http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee language instructor Rufus King teaches a community language class at the Lost City Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. King is a Cherokee Nation citizen and first-language speaker who became certified to teach in 2001. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee language instructor Rufus King teaches a community language class at the Lost City Community Center from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. King is a Cherokee Nation citizen and first-language speaker who became certified to teach in 2001. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Classes encourage learning Cherokee language

The book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1” was developed by the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and is distributed to each student who partakes in community language classes. Text highlighted in blue means a first-language speaker has spoken the language and it has been recorded. Students can download audio files at www.cherokee.org. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee language instructor and Cherokee Nation citizen Helena McCoy showcases the syllabary and phonetics for the word “gravy” in Cherokee to her students on Oct. 17 at the Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. McCoy is a first-language speaker and also taught at the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Several students attend Helena McCoy’s Cherokee language class on Oct. 17 at the Brushy Community Center in Sallisaw, Oklahoma. The class meets from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1” was developed by the Cherokee Nation’s Cherokee Language Program and is distributed to each student who partakes in community language classes. Text highlighted in blue means a first-language speaker has spoken the language and it has been recorded. Students can download audio files at www.cherokee.org. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
10/27/2017 08:30 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
LOST CITY, Okla. – Cherokee language classes recently started online and in communities across the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction, as teachers encourage students to read, write and speak the language to save it.

Part of the CN’s Cherokee Language Program, the free classes are held each spring and fall for 10 weeks.

“It’s preserving our language,” instructor Rufus King said. “We are all losing it, some of them say. There’s not that many speakers anymore here in Cherokee Nation. It’s an everyday business, and I’ve said this before, but we need to get into this business a little deeper than what we are now if we’re really going to stay up with it.”

King, a CN citizen and first-language speaker, teaches at the Lost City Community Center. His classes meet from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Mondays. He became certified to teach Cherokee in 2001 and stresses practicing the Cherokee syllabary daily and the idea that learning takes time.

“Even after 20 lessons, you have to come back the next term,” he said. “You can’t quit. Those (symbols) are the most important things in the Cherokee language. You’ve got to know them if you’re going to write or read.”

Only those who attend community classes like King’s receive a copy of the book “We Are Learning Cherokee Level 1,” which was introduced this past spring.

The “See, Say, Write” book, which was previously used in classes for more than 20 years to teach beginners, was designed to teach fluent Cherokee speakers, Cherokee Language Program Director Roy Boney said.

“The previous book was mainly a lot of simple word lists for those that could already speak Cherokee and wanted to learn how to write it,” he said. “This new book is more designed for people that are learning the language, so we have things like grammar rules and how to make something possessive or plural. This way people actually create their own thoughts about what they would want to say to somebody, rather than just rote memorization.”

Boney said the new book took more than a year to develop and accompanies free supplemental material found online. “If you look in the text, you’ll see things that are highlighted in blue. Those items have been recorded, so on the www.cherokee.org website we have the link where students can download all of the audio files that go along with the book so they can listen to it on their phone, their computer, if they want to make CDs.”

While the book provides structure, Boney said language instructors could teach as they see fit.
CN citizen Helena McCoy, instructor at the Brushy Community Center near Sallisaw, holds class from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.

Though she uses the new book, she also asks students what they are interested in learning. “At the beginning, I try to teach what they want to learn, that way they’ll be more interested in coming back. I don’t try to push anything on them. I just ask them, ‘What do you want to learn?’”

She said students asked about Cherokee names for family members and how to order foods at a restaurant.

“We write everything in syllabary and phonetics to let them know what it sounds like,” McCoy said. “It’s important to me for someone that is a fluent speaker to teach them the sounds because I hear so many people saying, and I’m not saying they’re wrong, but I hear so many people saying words different from what I’ve heard. Cherokee is my first language, that’s why it’s so important for me they hear it from me. I don’t tell them it’s wrong, but I tell them, ‘This is how we say it from my area.’”

This is the second year McCoy has taught language classes. She previously taught at Marble City Public Schools for 20 years and the Cherokee Immersion Charter School for six years.

“I always try to make them say the words because you have to see it and say it, and if you want to write it in the syllabary, you have to hear yourself saying those words,” she said.

CN citizen Melvin McCoy, Helena’s brother-in-law, said he hopes attending classes will help him with the language and syllabary.

“My parents were fluent, I mean really fluent, but they just didn’t teach us,” Melvin said. “They taught us English first, but we should have learned Cherokee first because it’s a whole lot easier to learn when you’re young. I can speak a little bit, but not fluently so I come here to try and learn a little bit more and we do have a really good teacher. I think if you can learn the syllabary, you can probably learn to talk Cherokee pretty good.”

CN citizen Gary Bolin was also raised in a fluent-speaking environment but moved from the area as a child and is now trying to reconnect with the language.

“I’m not around speakers every day,” he said. “About the only time I get to hear any (Cherokee) at all is when we’re in class, so that helps me, too.”

Bolin said anyone interested in learning should consider the community classes. “You kind of get your foothold at class, but you’ve got to take it home with you to really learn it. It’s really something that everybody should know. It’s a part of who you are and where you came from, and it’s something that nobody should want to lose.”

For more information, call 918-453-5151.

Locations for Fall Classes

• Tulsa: Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma

• Jay: Jay Community Center

• Hulbert: Lost City Community Center

• Porum: Oak Grove Baptist Church

• Webbers Falls: Webbers Falls Museum

• Tahlequah: Elm Tree Baptist Church

• Salina: New Jordan Baptist Church

• Sallisaw: Brushy Community Center

• Locust Grove: Ballou Baptist Church

• Salina: Salina Early Learning Academy

• Muldrow: Muldrow Cherokee Community Organization

• Kenwood: Kenwood Community Center

• Tahlequah: Northeastern State University

• South Coffeyville: Tom Buffington Heights

• Marble City: House of Praise Church
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

Education

BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
12/08/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – On Dec. 2, the Cherokee Language Master Apprentice Program graduated four students at a graduation ceremony in the Armory Municipal Center. Larry Carney, of Tulsa; Ronnie Duncan, of Bell; Lisa O’Field, of Hulbert; and Toney Owens, of Rocky Mountain received a certificate of completion, copper gorget and Pendleton blanket. Operated through the Cherokee Nation’s Community and Cultural Outreach, participants are taught the Cherokee language by master speakers Doris Shell, Cora Flute and Gary Vann. The program is geared towards teaching CN citizens to be proficient conversational Cherokee language speakers and teachers. Howard Paden, CLMAP manager, said the program stemmed from a “need” for the language. “This program gets people speaking our language again. You know, we seen a need for it because a lot of the (Cherokee) Immersion (Charter) School parents seen a need to not only push their kids to learn the language but to learn themselves and start having Cherokee speaking households,” Paden said. Students spend two years and typically 40 hours a week learning the Cherokee language in a classroom from the master speakers. Students are also encouraged to visit with fluent Cherokee-speaking elders to practice and learn from them. However, to ensure individuals are able to dedicate the needed time to the program, they each receive a $10 an hour stipend. “They learn a lot of Cherokee. From when they first walk into the classroom to probably two months they already learn about 5,000 words,” Paden said. “The first year is primarily learning as much as they can, and by the second year we expect them to start teaching. Of course they have a master speaker there that can assist them, but they begin to teach phrases to the next group that comes in. So every January we get a new group, so the people that are in their last year will begin teaching in January to the new group that we have coming in.” Since its inception nearly three years ago, the program has graduated six students and is expected to graduate six more in 2018 and eight in 2019. Gary Vann, CLMAP master speaker, said he’s seen an increase in applicants since the program’s first year. “When we first started out there was only a handful of applicants, this past application process we saw 100 applications come in,” Vann said. “It makes me feel good because there are people out there that still want to learn our language and that are interested in speaking our language again, especially the younger generations.” Owens, 30, said the program has influenced his life and set him on a path of teaching the Cherokee language. “I’ve always wanted to learn Cherokee, and I heard about the program, and I couldn’t believe it was real. Now it kind of comes in to your everyday life you start to think about things different and naturally you start speaking Cherokee instead of English, so it just becomes your life, it becomes a part of who you are,” Owens said. “Since I will no longer be employed by the program I will have to find a form of income, but I will continue to pursue a teaching degree at Northeastern State University to hopefully teach Cherokee. My goal is to one day teach at the immersion school because it has the most chance of forming Cherokee speakers.” Owens said he believes the program has helped him so much to become a proficient speaker that it’s the most effective way to acquire the language. He suggests the program to those who are interested in learning to speak the Cherokee language. For more information, call 918-453-5445.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
12/07/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Foundation and Northeastern State University’s Native American Support Center hosted a scholarship workshop Nov. 28 for students wanting to get ahead of CNF’s Jan. 31 scholarship deadline. “This is our first (workshop) through the Native American Support Center as far as hosting the Cherokee Nation Foundation, and so we are looking forward to working with them more and bringing them on campus and getting them involved in our program,” Jade Hansen, NASC advisement and career specialist, said. The NASC, part of NSU’s Center for Tribal Studies, provides Native students services such as financial aid information to increase retention and graduation rates. “We really focus these workshops for our new freshmen because a lot of things I’m seeing working here at NSU is that these students are running out of money going into their second year and their third year and their fourth year,” she said. “And so with CNF, it’s pretty much like a hidden gem. It’s getting that information out that a lot of students don’t really know about with the CNF programs.” Hansen said she was a CNF scholarship recipient while attending NSU. “Whenever I was in college I got this scholarship, and not a lot of people knew about it, and it helped out,” she said. “It takes a lot to apply for this scholarship as far as recommendation letters, transcripts and different things like that, but hopefully doing it now will get (students) prepared so they’re not waiting around last minute in January.” Marisa Hambleton, CNF executive assistant, said CNF conducts workshops when an organization or school with a high number of Cherokee students reaches out to it. “We’re more than happy to travel and come out and help those students apply for those scholarships,” she said. “We really try to reach any schools that really show an interest. We don’t have a specific (process) where we set it up and anything like that yet. With the more scholarships that we receive, we try to market that as best that we can.” Hambleton said CNF scholarships are not income-based, and students who participate in the workshops should come prepared with updated transcripts and their CN citizenship cards. The CNF scholarship application is a two-step process. Students must first visit <a href="http://www.cherokeenation.academicworks.com" target="_blank">www.cherokeenation.academicworks.com</a> and complete the general applications, which matches them to individual scholarships for which they are eligible to apply. “The general application is just basic information, their name, their address, what school they’re interested, what field of study,” Hambleton said. “That information is then what matches them to specific scholarships, and then they apply for those scholarships individually.” Hambleton said each scholarship includes at least one essay question and asks students to submit information for a reference questionnaire. “A reference questionnaire is where the student chooses someone who is not a family member, someone that knows them like a teacher or a coach or someone in their community,” Hambleton said. “They’ll put in their email address and their name and it will send a link to a short survey that really asks them to rate the student from one to 10 in different areas.” The Academic Works website also allows students to check if their reference questionnaires have been completed, and if not, students can resend the links or change their references. Hambleton also said a student is not required to complete the application in one sitting. “Our application’s pretty simple, and you can save for later if you need to, so it’s not just a one-time sit down,” she said. “Sometimes you don’t have all the information that you need right then and there, and so it’s easy for students to save and keep editing and then submit at a later date.” CNF scholarship recipients will be notified by the end of the 2018 spring semester. Students needing assistance with the scholarship application or organizations and schools interested in hosting a scholarship workshop should call 918-207-0950.
BY STAFF REPORTS
12/06/2017 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Northeastern State University’s Center for Tribal Studies is accepting applications for Emergency Fund Grants, which are designed to assist students with one-time emergencies. The funds awarded are not intended for tuition, fees or campus housing. They are allocated for emergency needs that can affect a student’s ability to be successful in his or her academic endeavors. Emergency needs include transportation-related expenses, unexpected utility bill increases, loss in family income due to illness or death and expenses related to dependent care and/or food shortages. Grant awards range from $20 to $400 and all applications are considered on a case-by-case basis. The recipient must be a full-time undergraduate or graduate student at NSU, have proof of citizenship in a federally recognized tribe and be willing to complete the required three hours of volunteer service within 30 days of receiving the award. More information about the grant and the application can be found at <a href="https://offices.nsuok.edu/centerfortribalstudies/Forms.aspx" target="_blank">https://offices.nsuok.edu/centerfortribalstudies/Forms.aspx</a>.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
11/30/2017 08:15 AM
PROCTOR, Okla. – Proctor School closed its doors in 1968 after years of providing children, mostly Cherokees, with education from primary school to eighth grade. Nearly 50 years later, local residents keep the school’s history alive in the form of a community building. “A lot of people didn’t even know where Proctor was until we got the community center. So I know a lot of people probably don’t know there was a school here or that the school system dates farther back before statehood,” Cherokee Nation citizen Maxine Hamilton, of Proctor, said. According to the book “History of Adair County,” the area known today as Proctor was a settling point for Cherokee Old Setters and Cherokees who arrived on the Trail of Tears. Once the CN government reformed, it divided its territory into districts with the area that would be known as Proctor being part of the Goingsnake District. In 1841, the CN established public schools within the districts, and on March 1, 1867, the area received its first school, Tyner’s Valley. It was located on Tyner’s Creek in present-day Proctor. It was one of eight CN schools established in the district. However, as statehood approached in 1907, and white settlers continued to move in, the tribe no longer controlled schools as they were placed under the secretary of Interior. Tyner’s Valley caught fire twice during its occupancy. After it burned a second time, the school relocated and was named Proctor School. Hamilton said her father sold the acreage for the school, which was built for $250. “Tyner’s Valley didn’t have any glass windows. It just had shutters, and it was heated by a wood heater, and that is what caused both of the schools to burn down,” Hamilton said. “They didn’t want to build it back in same place a third time, so they looked for different place to put it. This land was my dad’s family’s allotted land, and he sold it for the school to be put here.” It’s unclear exactly when Proctor School was built, but locals say the first term began in 1927. The school started as a two-room schoolhouse, but as the town expanded and the Frisco Railroad moved in, the population grew and an additional room was needed. At one time the school educated nearly 100 students. “In the middle room it was third through fifth grade, so the teacher had to teach third grade English, forth grade English then fifth grade English and it was the same with arithmetic. But on Friday afternoons we would have penmanship or spelling, and that’s when everybody would be learning the same,” Hamilton said. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, small towns like Proctor began to die. However, the school continued until 1968 when it consolidated with the Westville School District. CN citizen Ricky Kindle, of Proctor, was in the school’s last class to graduate the eighth grade. He said there were only four students in his graduating class, including him. “I think it closed because there just wasn’t very many kids. That last year, there was only 26 kids in the school,” Kindle said. “Even though it was small I think being raised up with my classmates, playing ball and just growing up in a little community made us closer.” To keep from losing the schoolhouse, residents used the lunchroom as a voting precinct and community events. They also sold meals on Saturdays, had pie auctions and quilt auctions to raise money to keep its electric. “As long as we were using it for the community, Westville wouldn’t take it. See when the school closed, all the property went to Westville School, but as long as we used it, it was ours,” CN citizen Jake Scott, of Proctor, said. By 2000, the school had been broken into, vandalized and began caving in. Residents once again banded together to find a solution. “We decided we needed to tear down the old school house. So we raised money and got a grant to build a new one. We built the new building in the original size as the old schoolhouse, and we used the original sandstone rock that was on the school, not all the way around it, but we put them in front to incorporate something from the original structure,” Scott said. Today, where the school once stood stands the Proctor Community Center. With original pieces of the school on the structure and pictures of the past covering the walls, the center not only serves as the community’s heart but as a historical reminder. “There’s a lot of communities that were at one time a pretty good size community, but they don’t exist anymore because they don’t come together or have a place to come together,” Hamilton said. “I think if we didn’t have the community center for us to come together, our community wouldn’t exist, and if we didn’t exist, our history would never be remembered, so it’s important to have a place that can be both.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/27/2017 12:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Students at Alice Robertson Junior High School are getting hands-on experience with gardening thanks to a $29,000 donation from the Cherokee Nation. Tribal funds were allocated for an outdoor garden with seven raised beds and a greenhouse on the Muskogee school’s campus. Art students painted the raised beds in honor of the seven clans of Cherokee society, and the planting of flowers, herbs and vegetables began in October. “For our students, this is making a huge impact since we have kids who live in the city and have never gardened before,” Jarrod Adair, an Indian education interventionist at Alice Robertson Junior High School, said. “Some kids just like digging in the dirt. Some want to do the business end of it and are eager to get involved and take their produce to the farmers market and sell it. To become young entrepreneurs just from a greenhouse and a gift that was given by the Cherokee Nation is very impactful since it gives students dreams and visions that they can do this at home if they want.” Seventh- and eighth-grade science students, as well as those in the after-school program, are using the outdoor garden and greenhouse to learn horticulture and ecology, among other studies. “Outdoor gardening opportunities created by this Cherokee Nation gift will provide Alice Robertson students a chance to put much of what they learn in the classroom to the test in one hands-on environment,” Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “This investment is beneficial for the tribe and the school, and I’m convinced the Cherokee Nation will be seeing the positive results of the project for years to come.” Muskogee Public Schools leaders and students from Alice Robertson Junior High School met with Hoskin and Tribal Councilor Mike Dobbins to tour the outdoor garden recently. “By ensuring students at Alice Robertson have access to an outdoor garden and greenhouse, Cherokee Nation is helping promote healthy eating habits while also introducing students to the scientific and business side of food,” Dobbins said. “These lessons will have lasting impacts on the students and the lives they experience outside of the educational setting.” Former Tribal Councilor Don Garvin was a longtime educator at Alice Robertson Junior High School and selected the school to receive the funding during his time on the Tribal Council.
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2017 12:00 PM
SEATTLE – A newly released report highlights the challenges facing urban Native American youths in public schools and showcases seven alternative public education programs that are positively impacting these challenges. The report, “Resurgence: Restructuring Urban American Indian Education,” was released Nov. 16 by the National Urban Indian Family Coalition. According to a release, it tracks the history of the U.S. public education system’s relationship with Native American communities and the ongoing disparities that exist within academic achievement data for urban American Indian students, commonly referred to as “the achievement gap.” The report states that educators and administrators have worked with policy officials and the philanthropic community to reform the system to close this achievement gap, but the gap still persists for all students of color and is especially bleak for urban American Indian students. “We wanted to provide a roadmap for other urban Indigenous communities to follow on behalf of their own students,” Dr. Joe Hobot, the report’s author, said. “I hope (the report) will spark further evaluation and discussion by those involved in this arena.” The report identifies six major urban centers – Denver, Seattle, Albuquerque, Portland, Minneapolis and Los Angeles – that have high concentrations of American Indian students who attend local public schools and investigates seven alternative education programs offered to these students in each city. The report states these alternative education programs leverage traditional Indigenous culture as a means of securing academic achievement and have earned respect and widespread support from the urban American Indian communities they serve. “Education is an extremely critical area of need and attention for urban Indian communities across the country,” NUIFC Executive Director Janeen Comenote said. “The NUIFC is proud to be able to amplify the voices and practices of the phenomenal sites and schools highlighted in this critically needed work.” Edgar Villanueva, Schott Foundation for Public Education vice president and one of the report’s sponsors, said closing the achievement gap is just the beginning. “Policy leaders, philanthropic partners and community leaders must also focus beyond academic achievement to close the opportunity gaps that contribute to inequitable education outcomes,” Villanueva said. “Closing the opportunity gap is the only way we will make progress toward closing academic achievement gaps that separate most American Indian, black and Hispanic students from their white peers.” Visit <a href="http://nuifc.org" target="_blank">http://nuifc.org</a> for more information or a copy of the report.