http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation administration liaison Pat Gwin pours CN Seed Bank seeds into a container. Gwin and his colleagues spent all spring, summer and fall growing various plants for the seeds. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation administration liaison Pat Gwin pours CN Seed Bank seeds into a container. Gwin and his colleagues spent all spring, summer and fall growing various plants for the seeds. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Seed bank offering heirloom seeds

Various seeds sit in containers as Cherokee Nation Seed Bank officials ready them for distribution to CN citizens in February. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation administration support special projects officer Nancy Rackliff helps get products in the Cherokee Nation Seed Bank ready for distribution. The seeds that have the best genetics are put aside and used for next year’s growing season so the program can continue. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Various seeds sit in containers as Cherokee Nation Seed Bank officials ready them for distribution to CN citizens in February. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY STACIE BOSTON
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
01/05/2015 07:50 AM
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation’s Natural Resources is preparing for the gardening season as employees sort heirloom seeds they harvested from the department’s crops this past year. The seeds are to be distributed to CN citizens wanting to plant them.

Administration liaison Pat Gwin said his team spent spring, summer and fall growing plants such as corn, beans and squash to obtain seeds. He said this past growing season was the best he’s seen since the program’s inception about 10 years ago.

“We have a record supply of just about everything we’ve ever had,” he said. “We hope to do thousands and thousands of packages this year.”

He said the highest number of seed packages the department has sent out in one year was about 5,000.

Some native seeds, those local to the area, that will be available are Wild Senna, Buttonbush, Jewelweed, White Indigo, Sochan, Hearts-a-Busting, Blackhaw, Rattlesnake Master and Cutleaf Coneflower. Heirloom seeds available include gourd, tobacco and Trail of Tears beads.

Gwin said officials are also trying to revive a plant that is “fairly endangered” in Oklahoma, the Prairie Willow Red Root. The plant is commonly used at Cherokee stomp grounds.

“We are growing that and propagating that beginning last year and continuing this year. We are supplying live plants of those to the stomp grounds,” he said.

When requesting seeds, a participant should email seedbank@cherokee.org. An official will send a list of available seeds. The participant requests what seeds he or she wants as well as provide a copy of his or her CN citizenship card, address of where the seeds need to be sent, and if requesting the native tobacco, proof of age confirming he or she is 18 years of age or older. The seeds are then mailed free of charge.

Citizens should include one or two seed alternates besides their first choices in case supplies are exhausted. Seed recipients are limited to two varieties of a seed and one variety of gourds and corn due to hybridization issues. Distribution will begin in February.

Each order comes with the Cherokee and English name for the plant and growing instructions.

“Some things are harder to grow than others…We’re growing plants that are native to the original Cherokee homelands back east, the Appalachian region, and here in Oklahoma it can get to 110 degrees and California dry, windy conditions. Just about all of it takes a little bit of special growing protocols,” Gwin said.

He said to have enough seeds for the bank project and to keep the seeds at their most pure-genetic state he has different gardens in the tribe’s jurisdiction. There is a garden near the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah and others throughout Cherokee, Wagoner and Delaware counties.

Gwin said it is important to plant varieties of a certain plant at different locations to keep the genetics pure.

“Only one variety of corn can be grown here at the Cherokee Nation site. Another variety has to be grown, maintaining at least a mile separation,” he said. “If not, they’ll cross-breed and then you get nothing.”
Gwin said before the seeds are distributed to CN citizens he and his group remove seeds with the best genetics so the program can continue.

“The items that aren’t 100 percent fresh, those are placed with the excess,” he said. “We don’t waste anything. Everything is given to tribal citizens or remains in the seed bank.”

Gwin said in 2014 the growing process was different because the department had help from Cherokee elders called Cherokee Medicine Keepers.

“We quickly realized in working with the elders that it was a huge bonus for the language program,” he said. “We were quickly learning that some of the ecology-related Cherokee words were either forgotten or were being forgotten. This is a way to keep the Cherokee language as preserved and as up to date as possible.

“We have gradually, around the garden, been expanding and landscaping with specific native plants that are culturally important to Cherokees,” Gwin added. “We have that list to about 50-something Cherokee plants. This was the first year that we have harvested the seed from those native plants, not crops, native plants that the Cherokees would use medicinally, culturally.”

Gwin said he not only believes this program is important for preserving Cherokee culture and language, but also to help educate Cherokee youth.

“We want tribal citizens to partake in this program,” he said. “I think it’s a good way to teach kids responsibility. I think there’s a good youth component here. I think there’s a huge educational component. I think the cultural aspect is through the roof.”

For more information, email seedbank@cherokee.org. or call 918-453-5704.

Services

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>.
BY STAFF REPORTS
04/05/2018 02:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is accepting applications for low-rent housing openings in Claremore and Vinita. Applications are available at <a href="http://www.hacn.org/" target="_blank">http://www.hacn.org/</a> under the low-income rental housing tab or mailed upon request. Completed applications can be submitted at any HACN office. The Will Rogers Senior Complex in Claremore and Tom Buffington Heights in Vinita have one-bedroom apartments available. Applicants for Will Rogers Senior Complex must be at least 55 years old. The apartment complexes are managed by the HACN and provide affordable homes for low-income families. Rent is not to exceed 30 percent of the family’s adjusted income. Security deposits will also be waived. Eligibility requirements for housing are: • A member of the family must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, • Household income must be below 80 percent of the national median income, and • Must be able to pass a background check. Preference will be given to Cherokee Nation citizens who are elderly (62), disabled or handicapped. For more information, call 918-456-5482.