COVID relief funding tops most popular stories of 2021

The top five stories read on in 2021 included a story chronicling the deadliest day in U.S. Marshal Service history, a recipe for a Cherokee dessert, feature on a local individual missing for more than two years, the finalists for the Cherokee Phoenix Student Art Contest and a story on the tribe’s announcement of $2,000 payments directly to citizens for Covid-19 relief.

TAHLEQUAH – While COVID-19 and its impact on the Cherokee Nation dominated headlines in 2021, Cherokee Phoenix readers also honed in on history, art, food and mystery throughout the year. Here are our top stories of 2021 based on the number of views at

No. 5: ‘Tragedy at Goingsnake’ occurred 149 years ago

The fifth most popular story of 2021 chronicled the deadliest day in U.S. Marshal Service history, which took place April 15, 1872, near the Adair County town of Christie in the Cherokee Nation’s Goingsnake District.

That day, a gunfight between a U.S. Marshal posse and Cherokee Nation citizens took place at a makeshift courthouse where CN citizen Ezekial “Zeke” Proctor was being tried for fatally shooting CN citizen Polly Beck and wounding her husband. 

If acquitted, Deputy Marshal Jacob Owens and his posse were tasked with arresting Proctor for assaulting a U.S. citizen. But in the end, Owens, seven posse members and four others died in a gunfight. A total of 11 people were wounded, including Proctor and Judge Blackhawk Sixkiller.

“This was the bloodiest gunfight that ever took place in the American west that the military wasn’t involved in,” said David Kennedy, U.S. Marshals Museum in Fort Smith curator. 

No. 4: CHEROKEE EATS: Strawberry Dumplings

A strawberry dumpling how-to guide made the list at No. 4. Though not a traditional dish, Cherokee Nation citizen Tricia Nichols shared a recipe for strawberry dumplings that has become a staple in her family and community.

“We used to go Katfish Kitchen quite a bit when I worked in Tahlequah,” Nichols said. “They had strawberry dumplings one day and I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was piecrust first. I asked my mom and she said told me the difference and said ‘No it’s dumplings.’ I just thought maybe I could try to make that and I did. I got me a bag of strawberries and just tailored it from making chicken and dumplings. Then was able to do it and figured it out. It’s pretty easy.”

Included in the Cherokee Eats story is an ingredients list and cooking guide.

No. 3: Search for Cherokee Nation citizen Aubrey Dameron continues 2 years later

Coming in at No. 3 was an update on the search for Cherokee Nation citizen Aubrey Dameron, who went missing in March 2019. 

Born Oct. 22, 1993, Aubrey Dameron reportedly left her mother’s home on at 3:30 a.m. March 9, 2019, near Grove to meet somebody, but never returned. In the story, Dameron’s relatives recalled a lack of communication leading up to her disappearance.

“Instead of hearing from her every day or every other day, it come to be every few weeks,” her uncle, Christian Fencer, said. “It was just it was very strange.”

Dameron is 5-foot-9 and 130 pounds. She is a transitioning transgender Native American with brown eyes, brown hair, a triquetra symbol tattoo on her back and another tattoo reading “shorty” on her upper left arm. Anyone with information is asked to call 1-800-522-8017.

No. 2: Cherokee Phoenix Student Art Contest finalists chosen

The second most viewed story from 2021 was a rundown of finalists for the second annual Cherokee Phoenix Student Art Contest.

Following a public vote, the grand prizewinner, third-grader Dakohtah Jordan, received a $100 gift card and her design on a T-shirt that was available for purchase at the 2021 Cherokee National Holiday. She garnered 25.62% or 359 of the 1,401 votes.

“I’m just freaking out and can’t believe it,” Jordan said. “I think it’s really cool that I’ll have my design on a shirt.”

According to Cherokee Phoenix Executive Editor Tyler Thomas, the contest “was created as a way to not only give students in first through eighth grade an opportunity to express their artistic ability, but also make them aware of our publication and begin the process of getting the students interested in newspapers.”

No. 1: Cherokee Nation to get $1.8B in federal COVID relief

The most viewed story of 2021 centered on the CN’s announcement that all tribal citizens would receive $2,000 in COVID-19 relief funding. 

The CN offered direct payments for all 392,000-plus tribal citizens using federal COVID-19 recovery funds received through President Biden’s $20 billion American Rescue Plan. The payments account for $785 million of the total $1.8 billion the tribe received in relief funds. 

The first payments were sent June 17, and by late December, a total of 306,949 CN citizens had applied for the $2,000 payments. To apply, citizens are asked to register at the CN Gadugi Portal online via

“All Cherokee Nation citizens are eligible for this direct assistance, no matter your age, your income or where you live,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

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