http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation Food Distribution Manager Leah Duncan and employee David HorseChief stock shelves at the Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The program has improved its services to tribal citizens since its inception in 1983 and recently received a perfect score on a U.S. Department of Agriculture Management evaluation. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation Food Distribution Manager Leah Duncan and employee David HorseChief stock shelves at the Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The program has improved its services to tribal citizens since its inception in 1983 and recently received a perfect score on a U.S. Department of Agriculture Management evaluation. COURTESY

Food Distribution improving service to citizens

Boxes of cereal set on shelves at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The center is for qualifying citizens of federally recognized tribes to ensure their families have food. COURTESY
Boxes of cereal set on shelves at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The center is for qualifying citizens of federally recognized tribes to ensure their families have food. COURTESY
12/04/2017 12:30 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution program recently earned a perfect score on a U.S. Department of Agriculture Management evaluation, a testament on how it has improved during the years in serving tribal citizens.

“To be awarded a perfect score is already a big accomplishment for our team, but to be told that we made history, that was a huge credit to the program. The USDA Management evaluation is an extensive process where they examine many aspects of the operational processes,” Jennifer Kirby, Family Assistance interim director, said.

Beginning in 1983, the program began as a monthly tailgate service to ensure qualifying families received food. Funded by the USDA and CN, staff members traveled to locations in the tribe’s jurisdiction to distribute food.

“We used to take the food to them. We put everything on our trucks, and we took it to them,” Food Distribution Assistant Manager Felicia Foreman, who has worked in the program since it opened, said. “It was hard especially in the summers and the winters because it was either really hot or cold and families might have to take, their kids and the elderly had to wait in it. But it was really rewarding too when you know at the end of the day you helped somebody feed their family and the elderly.”

Families lined up at the sites for packaged and canned foods. Although the tailgate sites ended in December 2016, Kirby said they still make home deliveries under certain circumstances.

“It really was a big issue about getting it out in a timely manner and not having any loss...getting it out before it spoiled, to our families. And if they couldn’t make it then you kind of had to bring it back and hope everything stayed at top condition by the time you brought it back,” she said. “But we can make home deliveries if someone isn’t medically able to get come get their commodities. We make 80 home deliveries among the elderly and handicap.”

Not only can participants now visit grocery store settings and shop, but they also have more foods from which to choose.

“We now have a variety of foods, which is really good for our clients because they have more options to choose from. We started out with about 50 items of food and that’s not a lot to choose from. Then we went up to 72 items and now we are at 108 different items that they choose from,” Kirby said.

Along with more variety is better food quality as the USDA changed some products to cater to healthier needs. The tribe’s stores offer fresh produce such as fresh vegetables and fruits, whole-wheat tortillas and low-sodium products.

The program also offers traditional foods such as wild rice, filleted salmon and bison. The Food Distribution team is also working on getting filleted catfish.

“They try to listen to the different tribes and what their traditional foods are within that region and catfish was one of the traditional foods bought up in our area for our tribe,” said Kirby.

Officials said across its seven locations, Food Distribution served 135,602 individuals in fiscal year 2017. Although the hope is to not see those numbers increase, Kirby said if they do the program wants to provide top quality foods and variety.

“If our numbers increase I think we feel there is more hungry in the 14 counties, but if we need to be here to service more people we want to service more people. But our hope is to continue to offer more varieties of food and to continue to increase the quality,” she said.

To qualify, one must be a federally recognized tribal citizen and must provide proof of income, proof of address and identification cards for each household member.

People can apply at Food Distribution stores in Collinsville, Nowata, Stilwell, Sallisaw, Jay, Salina and Tahlequah. The stores are closed the last three working days of the month.

For more information, call 1-800-865-4462 or 918-207-3920 or

Food Distribution Centers

17675 S. Muskogee Ave.

1101 N. 12th

1501 Industrial Parkway Road

1018 Lenape Dr.

904 N. Owen Walters Blvd.

3400 W. Cherokee

Hwy 59 South, Industrial Park
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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.”
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 or 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="" target="_blank"></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.
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.
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.
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="" target="_blank"></a> for a list of Career Services offices.
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="" target="_blank"></a>.