http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgNolan Arkansas
Nolan Arkansas

Q&A with EBCI ‘Remember the Removal’ participants

Brooke Coggins Seth David Ledford Darius Ian Lambert Lori Owle Jan Smith Ahli-sha Stephens James Bo Taylor
Brooke Coggins
BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
05/29/2018 12:00 PM
CHEROKEE, N.C. – Since 2011, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians citizens have joined Cherokee Nation citizens to retrace the Northern Route of the Trail of Tears as part of the nearly 1,000-mile “Remember the Removal” bicycle ride.

Although both tribes have a similar application process, as well as the same goal of historical and cultural awareness, the EBCI ride is coordinated through the tribe’s Cherokee Choices program, which is geared to improving health among its citizens from ages 15 to 65. The EBCI riders were expected to initially meet the CN participants on May 31 in Cherokee before the combined group makes its way from New Echota, Georgia, to Tahlequah, Oklahoma, beginning June 3.

The Cherokee Phoenix caught up to the EBCI participants to learn more about them.

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Name: Nolan Arkansas
Age: 18
Hometown: Cherokee
School: Yale University


CP: Why did you apply?

Arkansas: I decided to apply for RTR after watching a short documentary about the ride. Cherokee people, whether from EBCI or Cherokee Nation, had such a unique perspective on what it means to be Cherokee. They were excited, emotional and ecstatic to be a member of a tribe with such rich and resilient history. I wanted to be a part of that.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Arkansas: With this biking experience, I hope to mend my own gaps of knowledge about the Trail of Tears and Cherokee history in general. I hope to walk away from this ride knowing that I have experienced just a fraction of what my ancestors experienced, and I want to be sure I am motivated to act and live in a way that honors them.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Arkansas: The syllabary classes have been a great way for our members to become more of a team. Even a small step towards language reclamation has helped us form a stronger crew mentality. As for training, everyone varies in ability and speed, but we are still able to train together, which is rewarding not only because we ourselves improve, but because we have seen improvements in our teammates.

Name: Brooke Coggins
Age: 23
Hometown: Bryson City
School: Western Carolina University


CP: Why did you apply?

Coggins: I wanted to feel closer to my community and have a better understanding of where our resilience as a people stemmed from.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Coggins: Insight to our people’s strength and a direction of how to bring back my experience to help better the growth in our community.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Coggins: I have learned so much about Cherokee history, culture and my personal family’s history. It has been at times difficult but equally a rewarding journey, especially as it’s almost time to begin our ride.

Name: Seth David Ledford
Age: 18
Hometown: Cherokee
School: Smokey Mountain High School


CP: Why did you apply?

Ledford: Because I feel I need to feel what my ancestors went through, and I need to get closer to my heritage.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Ledford: I hope that I come back a better person with a different look on life.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Ledford: I found the history and language classes very helpful and interesting. The training has been good. It’s hard, but I expected that with the journey ahead.

Name: Darius Ian Lambert
Age: 17
Hometown: Cherokee
School: Cherokee Central Schools


CP: Why did you apply?

Lambert: I applied to this ride to learn more about my ancestors who walked the Trail of Tears, but also to challenge myself mentally and physically.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Lambert: I hope to have more knowledge and a better perspective of life.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Lambert: It’s been a challenge for us all, but we’ve become one hell of a group. The classes were great.

Name: Lori Owle
Age: 47
Hometown: Cherokee
Occupation: Cherokee Indian Hospital Satellite Clinic manager


CP: Why did you apply?

Owle: I was very fortunate to come from a strong, loving family. Family is everything. I have always looked for opportunities to improve myself personally and professionally. I was a teenage mother and always had limits to what I was able to do due to my parental responsibilities along with many struggles, but what I wanted to be was a positive role model for my daughter. Family is what we are about as a tribe. This is an opportunity to grow myself physically, mentally and emotionally while learning about Cherokee history and the removal and how it impacted my family years ago.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Owle: I hope this experience makes me into a strong Cherokee woman like my grandmother Leola. I experienced a great loss and never felt I was able to overcome the heartbreak of losing my dad at a young age. My grandmother Leola had lost two sons, and even though she grieved she kept her focus on our family and she was a loving hard worker, and her life was about family and she is a great role model. Being able to retrace the route that our ancestors took during the removal will give me the sense of understanding of knowing we may not be able to control events in our life, but we have to appreciate and respect who we are and how strong we are and not let these experiences define us but be able to navigate our lives in a more positive way. I want to be a leader for our tribe by being an emotionally intelligent leader by having compassion for others and be an advocate for the tribe and show pride in who we are.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Owle: The training was physically and emotionally hard for me. I was not in the best physical shape and that made the training emotionally and mentally hard knowing I could do better, but I had physical struggles. I was part of a team and I had a team counting on me, so I had to do the best I could. The history and language classes would always bring me back to why I was doing this, and the physical part was not the focus of why I was doing this journey, the education of Cherokee history was. The classes were very rewarding, and we had the best people leading the classes who had wealth of knowledge that I still learn more everyday about our history and language.

Name: Jan Smith
Age: 62
Hometown: Cherokee
Occupation: Retired educator


CP: Why did you apply?

Smith: I have wanted to apply for the ride for a long time. I see the alumni riders giving back to the ride and their community and I wanted to be a part of it. Honoring our people who went before us who struggled but through their resiliency maintained our strong cultural identity. I want our people and the pain they endured to never be forgotten. Remember the Removal is a way to honor them to walk where they walked and feel their pain. It’s a small way for me to show that I am strong and resilient because of them.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Smith: A feeling that I have honored our removal ancestors and also the struggles of those left behind. To learn more of the Cherokee history, to create lifelong friendships and establish a bond between our western Cherokee brother and sisters and my eastern rider family. To be apart of a team to achieve a significant goal, which is RTR. Appreciate what I have – Cherokee history, culture, values and many benefits that I did not earn but received because of our ancestors.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Smith: I love all the classes we have had. The genealogy class helped me to discover my Cherokee roots and generations that I came from. The history class helped me to understand why our people became divided and some removed. The syllabary class helped me to understand the sounds of the characters and how valuable our language is. Those who are fortunate to be fluent speakers are treasures of our tribes. The classes have taught me my Cherokee identity. They have answered my many questions of why things are.

Name: Ahli-sha Stephens
Age: 33
Hometown: Cherokee
Occupation: Cherokee Elementary School administration


CP: Why did you apply?

Stephens: My husband, Jake Stephens, rode in 2015, and I loved hearing about his experience. I wanted to have my own experience. I wanted to see, feel and experience what our ancestors seen, felt and experienced. I want to honor them and what they went through. This will not only be a physical challenge but also a mental challenge.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Stephens: A new outlook of myself and my strength. Our Cherokee people were tough and even though my journey will be easier than theirs I want to experience as much of this journey as I can, the good and the bad. I want to return home and share my story and more importantly, their story. I hope to return home a different type of Cherokee woman.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Stephens: Amazing! I learned so much. The genealogy classes were the most interesting. To learn about your family and the roles they played in our history is valuable information I will cherish forever. Yonaguska, Junaluska and Tsali were on my family lineage as grandparents four generations back. Each history and language class I soaked up as much information as I could, I look forward to doing the same on the ride.

Name: James Bo Taylor
Age: 48
Hometown: Cherokee
Occupation: Museum of the Cherokee Indian director


CP: Why did you apply?

Taylor: I applied because of the stories that I heard from the alumni from the past. I heard that it was a life changing experience and I wanted to experience that for myself. Be careful what you wish for. I wanted to challenge myself and I really did not know what to expect. But now that this is my second attempt, I feel I have unfinished business that I need to finish. I need to complete this journey or at least give it my all. I want my girls to know that it is not ok to quit. I have always said that Cherokees always get up and do what they are supposed to do. I made a commitment to my God, family and my people to do my best. So that is why I am back to finish what I started.

CP: What do you hope to take away from this experience?

Taylor: It has been probably the toughest thing I have ever attempted. It has challenged me mentally, physically and spiritually. I hope to have an experience that will make me a better person than when I started. I hope to gain life long friends and family. To gain a better sense of what my ancestors went through. It was an honor to be chosen to be a rider. I am humbled by the experience. I am not sure what will happen with the ride, but I do have great expectations that the Creator will make things happen and that we as a team will all be enriched by the journey.

CP: How has the training, history and language classes been so far?

Taylor: The trainings on history and culture have been extremely fun and educational. I love that it has been a communal effort made up of volunteers, past alumni and the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Even through history and culture is my profession I have gained great insight by getting others prospective. I think it is essential to have this as part of the ride. Otherwise, it is just a sporting initiative. RTR is the link to our past, but also our future. I only wish more people could experience it for themselves.

People

BY STAFF REPORTS
07/17/2018 04:15 PM
MUSKOGEE – As of July 14, Cherokee Nation citizen Johnny Tehee, of Vian, was expected to take over as the new chief for the Muskogee Police Department. Tehee has been with the MPD for more than 30 years. For the past 15 years he’s been the deputy chief to Chief Rex Eskridge, who was to retire on July 13. For about 10 years on the force, he’s specialized in investigating child abuse. Before the promotion, Tehee served as the deputy chief of the Investigation Division. Tehee said he believes the most important thing to concentrate on is community relations. He wants the community more involved on what the police are doing, and the police more involved on what the community is doing. “Back about 20 years I ran the Muskogee Police Athletic League, which means all the police officers would coach young kids’ football, baseball and basketball,” Tehee said. “We quit doing that about five or six ago, and I definitely want to get that back in place. I just think it’s a big asset for the community if you have officers involved in young kids’ lives.” In the 1990s, Tehee said Muskogee had a problem with drugs and gangs with the murder rate high going into the 2000s. Since that time, he said the MPD has put more officers on the street and crime rates have gone down. “We went from having double digits homicides to one or two a year. For the most part it’s a matter of keeping things going in the right direction,” Tehee said. He added that he’s “excited and looking forward to the challenges” of being the police chief. “I want to continue to move the Muskogee Police Department forward and carry on the legacy that was created by Chief Eskridge to remain one of the top law enforcement agencies in Oklahoma,” he said. Tehee graduated Vian High School in 1982 before studying criminal justice at Northeastern State University. He also graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He said he’s been a member of First Baptist Church of Muskogee for more than 30 years and has spent years travelling the world on mission trips. He also said he’s been a long-time teacher in the church’s youth department. “Deputy Chief Tehee has the experience, the community relationships and leadership skills needed to be an outstanding chief of police,” Muskogee City Manager Mike Collier said. “He has big shoes to fill, but I know he’s more than capable and will do great things in our community.”
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/10/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Three local Cherokee youths competed in the U.S. Kids Golf – Tulsa Spring Tour held between March and June that consisted of seven tournaments. Kylie Fisher, Edwin Wacoche and Chase Jones also competed in the season-ending Tour Championship at the Cherokee Hills Golf Course at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tulsa on June 10. They received points based on how they finished in each tournament with each player with the most points winning the division. Fisher, of Tahlequah, competed in the Girls 7-Under Division and won all seven tournaments played at Tulsa-area golf courses, plus the championship on June 10 with a score of 36 for nine holes. Wacoche, of Tahlequah, won the Boys 6-under Division and Jones, of Park Hill, won the Boys 10 Division. Fisher also recently won the U.S. Kids Golf Texas State Invitational for girl’s 7-under held June 18-19, by shooting 35 and 35 for a score of 70. The competitors in the tournament played 9 holes each day at the Brookhaven Country Club in Farmers Branch, Texas. “We were surprised she won it. She shot her best score to date in that tournament,” her mother Shauna Fisher, said.
BY STAFF REPORTS
07/03/2018 12:45 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Arts Center, in conjunction with the Spider Gallery, will host an art exhibit by local Cherokee artist J. Wade Hannon titled “Returning to the Cherokee Nation: A Selection of Paintings from Before and After” from July 6 to Aug. 3. In 2014, Hannon moved to Tahlequah from Chicago’s south side where he lived and worked. His family was part of the migration out of the Cherokee Nation between 1930 and 1950. The paintings in the show feature works completed in Chicago as well as works finished since relocating to Tahlequah. His work is primarily abstract done in acrylics with items added such as glitter and mica flakes as well as shells and feathers he’s collected. He’s been referred to by some as the “Jackson Pollack of the Cherokee art world.” “Being Cherokee has always been a part of my identity. When I found the opportunity to move to Tahlequah it made perfect sense to me. I have enjoyed the camaraderie with other Indian artists and have grown as an artist and a person being here,” he said. “I started painting in the ninth grade and continued painting off and on until about five or so years ago when I took up the brushes full time.” Hannon earned a doctorate in counseling from the University of Arkansas. He worked in mental health counseling after that until obtaining a position at North Dakota State University in Fargo where he was a professor in the master’s and doctoral programs in counseling. Along the way he fathered two children. A reception, featuring wine, cheese and crackers and other adult beverages will be held at 5:30 p.m. on July 6 in the Cort Mall located downtown. The show will run during the Spider Gallery’s business hours. For more exhibit information, call 918-453-5728. For more information about Hannon, call 539-832-9858 or email <a href="mailto: wadehannon@gmail.com">wadehannon@gmail.com</a>.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
06/28/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation officials honored CN citizen Sammy Houseberg on June 21 with the Medal of Patriotism award for his service in the military. The Medal of Patriotism Awards is given at monthly Tribal Council meetings. Tribal Councilors can nominate a person to receive the award. Houseberg is also a “Remember the Removal” alumni rider who rode in 2016 as a CN Elder Ambassador. He was in town to watch this year’s riders come in the same day he received the patriotism award. Originally from Stilwell, Houseberg has resided in Pearl City, Hawaii, since he was honorably discharged from the Army. During his 22 years of service, he rose in rank from private to first sergeant, armor senior sergeant, platoon sergeant to senior scout/section leader. He also attended Air Assault reconnaissance and surveillance training with his cavalry squadron where he became capable of short notice deployments in support of combat operations all over the world to provide reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence assets to commanders. Houseberg was honorably discharged as an E-8 first sergeant in 1994. He said he was proud to receive the Medal of Patriotism and that it “probably beats all of my other awards.” In addition to the Medal of Patriotism, he earned several decorations, medals and ribbons during his service including an Army Commendation Medal with five Oak Leaf Cluster, an overseas service ribbon, two Purple Hearts with one Oak Leaf Cluster, an Army Service ribbon, a Combat Infantryman’s badge, four overseas service bars, a Bronze Silver Star medal and six Vietnam Campaign medals. “The military was good for me. It got me out to see the world. I got to learn how to work and deal with people. It was good to me. It was fun,” he said. After receiving the award, Houseberg attended the welcome home ceremony for the 2018 RTR bike ride. “The Removal bike ride taught me a lot about my history. I knew nothing about where my family comes from, where they were or anything,” he said. He said he learned his family originated from Georgia and was one of the first families to be removed. He added that he could not express how important it was for him to be back in Oklahoma to see the cyclists come in. “I just feel like a part of them and riding with the RTR you become brothers and sisters when you do that. Kind of like being in the military, once you’ve done it you all get together, and you stay in touch with all the young riders I rode with,” he said.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/12/2018 08:30 AM
PARK HILL – Cherokee Nation citizen Cooper Keys is a 4-year-old with a passion for motocross. Born in 2013, Cooper began riding his 2004 Yamaha PW50 in February after finding tri-cycling slow and monotonous. With half a dozen races under his belt on the peewee dirt track at Jandebeur’s Motor Sports Park in Okmulgee, he’s notched five third-place finishes and one second-place finish. Cooper competes in the 50cc shaft drive/air cooled and 50cc beginner divisions and is the only 4-year-old racing against 5-to 7-year-olds. “We got him a starter balance bike when he was about a year and a half old,” CN citizen and Cooper’s mother Emily Keys said. “Balance bikes don’t have pedals or training wheels, so he just kind of pushed himself around until he eventually got to where he could ride around without using his feet.” Emily said Cooper soon began riding down hills, balancing perfectly on the bike that was designed for pushing around the yard. “When he outgrew the balance bike, we got him a bicycle that resembled a dirt bike, which he mastered in no time,” she said. It was around then that Emily and her husband, Justin, began thinking that Cooper’s abilities” weren’t “normal.” Cooper’s agility was only surpassed by his constant request for a real (motorized) dirt bike,” she said. “He was just gung-ho, and would not be quiet about it. My husband had a mini-bike when he was little but only rode it around the field, so we really knew nothing about dirt bikes or the sport,” Emily said. She added that it was eventually her parents who sprang for Cooper’s first dirt bike, as a Christmas present. She said she thought he would just want to ride around the field with it. But that wasn’t the case. Cooper wanted to ride all the time. “We were concerned about him racing at such a young age, so we just started at the bottom, learning everything we could on teaching Cooper how to ride safe and smart. We purchased every piece of safety gear a kid could have. Now the poor (child) looks like (a) mix between an astronaut and the Terminator when he’s all suited up to go,” Emily said. “He’s had some crashes but that hasn’t deterred him in the least.” Cooper’s father and CN citizen Justin Keys said Cooper’s can-do attitude was only one of the qualities he noticed. “It makes me really proud that he has such good sportsmanship and how he strives to make himself better. I mean he’s pushing himself more than anybody. He gets out there with a ride, ride, ride attitude and he never gives up. More than once, I’ve seen him fall down, get up and want to go again. You can’t teach that.” “We don’t want him hurt, and it is scary putting him on such a fast bike, but we’ve done all we can,’ Emily said. “We continue to teach him about safety, and we can’t let our fears get in the way of something he’s that passionate about.”
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
06/07/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Spectators who attended the Cherokee Nation’s All-Indian Rodeo on June 2 at the Cherokee County Fairgrounds got to see team and calf roping, mutton busting, steer wrestling, trick riding, sharp shooting, calf riding, bronco riding, barrel racing and bull riding. Overall, there were 270 entries to the traditional rodeo, but because of roping team deviations and multiple event entries, the exact number of competitors was unknown. Cherokee Phoenix was there and produced a highlight video of the event. <a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2018/6/42327__peo_180606_CNrodeo_rg_ts.pdf" target="_blank">Click here to view</a>the list of All-Indian Rodeo 2018 winners