Phoenix taking names for elder/vet subscriptions

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/17/2018 10:00 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.

Farmers on Keystone XL route deed land to Indian tribe

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 02:00 PM
LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A husband and wife who don't want the proposed Keystone XL pipeline to run through their farm have deeded a plot of their land over to a Native American tribe, creating a potential roadblock for the project.

Art and Helen Tanderup signed over a 1.6-acre plot of land to the Ponca Indian Tribe on Sunday. The Ponca enjoy special legal status as a federally recognized tribe.

The land has been used as a planting space for sacred Ponca corn for the last five years, and it was chosen in part because it sits on the $8 billion pipeline's proposed route. It's also part of the historic route that Ponca tribe members were forced to take when the U.S. government relocated them to present-day Oklahoma in 1877.

South Dakota high court dismisses appeal against Keystone XL

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
06/16/2018 10:00 AM
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal from opponents of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, saying a lower court lacked jurisdiction to hear their cases. But an attorney battling the project says the "fight is not over."

Groups fighting TransCanada Corp.'s pipeline appealed a judge's decision last year upholding regulators' approval for the pipeline to cross the state. But the high court said in a Wednesday ruling that justices didn't "reach the merits of the case" because the lower court didn't have jurisdiction to weigh the appeal of the Public Utilities Commission's decision.

Robin Martinez, an attorney for conservation and family agriculture group Dakota Rural Action, on Thursday called the high court's decision "disappointing," but said "this fight is not over." Martinez said the organization, one of the appellants, is regrouping and evaluating its options.

"That's really disappointing that the court didn't reach the merits, because the risk to South Dakota's land and water resources is clearly there," Martinez said. "It's a shame that that did not get a closer look by the court."

TransCanada spokesman Terry Cunha said in an email that the pipeline developer is pleased with the court's decision.
https://www.facebook.com/CASA-of-Cherokee-Country-184365501631027/

Georgia TOTA Chapter meeting July 14 in Calhoun

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 04:00 PM
CALHOUN, Ga. – The next meeting of the Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association is set for 10:30 a.m. on July 14 at the Gordon County Historical Society at 345 S. Wall St.

This is part three of the chapter’s remembrance of the 180th anniversary of the Cherokee removal. “The Journey To Indian Country” will be presented by past chapter president W. Jeff Bishop. The meeting is free and open to the public.

The Trail of Tears Association was created to support the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail established by an act of Congress in 1987. The TOTA is dedicated to identifying and preserving sites associated with the removal of Native Americans from the southeastern United States. The Georgia TOTA chapter is one of nine state chapters representing the nine states that the Cherokee and other tribes traveled through on their way to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

People need not have Native American ancestry to attend GATOTA meetings, just an interest and desire to learn more about this tragic period in this country’s history.

For more information about the May GCTOTA meeting, email Walter Knapp at walt@wjkwrites.com.

United Keetoowah Band to begin Elder Home Project

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
06/15/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The United Keetoowah Band is finalizing building plans and will soon move forward with its Elder Home Project, a pilot program to construct small, energy efficient homes for low-income elders ages 55 and older.

“There was a need for housing for some of our elders who lived in substandard housing conditions, but we didn’t necessarily want to put them in a big two-bedroom, three-bedroom house because they really can’t afford to live in a house that big,” Charles Deason, UKB Housing Department development manager, said. “We got to researching different housing options and it was kind of born from there.”

Deason said the project is expected to begin within “60 to 90 days” using approved contractors via a bidding process. He described the homes as “cottages” on permanent foundations ranging from 500 to 1,000 square feet.

“It will have insurance ratings, and it will be built to the national building codes, and it will be a standard home. They’ll be fully equipped when we give you the keys, minus the furniture. It will have all the appliances and all the amenities of a regular home. It’ll just be a small home. We’re looking to do two to three this year and next year, depending on the amount of applications and the participation that we have. We hope to maybe increase that.”

The homes are intended for one to two occupants.
http://cherokeepublichealth.org/

Annual Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In set for Aug. 11

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/15/2018 08:15 AM
OOLOGAH – The Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In starts at 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 11 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch.

Planes will begin landing at 7:30 a.m. on a 2,000-foot grass airstrip next to the ranch located at 9501 E. 380 Road. Admission is free, and there is ample parking.

The annual event celebrates aviation and marks the anniversary of Will and Wiley’s Aug. 15, 1935, deaths in Alaska due to a plane crash. A moment of remembrance will be observed at 10 a.m. honoring those who have died in small plane crashes and lapel pins will be presented especially designed in tribute to crash victims

Vintage aircraft, World War I fighters, experimental planes, bi-planes, helicopters and fly-overs are all part of the event as well as food and concessions, antique and classic cars, a Cherokee storyteller and kids’ activities.

Special tribute will be paid to Dr. Bill Kinsinger, who departed Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City in January on an animal rescue mission for Pilots N Paws to Georgetown, Texas, but never reached his destination. After being spotted on radar headed into the Gulf of Mexico, it was reported by searchers, “the pilot was slouched over and appeared unconscious.” Members of Dr. Kinsinger’s family will be on hand to receive a lapel pin.
People attending the annual Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In in Oologah greet a Will Rogers re-enactor at last year’s fly-in. COURTESY
People attending the annual Will Rogers & Wiley Post Fly-In in Oologah greet a Will Rogers re-enactor at last year’s fly-in. COURTESY

Cherokee Nation to celebrate Cherokee National Peace Pavilion’s opening

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/14/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation will commemorate the 175th anniversary of the 1843 intertribal peace gathering with the June 20 opening of a new pavilion, located east of the Cherokee National Capitol.

The pavilion’s design pays tribute to the gathering by interpreting the look of the large log structure that hosted what former Principal Chief William P. Ross called “the most important Indian council ever held on the American continent.”

“Chief John Ross saw the need for tribal governments to come together and stand united on issues that would ensure the survival of Native people,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said. “We hope this pavilion will serve as a reminder of that sacred event and of the power we yield when we unify our Native voice in an effort to preserve, promote and protect our cultural identities.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place at 12:30 p.m. with special guests from the annual Cherokee Tri-Council meeting. The celebration will include performances by the Cherokee National Youth Choir and a hog fry lunch that is open to the public.

In addition to opening the pavilion, Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism is hosting an exhibit about the historical event at the Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum through November 2019. The exhibit provides a deeper look at the momentous gathering, including who attended and what was discussed. The Cherokee National Supreme Court Museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and is at 122 E. Keetoowah St.

Law lets school districts transfer land to HACN

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/14/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – A new bill signed into law June 12 allows Oklahoma school districts to transfer surplus land to the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation. Transferring surplus land will allow communities to grow and help their local school districts.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1334 into law, which allows school boards to transfer land to tribal housing authorities. Two Cherokee Nation citizens authored the bill – Rep. Chuck Hoskin, of Vinita, and Sen. John Sparks, of Norman.

“School districts often have undeveloped acreage with no plans to build and which is difficult to sell for market value. This law is a win-win solution for local school districts and for tribal governments. Tribal housing authorities can construct good, quality homes for tribal citizens and that provides economic growth locally as more jobs contribute to the local tax base,” Hoskin, who also serves as chief of staff for the CN, said. “This law will help so many schools, rural communities and Cherokee families prosper.”

Another benefit is federal impact aid, which means school districts receive $2,800 per year for every tribal student living in a CN-built home.

“The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is excited to see this law passed. We’re thankful to Representative Hoskin and Senator Sparks for drafting the bill, the legislators who supported it and Governor Fallin for signing it into law,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “The Cherokee Nation has helped schools receive thousands of federal dollars in impact aid with the homes built since 2012 and that amount will climb even higher with the passage of this bill.”

HorseChief selected for Five Tribes Lighthorse Monument

BY STAFF REPORTS
06/14/2018 08:30 AM
FORT SMITH, Ark. – Cherokee artist Daniel HorseChief is designing the Lighthorse Monument for the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith after being selected by the Five Tribes InterTribal Council.

HorseChief’s life-size bronze statue will reflect a Native law enforcement officer of the post-Civil War era patrolling Indian Territory. His attire will include a Native-designed hunting jacket and the base of the statue traditional Southeast Indian designs to honor the ancestral homelands of the Five Tribes that consist of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole, prior to forced removal.

The tribes referred to their law enforcement entities as lighthorsemen. Formed in some of the tribes as early as the late 18th century, the law enforcement companies remain on duty today under the title of marshals.

“This design truly honors our Native law enforcement who historically and today serve as protectors of our tribal people and land,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who also serves as president of the Five Tribes InterTribal Council, said. “This monument is to honor the dedication and sacrifice of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole lawmen and Indian U.S. Marshals who worked tirelessly to bring peace and order to Indian Territory and its borders.”

Leaders of the Five Tribes selected HorseChief’s design during this past April’s InterTribal Council gathering. It was presented on June 4 to the U.S. Marshals Museum board.
The Lighthorse Monument designed by Cherokee artist Daniel HorseChief will be set at the center of a 40-foot square plaza outside the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas. A completion date has not been announced. COURTESY Drawings done by Cherokee artist Daniel HorseChief show some of the details included in the Lighthorse Monument to be located at the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The bronze statue will reflect a Native law enforcement officer of the post-Civil War era patrolling Indian Territory. His attire will include a Native-designed hunting jacket and the base of the statue traditional Southeast Indian designs to honor the ancestral homelands of the Five Tribes that consist of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole. COURTESY
The Lighthorse Monument designed by Cherokee artist Daniel HorseChief will be set at the center of a 40-foot square plaza outside the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith, Arkansas. A completion date has not been announced. COURTESY

Culture

HorseChief selected for Five Tribes Lighthorse Monument
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/14/2018 08:30 AM
FORT SMITH, Ark. – Cherokee artist Daniel HorseChief is designing the Lighthorse Monument for the U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith after being selected by the Five Tribes InterTribal Council.

HorseChief’s life-size bronze statue will reflect a Native law enforcement officer of the post-Civil War era patrolling Indian Territory. His attire will include a Native-designed hunting jacket and the base of the statue traditional Southeast Indian designs to honor the ancestral homelands of the Five Tribes that consist of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole, prior to forced removal.

The tribes referred to their law enforcement entities as lighthorsemen. Formed in some of the tribes as early as the late 18th century, the law enforcement companies remain on duty today under the title of marshals.

“This design truly honors our Native law enforcement who historically and today serve as protectors of our tribal people and land,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who also serves as president of the Five Tribes InterTribal Council, said. “This monument is to honor the dedication and sacrifice of Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek) and Seminole lawmen and Indian U.S. Marshals who worked tirelessly to bring peace and order to Indian Territory and its borders.”

Leaders of the Five Tribes selected HorseChief’s design during this past April’s InterTribal Council gathering. It was presented on June 4 to the U.S. Marshals Museum board.
HorseChief, of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, also designed statues for Sequoyah High School, Northeastern State University, the Cherokee Heritage Center and the Cherokee Nation Veterans Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

The Lighthorse Monument will be set at the center of a 40-foot square plaza outside the museum. A completion date has not been announced.

“The United States Marshals Museum is honored to be the home of the Five Civilized Tribes Lighthorse monument,” Dr. R. Cole Goodman, chairman of the U.S. Marshals Museum board of directors, said. “Sculptor Daniel HorseChief’s ability to bring to life such beauty and movement in honoring the history of tribal law enforcement and their connectivity to the U.S. Marshals will enhance the museum’s guest experience. This is also an opportunity to showcase an understanding of the importance of the history of this city, this region and our country.”

The U.S. Marshals Museum is slated to open in late 2019 and will highlight the 225-year history and achievements of America’s oldest federal law enforcement agency, from their creation in 1789 to the present.

Education

Law lets school districts transfer land to HACN
BY STAFF REPORTS
06/14/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – A new bill signed into law June 12 allows Oklahoma school districts to transfer surplus land to the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation. Transferring surplus land will allow communities to grow and help their local school districts.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1334 into law, which allows school boards to transfer land to tribal housing authorities. Two Cherokee Nation citizens authored the bill – Rep. Chuck Hoskin, of Vinita, and Sen. John Sparks, of Norman.

“School districts often have undeveloped acreage with no plans to build and which is difficult to sell for market value. This law is a win-win solution for local school districts and for tribal governments. Tribal housing authorities can construct good, quality homes for tribal citizens and that provides economic growth locally as more jobs contribute to the local tax base,” Hoskin, who also serves as chief of staff for the CN, said. “This law will help so many schools, rural communities and Cherokee families prosper.”

Another benefit is federal impact aid, which means school districts receive $2,800 per year for every tribal student living in a CN-built home.

“The Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation is excited to see this law passed. We’re thankful to Representative Hoskin and Senator Sparks for drafting the bill, the legislators who supported it and Governor Fallin for signing it into law,” HACN Executive Director Gary Cooper said. “The Cherokee Nation has helped schools receive thousands of federal dollars in impact aid with the homes built since 2012 and that amount will climb even higher with the passage of this bill.”

The tribe’s New Home Construction Program began in 2012 under Principal Chief Bill John Baker. The tribe has built more than 660 homes since then, and about 100 are under construction in northeast Oklahoma.

For more information on the bill, visit www.okhouse.gov. For more information on the New Home Construction Program, visit www.hacn.org.

Council

Gaming compact amended to add ‘ball-and-dice’ gaming
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
06/13/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Tribal Councilors on June 11 unanimously passed a gaming compact supplement with Oklahoma to allow Cherokee Nation’s casinos to begin offering Las Vegas-style table games such as craps and roulette.

The resolution follows Gov. Mary Fallin signing House Bill 3375 into law on April 1o, making the state’s tribal casinos eligible to begin offering “ball-and-dice” games as soon as Aug. 2.

Tribal Councilor Mike Shambaugh said during a May 31 Rules Committee meeting that passing the resolution was important.

“I think we have been progressive as a council in many different ways in how we support gaming. This could be a good way for more revenue, obviously. If other casinos are going to be doing it, we need to stay progressive. We need to do what it takes to be the best casino and give our casinos the best opportunity to succeed. I think this is a good step forward for doing this especially if the state is going to allow it. We need to take advantage of it,” he said.

Cherokee Nation Gaming Commission Director Jamie Hummingbird also said during the Rules Committee meeting that the CNGC has been working on regulations for the new gaming since April. He said the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa would be the first Cherokee Casino property to offer “ball-and-dice” games and that the CNGC is working with casino operations on “where and when” the other casino properties would begin featuring the games.

Legislators on June 11 also authorized placing 39.2 acres of land in southern Delaware County into trust. The acreage, known as Beck’s Mill “has a rich history as a trading post with a grain mill being operated in the 1800s,” the resolution states. The property is located along Flint Creek just north of Highway 412.

Legislators also approved a resolution “agreeing to choice of law and venue and authorizing a waiver of sovereign immunity” so that the Cherokee Immersion Charter School can enter into a software agreement with Municipal Accounting Systems Inc. The agreement will allow the school to submit certain financial information to state officials in the required Oklahoma Cost Accounting System.

Tribal Councilors also increased the tribe’s fiscal year 2018 comprehensive operating budget by $1.8 million for a total budget authority of $694.9 million. The changes consisted of a decrease in the Indian Health Service Self-Governance Health budget by $93,962 and increases in the General Fund, Enterprise, Department of Interior – Self-Governance and Federal “other” budgets.

In other business, legislators:

• Authorized a donation of a modular office building to Project A Association in Muskogee County, and

• Authorized a grant application to the Department of Health and Humans Services, Administration for Children and Families, the Office of Child Care for Tribal Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program.

Health

Young adults need less sodium, saturated fats and added sugars
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
06/13/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Establishing healthy eating patterns tailored to personal, cultural and traditional preferences that are low in sodium and saturated fat is essential to a balanced diet for young adults between the ages of 20 and 35, Cherokee Nation Clinical Dietitian Tonya Swim said.

“All the food and beverage choices a person makes matters,” Swim said. “For most healthy individuals a balanced diet should have a variety of vegetables and whole fruit, low-fat or fat-free diary, half of their grains from whole grain sources, a variety of protein choices, including lean meats, seafood and vegetable sources.”

Swim said that while a single healthy eating pattern will not fit everyone, all foods high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar should be limited. She recommends individuals inspect their food’s nutrition facts label when shopping, especially for those who may buy frozen foods such as microwavable meals.

“Most meals like this lack in fruits and vegetables, so adding a whole piece of fruit and a steamed bag of frozen veggies can help to meet a person’s daily fruit and vegetable needs. This is also a great way to add in extra vitamins, minerals and fiber,” she said.

A good method of comparing the nutritional values of two or more food items is to examine the label’s percent of daily value, Swim said. “Search for items with the lowest amount of saturated fat and sodium and the highest amount of fiber. Five percent daily value or less of a nutrient per serving is low, and 20 percent daily value or more of a nutrient per serving is high. One nutrient that we want to strive to get more of is fiber, so this nutrient on the nutrition facts label should be as close to 20 percent daily value as possible.”

That advice is especially important for those who choose to maintain a vegetarian lifestyle.

“If an individual chooses to go 100 percent vegan, please be aware of nutrients that may be lacking in their diet, including iron, zinc, protein, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B-12, vitamin D and calcium,” Swim said.

She said food sources for proper iron nutrients include almonds, oatmeal and spinach, while hummus, some whole wheat breads and cashews are good zinc sources. Fortified foods are good vitamin B-12 sources.

For protein, Swim recommends peanuts, quinoa, edamame, chickpeas, lentils, black beans and kidney beans, while calcium can be worked into a vegan diet with turnip, mustard and collard greens, figs and kale. Fortified soymilk is also a good source of vitamin D in addition to calcium, while walnuts and flaxseeds are good for Omega-3 fatty acids.

“Following a plant-based diet or even a full vegan plan does have health benefits, such as a lower risk of heart disease, some cancers and type 2 diabetes,” Swim said. “If a vegan plan is something you would like to consider, please speak with your health care provider and registered dietitian before you begin.”

Young adults should also be aware of what they might be adding to their drinks, including coffee.

“It’s important to note that some coffee beverages can include calories from added sugars and saturated fat, such as creamers. So be cautious when getting your specialty coffees,” Swim said.

Coffee consumption should also be “moderate,” according to dietary guidelines.

“A moderate amount would be three to five 8-ounce cups a day,” Swim said. “This would approximately 400 milligrams of caffeine daily. The exception to this may be if a person has a medical condition in which their medical provider has reduced the amount of caffeine they should have, so talk to your primary provider.”

Swim recommends those eligible for services with CN Health Services and seeking more information about individualized diet plans should contact their primary providers and ask to schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian.

Opinion

OPINION: Addressing food insecurity for veterans in northeast Oklahoma
BY BILL JOHN BAKER
Principal Chief
06/01/2018 12:00 PM
The Cherokee Nation is steadfastly committed to our military veterans, those men and women who have sacrificed so much for our tribe, our country and our collective freedoms. Recently, we established a formal partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma to help ensure these real-life heroes do not suffer from hunger and food instability. Nobody in Oklahoma, especially a military veteran, should go hungry.

This collaboration, which is the first time a tribal government has been involved with this local food bank program, means regular access to healthy and nutritious foods, and that will translate to better and fuller lives. It is a blessing that we are able to help, and it is the least we can do for those who have done so much for us.

This endeavor will create a quarterly mobile food pantry at the CN Veterans Center. Fresh produce, bakery items and nonperishable food items are available for about 125 veterans or widows of veterans through the collaboration. The first time we hosted the food pantry in late May, we distributed more than 10,000 pounds of food. The tribe will continue to help identify veterans in need, as well as provide volunteers to help staff the mobile pantry.

Today, the CN Veterans Center offers a wide array of activities for veterans. It serves as a place to sign up for benefits, play bingo or attend other activities, and now we have added the food pantry. It is just one more way we can meet the needs of our people.

The CN continues to look for ways to honor and serve our veteran warriors, and this partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma is another avenue to reach those in need. Food insecurity is a very real issue for families in northeast Oklahoma, and almost 20 percent of the households the Food Bank serves has a military veteran who resides there and utilizes the program. Additionally, national studies show veterans are affected more by hunger and food insecurity than the general population. Many struggle to put food on the table because of a myriad of issues, from employability after service to mental health and related trauma or an unwillingness to seek help.

Collaborating with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma means we are increasing and expanding its coverage and furthering its mission. Just like CN, the food bank wants to provide for our veterans so that they have what they need to prosper.

The CN also offers a food distribution program, which some veterans may also qualify for. For more information on the CN Veterans Center and food pantry, call 918-772-4166.

People

4-year-old Keys jumps into motocross
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.”
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