Keystone pipeline leak days before Nebraska expansion ruling

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
11/22/2017 04:00 PM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 210,000 gallons of oil onto agricultural land in northeastern South Dakota, but state officials don't believe the leak polluted any surface water bodies or drinking water systems.

State officials and pipeline operator TransCanada Corp. disclosed the leak Thursday, and the company shut down the pipeline.

TransCanada said it activated emergency response procedures after detecting a drop in pressure resulting from the leak south of a pump station in Marshall County. The cause was being investigated.

Discovery of the leak comes just days before Nebraska regulators are scheduled to announce their decision Monday whether to approve the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, an expansion that would boost the amount of oil TransCanada is now shipping through the existing line, which is known simply as Keystone. The expansion has faced fierce opposition from environmental groups, American Indian tribes and some landowners.

Brian Walsh, an environmental scientist manager at the South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said the state has sent a staff member to the site of the leak in a rural area near the border with North Dakota about 250 miles (402 kilometers) west of Minneapolis.
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Interior search for 17K Natives to claim accounts before Nov. 27

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/22/2017 12:07 PM
WASHINGTON – The Department of the Interior is taking the final steps in its efforts to identify the whereabouts of approximately 17,000 Native Americans to provide compensation as part of the Cobell settlement.

The settlement of the Cobell lawsuit has reached an important deadline and the DOI needs class members, or the heirs of class members, to provide documentation of their status to the Office of the Special Trustee for American Indians and/or the Garden City Group, the Cobell claims administrator, by Nov. 27, which is a court-imposed deadline for claiming settlement compensation so that payment may be made.

In 1996, Elouise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, and four other Native American representatives filed a class-action lawsuit against two departments of the U.S. government: the Interior and Treasury. The plaintiffs claimed that the government had incorrectly accounted for income derived from Indian trust assets, which are legally owned by the U.S. government but held in trust for individual Native Americans (the beneficial owners).

In 2009, the parties negotiated a settlement in the case, and in 2010 Congress passed implementing legislation designating $3.4 billion for the settlement: $1.4 billion was allocated to be paid to the plaintiffs and $1.9 billion was allocated for a Land Buy-Back Program and a newly created educational scholarship fund for American Indian and Alaska Native students.

The settlement payment process is being handled by the GCG with the cooperation of the Interior. Class members have received detailed information about their legal rights and options via the U.S. Postal Service. Information was also provided through an extensive media campaign that included Native America print media, social media, television and radio ads and online advertising.

CN continues free home energy audits for citizens

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
11/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Since 2010, the Cherokee Nation’s Environmental Programs has provided free home energy audits to tribal citizens. The audits help keep energy bills from rising in the winters and summers and are used to scan homes for air leaks that cause excessive energy use to warm or cool homes.

According to the Department of Energy, an average home can lose up to $450 per year in energy costs from air leakage and insulation defects. Taking small measures such as weatherization can save an average of $350 per year.

After receiving a DOE grant, Environmental Programs officials looked for ways to save citizens on energy costs, and providing audits was one way.

Now funded through the Housing and Urban Development, the audits are provided to citizens who participate in Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act-funded programs such as iSave, Mortgage Assistance Program, Housing Rehabilitation and Financial Assistance. Participants must also live within the tribe’s jurisdiction.

“We focus our audit on the air seal of the home,” Terrel Mitchell, CN environmental specialist, said. “That is, in most cases, the easiest issue to address. It’s the least expensive. So there’s a really good return on your time and investment when you work on your air seal.”
Cherokee Nation home energy auditors use infrared cameras to find missing or defective insulation and sources of heating and cooling losses in citizens’ homes. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation home energy auditors use infrared cameras to find missing or defective insulation and sources of heating and cooling losses in citizens’ homes. COURTESY
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Cherokee Speakers Bureau helping keep language alive

BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
11/22/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Fewer and fewer Cherokee people are speaking their native language, and the Cherokee Nation is losing elder speakers each year, so a monthly gathering of speakers is important for keeping the language alive, Cherokee Speakers Bureau officials said.

On Nov. 9, the CSB held a gathering for Cherokee speakers in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Meeting Room for lunch, fellowship and to speak Cherokee.

The CSB formed in 2007 to give Cherokee speakers an opportunity to speak the language with others. Ten years later, the CSB continues to be important for the language’s preservation.

“This event is very important because we don’t get to talk in Cherokee very much anymore because like places where we work not all co-workers can speak it. So this event allows us to all come together to speak the language,” Kathy Sierra, CN Cherokee Language Program assistant, said. “I come to speak Cherokee, to see all my friends and just be together, you know. One of my speaker friends works at (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital) so we don’t get to see each other and speak Cherokee until this event.”

Along with speaking Cherokee and having lunch, the event consists of storytelling, singing, community reports and word translation.
A group of Cherokee language speakers sing “Amazing Grace” during the monthly Cherokee Speakers Bureau on Nov. 9 in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Meeting Room in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The CSB gathers on the second Thursday of each month for lunch, fellowship and to speak Cherokee. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation translator specialist Dennis Sixkiller writes a Cherokee word on a dry erase board during the Nov. 9 Cherokee Speakers Bureau in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The events are open to all, but only Cherokee is spoken. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Immersion Charter School students perform for the Cherokee Speakers Bureau on Nov. 9 in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation translator specialist Bonnie Kirk said students from different areas comet to the meetings to sit and listen to Cherokee speakers. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A group of Cherokee language speakers sing “Amazing Grace” during the monthly Cherokee Speakers Bureau on Nov. 9 in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Meeting Room in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. The CSB gathers on the second Thursday of each month for lunch, fellowship and to speak Cherokee. KENLEA HENSON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

FCC approves changes to phone subsidies on tribal lands

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2017 04:00 PM
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Federal regulators approved major changes on Nov. 16 to a program that discounts phone service for low-income residents on tribal land.

About 12.5 million people nationwide use Lifeline, a program created more than 30 years ago to improve access to phone service. It gives subscribers a $9.25 monthly discount. About 500,000 of those subscribers on tribal lands get an extra $25 off per month.

Three of the five Federal Communications Commission members said three changes that apply to tribal lands will help reduce waste, fraud and abuse, and expand communications networks that lag behind the rest of the country.

The two commissioners who voted no say the changes won’t improve the lives of the most impoverished and vulnerable residents.

WHAT IS LIFELINE?

Alternative education closes urban Natives’ achievement gap

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2017 12:00 PM
SEATTLE – A newly released report highlights the challenges facing urban Native American youths in public schools and showcases seven alternative public education programs that are positively impacting these challenges.

The report, “Resurgence: Restructuring Urban American Indian Education,” was released Nov. 16 by the National Urban Indian Family Coalition. According to a release, it tracks the history of the U.S. public education system’s relationship with Native American communities and the ongoing disparities that exist within academic achievement data for urban American Indian students, commonly referred to as “the achievement gap.”

The report states that educators and administrators have worked with policy officials and the philanthropic community to reform the system to close this achievement gap, but the gap still persists for all students of color and is especially bleak for urban American Indian students.

“We wanted to provide a roadmap for other urban Indigenous communities to follow on behalf of their own students,” Dr. Joe Hobot, the report’s author, said. “I hope (the report) will spark further evaluation and discussion by those involved in this arena.”

The report identifies six major urban centers – Denver, Seattle, Albuquerque, Portland, Minneapolis and Los Angeles – that have high concentrations of American Indian students who attend local public schools and investigates seven alternative education programs offered to these students in each city. The report states these alternative education programs leverage traditional Indigenous culture as a means of securing academic achievement and have earned respect and widespread support from the urban American Indian communities they serve.

Latta competes on Discovery Channel series

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.

“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.

Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.

Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.

“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta also teaches at a survivalist school owned by fellow CN citizen and friend Matt Tate. Latta said he never goes anywhere without a backpack full of items that might be used in a survivalist situation, including a knife, Mylar energy blanket, waterproof matches and pliers. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

‘Will’s Country Christmas’ set at Rogers Birthplace Ranch

BY STAFF REPORTS
11/20/2017 04:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. – Families are invited to begin celebrating the holidays, as they might have been observed in Will’s childhood, on Dec. 1-2 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch.

The ranch where Will Rogers was born and the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore will come alive with Christmas decorations and visits from Santa and Mrs. Claus during pre-holiday festivities in a family-friendly atmosphere.

Admission to the ranch is free. The hayride is free for children 14 and under and $5 each for youth 15 and older. Kids’ crafts will be free, and Santa will be available to take pictures with the public at no charge.

“Will’s Country Christmas” will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on both days with pictures with Santa, storytelling, hayrides, Wild West shootouts, kids crafts, carolers, music, vendor, food and more.

Santa will also be listening to wish lists and sitting for photos from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Dec. 2, 9 and 16 in the Christmas-decorated Heritage Gallery of the Memorial Museum.

CN offers students, parents College and Career Nights

BY STACIE GUTHRIE
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
11/20/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Students from the Tahlequah area had the opportunity to learn about colleges, universities and vocational schools during the Cherokee Nation’s College and Career Night at Sequoyah School’s “The Place Where They Play” gym, with a second event planned for Nov. 30 in Vinita.

“The College and Career Night was a way for us to inform students and the parents about scholarship opportunities not only available from Cherokee Nation, but from federal and state sources that they may qualify for, like FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), to attend either vo-tech or college,” Jennifer Pigeon, CN finance manager and College Resources interim manager, said.

With 22 representatives present from schools such as Northeastern State University, University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University, Pigeon said the event allowed students and their families the opportunity to learn about schools and programs.

“This night is important to us so that we can help share opportunities, let families meet the various colleges that are available, any vo-techs that they might want to attend and to familiarize themselves with application processes, admission criteria. Some schools offer scholarships that are only available at their school, so this will let them know about some of those opportunities that are available,” she said.

Aside from meeting school representatives, Pigeon said students also had the chance to attend higher learning-related presentations.
Kyle Murray, Northeastern State University recruitment assistant director, speaks to students during the Nov. 14 College and Career Night at Sequoyah School’s “The Place Where They Play” gym in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. A second event was planned for Nov. 30 at the Craig County Fairgrounds and Community Center in Vinita. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Kyle Murray, Northeastern State University recruitment assistant director, speaks to students during the Nov. 14 College and Career Night at Sequoyah School’s “The Place Where They Play” gym in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. A second event was planned for Nov. 30 at the Craig County Fairgrounds and Community Center in Vinita. STACIE GUTHRIE/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Culture

Cherokee Speakers Bureau helping keep language alive
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
11/22/2017 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Fewer and fewer Cherokee people are speaking their native language, and the Cherokee Nation is losing elder speakers each year, so a monthly gathering of speakers is important for keeping the language alive, Cherokee Speakers Bureau officials said.

On Nov. 9, the CSB held a gathering for Cherokee speakers in the Tsa-La-Gi Community Meeting Room for lunch, fellowship and to speak Cherokee.

The CSB formed in 2007 to give Cherokee speakers an opportunity to speak the language with others. Ten years later, the CSB continues to be important for the language’s preservation.

“This event is very important because we don’t get to talk in Cherokee very much anymore because like places where we work not all co-workers can speak it. So this event allows us to all come together to speak the language,” Kathy Sierra, CN Cherokee Language Program assistant, said. “I come to speak Cherokee, to see all my friends and just be together, you know. One of my speaker friends works at (W.W.) Hastings (Hospital) so we don’t get to see each other and speak Cherokee until this event.”

Along with speaking Cherokee and having lunch, the event consists of storytelling, singing, community reports and word translation.

CN translator specialist Dennis Sixkiller, who serves as the meetings’ facilitator, said attending the CSB and talking with other Cherokee speakers has refreshed his memory of the language.

“I was kind of forgetting how to say some things in Cherokee. But from having a job (at Cherokee Nation) and being around people at the Speakers Bureau that speak Cherokee has really helped my language,” he said. “I just visited with a guy I grew up with, and a few years back I probably couldn’t talk to him in as much Cherokee as I did today, so it really has helped me out, and I really enjoy it.”

For CN translator specialist Bonnie Kirk keeping the language alive is “crucial.” She said not only is it important for the older speakers to keep speaking the language, but it’s also important to teach others so CSB meetings continue.

“I think right now it’s crucial to carry on the language that the Creator gave us. If we don’t, it’s going to be a lost art. We are fighting to keep that culture and teach our kids to speak Cherokee because if we don’t it’s going to be an end to a lot of our culture and to events like this,” she said. “This is our tenth year, and to this day we try to spread the word to different communities, and hopefully it will continue a long time because we really enjoy seeing each other once a month and speaking Cherokee with each other, and I hope that for the next generations, too.”

Although the CSB is designated for Cherokee speakers anyone is welcome to attend, but only Cherokee is spoken.

“We have a lot of students from different areas that just sit and listen, so everyone is welcome,” Kirk said.

The next CSB meeting will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 14 in the same meeting room. For more information, call Roy Boney Jr. at 918-453-5487.

Education

Alternative education closes urban Natives’ achievement gap
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/21/2017 12:00 PM
SEATTLE – A newly released report highlights the challenges facing urban Native American youths in public schools and showcases seven alternative public education programs that are positively impacting these challenges.

The report, “Resurgence: Restructuring Urban American Indian Education,” was released Nov. 16 by the National Urban Indian Family Coalition. According to a release, it tracks the history of the U.S. public education system’s relationship with Native American communities and the ongoing disparities that exist within academic achievement data for urban American Indian students, commonly referred to as “the achievement gap.”

The report states that educators and administrators have worked with policy officials and the philanthropic community to reform the system to close this achievement gap, but the gap still persists for all students of color and is especially bleak for urban American Indian students.

“We wanted to provide a roadmap for other urban Indigenous communities to follow on behalf of their own students,” Dr. Joe Hobot, the report’s author, said. “I hope (the report) will spark further evaluation and discussion by those involved in this arena.”

The report identifies six major urban centers – Denver, Seattle, Albuquerque, Portland, Minneapolis and Los Angeles – that have high concentrations of American Indian students who attend local public schools and investigates seven alternative education programs offered to these students in each city. The report states these alternative education programs leverage traditional Indigenous culture as a means of securing academic achievement and have earned respect and widespread support from the urban American Indian communities they serve.

“Education is an extremely critical area of need and attention for urban Indian communities across the country,” NUIFC Executive Director Janeen Comenote said. “The NUIFC is proud to be able to amplify the voices and practices of the phenomenal sites and schools highlighted in this critically needed work.”

Edgar Villanueva, Schott Foundation for Public Education vice president and one of the report’s sponsors, said closing the achievement gap is just the beginning.

“Policy leaders, philanthropic partners and community leaders must also focus beyond academic achievement to close the opportunity gaps that contribute to inequitable education outcomes,” Villanueva said. “Closing the opportunity gap is the only way we will make progress toward closing academic achievement gaps that separate most American Indian, black and Hispanic students from their white peers.”

Visit http://nuifc.org for more information or a copy of the report.

Council

Byrd builds on 18-year legacy of serving CN
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
08/22/2017 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – With 18 years of experience serving the Cherokee people, Tribal Councilor Joe Byrd looks forward to serving another four years as the representative for Dist. 2, which consists of most of northern Cherokee County.

“I love serving the Cherokee people. They’ve got somebody that’s going to work for them again for the next four years, and I’m really looking forward to that,” said Byrd.

Originally from Belfonte/Nicut, Byrd was the youngest Cherokee Nation legislator to be elected. He served on the Tribal Council from 1987-95, followed by term as principal chief from 1995-99. In January 2012, he won a special election to replace Bill John Baker on the Tribal Council. Baker had taken office as the principal chief on Oct. 19, 2011, after a contentious and lengthy principal chief’s race against incumbent Chad Smith.

In 2013, Byrd was re-elected to serve his first full term under the tribe’s 1999 Constitution, which limits elected officials to two consecutive four-year terms before having to sit out a term. He was also named speaker of the Tribal Council in 2015 after then-Speaker Tina Glory Jordan termed out.

When he first ran for office in 1987, Byrd said he felt the need to help the Cherokee people with the issues they were facing.

“Our government didn’t begin serving our people until the 1970s. When I first moved to Northeastern (State University) in 1972 to get an education, it really opened my eyes to a lot of the issues our people were facing,” he said. “In the rural areas there were a lot of people who weren’t self-efficient, and I saw right then we still had many people out in the rural areas that needed help and needed an awareness that there is a tribe out there that should have a responsibility to take care of our people.”

As for his current term, deciding to run again for the Dist. 2 seat was an easy decision, he said, because of his love for serving the Cherokee people and because of his constituents who asked him to continue.

He spoke of elderly women who continues to set an example of how his constituents have not forgotten their Cherokee culture or who they are as a people.

“When people like that come up to me and ask me to run, it’s a real honor to have people with that kind of stature to say, ‘you need to run another time,’” he said. “The people will let you know when it’s time to run. You don’t have to consult them, they’ll let you know.”

During his time as Dist. 2 representative, Byrd has helped with projects to improve services for CN citizens, including the passing of a $900 million budget, a $100 million investment in Cherokee health care as well as a $200 million dollar expansion of the W.W. Hastings Hospital.

For this term, Byrd said he would continue working with the tribe to ensure rural area schools have shelter for inclement weather and that elders and veterans are taken care of.

“Our veterans seem to not be taken care of like they should,” he said. “When we give speeches and talks we all say, ‘we respect our elder’s and we respect our veterans,’ but we have many that are still homeless and not being served. I want to do anything I can to assist in making sure our elders and veterans are taken care of.”

Health

Claremore Indian Hospital to host VA benefits fair
BY STAFF REPORTS
11/15/2017 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Claremore Indian Hospital will sponsor a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair on Dec. 7 in the hospital’s Conference Room 1.

Hospital officials said the fair is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to assist their Native American veteran patients in applying for eligibility for health care services through the VA.

“We will have Claremore Indian Hospital benefit coordinators and representatives from the VA and Disabled American Veterans to assist with the application processes,” Sheila Dishno, Claremore Indian Hospital patient benefit coordinator, said. “Please make plans to attend and bring your financial information (income and resource information) and DD-214 (military discharge) papers.”

If already enrolled, call 918-342-6240 or 918-342-6559 so a hospital official can update your file.

Opinion

OPINION: Jimmie Durham is not Cherokee
BY ROY BONEY
Cherokee Nation citizen
11/03/2017 02:00 PM
Jimmie Durham is not a Cherokee artist. A major retrospective exhibition of his work called “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World” is being shown in the United States. It has been exhibited at high profile museums such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and beginning in November, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

Research into his genealogy reveals no connection to any Cherokee ancestry, cultural ties or community.

Despite this, he has a successful career, which relies heavily on Cherokee identity, language and cultural themes, most of which are unfortunately inaccurate in his portrayal. His work is critically acclaimed among the elite in the mainstream art world in New York City, Los Angeles and across Europe. In the early part of his career, Durham shored up his Cherokee facade by being active in the Native American Church and the American Indian Movement, though he would eventually have a falling out with such groups after questions of his identity arose.

The Indian Arts and Crafts Act was passed in 1990, which prohibits artists from promoting their work as being Native made if they are not enrolled in a federally recognized tribe, for this very reason. In 1993, Durham finally admitted he was not an enrolled Cherokee in a letter to Art in America magazine. He wrote, “I am not Cherokee. I am not an American Indian. This is in concurrence with recent U.S. legislation, because I am not enrolled on any reservation or in any American Indian community.” He is not eligible for enrollment with the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians or the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians – the only federally recognized Cherokee tribes. With that, it would seem this whole issue should have been resolved, but the art establishment continues promoting him as an artist who represents the Cherokee people.

The exhibition catalog for “At the Center of the World” contains essays by prominent art critics and historians as well as some of Durham’s own writing, including an essay in which he writes, “Oklahoma Cherokees can be mortifyingly stupid.” A large portion of the catalog focuses on the Cherokee themes and connections in his work. So while the curator of the exhibit acknowledges Durham is not an enrolled Cherokee citizen, thereby technically following the regulations of the IACA, the artist is still being cast as “Cherokee” through the critical examination of his work. This is intellectually dishonest. Even after outcry from actual Cherokee artists and scholars, including an open letter in Indian Country Today and articles in such mainstream art outlets like ArtNet, Hyperallergic and Art in America, the art establishment continues to dismiss the concerns of actual Cherokees.

Most Cherokee people have likely never heard of Durham. It might seem that what the mainstream art scene thinks or does is of little importance to our everyday lives. We have many excellent artists in our community, and through programs like the Cherokee National Treasures and the Cherokee Art Market, for example, we as a tribe honor and promote our own. Cherokee artists can certainly hold their own against the likes of a Jimmie Durham and create thoughtful, world-class works of fine art. Each of the federally recognized Cherokee tribes has established guidelines for tribal citizenship. We also have established community connections through familial ties, community involvement and cultural mores, both spiritual and social. By ignoring the valid critique and vocal outcry of the Cherokee community these museums, historians and curators are actively undermining our tribal sovereignty. The prominence of Durham in the art canon as a “Cherokee” allows false information to proliferate to the public. A chart compiled by First American Art Magazine, which is published by CN citizen America Meredith, shows that in scholarly literature about Cherokee art, Durham’s coverage far overshadows actual Cherokee artists.

Durham might be one of the most prominent examples of an artist making false Cherokee claims to further a career, but he is a symptom of a much larger problem. This is not an issue of identity policing or censorship. If a non-Cherokee artist chooses to create art that is properly and respectfully informed by Cherokee culture, they are free to do so. The issue arises when that person falsely claims to be a Cherokee. It is imperative the CN ensures the voices of our Cherokee art community are heard so that more Jimmie Durhams cannot rise to prominence at the expense of actual Cherokee people.

People

Latta competes on Discovery Channel series
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.

“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.

Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.

Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.

“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”

In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment.

“I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.”

The location itself was also a factor.

“Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.”

In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways.

“I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.”

The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team.

“To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.”

Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble.

“To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.”

For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit www.discovery.com. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
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