Young was first awarded Cherokee Elementary Teacher of the Year in April, which put her in the running for the district award.
“It’s just super humbling, I think, when you get something like that, that you know your peers chose you,” she said.
In the fall, Young will begin her seventh year at Cherokee Elementary and plans to teach fifth grade. Before joining Cherokee Elementary, she taught two years at the tribe’s Head Start. However, teaching wasn’t her first desire. She said she initially wanted to become a lawyer and work in juvenile justice.
“Growing up, we lived in poverty. My dad struggled with addiction and things like that. So some of these students that I see, I was right there. I know exactly what they’re going through, and I wanted to show kids that hard work will get you where you need to be, and perseverance and work ethic and all those attributes, honesty, integrity, those things matter,” she said.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen Crystal Young on May 4 was named the Tahlequah Public School District Teacher of the Year for the 2017-18 school year. She is a third grade teacher at Cherokee Elementary.
Representing 20 tribes from across the nation, each student studied in one of four educational tracks pertaining to agricultural business and finance, agricultural law and policy, nutrition and health, and land use and conservation planning.
“What we hope is that young people who are coming here are already leaders in their communities and tribes back home, and we hope what they take away with them are the skills they need to be that next generation of leaders and help develop their tribal food and agricultural systems in their own farms and ranches back home across the country,” Erin Parker, university research director and staff attorney, said.
Parker said the summit started five years ago via a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to help youth who go into food and agricultural careers in Indian Country know the problems agricultural producers face, specifically Native American producers, and how to solve those problems.
“We know from our work at the Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative that Indian producers face legal barriers, financial barriers that no other producer in the country faces when it comes to agriculture. Obviously dealing with an additional regulatory system through the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) around land usage and land management, it creates a lot of potential problems,” Parker said.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Thirty-five high school and college students attended the University of Arkansas’s Indigenous Food and Agricultural Initiative fifth annual Native Youth in Food and Agricultural Leadership Summit June 7-14 at the university’s law school.
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.”
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.
The sixth annual TOSS conference was held June 6-7 at Northeastern State University at no cost to the 140 teachers who attended.
The two-day training included remarks by Principal Chief Bill John Baker, Tribal Councilor and Carl Albert State College Campus Director Bryan Warner and Chief of Staff and Oklahoma House Rep. Chuck Hoskin. It also included workshops on everything from reading strategies and using archery to finding STEM activities on a shoestring budget.
“Many schools don’t have the funding to send teachers to fee-based STEM trainings, so the Cherokee Nation is helping these classroom teachers by providing them with free resources,” Warner said. “It not only counts toward professional development hours and enhances learning, but also helps students down the line in their jobs and career paths.”
The tribe also awarded $10,000 total in Creative Teaching Grants to split among 10 teachers that can be used to start STEM projects in their classrooms in the coming school year.
TAHLEQUAH – More than 100 teachers from across northeast Oklahoma participated in science, technology, engineering and math training during Cherokee Nation’s annual Teachers of Successful Students conference.
“The older generations had a lot of knowledge in medicine and we think we can contribute as Native people to the current medical world,” Native Explorers Executive Director Jeff Hargrave said. “If we can get Native kids interested in medicine we can hopefully get them into medical school and they’ll be doctors and return home to Indian Country and service their fellow citizens.”
Founded in 2010 as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Native Explorers is offered through the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa. It partners with educational institutions and entities, including the Cherokee Nation to encourage Native American youths to explore how their cultures can intersect with science and medicine.
Barbara Girty, Cherokee Heritage Center board and staff liaison, said she helped craft a “specialized itinerary” for the group during its stay.
“They actually slept in the houses in Diligwa Village on the ground, and it’s a one-of-a-kind experience,” she said. “They also took a tour of the different Cherokee Nation museums around town, the John Ross Museum, the Supreme Court building, the jail. They went over and toured the Native Gardens. They were immersed into the Cherokee culture, and we hope that this will help them in their future endeavors when they go on to become doctors hopefully in our (W.W.) Hastings Hospital (in Tahlequah) taking care of our own Cherokee people.”
TAHLEQUAH – Students with the Native Explorers program participated in various traditional activities while visiting Cherokee Nation landmarks on May 22-23 as part of the program’s mission to increase Native Americans in science and medicine.
The Outstanding Senior recognition honors graduating seniors, nominated by NSU faculty and staff, who have made significant contributions to NSU through academic achievement, campus activities, community service, honors and awards. The Alumni Association bestows this recognition for the Tahlequah and Broken Arrow campuses each spring.
All honorees received a commemorative stole to be worn at graduation, a framed award certificate and a one-year membership to the Alumni Association.
Alumni Association President Andrea Tucker commended the seniors for their hard work.
“The accomplishments of our 2018 Outstanding Seniors have far reaching impact on NSU and their communities,” she said. “On behalf of the NSU Alumni Association, it is a privilege to bestow this award on each of them, and we’re thrilled to be a part of their journey and desire to maintain a lifelong connection with NSU.”
TAHLEQUAH – Northeastern State University’s Alumni Association has named Cherokee Nation citizen Kaylee Switzer, of Keys, as one of the 17 Outstanding Seniors for 2018.
Traci created the Bill Rabbit Legacy Art Scholarship in 2013 to honor her late father. Bill was a noted Cherokee painter who was also a Cherokee National Treasure.
Through the CNF’s matching program, she was able to grow the scholarship funds and establish an endowment in its place. She said the endowment would ensure her father’s legacy would thrive through the development of future artists.
“By creating this endowment, my family and I can rest assured that Dad’s legacy will continue to live on, even after we’re gone,” Traci said. “Our application varies from others in that it includes samples of artwork. This provides us with a better insight to the artist’s skill level and passion for creating. We hope this fund will encourage and enable artists to follow their dreams, and knowing that we played a small role in their success is the greatest honor we can give Dad.”
The endowment will support one scholarship each year to a graduating senior, undergraduate or graduate student pursuing a degree in art, art education or fine arts at a four-year, post-secondary institution. The scholarship is payable to the university and can be applied to tuition, books, fees, housing or other education-related expenses.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation citizen and artist Traci Rabbit recently established an endowment with the Cherokee Nation Foundation that will benefit Cherokee students.
The weeklong camp will connect students with admissions counselors from across the U.S to analyze, prepare and complete college applications, identify scholarship opportunities and explore schools of interest.
Participating universities include the University of Arkansas, Bacone College, University of California-Los Angeles, University of Central Oklahoma, Duke University, NSU, University of Notre Dame, Oklahoma State University, Pomona College, Rogers State University, Stanford University, Swarthmore College, and Yale University.
CCPI’s curriculum, developed in conjunction with College Horizons and other participating university faculty, includes interactive sessions focusing on ACT strategies, essay writing, interview skills and time management.
CCPI is free to CN citizens who are preparing to enter their junior or senior years of high school. Lodging, meals and testing expenses are also provided by CNF, Cherokee Nation Businesses and NSU.
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Foundation is accepting applications until June 1 for the seventh annual Cherokee College Prep Institute taking place on July 15-20 at Northeastern State University.
The camps are designed to help youngsters develop skills, master techniques and learn basic concepts of basketball. Sequoyah coaches and members of the Sequoyah high school basketball teams instruct the camps.
The boys’ camp is May 29-31 at The Place Where They Play gym located on the Sequoyah campus. Grades first through fifth camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., while grades sixth through ninth will be held from noon to 3 p.m.
For more information on the boys’ camp, call coach Jay Herrin at 918-822-0835.
The girls’ camp will be held June 4-6 at The Place Where They Play gym. Grades first through fifth camps will be held from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m., and grades sixth through ninth will be held from noon to 3 p.m.
TAHELQUAH – Sequoyah Schools is again offering summer basketball camps for girls and boys who will be in first through ninth grades in the fall.
WAYNESVILLE, Mo. – Autumn Lawless trained for the challenges she faced on June 15 as she fought the heat and hills of the Ozarks in south-central Missouri.
The 21-year-old from Porum, Oklahoma, said the training the 10 Cherokee Nation “Remember the Removal” cyclists endured from January to May prepared them for the rigors of riding for three weeks through seven states.
“Training was hard, but it was hard for a reason. We were all ready, and we’ve made it this far because of our training,” she said.
She said through the “RTR” program, which started in 1984 for youth leadership, she’s gained more courage and knows “she can do anything.”
“I saw a lot of our riders and how this ride changed them and how strong they were. They were more confident, they were better leaders, and I wanted to be a better leader. I know I can push myself...now. This ride has given me perseverance,” Lawless said. “The ride isn’t just what you see in videos. It’s not just people cheering you on and clapping for you. It’s the time you spend with your teammates on the road motivating each other to get up another hill or just checking on each other. It really is a family, and there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into this ride.”
Ahli-sha Stephens, 34, of Cherokee, North Carolina, said the main reason she wanted to ride was to experience some of the hardships her ancestors endured and “to be able to go where they had been and walk where they walked.”
“It’s something you can tell someone about and they won’t understand it unless they’ve been there and felt it for themselves,” she said.
Walking the now-preserved trails that Cherokee people walked 180 years ago was especially moving for her, she said. “It’s humbling knowing you walked where they walked, and you’re walking in their footsteps and are seeing things that they saw. It wasn’t easy, and I can’t imagine doing it the way they did it day after day.”
Stephens added that riding the trail with other Cherokees created a bond that gets stronger daily. “We rely on each other. We help each other, and we’re there for each other. I think if we didn’t have each other’s backs, it would make this journey a whole lot harder.”
Stephens said she’s also learned to be more patient and wants to use her abilities to help others and to “lead, listen and be a team player.”
“Overall, I think I will be more knowledgeable about who our people were, what they did and what they went through, what they faced. I think I will just be a better person all around,” she said.
Daulton Cochran, 21, of Bell, Oklahoma, said he wanted to ride to “connect” with his tribe better.
“I had a lot of friends who did the ride, and it seemed like it changed a lot of people afterwards, and I craved that, I guess,” he said.
Because of the constant strain of riding for two weeks, he said he couldn’t recall the exact spot that moved him the most, but it was a place in Tennessee where his Cherokee ancestors camped.
“I guess it was the idea of campsites really being gravesites. It really gets to you to see stuff like that,” he said.
He added that he’s appreciated taking on the riding challenge with his teammates. “The fellowship has been great. We all connect. We all hang out. It’s just a good thing. We’re a family now.”
Seth Ledford, 18, of Cherokee North Carolina, said he saw how the ride was a “life-changing” experience for others and wanted to experience it.
“It is a once-in-lifetime experience, and it will change you for the better. That’s what I heard about the ride,” he said. “So far the ride has been good. It has been tough at times, and emotional and physical. We’ve had a lot of tough times, but we make up and still like each other.”
He said he would take away leadership skills and bonds he’s developed with fellow riders. He also has learned to work within a team. “When I wrestle (in high school) I’m by myself in everything. This is really helping me with my teamwork.”
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Three Oklahoma City schools named after Confederate generals may soon be renamed.
The school board on May 14 was expected to consider new names for Lee, Jackson Enterprise and Stand Watie elementary schools, which are named after Confederate generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson and Isaac Stand Watie, a Cherokee.
Committees made up of community members, school staff and parents selected two potential names for each school, which were presented to students at each school who then voted on their preference, district spokeswoman Beth Harrison said.
The students’ choices will be presented for the board for approval, although the board could select any name it chooses, Harrison said.
The suggested names haven’t been made public.
Board member Carrie Coppernoll Jacobs told The Oklahoman that children and employees should feel welcome in the places where they learn and work.
“To make amends for the past, we have to own it,” she said. “School names may seem like a small gesture, but all progress has value,” Coppernoll Jacobs said.
The board voted in October to rename the schools following violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the removal of a Confederate statue.
The Tulsa school board recently renamed Robert E. Lee Elementary as Lee School, although critics say the change doesn’t go far enough. It also renamed Andrew Jackson Elementary as Unity Learning Academy.
The Oklahoma City board conducted an online survey for names and the names of Lee, Jackson and Watie received the most votes, while past state and local leaders were also popular.
The other names receiving votes include minster and former school board member Wayne Dempsey, educator and civil rights activist Clara Luper, writer and Oklahoma City native Ralph Ellison and Wilma Mankiller, who was the first woman to be principal chief of the Cherokee Nation.
The cost of changing the names is estimated at about $40,000, which a local attorney has agreed to pay.
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.
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.
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.
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.”