Caney Valley senior fights for eagle feather in graduation cap
RAMONA, Okla. — It all started with a Facebook photo.
After Hayden Griffith, a Cherokee and Delaware senior at Caney Valley High School, received her graduation cap and gown, her mother, Lisa, snapped a quick photo of her in the gear, along with an eagle feather presented to her by a Delaware elder. The photo was uploaded to Facebook and the Griffiths went about their business.
A few days later, a school faculty member who saw the picture online stopped Hayden Griffith in the hallway and told her the feather would not be welcome at the school’s May 21 graduation ceremony.
“I was being honored,” she said. “This is my showing respect to the person who gave it (the feather) to me, my respect for my people and it shows everyone that I’ve been honored. I got it through hard work. This is a big accomplishment. It’s not the biggest one I’ll ever get, but it’s a big one for me now.”
In a statement released to the media, Caney Valley Public Schools officials characterized their decision as one made to keep the proverbial floodgates closed and denied the perception that it was a race-based move. According to the Oklahoma Department of Education, 43 percent of the students at the consolidated Washington County high school are Native American.
“Our decision to deny the request by this student and her family has nothing to do with the fact that this student is Native American,” Superintendent Ron Peters wrote. “Our decision is based upon our neutral practice of not allowing any student to adorn or decorate his or her graduation cap. We are concerned that if we grant this student’s request, then we have opened the door to virtually any other decoration.”
The Griffiths acknowledge that the district proposed a few alternatives to wearing the feather on Hayden’s cap, such as in her hair or as part of a piece of jewelry. However, those suggestions were inconsistent with the traditions associated with wearing eagle feathers, prompting the Griffiths to decline the offer.
The most recent copy of the Caney Valley High School handbook does not include language prohibiting the use of feathers or anything else not issued by the school district along with graduation regalia. A copy of the school’s graduation dress code, which the Griffiths had to sign and return to the school during the fall 2014 semester, also is silent on the issue.
A “graduation top 10 list” handed out by the senior class sponsor during the spring semester states in underlined text that hats may not be decorated at all, but calls out the use of glitter and paint rather than an additional item hanging from the mortarboard.
“If hear the word ‘decoration’ one more time, I think I’ll scream,” Lisa Griffith said. “You decorate a Christmas tree or a yard. An eagle feather is not a decoration. It’s sacred.”
Just as social media started the brouhaha, it has brought additional allies for the Griffiths, as Hayden and her mother have received emails, phone calls and letters of support from the Native American Rights Fund, Caney Valley High School alumni from across the country and elected officials with the Cherokee Nation, Delaware Tribe and the state.
The Griffiths plan to appeal to the Caney Valley board of education at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 11.
Meanwhile, Hayden has already enrolled for the fall at Coffeyville Community College, where she will attend on a softball scholarship. She has not decided what course of action to take if ultimately denied the right to wear her eagle feather during commencement.
“I never expected it to get to this point, but this isn’t just about me,” she said. “If it were another student going through this, I’d be behind them 100 percent. I don’t want to ‘decorate’ my cap or put anything offensive on it. I just want to show what I’ve done and accomplished while honoring my culture.”
TULSA, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Foundation recently hosted Tahlequah High School students at the Junior Achievement of Oklahoma’s JA Finance Park at the Tulsa Tech Peoria Campus.
The interactive day provided students the opportunity to put their financial literacy skills to the test in a simulated city where each decision they make impacts their take-home pay and livelihood.
“This is a wonderful extension of our partnership with Junior Achievement of Oklahoma, and we are excited that our Tahlequah students were able to participate in their pilot program,” CNF Executive Director Janice Randall said. “A financial education is one of the most important things we can give our students, and we are thankful the teachers and school administrators at Tahlequah High School share that vision.”
JA Finance Park is a state-of-the-art mobile facility where students live a fictional life situation, with a marital status, children, a job and a salary. They are then challenged to create and successfully use a budget and make decisions around saving, spending, investing and philanthropic giving. To achieve these tasks, students work in groups and visit 19 kiosks with interactive terminals that simulate stores, restaurants and utility companies among other real-world businesses.
“Supporting financial education is a core focus of Bank of Oklahoma,” said Pat Piper, executive vice president of Consumer Banking Services for Bank of Oklahoma and state board member for Junior Achievement of Oklahoma. “Financial literacy and money management skills are crucial building blocks for economic success. That’s why our employees volunteer in dozens of Junior Achievement classrooms each year through our Learn for Life program, and we invest in financial literacy programs to ensure individuals of all ages have the opportunity to be fiscally responsible and economically self-reliant.”??
Shannan Beeler, president of Junior Achievement of Oklahoma, said for 50 years the event has helped students understand the short- and long-term impact of educational, financial and life-style decisions.
“It also prepares students to succeed as adults by teaching them some basic, practical money-management skills, which they will need to help them prosper in life,” she said.
For more information, call Randall at 918-207-0950.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Sequoyah High School administrators will host a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. on May 8 in the school’s library regarding the proposed 2017-18 Title VI budget and its provided services.
The proposed budget supplements students’ college and career readiness and allows for public feedback.
The meeting is open to all interested stakeholders. Written comments can be submitted for up to 10 calendar days following the meeting and may be submitted either in person or by mail to Sequoyah High School, c/o Principal Jolyn Choate, PO Box 520, Tahlequah, OK 74465.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects people from discrimination based on race, color or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance. According to the Office of Civil Rights, programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education are covered by Title VI.
The school is located at 17091 S. Muskogee Ave.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation officials donated $14,000 to Kansas Public Schools in Delaware County to help construct an indoor hitting facility for the school’s baseball and softball teams.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell presented KHS head baseball and softball coach Austin Graham the check at the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
“Schools today don’t have the extra revenue to dedicate toward the needs of extracurricular activities,” Tribal Councilor Curtis Snell said. “It’s great that the tribe can step up and help schools like Kansas partially fill the funding gap so that students can have amenities like the baseball and softball teams’ indoor hitting facility.”
Graham said that without the donation, the hitting facility would not be possible.
“The tribe’s help is huge,” Graham said. “We wouldn’t even be able to think about getting new batting cages or a building built without their support.”
The tribe donated the money from its special projects fund.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced on April 11 that the Interior has made its final transfer to the Cobell Education Scholarship Fund, bringing the total amount to $60 million to be made available to advanced technical training and higher education for Native youth.
The fund provides financial assistance to American Indian and Alaska Native students wishing to pursue post-secondary and graduate education and training. It is funded in part by the Land Buy-Back Program for Tribal Nations and authorized by the Cobell Trust Management Settlement.
“This scholarship program advances the Trump Administration’s commitment to tribal sovereignty and self-determination, as well as the President’s belief that ‘education is the civil rights issue of our time,’” Zinke said. “Investment in the next generation of American leaders will allow many of these young people to gain the valuable skills required for today’s competitive workforce and the knowledge and expertise needed to help their communities meet tomorrow’s challenges. Educational development and skills training are vital for sustaining the economic and political advancement of tribal nations and our nation as a whole.”
To date, more than 2,000 scholarships totaling more than $5.25 million have been awarded to almost 1,000 Native American students for vocational, undergraduate and graduate study. The scholarship awards are up to $5,000 per semester for vocational and undergraduate students and up to $10,000 per semester for graduate and doctoral students.
The application deadline for the 2017-18 academic year was March 31 and information regarding summer 2017 scholarship opportunities can be found via <a href="http://www.cobellscholar.org" target="_blank">www.cobellscholar.org</a>.
Under the terms of the Cobell Settlement, the Interior made quarterly transfers to the scholarship fund up to $60 million. The latest transfer of $12.5 million allowed the DOI to reach this milestone in its fourth year of implementation. The fund is overseen by the Cobell board of trustees and administered by Indigenous Education Inc., a nonprofit corporation expressly created to administer the scholarship program.
Alex Pearl, Cobell board chairman, said: “We look forward to continuing our commitment to the legacy of Elouise Cobell and the vision she had for an independent, sustainable and dynamic Indian Country. Our board understands that the barriers to education for Indigenous students are significant and multi-faceted. The funds made possible by Ms. Cobell’s determined pursuit of justice for individual Indians provide an essential vehicle for improving the lives of young Native people and their communities. Our goal of creating a uniquely tuned and permanent scholarship program attentive to the needs and issues of Native students will remain our steadfast focus.”
The Buy-Back Program was created to implement the land consolidation component of the $3.4 billion Cobell Settlement, which provided $1.9 billion to purchase fractionated interests in trust or restricted land from willing landowners. Consolidated interests are transferred to tribal government ownership for uses benefiting the reservation community and tribal citizens.
Since the Buy-Back Program began making offers in December 2013, more than $1.1 billion has been paid to landowners, nearly 680,000 fractional interests have been consolidated, and the equivalent of nearly 2.1 million acres of land has been transferred to tribal governments. Tribal ownership is now greater than 50 percent in more than 13,500 tracts of land. The amount Interior contributed to the scholarship fund each quarter was based on a Cobell settlement formula that set aside a certain amount of funding depending on the value of the fractionated interests sold. These contributions did not reduce the amount that an owner received.
The Buy-Back Program recently released its annual Status Report, which highlights the steps taken to date to consolidate fractional interests.
Individual participation in the Buy-Back Program is voluntary. Landowners can call the Trust Beneficiary Call Center at 1-888-678-6836 or visit a local Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians to ask questions about land or purchase offers and learn about financial planning resources. More information and detailed frequently asked questions are available at <a href="https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ" target="_blank">https://www.doi.gov/buybackprogram/FAQ</a>.
NORMAN, Okla. – Students from the Cherokee Immersion Charter School and Grand View School, both based in Tahlequah, participated in the 15th annual Oklahoma Native American Youth Language Fair on April 3-4 at the Sam Noble Museum.
Students representing languages from different Oklahoma-based tribes also competed, but the CICS and Grand View students placed in numerous categories, taking home first-, second- and third-place trophies.
The CICS sent around 90 students from grades pre-kindergarten through sixth, while Grand View sent 18 students, third through sixth grade, to Norman. Students from both schools used the Cherokee language to perform songs, skits and readings.
CICS Principal Holly Davis said ONAYLF is the biggest event for the school to attend, and it spends most of the year preparing by having teachers tie in songs, skits and readings into lessons.
“It’s a great even for our language portion because…we’re so unique that we don’t always have an opportunity to do something like this. So it’s our big event for our language,” Davis said.
This year was the CICS’s 12th year attending and the first year for Grand View.
Darlene Littledeer, Grand View School third grade math teacher and Cherokee language instructor, said her students spent the school year learning and practicing Cherokee in an after-school program taught by her and another teacher.
“It makes me very happy to see that they’re picking it up,” Littledeer said.
The CICS placed in 22 categories ranging from small group, large group and individual competition, while Grand View placed in three categories, large group and one individual grand-prize winner. Moze Factor of Grand View also won the grand prize for poster art with his “Creating a New Generation of Speaker” piece.
“I was really proud because they had worked really hard on practicing those songs all this time. I didn’t expect anything like that to happen. They just totally surprised me,” Littledeer said.
Davis said teaching the Cherokee language is important because second language learners have better comprehensive skills than single-language learners.
“We are so convinced that making bilingual children and saving our language is making smarter kids. Research shows that if you’re bilingual or you speak more than one language, you use more of your brain.”
<strong>Cherokee Immersion Charter Schools winners</strong>
<strong>Pre-kindergarten through Second Grade</strong>
Dayci Starr: “The Story of the Milky Way,” Individual Spoken Language, second place
First Grade: “5 Little Monkeys,” Large Group Spoken Language, first place
Dayci Starr: “Lord’s Prayer,” Individual Spoken Prayer, second place
Second Grade: “Lord’s Prayer,” Group Spoken Prayer, second place
Dayci Starr: “At the Cross,” Individual Traditional Song, second place
First Starters: “Jesus Loves Me,” Group Traditional Song, first place
<strong>Third through Fifth Grade</strong>
The Story Tellers (fourth grade): “Cherokee Flag,” Large Group Spoken Language, second place
Abigail Paden: “How Great Thou Art,” Individual Modern Song, first place
Logan Oosahwe: “The Bible is a Treasure Book,” Individual Modern Song, second place
Isaiah Walema: Untitled, Individual Modern Song, third place
Dallie Dougherty and Alayna Paden: “My Friend,” Small Group Modern Song, second place
Cherokee Songbirds: “Salute to the Armed Forces,” Large Group Modern Song, first place
Jenna Dunn: “I Would Not Be Denied,” Individual Traditional Song (Group A), first place
Maleah Bird: “North Wind,” Individual Traditional Song (Group A), second place
Timothy Dunn: “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem,” Individual Traditional Song (Group A), third place
Chet Patterson: “Where the Roses Never Fade,” Individual Traditional Song (Group A), Honorable Mention
Isabella Sierra: “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” Individual Traditional Song (Group B), first place
Ahnawake McCoy: “Heavenly Home,” Individual Traditional Song (Group B), second place
Third Grade: “God’s Children,” Small Group Traditional Song, first place
Third Grade: “Eternal Sabbath,” Medium Group Traditional Song, second place
<strong>Sixth through Eighth Grade</strong>
Sixth Grade: “Celebration,” Group Modern Song, first place
Kaitlyn Pinkerton: “At the Cross,” Individual Traditional Song (Group A), second place
<strong>Grand View School Winners</strong>
<strong>Third through fifth grade</strong>
Grand View Cherokee Choir: “This Land is Your Land,” Large Group Modern Song, second place
Grand View Cherokee Choir: “Sunday School Song,” Large Group Traditional Song, first place
<strong>Sixth through eighth grade</strong>
Moze Factor: “Creating a New Generation of Speaker,” Poster Art, grand prize
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Woodall School will host its Scholastic Chess Open for students in grades kindergarten through 12 on April 22 at the school located at 14090 W. 835 Road.
According to a press release, the event is a Swiss-system tournament, which is a non-eliminating tournament that features a set number of rounds. It is also school team sensitive with machine tie breaks (no blitz). Half-point byes are available for one non-played round except the last round. Players may only “play up” 100 points to a higher-rated section.
Registration is from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. All players must check in 15 minutes prior to play in Round 1. Round 1 begins at 10 a.m. for Sections 4 and 5. Sections 1, 2 and 3 begin at 10:30 a.m.
Section 1 is kindergarten through fourth grade at U500 with five rounds. Section 2 is kindergarten through sixth grade at U700 with five rounds. Section 3 is grades six through 12 at U700 with five rounds. Section 4 is kindergarten through 12th grade at U1100 with five rounds. Section 5 is kindergarten through 12th grade at Premier 1100+ with four rounds.
All sections will be rated using the Chess Express Rating Service. All chess ratings will be looked up by the tournament director.
For more information, call Geary Crofford at 918-456-1581 or Jannifer Smith at 918-457-9771 or email <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a> or <a href="mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.
<a href="http://www.cherokeephoenix.org/Docs/2017/4/11158__brief_170410_WoodallChessForm.pdf" target="_blank">Click here</a>to download the entry form.