Cherokee Phoenix names Seven Feathers honorees

TAHLEQUAH – To recognize Cherokee citizens making noteworthy contributions to Cherokee language, culture, community, service, education, health and business, the Cherokee Phoenix has named honorees of the fourth annual Seven Feathers Awards.

For language, the Cherokee Phoenix selected Ed Fields, of Tahlequah. Fields, who is also a Cherokee Nation National Treasure, has taught the Cherokee language to students around the world online, in-person and through immersion curricula. He shares history, stories, love for heritage and other facets of tribal culture through the teaching of language to his students. He was cited for his enthusiasm, humor, warmth and encouragement of his students by those nominating him.

The Seven Feathers award for culture goes to Nico Albert Williams, of Tulsa. As a chef of traditional Native foods, Williams uses food and language to reconnect with her Cherokee heritage. She was the founding executive chef

for Duet Restaurant + Jazz, where she introduced diners to dishes such as Three Sisters dip and wild sumac crusted trout. She has since founded Burning Cedar Indigenous Foods and promotes healing and wellness among Native Americans through healthy traditional catering options and education. Her work has been featured by USA Today, Hulu, BBC and the Smithsonian Museum.

The Seven Feathers honoree for community is Rachel Ray, D.O., of Sand Springs. Ray serves as an urgent care doctor in Sand Springs and formerly served with the Salina Indian Clinic. She is cofounder of Cura for the World, a nonprofit medical clinic serving the uninsured and low-income households. The clinic, in Sapulpa, opened in 2018. Cura for the World has a staff of volunteer pharmacists, nurses and community assistants. Ray is among three volunteer doctors on staff. Cura also partners with Tulsa Girls Home to review monthly medication records, and Ray serves on the board and is treasurer of Isaiah 58, In His Service, a nonprofit Tulsa ministry that provides food, clothing and furniture to those in need.

For service, the Seven Feathers recipient is Lane Kindle, of Stilwell. Kindle has volunteered for his community since his high school years. He now sits on the Stilwell City Council and serves as council president. He sits on several boards, including for Parks & Recreation, and is known for helping organizations – even those to which he does not belong – with their community events. He is a longtime volunteer with Stilwell Little League baseball and has been an assistant coach for a team the previous two seasons. He received the Next Gen Under 30 Award in 2018.

The Seven Feathers honoree for education is Dr. Angela Walden, of Chicago. As vice chancellor of diversity initiatives at the University of Illinois- Chicago, she has impacted how Native Americans are regarded on campus, and has gotten the administration to acknowledge the school’s colonial legacy as a land grant university. She developed a bridge-to-faculty program that mentors students of color and hires them at competitive salaries. She also worked to discard the Native mascot of UIC and has been consulted for documentaries about the harm of such imagery. Walden is a licensed clinical psychologist with published research.

Selected as the Seven Feathers recipient for health is Christopher Taylor, of Tulsa. Taylor created Therapeutic Life Choices LLC to offer mental health services to residents of Tulsa, Muskogee and Tahlequah. After working in behavioral health, he wanted to establish a “continuum of care” for those clients with whom he worked. TLC actually expanded its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic, and offers therapy, psychiatrist visits, medication and telemedicine appointments to all ages. He volunteers as a chaplain for the Tulsa Police Department.

For business, the Seven Feathers winner is Heath Holmes, of Stilwell. Holmes began a career in HVAC service in 2013 after obtaining his journeyman license. During his time with the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation from 2013 until mid-2021, he was a contractor providing HVAC service

to Cherokee citizens throughout the 14 counties. He also established Holmes Heating and Cooling LLC in 2013. In an individual capacity or through Holmes Heating and Cooling, Holmes has volunteered free time and labor to elderly Cherokee citizens for emergency HVAC needs, donated funds to several local organizations and Stilwell Public Schools, and volunteered as a tee-ball coach and softball umpire.