Native American identity absent from urban Oklahoma schools

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
01/04/2018 12:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Most of Oklahoma’s nearly 130,000 Native American students attend school in small towns, often in communities where their tribe’s history is woven into the town’s patchwork.

But for the 20 percent of Native students who attend a school in the state’s two largest metro areas, cultural connections can be harder to find, especially when it comes to a specific identity.

“Our Native program doesn’t include Native language because I have 77 tribes represented (throughout the district), so if I pick one language someone is going to be upset or left out,” Star Yellowfish, Oklahoma City Public Schools Native American student services director, said.

The state Department of Education counts more than 1,100 American Indian students in the Oklahoma City school district. But that number represents students with different tribal affiliations, the largest being Choctaw, Cherokee and Creek.

While Oklahoma City schools have more Native students than most districts, those students are spread out among nearly 100 schools, which can make it tough for a student to see others who share the same cultural identity.

Connecting Native students with each other can be especially important in an urban school system, said George Shields, director of Indian Education for Putnam City Schools.

“In a rural setting, a lot of Native kids are going to get to see grandma and grandpa, uncles and aunts, and feel more connected to their family and their heritage,” Shields said. “Our kids don’t get that. A lot of the (Native American) families in my district have moved here for a job and it might involve taking that student out of their culture.”

School districts with Indian Education programs, like Putnam City, often provide tutoring, mentoring, test preparation workshops and cultural classes for Native American students.

Districts use parent committees and advisory groups to make decisions on how to disburse funding from Title VI and the federal Johnson-O’Malley Program.

However, some of the federal funding was frozen based on Native American student counts in 1994, even though most school districts in the area have seen their Native American student populations significantly increase since then.

The adjustment to a large urban school is a challenge for some Native American families, especially if the parents’ own experience was attending a tribal school when they were younger.

Sheril Thompson, director of Indian Education for the Mid-Del school district, said she often works with Native American families who recently moved to the city and struggle with getting acclimated.

“A lot of your rural schools are sitting in a tribe and they have so many resources right there. Whereas we are up here with not a whole lot,” Thompson said.

Jillian Palomino, who is Cherokee, is one of around 55 Native American students at Del City High School. But she said it’s hard to know those other students because of the school’s large size.

“I’m sure if I lived in Tahlequah my heritage would be more of a part of my life,” said Palomino, referring to the Cherokee Nation’s capital. “But being here in the city it’s not as much a part of your life.”

Logan Seeley, a senior at Carl Albert High School who is Choctaw, said he’d like to see his classes go deeper with Native American history, especially in a community where there aren’t as many chances to learn about the culture outside of school.

His great grandfather’s skin was dark and he faced racism because of it. Logan wants to know that history and he wants to learn it in the classroom.

“In Oklahoma history we went over how tribes got here, but that’s about it,” Seeley said.

Phil Gover grew up in the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony in Nevada and he now wants to create a school in Oklahoma City that not only teaches Native American history but also incorporates a Native perspective in all curriculum areas.

“We have a critical mass of Native students in the city that we can serve with a very different take on curriculum and content,” said Gover, who is leading an effort to launch the Sovereign Community School.

Gover’s group is awaiting a response from the Oklahoma City Public Schools after filing an application to open the proposed charter school in 2019, the Oklahoman reported. The application sets a goal to serve 500 mostly Native students within a few years of opening.

“Underlying our school is the notion that Native students will learn better because they are given access to a curriculum that shows Native people in classes outside of history,” Gover said. “We are going to read awesome books in our literature class, but we are going to read books by Native people that talk about Native experiences.

“The real idea is you see yourself reflected in the things you are learning about and that raises your engagement.”

Nationally, American Indian students are often highlighted as an academically underachieving student group, especially within the federal government’s Bureau of Indian Education school network, where many students have had to overcome generations of forced disenfranchisement.

But there is evidence American Indian students in Oklahoma’s public school system perform well, especially compared to other states.

In early 2017, the state Department of Education highlighted Oklahoma’s nation-leading scores in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading for Native students.

In Mid-Del schools, Thompson said over 200 of the district’s Native students participate in a gifted and talented program.

The Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society is a program that not only celebrates academic success among Native American students, but it also offers a chance for students to connect with their heritage in deeper ways, Thompson said.

“In order to get cultural points for the Oklahoma Indian Student Honor Society, many of our (Native) students go out and read to our elementary school kids ... from culturally relevant books the district purchased,” Thompson said.

Gover said the challenge many Native students in an urban school system face is connecting to their cultural identity, rather than conforming to the world around them.

“Among urban Indians, at least this was my experience ... if you are not already very closely tied to your culture (when you enter school) it can be really hard to keep that part of you,” Gover said. “Everything about our system and our schools ... pressures them to conform, to assimilate, to become less like their cultural identity is and become more of the mainstream culture.”

Gover hopes he can prevent a whole new generation from losing their Native American culture, especially those growing up in Oklahoma City.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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BY STAFF REPORTS
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Mary Mead Volunteerism Award – Greater Wichita Area Cherokees Most Improved Award – Marble City Activity Organization Best in Technology Award – Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club Best in Technology At-Large – San Diego Cherokee Community Continuing Education Award – Spavinaw Youth and Neighborhood Center Hunger Fighters Award – Tailholt Community Organization Roy Hamilton Historical Preservation Award – Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association Roy Hamilton Historical Preservation Award – Mt Hood Cherokees Strong Hands Award – Mid County Community Organization Strong Hands Award – Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas Grant Writer of the Year Award – Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association Technical Assistance Award – Cherokee National Historical Society Best in Reporting Award – Stilwell Public Library Friends Society Best in Reporting At-Large – Kansas City Cherokee Community Community Partnership Award – Tailholt Community Organization Community Partnership At-Large – San Antonio Cherokee Township Community Inspiration Award – Noweta Cherokee Community Foundation Community Inspiration Award – New Mexico Cherokee Community Cultural Perpetuation Award – Washington County Cherokee Organization Cultural Perpetuation At-Large – Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley Donna Chuculate Cemetery Preservation Award – Webbers Falls Historical Society Museum Donna Chuculate Cemetery Preservation Award – Cherokees of the Northern Central Valley Youth Leadership Award – Boys & Girls Club of Adair County Youth Leadership At-Large – Valley of the Sun Cherokees Conference Attendance Award – Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation Conference Attendance Award – San Antonio Cherokee Township Above & Beyond Award – Cherokees for Black Indian History Preservation Foundation Above & Beyond Award – Capital City Cherokee Community Community Leadership Award – Orchard Road Community Outreach Community Leadership At-Large – Cherokee Society of Greater Bay Area Lifetime Achievement Award – Gary Bolin (Brushy Cherokee Action Association) Lifetime Achievement Award – Dude Feathers (Oakhill Piney Community Organization) Organization of the Year Award – Mid County Community Organization Organization of the Year At-Large – Cherokee Citizens League of Southeast Texas Sponsor Award – Cherokee Nation Businesses
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/11/2018 04:00 PM
VINITIA – Less than three months after the U.S. Surgeon General released a public health advisory urging more Americans to carry a lifesaving medication that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, Vinita firefighters used that medication, naloxone, to save a life. In June, Vinita firefighters responded to a call about a female who had chewed a fentanyl patch. Vinita Fire Chief Kevin Wofford said when they arrived at the scene, firefighters found the patient unresponsive. After obtaining baseline vitals, they administered one dose of Narcan nasal spray, which is a brand name for naloxone. Within minutes, Wofford said, the ambulance arrived and the EMTs helped the patient into the ambulance where her symptoms abated. “In about three minutes after they had administered the Narcan, she was becoming more responsive and they got a reversal,” Wofford said. Wofford said the Narcan nasal spray for helping save this patient and describes the medication as being “a big help” to area first responders as they deal with the growing crisis of opioid overdose deaths. The Narcan nasal spray used in the June rescue was supplied to the Vinita Fire Department during a naloxone training hosted by in part by Cherokee Nation Behavioral Health Prevention Programs earlier this year. On Feb. 27, 100 representatives from Craig County area law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency medical services, as well as school administrators, teachers and coaches received naloxone training and were given free naloxone kits to use in emergency overdose situations. The training and naloxone kits were supplied by Behavioral Health, which received a $1 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration as part of the First Responder Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. “The first part of the grant is to get all ‘traditional’ first responders — police, fire departments, EMS — trained and supplied throughout the 14 counties of Cherokee Nation,” Sam Bradshaw, Behavioral Health Prevention Programs manager, said. “Once we’ve done that, then we’ll come back around and offer the training and naloxone kits to ‘nontraditional’ first responders — doctor’s offices, nurses and other people in the community.” Due to grant requirements, first responders can only receive the naloxone kits from CN if they undergo training. To date, naloxone trainings have been held in 12 CN counties and will soon be presented in the last two. Bradshaw said he hopes to be able to offer the ‘nontraditional’ first responder training toward the end of the year. Anyone interested in attending a naloxone training and obtaining kits should call 918-276-2192. “We will resupply naloxone kits that have been used,” Bradshaw said. “To get the replacement kits, first responders must fill out a form, which allows us to collect the data we need for the grant. They can fill out the form they were given with the naloxone kits or contact Grand Nation, which has the forms and will help them get the form filled out correctly so we can get more kits to the first responders who need them.” Naloxone kits that aren’t used may also need to be resupplied, Bradshaw said. “This is a four-year grant and, hopefully, not all of the kits will be needed,” said Bradshaw. “But even those who don’t ever use it, need to be aware that these kits will expire. So we’ll resupply if they’ve expired.” While the naloxone training focuses on dealing with the consequences of opioid addiction, Behavioral Health Prevention Programs is also working to reduce prescription drug-related harm and increase awareness of the opioid epidemic. To learn more, visit the ThinkSMART Oklahoma Facebook page or <a href="http://www.ThinkSMARTok.org" target="_blank">www.ThinkSMARTok.org</a>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
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NORMAN – The Native American Journalists Association announced the winners of its 2018 National Native Media Awards and the Cherokee Phoenix won four awards, which includes its ninth first place General Excellence award for a print publication. The annual competition recognizes excellence in reporting by Native and non-Native journalists across the United States and Canada. In addition to the General Excellence honor, the Cherokee Phoenix took first place in the Best Layout – Print category and Best TV Feature Story with former Reporter Stacie Guthrie’s “Remember the Removal” video, which can be viewed at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11330" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11330</a>. Former Reporter Brittney Bennett won a third place award in the Print/Online – Best Health Coverage category with her “CN health providers want higher base pay” story, which can be read at <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11450" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Article/index/11450</a>. “As the editor of the Cherokee Phoenix I am beyond pleased and honored anytime we receive recognition from our peers,” Executive Editor Brandon Scott said. “Everyone on our staff takes our role in keeping the Cherokee people informed to heart. I would personally like to thank everyone on the Cherokee Phoenix staff for all their hard work, and the members of the Native American Journalist Association for recognizing our dedication to providing thorough and prompt news coverage to our tribe nationwide.” Cherokee Phoenix staff members will have an opportunity to collect their hardware during a banquet at NAJA’s annual conference on July 18-21 in Miami, Florida. With the exception of 2011-13, the Cherokee Phoenix has entered the NAJA awards every year since 2001 and has won 99 total awards, including the prestigious Richard LaCourse Award for investigative journalism in 2003 and the Elias Boudinot Award in 2001 for becoming an independent news organization. Overall, the Cherokee Phoenix has won 32 first place, 37 second place, 21 third place and nine honorable mention NAJA awards.