklahoma.
He said he’s averaging about 20 miles per day and has the support of his mother, girlfriend and cousin, who drive a few miles ahead of him and await him with water and food.
“So I run three or four miles to catch up, drink something, eat something, and do the same thing over again all day long. That’s how we do it,” he said.
McCoy said after being released from jail in August, he decided to make a lifestyle change to overcome drug addiction. He began competing in endurance and running competitions, leading him to decide to run one of the forced removal routes.
“I’ve just really been pushing myself since I’ve been out of jail to be a better person, be the change that I want to see,” he said.
After starting his organization RezHOPE Recovery, McCoy said he wants to use this run to raise money to open a recovery house for people who are suffering from addiction, coming out of jail, in rehab and looking for a safe environment.
“I feel like as a people we have, since all that happened to our ancestors, we have been in a state of oppression with alcohol, with different substances, with diabetes, all kinds of different things that we struggle with as a people. I know it’s making an impact on the people back home that’s watching this journey,” he said.
In addition to his nonprofit, McCoy said he wants to open recovery houses across the United States on Native American reservations and create a speaking tour where he can talk to people about his challenges with addiction and how he’s been able to overcome them.
To track McCoy’s journey, follow his Facebook page Kallup McCoy II or his organization’s page Rez Hope.