http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgJade Hansen, Native American Support Center advisement and career specialist, left, and NASC Outreach Coordinator Shelly Dreadfulwater have an “open door” policy when it comes to Native students visiting the second floor of Northeastern State University’s John Vaughn Library for services. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Jade Hansen, Native American Support Center advisement and career specialist, left, and NASC Outreach Coordinator Shelly Dreadfulwater have an “open door” policy when it comes to Native students visiting the second floor of Northeastern State University’s John Vaughn Library for services. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

NASC continues to support Native students

The Native American Support Center is located on the second floor of Northeastern State University’s John Vaughn Library and offers Native students several free services, including mentoring, tutoring and academic advisement. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Native American Support Center is located on the second floor of Northeastern State University’s John Vaughn Library and offers Native students several free services, including mentoring, tutoring and academic advisement. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
11/27/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Native American students who are struggling or wanting to get ahead of the curve at Northeastern State University need to look no further than the second floor of the John Vaughn Library on campus.

The Native American Support Center calls the library home and seeks to provide Native students the support needed to complete a higher education degree.

“I just want to get the word out because these services are free, and not every student here has this opportunity like what we’re providing here to Native students,” Jade Hansen, NASC advisement and career specialist, said. “It’s right in their backyard if they would just reach out to us, and we’re more than happy to help out.”

The program is under the Center for Tribal Studies and replaces a program that was culturally based, NASC Outreach Coordinator Shelly Dreadfulwater said.

“This time around the main focus of our grant is improving our retention and graduation rates,” Dreadfulwater said. “We have that seventh generation point that we’re looking toward. Helping these students, we’re not only helping them, but we’re helping their children, their grandchildren, be more successful in the future.”

The program is in its second year of a federally funded five-year Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions grant. The grant is given to schools with high Native student populations but not Bureau of Indian Affairs-affiliated.

Several free services are offered to Native students regardless of tribal affiliation.

“We offer tutoring. We have regular academic advisement. We have a mentoring program,” Hansen said. “I just think of what kind of program this is and how I wished I would have had it as a Native student, even if I felt like I was succeeding.”

The NASC’s mentoring services have also expanded to cater to not only freshmen but also sophomores and transfer students.

“We have hired five peer mentors that are also Native American and that are upperclassmen,” Hansen said. She said each mentor has around 10 students they advise and contact weekly. “They bring a lot of tools in to get the students that they’re tutoring involved in things on campus and be more involved in our Native organizations.”

Once a month mentors and mentees meet with Hansen to participate in workshops on topics such as financial aid and career exploration. The NASC also participates in NSU’s Academic Early Alert System to help students receive tutoring services in areas such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics, English and history.

“When students may be having an issue in one of their courses an alert is created,” Dreadfulwater said. “We receive that alert, and we reach out to those students to get them into our area to let them know of the services that we offer so we can try to get tutoring or whatever it is they need.”

The program will track the retention and graduation rates of students who use their services with the hope of increasing graduates.

The NASC also promotes cultural events and helps students contact tribes for assistance if needed, and works with NSU’s language programs to teach students the Cherokee and Creek languages.

Program administrators also visit the NSU Broken Arrow and Muskogee campuses each week and by appointment, respectively.

“We are and we want to be an information hub for the students,” Dreadfulwater said. “If a student is having an issue, we want them to come to us. We will help them make those connections to other areas that they can get the answers. That could be on campus or even off campus.”

For information, visit www.offices.nsuok.edu/centerfortribalstudies/TribalStudiesHome.aspx.
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.

Services

BY GRANT D. CRAWFORD
Tahlequah Daily Press
05/21/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Under a new agreement signed May 3 between the Cherokee Nation and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, a new mobile pantry will be at the tribe’s Veterans Center. It is the Food Bank’s first tribal partnership, as the two entities hope to reach more hungry people that could use assistance. In particular, the program will serve veterans and widows of veterans. “The Cherokee Nation continues to look for ways to honor and serve our veteran warriors and this partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is another avenue to reach those in need,” CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “Our Cherokee Veterans Center offers activities for veterans, a place to sign up for benefits and now adding a food pantry in another step in serving them.” The plan involves the Food Bank bringing about 10 pallets of food – approximately 10,000 pounds – to the Veterans Center on a quarterly basis, said Jim Lyall, veterans outreach coordinator for the Food Bank. Items will include an array of fresh produce, canned goods, non-perishable food items and baked goods. Through the Food Bank’s various programs to reach rural communities, 18 percent of household served include a military veteran. For the Food Bank, it’s a chance to help vets “thrive,” not just survive. “We are so excited about this new partnership with the Cherokee Nation,” said Eileen Bradshaw, executive director for the Food Bank. “The issue of food insecurity is important to both of us and we all want to make sure our veterans have what they need to thrive.” Many veterans live on limited funds and work within a budget. Allan Johnson, CN citizen and U.S. Army veteran, said he is tired of paying rent on his home, and the partnership could help bring an end to that. “I’m on a fixed income with disability,” said Johnson. “I would like to get in a home of my own, but that will make it much easier on me. Otherwise it would still be beneficial, but it might become imperative, if I want to live in my own home.” Johnson said providing veterans with food assistance could help those who have served overseas re-acclimate to life at home. The CN has already identified 125 families to receive food from the pantry. Once a recipient chooses to drop from the program or no longer participates, the tribe will identify other veterans to be included. But if all goes well, Barbara Foreman, director of the Veteran Affairs Office at the Veterans Center, said a lot more families could benefit from the partnership. “In the future, the plan is not to just have it here,” said Foreman. “If this is successful, we can do this for our veterans in the 14 counties and other spots. So this is our beginning pilot and if it becomes successful, then we will be able to branch out to the others.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/12/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix is now taking names of elders and military veterans to provide free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper. In November, Cherokee Nation Businesses donated $10,000 to the Cherokee Phoenix’s Elder/Veteran Fund. The fund provides free subscriptions of its monthly newspaper to elders 65 and older and military veterans who are Cherokee Nation citizens. Subscription rates are $10 for one year. “The Elder/Veteran Fund was put into place to provide free subscriptions to our Cherokee elders and veterans,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Some of our elders and veterans are on a very limited budget, and other items have a priority over buying a newspaper subscription. The donations we receive have a real world impact on our elders and veterans, so every dollar donated to the Elder Fund is significant.” Using the Elder/Veteran Fund, elders who are 65 and older as well as veterans can apply to receive a free one-year subscription by visiting, calling or writing the Cherokee Phoenix office and requesting a subscription. The Cherokee Phoenix office is located in the Annex Building on the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex. The postal address is Cherokee Phoenix, P.O. Box 948, Tahlequah, OK 74465. To call about the fund, call 918-207-4975 or 918-453-5269 or email justin-smith@cherokee.org or joy-rollice@cherokee.org. No income guidelines have been specified for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund, and free subscriptions will be given as long as funds last. Tax-deductible donations for the fund can also be sent to the Cherokee Phoenix by check or money order specifying the donation for the Cherokee Phoenix Elder/Veteran Fund. Cash is also accepted at the Cherokee Phoenix offices and local events where Cherokee Phoenix staff members are accepting Elder/Veteran Fund donations. The Cherokee Phoenix also has a free website, <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org" target="_blank">www.cherokeephoenix.org</a>, that posts news seven days a week about the Cherokee government, people, history and events of interest. The monthly newspaper is also posted in PDF format to the website at the beginning of each month.
BY STAFF REPORTS
05/09/2018 05:00 PM
CATOOSA – Northeastern Oklahoma’s rural fire departments received a financial boost on May 7 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino as Cherokee Nation officials handed out checks totaling nearly $500,000 to 131 departments across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction. According to a CN press release, volunteer fire departments rely on fundraisers, membership dues and other types of help to maintain their operations. So to help, CN officials gave each department a $3,500 check – totaling $458,500 – to help with equipment, fuel or other items needed, the release states. The funding is appropriated in the tribe’s budget annually, according to the release. “Every single day in communities throughout the Cherokee Nation, the men and women of volunteer fire departments are on call,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “Volunteer firefighters are committed to the communities they serve, and they deserve the thanks and support of the Cherokee Nation. That’s why year after year the tribe invests in rural fire departments so they can be better equipped to protect our families, our homes and our property.” Langley Fire Department in Mayes County and Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department in Sequoyah County were recognized as 2018 Volunteer Fire Department of the Year. Firefighters in Langley near Grand Lake spent weekends going door to door installing smoke alarms for community residents. The effort saved a life when a home caught fire just months after the department installed a smoke detector, which alerted the residents to evacuate, the release states. The Langley department responded to 340 calls in its community in 2017, and firefighters have spent nights and weekends training to better themselves as first responders, according to the release. The release states the department plans to use the CN donation to update equipment such as self-contained breathing apparatus. “We really appreciate what the Cherokee Nation does for us every year. The donation really helps the small departments like Langley, and it really means a lot to us,” Langley Fire Chief William Long said. “I’m really fortunate that we have 20 firefighters on our department who are all willing to do the training asked of them. We’re pretty fortunate.” Firefighters at Brushy Mountain Volunteer Fire Department near Sallisaw have spent the past year working with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and Oklahoma Forestry Services battling wildfires that charred nearly 4,000 acres in one month, the release states. “Our firefighters never give up, and they work well with any agencies involved,” Brushy Mountain Fire Chief Bobby Caughman said. “They always watch out for each other. When we had a 500-acre fire, a 450-acre fire and a 3,000-acre fire in one month, they all showed up as soon as they could and they worked until the job was done.” The release also states the CN selected five recipients for Volunteer Firefighter of the Year: • Jerry Hammons, of Illinois River Area Fire Association, for his work in a senior leadership role as an active first responder. Hammons’ 30-year service to the department includes saving a number of lives as a skilled airboat pilot trained in water rescues. He dedicates hundreds of hours each year to training and fire department projects, and became trained in emergency medical response when a need for trained responders rose in the fire district. • Tonya Broyles, of Whitehorn Fire Department, for traveling to Houston after 2017’s devastating Hurricane Harvey and rescuing flood victims. Broyles, who is also a teacher at Porter Public Schools, volunteered to travel with a team to Houston, where they faced hazardous conditions while rescuing those impacted by the hurricane and subsequent flooding. • Gina Buzzard, of Marble City Volunteer Fire Association, for her dedication and work ethic. Buzzard is a certified first responder and firefighter who has stepped up to serve her community. During Thanksgiving, when many volunteer firefighters were out of state, the department received more than a dozen calls for help, and Buzzard responded to every call and worked the entire week. • Chuck McConnell, of Chance Volunteer Fire Department, for saving the life of a gunshot victim. McConnell, a co-founder of the department and a captain to the firefighters, arrived at the scene when a woman was shot and found in critical condition. He used the skills he learned in a tactical combat casualty care course to quickly treat the woman’s nine gunshot wounds and keep the victim awake until an ambulance arrived. The actions of McConnell and other firefighters are credited with saving the woman’s life. • Robert Long, of Ketchum Fire Department, for his 22 years of service as chief of the department and for his dedication to the community and fire department. Long recently stepped down as chief but has organized trainings for the fire department and responded to the vast majority of calls since joining the department in 1989. He’s known for helping farmers and ranchers by coordinating controlled burns of their pastures, and has donated his own time, equipment and food to areas impacted by natural disasters.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
05/02/2018 08:30 AM
CHOUTEAU – On Arbor Day, the Cherokee Nation hosted its seventh annual Environmental Festival at the Mid-American Expo Center with informational booths and cultural activities for three area schools. Approximately 200 students from Salina, Justus-Tiawah and Adair schools attended the April 27 event to learn more about environmental issues. Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill said in the past year the CN has focused on reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent in the next 10 years. She said the festival is a good way to get the message to kids about what they can do to help the environment. “Kids are great, and you give them a little bit of information and they really start to apply it all the time to their lives. If these kids walk away just learning a couple of things. It’s important to think about our environment when we make decisions. It’s important to recycle when we can recycle, just some of those basic messages. Once you get that in a kid it spreads to the rest of the family. Children can really start and be an agent of change in that way, so that why events like this are really important to me,” Hill said. One message conveyed was through the River Cane Initiative and how river cane is important to Cherokee culture. Roger Cain, RCI principal investigator, said river cane was an important resource for Cherokees and had many uses such as feeding cattle, making baskets, weaponry, food and housing. “We started the River Cane Initiative just to find out where river cane is on tribal land, where it’s located on tribal land. The tribe has about 55,000 acres and we’ve covered about 40,000 so far,” Cain said. He said in the coming year RCI officials hope to complete cataloging river cane locations and start going to schools to teach students about river cane conservation. “People are using it and understanding that it takes a while for river cane to grow from a small seedling to a large cane to make a blowgun, which takes about 30 to 50 years to be able to use for blowgun quality or basket quality,” Cain said. “River cane was the plastic of the Southeastern Indians. It’s the most-found object in archaeological digs. I’m proud to say our tribe is leading the nation in river cane research.” CN cultural biologist Feather Smith-Trevino gave out native Oklahoma tree seedlings while encouraging students and adults to plant them. “We’ve got the state tree of Oklahoma, which is the Eastern Red Bud. We have several fruiting trees, which are important for wildlife, and also many people like to have fruiting trees, and they tend to be more popular. Some of these trees just have cultural importance. We have the black locust tree and Osage orange, which are both popular for making bows out of. We’ve got walnut trees. A lot of these are just very important for cultural reasons, and it’s a great for getting people out there and planting native trees in their yard,” she said. Federal and local entities also shared information regarding forestry, fish and wildlife, entomology, water and environmental safety. Chouteau was the first location outside of Cherokee County to host the festival. “We thought that we needed some community outreach, and if we did it like this we could target the community a little bit better than just having something in Tahlequah. So we’re trying to make it go out into the different communities now every year,” Environmental Programs Manager Shaun West said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/12/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH — Cherokee Nation citizen and licensed practical nurse Dora Luna is receiving national recognition for her successes in the health care field after participating in the CN Career Services’ employment and training programs. The National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference chose Luna, of Claremore, as this year’s Outstanding Participant. Only one candidate from across the U.S. is chosen for the award annually. Luna first sought assistance from Career Services in 2015 when, as a single parent with three children, she found herself struggling to support her family and seeking a new career path. With Career Services’ help, Luna received a grant for dislocated workers and enrolled at Northeast Technology Center in Pryor, where she became a certified nurse aide in 2015. “I’d always wanted to get into the health care field or, more specifically, become a registered nurse, with the end dream job being working for my tribe within a hospital or clinic,” Luna said. “It has been a long journey, and I could not have accomplished it without the help of Cherokee Nation.” When Luna was accepted into Northeast Technology Center’s Practical Nursing Program in 2016, the Career Services’ vocational training program helped cover the costs. She found a health care job in the Pryor area, and in March, earned her LPN license. She is now continuing her education and plans to become a registered nurse. “The vocational training program continues to be extremely beneficial for clients who are engaging their chosen career paths,” Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelley said. “Through the vocational training program, participants have an opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills and attributes they will need in the workforce through classroom training and hands-on experience. Dora’s recognition by the National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference is proof that the tribe’s employment and training programs are a great benefit to Cherokee citizens.” Luna was expected to be honored by the NINAETC on April 11 in Louisiana. The National Indian and Native American Employment and Training Conference was established in 1979 and is the largest and most representative national employment and training association for Native Americans. Career Services department develops and encourages tribal citizens to achieve and maintain work habits and skills that promote employability and self-sufficiency through education, training, rehabilitation and support services. For more information, call 918-453-5555 or log on to <a href="http://www.cherokee.org/Services/Career/Office-Locations" target="_blank">www.cherokee.org/Services/Career/Office-Locations</a> for a list of Career Services offices.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/09/2018 08:00 AM
AUSTIN, TEXAS – For more than a year, many Native Americans affected by dating and domestic violence have turned to the StrongHearts Native Helpline for support and referral services in pursuit of freedom from abuse. “It seems like the year has gone by so quickly, and it’s just really rewarding to be able to offer a service that so many people need,” said Lori Jump, StrongHearts assistant director. “I think we’re fortunate to have the support of so many tribes and advocates across the country.” By calling 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) callers affected by intimate partner violence can be connected with a StrongHearts advocate trained to provide confidential, culturally appropriate advocacy and referral tools at no cost. The helpline is the first of its kind to serve Native Americans nationally, according to StrongHearts. It’s a collaboration between the National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program. During its first year, it expanded from its reach of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma to 68 tribal communities across 40 states. “Every call is different. We try to see things from the point of view of the person calling us, so what their needs are can be varied,” Jump said. “Things that we see most often are requests for shelter and legal services. Those are also probably the least common services that are available to people living in Indian Country.” StrongHearts also maintains a database of organizations within Indian Country that can help tribal citizens unsure where to turn. “We have a database that we have worked very hard to develop and its Native-centered programs that provide services to victims of domestic violence, whether that be crisis intervention, personal advocacy, civil and legal representation, shelter, transitional housing, all of those things that come into play when somebody is a victim of domestic violence and trying to leave,” Jump said. More than four in five Native women and men have experienced violence in their lifetime, with more than one in three women having experienced violence in the past year, according to the National Institute of Justice. Jump said the high rates of domestic violence in Indian Country show that services like StrongHearts are “desperately needed in tribal communities.” “The incidents of violence is higher against women than it is men, but we do know that it certainly happens, and we want to be there to support all victims of domestic violence, whether they are male or female,” she said. Another challenge Native Americans face in abusive situations is access to services, which can be hundreds of miles from their communities. “We can look at whole blocks across the United States where there really are not any Native-centered resources,” Jump said. “For those people to be able to have a place to call for immediate help is critical and to be able to speak to somebody that understands where they’re coming from, understands their situation, the legal aspects, it’s really important.” StrongHearts employs three advocates who have undergone training, including 60 hours on the helpline learning how to locate services for specific areas of the country and the laws that come with living on tribal land. “They train around a database that we use so when advocates are on the call with somebody, they’re able to find resources for them where they’re at in their community, or at least as close to it as they can get,” she said. “Additionally, we focus on sovereignty. There are a lot of jurisdictional issues that we cover, so our advocates are able to help navigate those systems.” The helpline is not operational 24 hours a day, though Jump hopes continued funding would allow expanded hours and digital services. “It would be really great to have our helpline be operational for 24 hours, so that regardless of where you were or when you were victimized, there would be someplace that you could call in and actually speak to somebody,” Jump said. “The other thing is that we would like to expand to digital for chat services. I think a lot of the younger people find it easier to send a chat message into something and communicate that way.” For help, dial 1-844-7NATIVE (1-844-762-8483) between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Central Standard Time. For more information, visit <a href="http://www.strongheartshelpline.org" target="_blank">www.strongheartshelpline.org</a>.