http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgVisitors and citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes join in a ceremonial dance during a Fort Smith (Arkansas) bicentennial celebration on March 3 in the city’s convention center. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Visitors and citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes join in a ceremonial dance during a Fort Smith (Arkansas) bicentennial celebration on March 3 in the city’s convention center. ROGER GRAHAM/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

5 Civilized Tribes join Fort Smith’s bicentennial

Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
03/09/2018 05:00 PM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
FORT SMITH, Ark. – The Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole nations, also known as the Five Civilized Tribes, participated in celebrating Fort Smith’s bicentennial on March 3 at the city’s convention center.

Cultural activities included dances, singing, demonstrations in ancient weaponry and artwork, as well as the showing of traditional clothing, basketry, pottery and paintings.

Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Director Travis Owens said some Cherokee artists who partook in the commemoration were painter Tana Washington, potter Crystal Hanna, textiles artist Lisa Rutherford, sculptor Matt Girty and Cherokee National Treasure Tommy Wildcat.

“In addition to the artists who are here to tell about history and culture, we actually brought some of our programs,” said Owens. “Specifically our ‘Visit Cherokee Nation’ group are encouraging visitors to not only learn about our culture here in Fort Smith but to come to Cherokee Nation and visit us there as well.”

Tribal Councilors Janees Taylor and Joe Byrd also attended, as well as other tribal dignitaries and ambassadors.

“Cherokee Nation has had a strong presence here today,” Byrd said. “I spoke this morning and gave the mayor a seal of the Cherokee Nation before introducing the Cherokee Nation Youth Choir who sang our national anthem.”

Seminole Nation Tribal Band Chief Rodney Factor spoke about the Seminole Nation’s history in Fort Smith. “Well, it’s a historical place for us. A lot of our people came through here during the removal period. Also, a federal court was established here that our people were subjected to. And, we were also gathered here in 1865 to sign a peace treaty after the Civil War.”

Jim Perry, Fort Smith Bicentennial Arts and Culture Committee chairman, said he was pleased with the attendance.

“We felt it was significant to invite the Five Civilized Tribes to Fort Smith to help share their culture, their lives and history with Fort Smith because they’ve had such a great influence over this part of the country,” he said. “This is the first time, as far as I understand it, that the five tribes have come together at this kind of celebration and cultural event. As a result of that, the goodwill, the camaraderie, the atmosphere and the joy or the celebration has really taken hold. People here are very excited about this, and there has been talk that we need to do this more often.”
About the Author
Roger began working for the Cherokee Nation in 2005 and joined the Cherokee Phoenix staff in 2008. After 25 years in broadcast news and production, Roger enjoys producing videos about Cherokee culture and events. He attended the University of New Mexico for one year before achieving Federal Communications Commission operator and engineering licenses through on-the-job training. In his youth, Roger represented the United States in gymnastics and diving. • 918-207-3969
Roger began working for the Cherokee Nation in 2005 and joined the Cherokee Phoenix staff in 2008. After 25 years in broadcast news and production, Roger enjoys producing videos about Cherokee culture and events. He attended the University of New Mexico for one year before achieving Federal Communications Commission operator and engineering licenses through on-the-job training. In his youth, Roger represented the United States in gymnastics and diving.


Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
03/20/2018 02:30 PM
INOLA – Cherokee Nation leaders joined Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, along with state, county and civic leaders, in welcoming Sofidel CEO and President Luigi Lazzareschi for a March 6 groundbreaking of the Italian-based paper company’s $360-million-dollar plant. The plant is expected to support 300 jobs initially. “This is going to be a big investment with a lot of technology,” Lazzareschi said. “For those who don’t know, this is a family only dedicated to tissues. We have never been in any other business than tissue for more than 50 years.” He said when completed the plant would be about 2 million square feet, which is 5 percent larger than the largest Sofidel plant in Ohio. Fallin called the announcement and groundbreaking a great day in Oklahoma. She said she traveled to Sofidel’s Italian headquarters two years ago. Once there, Fallin said she knew she had found a great opportunity for, Inola, Rogers County, Tulsa and the northeast region of the state. Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he would normally welcome everyone to the CN, but the groundbreaking was held in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s jurisdiction. He said the CN was “within shooting distance” from where he was standing. He also informed Lazzareschi that assistance would be coming from CN Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelly. As for Cherokee Nation’s involvement with the Sofidel plant, much is still in the planning phase, CN officials said. Although after the groundbreaking, CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the Sofidel plant site is significant. Sofidel will build on the same site where 40 years ago Public Service Company of Oklahoma proposed building a nuclear energy facility. One of the reasons it was never built is because Native American activists, including many Cherokees, protested against it, he said. PSO has retained ownership of the property, which has remained vacant and undeveloped despite its location on the Kerr Navigation Channel and proximity to the Port of Catoosa, the furthest inland port and one of the busiest ports in the United States. “We routinely work with our state, regional and local partners to find opportunities that best suit all involved, and this was a location that worked best for everyone. About 40,000 Cherokee Nation citizens live within 20 miles of this facility, and when you look at a 25-mile radius, the number of Cherokee Nation citizens grows to more than 57,000,” Hoskin said. “The location is just a couple of miles outside of our (CN) boundaries, and our own Career Services department will help recruit the workforce for Sofidel. Because of that we believe Cherokee Nation citizens will be among the first hired.” Sofidel is one of the leading makers of hygienic tissue paper with locations in 13 countries. It places an emphasis on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions. “We believe our mission alignment and the number of jobs and opportunities they will provide make them an extremely valuable partner in our economic development goals, which are to help make northeast Oklahoma an attractive place to live, work and raise a family,” Hoskin said.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/19/2018 08:00 AM
STILWELL – Whether you call it Yowie, Yeti, Sasquatch or Bigfoot, the mystery of the beast drew hundreds to Stilwell on March 10 to the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center as researchers tried to provide evidence that the creature isn’t such a mystery. The center holds an annual Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium and offers people a chance to hear researchers, audio recordings and firsthand accounts and view castings. “We actually have different researchers that will be presenting their research from the past year. Different audio, different pictures, whatever they have and new developments as they find stuff out,” Rex Hatfield, MABRC field researcher, said. D.W. Lee, MABRC executive director, said since the symposium began nearly six years ago there have been multiple accounts of people reporting Bigfoot sightings. “I would say on average we have 10 to 15 reports turned into us at every symposium,” he said. “It’s a nice way for people to relate their experiences and find out for sure if what they’ve seen was a bigfoot or not.” The symposium took place at CC Camp, which Lee said is approximately a mile away from the group’s research center. “We call it the Devil’s Cauldron because it’s a bowl shape area, and then past that we have two other research areas within two miles of that,” he said. “A lot of Natives in this area, they’ve come up to us and told us of their encounters. It’s really a rich area for Bigfoot sightings and encounters.” With foot castings on display, Lee said it’s the symposium’s “biggest” piece of evidence that Bigfoot lurks somewhere. “The casts are pretty much the biggest piece of evidence that we have that Bigfoot exists. We have a large collection of them inside from not just around here, but from around the country.” Hatfield said the symposium helps shed light on the creature. “The more people we have working together on this the more evidence we’re hoping to bring forward and solve this mystery, bring forward one of these creatures and find something out.” Regarding sightings, Lee said there’s anything from white, to tannish blonde and even black-haired Bigfoots that are typically reported in Adair County. “Around here we have a white one. We believe it’s the alpha of the troop in this area,” he said. “There’s a high voltage power line right-of-way that all of our research areas are within a mile of and since (19)96 he’s been seen within a mile of that power line on multiple sightings.” Hatfield said if someone encounters a Bigfoot they need to write it down. “Memories fade, but if you can write down as much details as you can as soon as possible it’d be best.” When researching, Lee said the group uses audio recorders, night vision cameras, thermal cameras and a drone. He said more people are having encounters in Oklahoma because they are moving into wooded areas. “We’ve probably got just as many Bigfoot as any other state, but since we’re pushing more out into the woods we’re coming across more and more encounters.” As for skeptics, Hatfield said “seeing is believing.” “Get out in the woods. Rather than judging us on what you’re seeing through a computer screen or on TV, come out and look for yourself. That’s the best way to get a good idea of what is and what isn’t,” he said. Lee said most skeptics are typically “diehard” skeptics. “They’re not going to believe that there’s an 8-foot tall, undocumented creature running around the woods,” he said. “I usually tell them, ‘you look at aliens, UFOs. We would be fools to think that we’re the only ones in this universe.’ We’re always encountering new species of animal. To actually believe that that’s not out there, you just can’t really follow that line of thought.” For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/16/2018 12:45 PM
MUSKOGEE – Pop punk. Video games. Friendships. What do they all have in common? The band When the Clock Strikes, which released its EP “Overnight” on March 16 and was set to play it the next day at The Vanguard in Tulsa. The Cherokee Phoenix spoke with the pop punk band as it practiced. It’s comprised of singer and bassist Daniel Basden, guitarist Steven Walker and drummer Blake Westerby. Basden and Walker are Cherokee Nation citizens. All three began playing their respective instruments as teenagers, and bands such as Blink-182, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance have influenced their style. “We try to make our melodies as accessible as possible so people can sing along and just enjoy it,” Basden said. He added that the band’s love of video games has also influenced its music. “I first got into punk music by playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on PlayStation,” Basden said. “We’ve covered the Pokémon theme song. We’ve done some songs from (The Legend of) Zelda.” Formed in 2014, When the Clock Strikes has released EPs with cover and original songs and has toured regionally. With the new EP, Basden said he believes these are the “best” songs they’ve written. “They run a pretty wide emotional range.” Walker said he believes the “Overnight” EP showcases their most “real” songs. “I really like how much the songs have become more realized. Actually working with Blake and working with Basden to make what I feel like are probably our most real songs, something that’s fleshed out, has a real art to them,” he said. Walker said they were able to achieve this because at the end of the day they’re not just a band but friends. “Little things that you can’t quantify that you get from working with Basden as many years as I have and working with Blake. Little things that just…kind of happen on their own that you may not get when you jump into a room full of strangers and start working on music. It feels like the new EP and our music in general is really a testament and a byproduct of our relationship in general with our friendship.” When coming to live shows, Basden said people should expect a high-energy good time. “All of our songs are pretty fast,” he said. “Usually our home shows we have people sing along with us, which is really cool.” During the years of performing, Walker said they’ve created friendships with fans. “I’d been kind of remiss to call them fans at this point, especially with how tight the community is,” he said. “You make a ton of friends, and you get a lot of cool stories. Everybody that comes to that show went there for a reason. They came there to feel things, and you did, too. I don’t really have a family. This has become my family.” Westerby said he had a special experience with the band by first being a fan and later joining it. “I actually took lessons at the music store that Steven use to work at, so that’s kind of where I was first introduced to him. I was probably their biggest fan to start out with, and eventually I came in and been here for about two years now. It’s been a little surreal because I use to be the guy out there listening to them, and now I’m up there so it’s kind of a cool thing.” Aside from drumming, Westerby also works on audio engineering for their tracks and did so before joining. “That’s kind of where our video game covers came from. First thing I did with them, before I was even in the band, was record the Mega Man cover. I did that and that’s how we sort of started the dialogue that ended me up here,” he said. “Also, with the engineering that’s how we do our demos, too. With the new EP, we put everything on tape to kind of hear it back, to kind of make adjustments that way we’re kind of stepping back from the whole process and getting to listen to it.” Looking forward, Walker said WTCS has plans to travel “as far east and as far west” as it can. To keep up with WTCS, “follow” them on Instagram or “like” them on Facebook. “Listen to our music. Come to shows. Anything helps,” Westerby said.
03/15/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Students at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah walked out of their classes on March 14 as part of a nationwide movement to draw attention to gun violence in schools and to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting. The coordinated walkout was organized by the youth wing of the Women’s March called EMPOWER, which encouraged students across the country to walk out of their classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to commemorate a minute for each of the 17 victims gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14. Organizers said nearly 3,000 walkouts were set to take place throughout the U.S. and around the world, resulting in the largest demonstration of student activism that has yet to emerge since the massacre. Sequoyah seniors Celia Bateman and Raelee Fourkiller organized the walkout at their school in unity with the rest of their peers around the country hoping to take a stand against gun violence. “We did it to demonstrate that we have power in our voices and that these students behind us have power too, and we want them to utilize it to their fullest,” said Bateman. “I think it is very important to remember that this walk out isn’t about us or by us, it is in solidarity with other schools around the nation who are also participating in the walk out. We are just a little ripple in the pond, just a few drops in the bucket of students who are overflowing and who are tired of not being heard.” Bateman said although some of the parents, faculty and even students weren’t “too big” on the walkout, the administration allowed them their time. “They didn’t like the word protest, it is sort of a protest but a silent and peaceful protest. It wasn’t mandatory at all, but it was definitely a big step for those that did come out. A lot of people came out and supported it today and that is really important,” she said. Sequoyah’s speech and theater teacher Amanda Ray said it was “inspiring” to see students taking the initiative to speak out and care about something such as gun control and showing respect for students who have been victims of mass shootings all over the country. “I saw all of my speech and theater students out here because they know to be here and they know to have a voice,” she said. “We have talked extensively about gun control and common-sense-gun laws in my speech and debate classes. To me it’s so important to educate them because so many students are coming here and they aren’t educated on common sense gun laws, so to be able to help in that education here at Sequoyah is incredibly important and necessary.” With their walkout also geared towards school safety, Fourkiller said she hopes people will understand the important roll teachers play in the school system and in turn will start “talking” about teacher salaries. “With the 284 lives that were lost, their had to be people there protecting them. Teachers, staff members and faculty, they were all in the building at the same time, which hits on why aren’t teachers being paid enough. People need to be talking about that. We need to be talking about the education system in America, and we need to be standing with teachers in April when they walk out too,” said Fourkiller.
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
03/15/2018 08:30 AM
WAGONER – Each time Lance Osburn climbs into the ring as part of the wrestling tag team Delta Delta Theta it’s an opportunity for him to live his childhood dream of championship title matches and pinfalls. “It’s crazy. It’s insane. I was a little kid just wanting to do this, so it was just fun for me,” he said. “It’s so surreal, and I’ve met some people that I never thought I would meet. It’s just one of those things you can’t really explain it.” The Cherokee Nation citizen began wrestling three years ago after contacting friends who ran a show in Tulsa, but it wasn’t until meeting Colt Killbane that Osburn crafted a persona that connected with fans. “My tag team partner now, Colt, he did like a high school jock-type gimmick with a letterman jacket and everything,” he said. “We were talking one day and I was like, ‘why don’t I break out my old letterman jacket and we’ll just team up and we’ll do this thing.’ So we started out, I had my blue and white, my Colcord (jacket) and we just started from there and now we got our own gear. We got matching letterman jackets.” Delta Delta Theta, or DDT, formed in 2017, and Osburn said the name “is a play” on the DDT, a wrestling move in which a wrestler traps an opponent in a headlock and falls to push the opponent’s head into the mat. The team is known for its “Delta Driver” move, which Osburn describes as “a double-package DDT.” They showcased their signature move while squaring off against BFFS, the Wrestling For a Cause tag team champions, during the “Fight For Luke” event on March 3. DDT didn’t win, but Osburn said he enjoys that his passion allows him to raise money for children with cancer. “The company (Wrestling For a Cause) is nonprofit. We help raise money for kids with childhood cancer,” he said. “A lot of these families, they’re not high-income families, and so these medical bills stack up pretty heavily when it comes to their kids and the cancer they’re dealing with and everything.” Osburn said wrestling is sometimes the perfect distraction that lets kids enjoy themselves. “It’s nice for us to be able to do this for them, help raise a little money to help the families out, and the kids just get to enjoy everything for a while. They get to enjoy the show and have a good time, have an actual life and not have to worry about chemo or whatever they’re going through.” When not wrestling, Osburn trains to keep in shape for matches with the WFC and other organizations such as United Wrestling Entertainment. “Some companies do a lot of high-intensity cardio. Some of them, they just do a little bit of workouts like pushups, jogging, high-knees, stuff like that. Nothing intense, just mainly work you out in the ring, taking bumps, hitting the ropes, stuff like that.” DDT is unsure of its next championship shot after the March 3 match, but Osburn said the next time opportunity comes around, the duo will be prepared. “Yeah we didn’t get it done this time, but that just means we gotta go back to the drawing board, hit the gym harder, and come out with the straps next time.”
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/14/2018 08:00 AM
SALLISAW – With two weeks under their belts, high school students are learning the ins and outs of ACT test taking during a six-week ACT Prep Class at Carl Albert State College’s Sallisaw campus conducted by the Cherokee Nation Foundation. Jennifer Sandoval, CNF program coordinator, said the CNF has offered the free class for several years because it helps students get a look into the ACT before taking the exam. She said with 35 students in attendance this is the biggest class yet. “We offer it at this campus so that way it reaches all of the surrounding high schools,” she said. “They’re able to come here after school and get that kind of one-on-one prep with an instructor.” Students have two chances to take the six-week class, once in the fall and the other in the spring. Sandoval said the CNF also offers a weeklong summer program. While in class, Sandoval said students take an ACT pre-test before jumping into the course. “We like to get them familiar with it, and then we have them take a mid-test in the middle of the classes. That way they can practice what they’ve learned so far,” she said. “We do basic introduction lessons at the beginning of the class, and then we kind of taper off into each subtest. We start off kind of slow then we intense up towards then, and then we taper off again so they’re ready for that test at the end.” Mikeesha Watts, a Vian High School junior, said she took Sandoval’s weeklong summer class and it helped raise her ACT score. “I met a lot of people up there. Still talk to them today, and they help me out a lot. Raised my score two points from my previous ACT so that’s good. Hopefully this class will help me more.” For other students looking to take an ACT prep class, Watts said Sandoval is a good teacher with whom to do so. “Jennifer, she’s a great teacher. She’s worth every second of coming to a class.” Sandoval said this class is important because it helps most students get a “leg up” on the exam. “Most students don’t have the opportunity to prep for the ACT for free, and so because college is such a big deal, and the ACT is the entrance exam to get to college, we just feel like it’s getting them a step ahead of most students and getting them a leg up on the ACT,” she said. When taking the ACT, Sandoval said one strategy is to never leave anything blank. “So our guessing strategy that we use is what we call the letter of the day. If you ever have to guess on several different questions you just guess one letter,” she said. Sandoval said the class is free to CN citizens and citizens of federally recognized tribes. If a high school would like the CNF to offer an ACT Prep class, Sandoval said that’s something the foundation does. “We do two-hour workshops that high schools can request. We also have a two-day workshop that’s a partnership with the University of Arkansas, schools can request that as well,” she said. For more information, visit <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.