http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation citizen Tasha Atcity receives her crown as Miss Northeastern State University on Nov. 5, 2013. Atcity now has her eyes set on becoming Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 in December in Shawnee, Oklahoma. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen Tasha Atcity receives her crown as Miss Northeastern State University on Nov. 5, 2013. Atcity now has her eyes set on becoming Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 in December in Shawnee, Oklahoma. COURTESY

Atcity vying for Miss Oklahoma USA title

Tasha Atcity
Tasha Atcity
BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
08/08/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Tasha Atcity is preparing to compete for Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 in December, using the platform of inspiring disadvantaged youth. The Cherokee Nation citizen wants to be a voice by sharing her story and encouraging youths to defy stereotypes, as she did.

Competing in one, let alone three pageants, isn’t what Atcity dreamed possible five years ago while living at the Oklahoma United Methodist Children’s Home in Tahlequah after losing her home and income. She said she persevered and strived to “motivate and inspire individuals to pursue their dreams and goals”

“Five years ago if someone told me I would be competing in my third pageant, I would be like ‘oh goodness, you’re crazy’ because I didn’t know that was a possibility. But once I saw that it is a possibility that’s when I really opened my eyes. I realized that if I thought that stuff, then there are so many people that can think that way, too,” she said.

While living at the children’s home, Atcity received housing and support she didn’t have previously. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2015 becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.

“They (children’s home) helped me overcome the generational boundary of education along with helping me understand that my ‘mess’ was my message. They gave me the start I needed to become a confident young women,” she said. “I have a wonderful family, but because my parents were so focused on how we were going to make ends meet, there was a lot of questions I had that I didn’t know how to ask. And if I did ask, I’m not sure they would have been able to answer. So to give them the opportunity to be proud of who I have become, and for them to know they did every thing they could for me to be successful, and God did the rest, means so much to me.”

She grew up believing she could never be successful and remembers thinking she didn’t have the “capabilities to change her life.”

“When I was younger I would look at other people and think ‘wow, I could never be that successful.’ But those were just boundaries I was putting in place of myself. Nobody put those boundaries up. But now that I took those down, they can never come back up unless I put those road blockers in my way again,” she said.

Atcity competed in her first pageant on Nov. 5, 2013, winning the Miss NSU crown. In 2014, she competed for Miss Oklahoma, all the while maintaining her platform for disadvantaged youth.

“During my time at the children’s home and through my participation in the 2013 ‘Remember the Removal’ bike ride, I realized how extraordinary people can be and how you can truly use your life to impact others and inspire them,” she said. “So my goal was to compete in pageants to gain a title so that I could use that title to promote the platform to help disadvantaged youth and youth who are very advantaged, to understand that no matter what situation they were born into, what family they had or what situations they have been a part of in the past, right now they a have a decision to change their life and to impact the lives of others.”

She said competing for Miss Oklahoma USA would give her the opportunity to be the role model she wished she had growing up.

“I want to give young girls around me and in Oklahoma communities someone to look up to and say, ‘You know, her parents weren’t doctors, and she didn’t come from a family with a lot of money, but because of hard work and determination and because she believes in herself she was able to accomplish things she has set out to do,’” Atcity said. “A lot of the time we look at people’s social media, and we think ‘wow they were born perfect’ or that they must have had these situations given to them and that’s why they look so successful. But that’s not the case, so my goal is to go around a break those stereotypes and make people understand that it really is up to them whether or not they pursue a successful future.”

As part of the pageant, contestants will be judged in personal interview, on-stage question, fitness/swimsuit and evening wear, and Atcity said she’s preparing daily.

With the pageant alone costing $1,200, plus interview preparation, wardrobe, beauty accessories and coaching, the dollar amount to compete can be expensive. To help achieve her goal, Atcity opened a GoFundMe account for anyone willing to support her.

“Literally anything can help at this point. Pageants are very expensive. The entry fee alone is extremely expensive, but it’s worth it,” she said. “At this pageant I am representing Cherokee County. When I walk on that stage I am not there just for me, I’m there representing every young person who doesn’t know how important they are and how much they can make an impact.”

She also said she’s available for public speaking engagements. “I have four months to prepare, and in that time I really want to get out into the Cherokee County area and inspire and break down all those stereotypes that say ‘because you come from a specific background you don’t get to have this particular future.’ So I would love to share that with the community if they have opportunities for me share something like that and even if it’s on a personal basis with a young person.”

The Miss Oklahoma USA 2018 pageant is Dec. 15-17 at The Grand Casino Hotel Resort in Shawnee.

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BY KENLEA HENSON
News Writer
10/17/2017 08:00 AM
TULSA, Okla. – For some it’s traditional games such as stickball or marbles. For other Cherokees it may be weaving baskets with traditional materials that bring them closer to their culture. But for 15-year-old Regina Scott, it’s the love for the fiddle and fiddle music that brings her in tune to Cherokee culture. “I think it’s really cool that I am Cherokee and that I play the fiddle because the fiddle was part of the Cherokee culture,” Cherokee Nation citizen said. “I know there are a lot of people that are Cherokee that probably don’t have a direct connection to their culture, so I am really proud that I have the fiddle because I feel like it brings me closer to my Cherokee culture.” The Tulsa native found an interest in the bowed-string musical instrument at age 5 when she began taking classical violin lessons from longtime violinist Jody Naifeh. However, it was hearing her cousin play the fiddle that sparked her curiosity for the instrument. “My cousin was the only one that fiddled, and she doesn’t anymore. It was kind of a brief thing. But it’s really amazing that I even got into it because really no one in my family is musical. My mom told me that both of her grandmothers were musical...but really I’m the only one,” she said. Scott continued taking violin lessons and began studying fiddling. “I started off with classical violin from Mrs. Naifeh, which I am still with her today. The cool thing about her is a lot of classical teachers don’t really do fiddling and aren’t super into that side of music. But she took me to my first fiddle contest, and so because of her I kind of got started in fiddling,” she said. Although fiddle and violin appear the same, Scott said the styles are different. “The violin and fiddle are very different styles, but both benefit each other. The violin is classical music and is technically difficult and you sight-read the music to learn it. But fiddling you learn by ear, so it’s more like reading a book versus storytelling,” Scott said. “Violin helps the intonation and technical aspect of fiddling, whereas the fiddling helps me to put feeling into the classical music and make it more than just the notes on the page” As early as 7 years old, Scott traveled statewide to fiddling contests and performances, learning and watching some of the best fiddle players. Now she plays among them, continuing to make her mark. She has also competed in fiddling contests in surrounding states and as far as Idaho. “I have competed all over. I do the Oklahoma state fiddle contest, the Colorado state fiddle contest, and there is a fiddle contest in Grove called the Grand Lake National Fiddle Contest, and I actual won that a couple of years ago. I am the youngest person to ever win it,” she said. “I have probably been to, I would say, over 50 competitions. For her accomplishments, CN officials proclaimed Feb. 10 as “Regina Scott Day.” Tribal Councilor Keith Austin presented Scott with the proclamation after her performance at the National Fiddler Hall of Fame Ceremony and Concert in Tulsa in front of an audience of celebrated fiddlers and country musician Vince Gill. “The National Fiddler Hall of Fame inducts people every year, so I got to play for Randy Howard who was being inducted. So I was on stage and I had just finished and it was a really great moment, and one of the Cherokees came on stage and he said ‘wait, don’t go yet,’ and I was very confused, but then he read a proclamation from the chief that basically said that the day Feb. 10, 2017, was a day dedicated to me and my accomplishments,” she said. “I was thinking ‘is this real?’ like, ‘is this a prank?’ but it was amazing and I have it framed at home.” As for her violin, Scott still plays. She is part of the Tulsa Youth Symphony, the Holland Hall Orchestra and Honors Orchestra, in which she is first chair violin. She also teaches a beginner’s orchestra class to help her violin teacher. She advises young musicians who are pursuing their dreams to keep practicing. “Practice, practice because sometimes you don’t feel like practicing or it’s just not in your schedule, but if you really like it you can make time for it. You know, if you really want to be good at it and it’s something you are really passionate about that’s the only way to get good,” she said. Scott will be the featured entertainment during the annual Will Rogers birthday celebration reception. The reception begins at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Cherokee Casino Will Rogers Downs in Claremore.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
10/03/2017 12:00 PM
TULSA, Okla. – Dr. Duane King, a former Cherokee Heritage Center executive director, died at age 70 on Sept. 17 following a lengthy illness. King was a former Gilcrease Museum director and was recognized as a Native American history and culture authority, especially Cherokee history and culture. “Duane spent his life researching and writing about Cherokee history. His books, articles and research notes are invaluable. The legacy that he has left the Cherokee people will endure for generations to come. We owe him a great debt of gratitude,” Jack Baker, National Trail of Tears Association president and former Tribal Councilor, said. King had been serving as director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at the Gilcrease Museum since 2014 and oversaw the center’s construction. During his six years as Gilcrease Museum executive director, he also served as Tulsa University’s vice president of museum affairs. After joining Gilcrease in 2008, King helped lead the transition of museum management from the City of Tulsa to TU. He was also the founding editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and once directed museums in Oregon, North Carolina, Los Angeles and New York City. At the Museum of the Cherokee Indian in Cherokee, North Carolina, King compiled and edited the Journal of Cherokee Studies, which included cultural stories and information and history from Cherokee people in the eastern homelands. “Dr. King was one of the most learned and respected scholars of Cherokee history and culture of our era,” TOTA Executive Director Troy Poteete said. “Cherokees east and west have lost a dear friend and loyal ally who quietly guided the creation of our museums and the recognition of the Trial of Tears as a National Historic Trail, as well as doing extensive research and voluminous writing. His contributions are so vast it will require another scholar to enumerate them.” He was also among the advisers behind the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for the American Indian in Washington, D.C., which opened in 2004. King was a graduate of the University of Tennessee. He also held a master’s degree and a doctorate, which focused on researching the Cherokee language, from the University of Georgia. “Duane was a board member of the Trail of Tears Association for the entirety of my 12-year career there. He was such a gentle, kind person with no air of superiority even though he was one of the premier scholars on Cherokee removal. He almost always knew more than anyone in the room about the topic of removal, but he was always very humble when speaking about it,” said CN citizen Jerra Quinton. “I didn’t know he was ill until I heard he had passed. I am profoundly sad and am among so many friends and colleagues who will miss him deeply.” King served as CHC executive director from 1982-87. In 2013, at the annual Sevenstar Gala, the Cherokee National Historical Society honored King with the Stalwart Award for outstanding service to the CHC. “Everything about Duane was good. His sincere interest in Cherokee culture and people guided his career and his life, and I think he truly valued everyone he met. He was my friend, and I will miss him,” CHC Education Director Tonia Hogner-Weavel said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/29/2017 04:00 PM
Kankakee, Ill. – Carlile Architects, an architecture firm in Illinois, recently hired Cherokee Nation citizen Candace Alsenay as a computer-aided design technician. A native of Park Hill, Oklahoma, Alsenay is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering. Prior to joining the Carlile Group, she was a research assistant at OU’s Fears Structural Engineering Lab where she specialized in the mechanics and testing of concrete and the physical realties of working with various types of concrete mixtures. While at OU, Alsenay was a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the University Innovation Fellows, was a Jerry Holmes Engineering Leadership associate, served as president of the Architectural Engineering Institute and was the financial liaison for OU’s Concrete Canoe team. Her responsibilities at Carlile Architects will include residential and commercial drafting, development of construction documents, design and information technology management. She can be emailed at <a href="mailto: calsenay@carlile-group.com">calsenay@carlile-group.com</a>. “The addition of Candace adds a great amount of depth and knowledge to our team,” Jacob J. Carlile, managing principal of Carlile Archictects, said. “She will play a key role in providing and implementing high quality design solutions for our clients and continuing the Carlile commitment to being the leading firm in our industry. Her skills will enhance our ability to serve a broad range of commercial, civic, educational, and residential clients using the latest technology and innovations.”
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
News Writer – @cp_bbennett
09/20/2017 08:00 AM
OSAKA, Japan – Cherokee Nation citizen Martha Hardbarger is putting together her inherent love for Japan with her newfound love for education so she can teach English for the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program. “I am going to be paired with a Japanese teacher of English, so hopefully we will be able to cover each other’s weaknesses,” Hardbarger said of the yearlong program that began in August. “Ideally what will happen is we will team teach, the Japanese teacher giving explanations in Japanese when necessary, and me speaking only English to give them exposure to what native English speakers sound like and to get them to use the language in class more.” The Sequoyah High School and Stanford University graduate first entertained the idea of living abroad after two visits to Japan, during one in which a host mother mentioned the JET Program. After seeking her advice and that of a friend who had applied, Hardbarger completed the program’s three-phase application process. The first phase requires the applicant to write a personal statement detailing what he or she would bring to the program and two recommendation letters. The second phase encompasses personal interviews that must be conducted at Japanese embassies or consulates around the United States. The final phase is acceptance and placement before orientation in Tokyo. Hardbarger said that while the process takes nearly 10 months, it “makes sense” because of the program’s reputation and the responsibilities of being a participant. “The JET Program is pretty competitive as they offer some of the greatest benefits for teaching abroad and are often employed by local governments,” she said. “Not only are JET participants expected to teach English, but they need to also expose students to different cultures and countries. I have had to do a few introduction PowerPoints and usually talk about my family camp at Stokes (ceremonial ground in Sequoyah County in Oklahoma), show pictures of me and my family at powwows, my graduation photos where I have beaded caps and a feather, traditional foods, our flag, what the Cherokee written language looks like and how it is on street and store signs around Tahlequah (Oklahoma) and pictures from Diligwa at the (Cherokee) Heritage Center.” Though Japan and the CN are more than 6,000 miles apart, Hardbarger said her third visit abroad is revealing surprising similarities between the two cultures. “Both lifestyles are more interdependent-oriented compared to independent,” she said. “Relationships and working together are highly valued. Both cultures also have a high respect and honoring of nature. Another thing is the respect and value of elders. Something else that I’ve recently noticed is that during spring and summer, we have a lot of powwows and gatherings, and Japanese people have festivals and Cherry Blossom viewings, all of which are very social gatherings and celebrations.” Hardbarger encourages anyone interested in teaching abroad to apply for the program and reach out to past participants for application help. “Teaching abroad is one of the most rewarding, challenging experiences you can go through,” she said. “You will grow so much as a person, but you will also more than likely have some really difficult rough patches. The short times I had been to Japan before have been so memorable and life-changing that I am excited to see what happens when I have a whole year to spend here. Also, get as much help as you can with your application if you want to apply to a competitive program like the JET Program.” Hardbarger earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2016, but hopes that the JET experience will help determine if a teaching career is in her future instead. “If I really enjoy teaching and am able to develop and grow that skill set while here, then I would consider doing a master’s program to get certified to teach in the U.S.,” she said. “If I do decide to become a teacher, then this experience will be great to share with students and show them that they can do more and explore the world if they work towards that goal.”
BY CHANDLER KIDD
Intern
09/19/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Candice Byrd recently attended the 2017 Next Generation Program hosted by the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People in South Africa. The association advocates for a safe collaboration space for different cultures and indigenous peoples from more than 100 countries. Out of 200 applicants, Byrd was the only Cherokee Nation citizen attendee and storyteller to attend, she said. “The purpose was to throw strangers together from all different nationalities. There were about 10 people from South Africa, 10 people from the African continent,” Byrd said, “There were about eight of us all from different countries, I was the only indigenous North American there.” Byrd attended Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in film, drama and television. She later earned a master’s degree from Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia. Her master’s thesis focused on Native American storytelling. “I noticed in my very fancy art school none of these stories were about Native Americans, ever. I had grown up around that and I found that strange, I wanted my thesis to shed a light on that,” she said. She also dedicated her thesis to Oklahoman storytellers. A section was dedicated to Ardeena Moore, her Quapaw and Osage grandmother, and Cherokee storytellers Choogie Kingfisher and Robert Lewis, she said. “My thesis was a one-woman show. I was using the acting techniques that I learned in graduate school and put it into Native American storytelling. It forms my style along with all the other influences,” she said. Byrd applied to go to South Africa when her former undergraduate professor, Courtney Sanders, sent her an email to apply. While in South Africa, Byrd attended shows with her fellow classmates to compose a report for the upcoming next generation class. She also focused on workshops and team-building activities. “It (Next Generation Program) is also for the pure hope to spark international collaborations. A lot of the shows that we saw were international collaborations. I saw a piece that was a collaboration between Senegal and the Mariana Islands,” she said. “This international festival forges international and intercultural dialogue.” The trip allowed her to mingle with other indigenous cultures while learning about her culture and heritage through the arts. Byrd said she especially enjoyed being able to represent the CN while abroad in South Africa. “As a Cherokee person visiting other indigenous people it was heartening to see these places for Native voices to be heard again, to promote our culture, heritage and stories of survival,” she said. Being involved with the CN runs in her family. Joe Byrd, her father, is the Tribal Council’s Dist. 2 representative. He said he believes his daughter’s storytelling opportunities with the CN and the trip to Africa have led to many exciting things. “That trip led to her being around so many indigenous people in the area of performing arts. She has met so many people and learned about the rights of indigenous people, which fits right in with the Cherokee Nation people,” he said. He said his daughter storytelling abilities would allow the stories of the CN to be told in a truthful way. “I think now we’re able to tell our own stories through the performing arts. She was able to travel and learn about other indigenous people, and now she is able to tell our story correctly.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
09/15/2017 08:15 AM
NORMAN, Okla. – Dwight W. Birdwell, a former chief justice of the Cherokee Nation’s Judicial Appeals Tribunal, will be inducted into the Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame on Oct. 21 at the Embassy Suites. Birdwell, a Specialist 5 while in Vietnam, was awarded two Silver Stars for gallantry and two Purple Hearts for wounds received during battles. Now a practicing attorney in Oklahoma City, Birdwell will be inducted with 10 other honorees. Birdwell was born Jan. 19, 1948, in Amarillo, Texas, but grew up in Bell in Adair County. After graduating Stilwell High School in 1966, he entered the Army. In Vietnam, he was assigned to Troop C, 3rd Squadron, 4th Cavalry, and 25th Infantry Division. Birdwell received the Silver Star for heroism on Jan. 31, 1968, when his unit rushed to defend Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which came under attack during the Tet Offensive. Cavalry Troop C was the first American ground unit from outside the airbase to respond to the attack. Unknown at the time, the attack by Troop C split the North Vietnamese regiment into two elements of about 300 enemy troops on one side of the American force and about 700 enemy troops on the other side. Heavy anti-tank fire from both enemy elements caused significant casualties among the American force. The C Troop tank commander and many of its other leaders were killed or wounded. Birdwell took command and placed intense fire on the enemy causing heavy Viet Cong losses and forcing them to seek protection. His Silver Star citation states Birdwell placed heavy fire on the enemy until his machine gun ran out of ammunition. He then retrieved an M-60 machine gun and continued to place fire on the enemy until his weapon was damaged by enemy fire, which wounded him, according to the Silver Star citation. “With complete disregard for his own safety, he then ran through the hail of enemy fire to get ammunition from other damaged vehicles and distributed it to his comrades,” the citation states. Birdwell then aided in the evacuation of wounded men, the citation states. He would earn a second Silver Star on July 4, 1968, when he risked his life to rescue more Americans, some of them who were wounded and stranded in a battle zone. Seeing a damaged American vehicle, Birdwell, with complete disregard for his safety, exposed himself to a heavy fire to maneuver his vehicle to the stricken vehicle. He loaded all the wounded aboard and evacuated them to safety, according to his Silver Star citation. Learning a second vehicle was damaged and stranded in the killing zone, Birdwell again exposed himself to hostile fire to evacuate the crew of a besieged vehicle, his second Silver Star citation states. After returning from Army service, Birdwell attended Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, graduating with distinction in 1972. Birdwell then attended the University of Oklahoma School of Law and graduated with honors in 1976. He has practiced law in Oklahoma City since 1976. Birdwell was a member of the tribe’s JAT, which is now called the Supreme Court, from 1987-99, serving as chief justice from 1995-96. To obtain a reservation for the banquet, visit <a href="http://www.okmhf.org" target="_blank">www.okmhf.org</a> or email <a href="mailto: info@okmhf.org">info@okmhf.org</a> or call 405-424-5313. The deadline for reservations is Oct. 11.