OKCIC educates about risks of HIV/AIDS, encourages testing

03/23/2018 03:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, a nonprofit clinic providing health and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma, on March 20 recognized the impact HIV/AIDS has on Native Americans through the observance of National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

Although American Indians and Alaska Natives’ HIV infection is proportional to the rest of the United States population size, certain measures within the overall statistics of new HIV infections and diagnoses are disproportionate compared to other races or ethnicities. Of the 39,513 people with a HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2015, more than 200 were American Indians and Alaska Natives. Of those, 73 percent were men and 26 percent were women.

“The topic of HIV/AIDS remains a serious health threat to the Native American community,” OKCIC CEO Robyn Sunday-Allen said. “It is crucial that prevention programs be tailored to the specific needs of this population.”

American Indians and Alaska Natives are statistically more likely to face challenges associated with risk for HIV infection, which includes high rates of sexually transmitted disease; substance abuse leading to engaging in risky behaviors, such as unprotected sex; and issues related to poverty, such as lower education levels and limited access to health care.

The OKCIC encourages the Native community to get educated, get tested and get involved in HIV prevention, care and treatment. It recommends that all adults and young adults get tested for HIV at least once as a routine part of medical care. Those who are at a higher risk should get tested every year.

Alternatives lead to healthier wild onion recipes

03/22/2018 12:00 PM
SALINA – Every year when spring arrives, so do the sprouts of bright green stems in the woods and hollows known to Cherokees as wild onions.

Wild onions are often cooked with grease or lard and are boiled or pan-fried. Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Tonya Swim said there are healthier alternatives for preparing the plant.

“A lot of people use lard or bacon grease and that’s a flavor enhancer. So an option that you can do instead using some sort of bacon grease or high-fat product would be to add some sort of stock, like vegetable stock, that would be able to add flavor without the extra fat,” she said.

Swim said wild onions could also be cooked using vegetable oil when pan-fried.

“If you’re going to pan fry with eggs, then using a vegetable oil instead of the bacon grease or lard would be a healthier choice,” she said.
Dirt is shaken off of wild onion stalks after they are dug out of the ground in Delaware County. Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Tonya Swim says there are healthier alternatives for preparing the plant than cooking in grease or lard. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Green wild onion stalks can be seen growing in Delaware County. Traditionally, Cherokee people gather wild onion in February, March and April. After they are cleaned and cut, the onions are traditionally mixed with eggs and cooked in a skillet. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Gathered wild onions are seen in a plastic bucket. The plants were taken to a water source where excess dirt was washed away and the onions’ roots cut off. The cleaned onions were then chopped and cooked. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX After being cleaned, wild onions are chopped into smaller pieces and usually mixed with eggs to be cooked. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Dirt is shaken off of wild onion stalks after they are dug out of the ground in Delaware County. Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian Tonya Swim says there are healthier alternatives for preparing the plant than cooking in grease or lard. WILL CHAVEZ/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Hastings Hospital CEO named ACHE fellow

03/15/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital CEO Brian Hail was recently named a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, an honor that has been awarded to less than 10,000 health care executives around the world.

The American College of Healthcare Executives has more than 40,000 health care professionals whose mission is to achieve excellence in the health field. Members who achieve a high level of excellence and complete a set list of requirements are named a fellow of the college.

“The health care management field plays a vital role in providing high-quality care to the people in our communities, which makes having a standard of excellence promoted by a professional organization critically important,” ACHE President and CEO Deborah J. Bowen, said. “By becoming an ACHE Fellow and earning the distinction of board certification from ACHE, health care leaders demonstrate a commitment to excellence in serving their patients and the community.”

The board certification is a more than two-year process of meeting academic criteria, having health care experience, maintaining a high-level of character and professionalism and passing a comprehensive exam.

“I believe that the FACHE credential represents the commitment to excellence in healthcare for our stakeholders,” Hail said. “Meeting the requirements and maintaining the credential helps to assure a commitment to ongoing development and learning in the healthcare landscape that is constantly changing.”
Brian Hail
Brian Hail

CN proclaims Feb. 28 ‘Rare Disease Awareness Day’

03/06/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH - On Feb. 28, the Cherokee Nation became the first tribe to proclaim a day “Rare Disease Awareness Day.”

Principal Chief Bill John Baker signed the proclamation with Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden; Jade Day, CN citizen and “Twist of Fate Funding” and patient engagement director; Health Services Medical Director Dr. James Stallcup; and Dr. James Baker, medical director at the Three Rivers Health Center in Muskogee, in attendance.

Also in attendance was Day’s 10-year old-son, Gaven, who has FG1 Syndrome, a rare disease that has no current research, treatment or cure. It is a rare genetic syndrome caused by one or more recessive genes located on the X chromosome causing physical anomalies and developmental delays.

There are more than 7,000 known rare diseases worldwide, and 95 percent of these diseases do not have a current treatment or cure.

One in 10 Americans suffer from rare diseases, and more than 50 percent are children. More than 50 percent of those children will die before reaching their fifth birthday.

Claremore Indian Hospital to host VA benefits fair

03/04/2018 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE – The Claremore Indian Hospital will sponsor a Veterans Affairs Enrollment Fair on March 8 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 to assist with the application processes,” Sheila Dishno, Claremore Indian Hospital patient benefit coordinator, said. “We will also have Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs here to help with those that need help filing a service claim. 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, 918-342-6511 or 918-342-6559 so a hospital official can update your file.

Claremore Indian Hospital to host insurance fair

03/03/2018 04:00 PM
CLAREMORE, Okla. – Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Oklahoma will be at the Claremore Indian Hospital on March 7 to assist patients with signing up for free to low-cost health insurance.

The insurance company will be in Conference Room 2 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. to help people sign up for health insurance.

Sheila Dishno, patient benefit coordinator at the hospital, said people who attend the fair should bring their Social Security cards, pay stubs, W-2 forms or wage and tax statements, policy numbers for any current health insurance and information about any health insurance they or their families could get from an employer.

The hospital is located at 101 S. Moore Ave. For more information, call 918-342-6240, 918-342-6559 or 918-342-6511.

What to eat and avoid: Birth to 12 months

Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/28/2018 04:00 PM
SALINA – When caring for a baby in its first year, there are many factors to consider when it comes to diet. Tonya Swim, Cherokee Nation clinical dietitian, said it’s a time for maturing his or her digestive system as well as introducing his or her palette to various flavors.

Birth to 4 months

Swim said breastfeeding is the optimal way to feed babies, but if that’s not an option bottle-feeding formula is recommended unless their physicians state otherwise.

“Breast milk seems to influence the…growth that’s in the digestive track of newborns,” she said. “By having that growth, it helps to support healthy immunity, and it helps with development.”

She said breast milk is also specific to the baby, which is something formula can’t replicate.

CN receives Indian Health Services settlement funds

Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
02/23/2018 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – At the Jan. 17 Rules Committee meeting, Deputy Attorney General Chrissi Nimmo reported that the tribe was to receive settlement funds from the federal government. The settlement between the Cherokee Nation and Indian Health Service recoups contract support cost totaling more than $8.2 million.

The money was for unpaid support costs for 1998 in correlation to underpayments of more than $31 million, including interest and underpayments, between 2005 and 2013 and as a result of the Supreme Court case Cherokee Nation, et al v. Leavitt.

According to the 2004 Supreme Court opinion, the “Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act authorizes the Government and Indian tribes to enter into contracts in which tribes promise to supply federally funded services that a Government agency normally would provide.”

It also states the act “requires the government to pay…a tribe’s ‘contract support costs’ which are ‘reasonable costs’ that a federal agency would not have incurred, but which the tribe would incur in managing the program…”

However, in that timeframe the opinion states the reasoning the government did not pay the contract support costs as promised is because Congress had not appropriated enough funds.

Less sodium, altered recipes can lead to healthier life

Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
02/09/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Making meal alterations such as using less salt or taking it out completely can lead to a healthier life for most people. Even making simple changes to old favorites such as mashed potatoes can lead people down a healthier path.

Mark Keeley, a clinical dietitian and 34-year Cherokee Nation employee, said while working with Native Americans he’s stressed that salt doesn’t need to be added to food and could adversely affect a person’s health.

“Salt will retain fluid on your body…that fluid is going to take up lung space. So now you’re trying to breathe around lungs that are trying to fill up,” he said. “If your heart’s not able to pump as well as it used to then the slower your blood stream moves the more some of that salty water will leak off into your ankles and legs, and so now you’re carrying weight around and it kind of waterlogs your system.”

Keeley said he’s had people tell him that they salt their food even before tasting it.

“People have told me, ‘Here’s what I used to do. I use to salt food before I even tasted it and salt it heavy and then taste it.’ Then they say, ‘I don’t do salt anymore.’ I come across a lot more people that tell me that. Those folks are becoming more common, but there’s room for work,” he said.
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Mark Keeley, a clinical dietitian and 34-year Cherokee Nation employee, prepares vegetables for a vegetarian minestrone soup at the tribe’s Food Distribution demo kitchen in Tahlequah. Keeley stresses that there are healthier ways to make foods, with the first step being to either limit or cut salt completely. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Prepared mashed cauliflower potatoes sit in a pot at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution demo kitchen in Tahlequah. Mark Keeley, a CN clinical dietitian, prepared the dish using a head of cauliflower, two potatoes and a small portion of salted butter. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX A pot of vegetarian minestrone soup sits ready to serve at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution demo kitchen. CN clinical dietitian Mark Keeley prepared the soup in his efforts to introduce people to healthier entrée options. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Mark Keeley, a clinical dietitian and 34-year Cherokee Nation employee, prepares vegetables for a vegetarian minestrone soup at the tribe’s Food Distribution demo kitchen in Tahlequah. Keeley stresses that there are healthier ways to make foods, with the first step being to either limit or cut salt completely. STACIE BOSTON/CHEROKEE PHOENIX


U.S. Marshals Museum highlights Cherokee history
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/21/2018 04:00 PM
FORT SMITH, Ark. – The U.S. Marshals Museum is presenting a three-part lecture series called Jurisdiction and Judgment that highlights Fort Smith history and its connection to the Cherokee Nation.

The first lecture in the annual series was held March 6 at The Blue Lion and looked at the connection between the CN Marshal Service, formerly Lighthorsemen, and U.S. marshals. Shannon Buhl, CNMS director, led the lecture speaking of the tribe’s role in historical law and order.

Buhl said in the late 1800s Fort Smith and Indian Territory were the “deadliest” spots in the history of the U.S. marshals. He said U.S. marshals’ deaths helped bring together the partnership with the Lighthorsemen.

“More U.S. marshals were killed here and in Indian Territory than any other time in history,” he said. “Judge (Isaac) Parker partnered with the Cherokee Nation. They partnered a Lighthorsemen with a U.S. marshal in Indian Territory. We have approximately 13 marshals on the federal memorial wall, 12 of which was killed during that timeframe.”

After Oklahoma statehood in 1906, Buhl said the Lighthorsemen were disbanded and did not resurface until late in the 20th century. They were renamed the CNMS.

“The Cherokee Nation Marshal Service is the oldest law force entity in the state of Oklahoma. We were here before statehood as Lighthorsemen,” he said. “But we’re also, at the same time, one of the newest law enforcement entities in the state of Oklahoma because we got remodeled. The modern day Marshal Service was (formed) after the Ross v. Neff decision...”

Ross v. Neff was a 1986 case in which the 10th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals ruled that Oklahoma did not have criminal jurisdiction over Indian Country within the CN.

Buhl said the name pays homage to when the tribe and U.S. marshals served together.

“(Former Chief) Wilma Mankiller and her advisors looked at what we should be called. They looked at many names that we’ve been in the past and they decided…to call this new department the Marshal Service, back to that kinship and that brotherhood we had with the U.S. marshals where both sides died in that timeframe,” he said.

Buhl said the tribe has always touted law and order. “Law and order in the Cherokee Nation predates the U.S. Constitution. The tribe has always been a nation of laws. Even before removal. We’re not like a normal governing agency. We believe in sovereignty. We believe in the right of our people. We believe in the protection of our culture and way of life.”

Leslie Higgins, U.S. Marshal Museum director of education, said the second lecture on April 2 would focus on Cherokee Bill, or Crawford Goldsby, an outlaw who was hanged in 1896 in Fort Smith for murder and robbery.

The last lecture on May 7 will focus on the U.S. marshals’ involvement in the Goingsnake Massacre, a shootout that occurred during a trial in the Cherokee court system in 1872 in the Goingsnake District. Ezekial “Zeke” Proctor was being tried for killing Polly Beck and wounding Jim Kesterson in a shooting incident. The Cherokee and U.S. courts were in dispute regarding jurisdiction, and therefore U.S. marshals were sent to arrest Proctor if he was acquitted. However, shooting broke out in the courtroom during the proceedings, killing eight of the marshals’ posse and three Cherokees.

Each lecture is from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and is free to the public. However, registration is requested. The series is also streamed live. For more information or to register, visit www.facebook.com/marshalsmuseum or usmmuseum.org or call 1-479-709-3766.


2 Cherokees chosen for 2018 NAJF class
03/21/2018 08:00 AM
NORMAN — Cherokee Nation citizens Lydia Fielder and Kaitlin Boysel were two of 14 students to be selected by the Native American Journalists Association as members of the Native American Journalist Fellowship class of 2018.

The students come from tribal communities and colleges across the nation and will travel July 18-22 to the 2018 National Native Media Conference in Miami, Florida. NAJA Fellows will work in a joint newsroom with selected National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ students and mentors.

Fielder is a broadcast journalism and political science dual major at the University of Arkansas.

She is in the semester of defense of her undergraduate thesis project, a documentary investigating the dangers of international reporting for female journalists’ mental health.

She said her passion for international journalism was inspired by her broadened worldview after study abroad and service excursions to Greece, Israel and South Africa.

She the trip to South Africa not only motivated her to tackle an additional degree in political science, but it also inspired her to start a broadcasting internship at her alma mater.
Fielder also anchors weekly on UATV, her university’s live newscast.

Boysel, a NAJF second-year scholar, studies at the University of Central Oklahoma.

“My time with NAJA has been a wonderful one. I have learned so much about media, but even more importantly about myself. Being a girl who doesn’t ‘typically look Native American,’ I never accepted stereotypes,” she said. “For example, I went to a high school called Union Redskins. I had no idea what ‘redskin’ even meant until I went on my fellowship and NAJA addressed mascots with the NFL Network. It was truly inspiring and a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anyone who wants to go into media. I think the biggest obstacle we face as Native journalists is reinforcing that there are many Indigenous communities to be covered.”

Leading the students will be Cherokees Victoria LaPoe, the NAJF co-directors; Val Hoeppner, who will provide digital skills training during the onsite newsroom experience; and Lenzy Krehbiel-Burton, a freelance journalist.


Smith, Golden honored with CN Patriotism medals
03/20/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation honored U.S. Army and Navy veterans with the tribe’s Medal of Patriotism during the March 12 Tribal Council meeting.

Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden acknowledged Fields Smith, 84, of Vian, and Kenneth Golden, 68, of Stilwell, for their service to the country.

Sgt. Smith was born in 1933 and drafted into the Army in 1955. He completed basic training at Fort Chaffee in Arkansas and trained to become an infantryman. Later, he completed Fire Directing Control School and was sent to Fort Polk in Louisiana where he spent the remainder of his two-year service term. During his service, Smith completed non-commission school and received a sharpshooter medal for his rifle skills. Smith received an honorable discharge in 1957.

“I want to thank the Chief, the Deputy Chief and the Tribal Council for all of the good work that they do for our people,” Smith said.

Sgt. Golden was born in 1949 and enlisted in the Navy in 1968. Golden completed basic training in Chicago. After basic training, he was transferred to the Naval Air Station Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, where he served as an aviation boatman mate. During his service, Golden was awarded the National Defense Service Medal and received an honorable discharge in 1972.

Each month the CN recognizes Cherokee service men and women for their sacrifices and as a way to demonstrate the high regard in which the tribe holds all veterans.

To nominate a veteran who is a CN citizen, call 918-772-4166.


Exercise improves health, life in seniors
02/08/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQAH – Exercise is important, but for senior citizens physical activity is crucial in living healthier and longer lives.

Dr. Jana Jordan, of Cherokee Nation W.W. Hastings Hospital, said exercising is the “most important thing for seniors to do to stay young.”

With frequent exercise, seniors can delay, improve and even prevent diseases and conditions that come with age such as diabetes, stroke, heart and kidney disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and cancers.

“Exercising improves cardiovascular health, so that lowers cholesterol. So in turn that prevents heart attack and stroke. It makes the heart stronger, so that goes along with helping high blood pressure. Almost any condition they may have like heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes is going to be improved by exercising,” Jordan said.

Muscle mass also plays a part in senior health. It declines with age, resulting in loss of balance and bone strength, which can lead to injury. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of death and injury among seniors.

Jordan said exercising is essential to building muscle mass, which can allow seniors mobility and independence. “When those muscles start to decline you can’t get out like you use to. And the less you do means the less you’re able to do. So the people that are staying active can keep going and that keeps them healthy.”

In addition to the physical benefits, seniors can improve their mental health with exercise.

“I have patients that retire and they sit at home and don’t get out. Then their health starts to go bad, and they start to get depressed. So besides all the cardiovascular benefits and helping of the lungs and kidneys, it really helps their mental health. Exercise increases endorphins in the brain that makes them feel better, and when they feel good they become motivated to do more,” Jordan said.

She added that the exercise she recommends to seniors is walking. “You don’t have to go to the gym. You don’t have to go running, and you don’t have to go kayaking to be active, just walk. Anything weight baring is going to be the best exercise for seniors. Walking is weight bearing and doing some kind of strength training is all weight bearing, so it improves bone density and also conditions like osteoporosis.”

However, for handicap seniors or those with limited walking ability, Jordan recommends arm exercises or leg exercises. “If they can lift their legs up and down you can put a sack with some cans in it and move your legs up and down if they can’t walk. If they do that and it helps them improves their muscular strength there’s a possibility they may be able to get up and walk at some point in time.”

For seniors who enjoy attending a gym or fitness classes, the CN Male Seminary Recreational Center in Tahlequah provides a senior stretch and exercise class. It focuses on balance, stability, range of motion and functional movements tailored to acts of daily life.

Heather Dobbins, a MSRC physical activity specialist who teaches the class, said she’s seen how exercise positively impacts seniors and their physical abilities. “I have seen a major improvement in chair squats, which is being able to get up and down from the chair without having to use their lap or the chair to get up and use just the strength in their legs. So everyone started out having to use their lap to get up and now they are able to do chair squats without their hands. That’s what my goal is for them to remain or be independent without needing assistance from a walker, for instance, and I am seeing that progress being made.”

The National Health Service recommends 30 minutes of exercise a day, five days a week. However, Jordan recommends doing what is bearable, especially if beginning.

“Everybody’s health is different, and they’re all at a different place. So start small and add in increments of how long you are doing that so each time they go out and exercise they are improving their ability to exercise. They’re improving their heart and lung function. They’re improving their muscular function so they can do a little bit more each time,” she said.

Although exercise is beneficial, Jordan said it’s best to consult a physician, especially if experiencing chest pains and shortness of breath. However, Jordan said some exercise is better than none.

“Staying active is really, really important, and even if they’re not exercising they need to be getting out and socializing. Maybe they’re getting out and going to church. Maybe they’re going down to the senior citizens (center)…They’re getting some exercise, and they’re getting some socialization,” she said.


OPINION: Cherokee ego, tenets through time
Cherokee Nation citizen
03/03/2018 12:00 PM
In the Cherokee language we have called ourselves aniyunwiya, the Real People. According to one author, “…the Cherokees, in common with the Caucasian race, had a high regard for their tribe, and were not too modest to proclaim themselves the ‘principal people’” (Walker 1931:2). Since our beliefs have served us well and our ancestors’ tenacity has done the same, our strong ego is an earned quality.

The Cherokee language is in the Iroquoian language family. Various Iroquoian speaking tribes now live in the eastern Great Lakes region of the U.S. and Canada. Although there are shared tenets among most American Indians, Native nations experienced different histories, spoke different languages, were comprised of a variety of compelling individuals and lived in particular environments all of which serve to provide particular qualities and practices making each nation profoundly unique.

According to early Cherokee oral history our arrival in our homeland involved travelling over a sea, or through a flood (Meredith and Sobral 1997: 33). The displaced Cherokee population ultimately settled in the forested terrain of what is now the southeastern United States. Surrounded by tribes speaking other languages, we were compelled to display superior strength in order to thrive. Our successes at adapting to change proved useful throughout time.

James Mooney, an early anthropologist, cited a remark provided by a Cherokee man in late 19th century, “…the animals and plants were first made . . . we do not know by whom (Mooney 1898: 240).” The lack of commitment to a single creator is often noted in early Cherokee thinking. The flood story includes statements that Cherokees “commenced to repair the damage done by the gods.” It was also noted they sought to build a structure reaching to the heavens. It seems Cherokees believed they could live equally with their gods and maybe the reference refers to the building of mounds, which could be useful if a future epic flood occurred.

Large earthen mounds were serving as Cherokee ceremonial centers when European colonists arrived in the Americas. Cherokee governance in early colonial times consisted of clan council representatives electing a war chief and a peace chief in each village, and groups of villages linked within geographic districts. As the U.S. government developed after the Revolutionary War, we Cherokee immediately emulated the new U.S. government model by electing a principal chief, legislative representatives and forming our own supreme court.

Our history with Europeans includes Hernan DeSoto in 1540, serving the British during the French and Indian War, fighting colonists in the Revolutionary War, allying with Andrew Jackson in the War of 1812, suffering removal to Indian Territory after President Jackson refused to enforce a U.S. Supreme Court ruling respecting Cherokee sovereignty, the divisive Civil War, which split the Cherokee Nation into two armies, joining a plan to create an Indian-run U.S. state of Sequoyah, but instead being made citizens of Oklahoma. There are currently three federally recognized Cherokee governments (one in North Carolina and two in Oklahoma). Through generations of turmoil, the CN played the cards it was dealt, persevered and today has over 350,000 enrolled citizens, and is one of the major financial engines fueling northeastern Oklahoma.

Lt. Henry Timberlake observed of the Cherokees in the 1760s, “As to religion, every one is at liberty to think for himself; whence flows a diversity of opinions amongst those that do think, but the major part do not give themselves that trouble (King 2007, 34).” During colonization a number of Cherokee women married Scotsmen and Englishmen. In a matrilineal society, children born to Cherokee women were members only of the mother’s clan without regard to whether the father was Cherokee or not, however, matrilineality began to erode along with clans. Cherokee leaders initially resisted missionary incursions, and then relented by accepting missions that would provide schools. It is difficult to sort out the natural threads of culture from the introduced threads at a time when traditional practices were being driven underground.

Anthropologist James Mooney concluded, “There is change indeed in dress and outward seeming, but the heart of the Indian is still his own (Mooney 1898: 12).” As the Cherokee faced the 20th century, he noted, “there are still several thousand full-blood Cherokee… who speak only their native language and in secret bow down to the nature-gods of their fathers (147).”

A polytheistic (belief in many gods) doctrine should not have been disparaged or forbidden, but missionaries generally termed such beliefs as pagan and savage. The work of missionaries was sometimes deemed by early Cherokee traditionalists to be a self-gratifying undertaking whereby foreigners passed judgment and imposed their own will upon a people imperiled by colonialism. Many Cherokee did become willing members of Christian churches (Moravian, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian). Some congregations encouraged hymns in the Cherokee language, and Cherokee-speaking preachers existed (and continue to exist). Some Christian churches accepted that their congregants would also attend traditional stomp grounds, while some pastors forbade such attendance.

New generations often yearn to revive what was lost. Redbird Smith began an effort at the end of the 19th century to re-establish traditional Cherokee stomp grounds. Smith ultimately focused on reclaiming seven ancient wampum belts from the CN archives to establish ceremonies based on what was remembered of those belts’ original messages. He and his sons prepared a stomp ground where he rekindled a sacred fire for the revivalist movement he called Nighthawk Keetoowah. Altogether 22 ceremonial grounds were developed and thrived for a time. Modern life and political strife, however, served to reduce the movement. It continues today among a number of traditional Cherokee adherents, and the ancient wampum belts reside in their care. Smith noted before his death in 1918, “I have endeavored … for my people to remember that any religion must be an unselfish one… This religion does not teach me to concern myself of the life that shall be after this, but it does teach me to be concerned with what my everyday life should be (Hendrix 1983: 76-85).”

The following tenets, noted in our mythology have been, and are, important components of Cherokee core beliefs.

· All living things play a role in a dynamic world. Cherokee stories detail close relationships with animals and plants. So close that one story cites tracking a bear and seeing its footprints become human. Another cites a wife who transforms from deer to woman and back. Another wife and mother saves her starving family by becoming the gift of corn, and another cites strawberries lightening the heart of a woman after an argument with her husband. Science now tells us that we share DNA with all living things.

· All natural parts of the world are sacred. In addition to animals, other natural components are essential. Earth, water, air, minerals, the sun and stars deserve our respect because we are all interdependent in our relationships. One enduring practice of Cherokee traditionalism is “going to water.” At the start of each day, adherents attend a source of water to rinse their faces in a sacrament of connection. Early Cherokee villages were located on a water source and the community’s council house faced the water, as does today’s historical Cherokee Capitol Building in Tahlequah (Tellico/Diligwa), completed in 1869. The form of the building may have changed to one made of brick, but its spiritual and social contract was preserved. Benny Smith, Cherokee professor and spiritualist, after being asked if the surviving ancient Cherokee wampum belts are sacred, simply stated, “everything is sacred” (Smith, Strickland 2010, 24).

· Cherokee women warrant respect equal to Cherokee men. In early days, the division of labor found women to be equal contributors to the economy through their work in agriculture, weaving and basketry, and they were especially honored for gestation and childbirth, which provided future generations. The Cherokee population consisted of matrilineal clans, and all children were raised by their mother’s family. Today, Cherokee women attain professional and political lives equal to Cherokee men.

· Elders are keepers of knowledge and respected for having experienced life’s path. In clan society, extended families cared for elders, and elders spoke their wisdom during council meetings. We are a family of relatives; our genealogies link us to shared ancestors; elders preserve traditional knowledge. Respect for others and listening to people is a courtesy of a united people.

· Family and community are pillars of Cherokee strength. Although Cherokee clan life diminished due to exogamous marriages, there had been seven long-enduring clans. Seven serves as an important number for the Cherokee, and the CN’s seal and flag depict a seven-sided star. There are seven directions: east, west, north, south, above, below, and here. There are admonishments to make decisions based on how our choices affect seven generations forward. Our community and our children are our future, and remembering our clan heritage is not to be forgotten.

· Ceremonies, legends and symbolism are integral to Cherokee identity. Cherokee art includes symbols derived from our guiding mythology. Water spider is an enduring motif (she risked her life to bring fire to the beings, and her success reminds us that the smallest among us can often contribute mightily). Social and ceremonial dances are conducted in a circle (unity and eternity) with a central fire (like a sun warming us). The dance circle is an earthen path, the drumbeat is earth’s heartbeat, and the women’s shell-shakers provide responsive rhythm. Sharing food, labor and resources at gatherings is a practice of bonding and commitment to community. Present-day Cherokee arts, crafts and storytelling reflect Cherokee philosophy amidst challenging dichotomies. We cannot remain in the past, nor can we abandon our past. We must maintain the threads connecting us to all that is vital to being Cherokee.

· Technology, knowledge and opportunities should be used to advance Cherokee concerns. Sequoyah developed letter symbols for syllable sounds of the Cherokee language, and we were able to publish the first American Indian newspaper in our native language at a critical time when information was essential. Early survival arts such as making fire from friction, twisting fiber to make twined bags, knowing when to gather the bounty of wild plants is knowledge that enriches our lives and must be preserved and passed down the ensuing generations. Knowledge of our history is a tool to propel us forward rather than catch us in eddies of repeated errors. Computers and electronic devices can serve Cherokee causes. We must continue to be smarter than those who would harm us.

In summary, our ancient gods were not ones to sit in judgment, therefore we did not pine for forgiveness nor did we ask for more than had been provided. There was no afterlife to risk or to bargain for. The gods had no eye upon the sparrow, so there was little need for continuous conversation between citizens and gods. Ceremonies were the rare time to engage in rhetoric, to impress upon the youth and the wayward the lessons derived from our past. We possess vagaries of personality, and being human we err in judgment from time to time. Serving to sustain us as individuals is primarily an act of our fellows, not our gods. Our fellow citizens keep us in line by rewarding us when deserved, and troubling us when we stray. We live for each other, for our family and our community, and strive to keep our world in balance by respecting its elements. There were joyful ceremonies including the Green Corn festival and the mid-winter renewal where we expressed gratefulness for sustainability. We had a mindfulness of the natural world surrounding us. This is how we were and how we should be. While it is possible to embrace an introduced religion alongside Cherokee beliefs, it is not necessary to do so. If we follow basic Cherokee tenets, we will remain the ever-proud Principal People.


Hendrix, Janey B. “Redbird Smith and the Nighthawk Keetowahs,” Journal of Cherokee Studies, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, Cherokee NC, 1983.

King, Duane H. The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake, Museum of the Cherokee Indian, NC, 2007.

Meredith, Howard and Virginia Milam Sobral. Cherokee Vision of Elohi, Noksi Press, OKC, Oklahoma, 1997.

Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee, Nashville TN, 1982.

Smith, Chad and Rennard Strickland. Building One Fire, Cherokee Nation, 2010.

Walker, Robert Sparks. Torchlights to the Cherokees, MacMillan Co., 1931.


Lady Indians repeat at state, boys fall early
Multimedia Editor – @cp_mdreadfulwat
03/16/2018 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Sequoyah High School girls basketball team defeated Kingston 53-51 to win the Class 3A girls state championship at the State Fair Arena. It’s the Lady Indians’ second-straight state title and third in the past four years.

After winning state in 2017, they started the 2017-18 campaign ranked No. 1, with pressure to reach state again. Head coach Larry Callison said he expected this year’s team to qualify for state.

“We had the nucleus of our team back,” he said. “We just felt like we had that chance to have a good year. As the year went on, it just seemed like it got better and better.”

For a team of mostly underclassmen, getting better as the season went along was not easy considering the schedule.

“We play a tough schedule. We do that on purpose,” Callison said. “We just think if you’ve got good kids, you need to play good people. I think it definitely helps us for when it gets to playoff time.”

The Lady Indians finish the season 27-3, losing to Class 6A Yukon, Class 4A No. 1 ranked and eventual state champion Fort Gibson and Class 3A rival Adair.

“I think those losses help us,” he said. “I’ve always said you don’t get better by playing teams that aren’t very good. It’s hard to get kids up to play when you know you’re going to beat people pretty bad.”

Sequoyah closed the season with 18 straight wins. The Lady Indians avenged two of the three losses they suffered in the season by defeating Fort Gibson on the road and Adair at home.

They cruised through the district and regional championships by beating Westville 72-35, Verdigris 52-24 and Holland Hall 41-34. SHS beat Beggs in the area final, 57-55.

Many people anticipated an Adair/Sequoyah state final, however Kingston spoiled it by defeating Adair the semifinals.

“Kingston was the real deal though. They were really good and they came in under the radar,” Callison said. “They weren’t expected to be where they were.”

SHS beat Kansas 59-48 and Comanche 50-36 to reach the final.

The Lady Indians expect to return to the state tournament next season as they retain their nucleus of Alexys Keys, 6-footer Jonia Walker and Aubrey Brown. However, Callison said the regular season would be tough as usual.

As for Sequoyah’s boys, the Indians returned to the state tournament for the sixth time in eight years. However, their title bid ended with a 39-36 loss to Hugo in the first round.

“We were the two best defensive teams in the tournament, and when they put us together, there was nothing easy,” head coach Jay Herrin said. “It was really tough game, and I mean very physical. They (the referees) let us play somewhat. It was just one of those games where people weren’t running free and people weren’t getting open shots. You really had to work hard to get a decent shot.”

The Indians tied the game at 36 with eight seconds left. The Buffalos inbounded the ball and G’Quavious Lennox dribbled up the court. With the Indians’ Bobby Cade guarding him, Lennox threw up a long 3-point shot. A foul was called, putting Lennox on the foul line for three shots. He made them all.

“When it first happened, I was like ‘man, they are just blowing it off and they’re not going to do anything and we’ll go into overtime,’” SHS senior Bradyn Smith said. “Then when that guy (referee) came running over pointing in the air signaling three free throws…I just couldn’t believe it.”

The Indians finished 24-5, one win more than the previous season.

“We were able to win all three of our tournaments this year. We won the Shrine Tournament…and then we won the Lincoln Christian tournament,” Herrin said. “Through the course of the year we lost three games in the regular season. We lost to Keys and Lincoln Christian and Fort Gibson, and we were able to beat all three of those teams in rematches.”

SHS cruised through the district and regional tournaments beating Westville 95-39, Verdigris 91-58 and Holland Hall, 61-48.

“In the area tournament, we met up with Star Spencer, and that is the team that put us out in the semifinals of state last year,” Herrin said. “They beat us in the area championship (64-49), so we had to turn around and play on Saturday (March 3), and we beat Beggs in a tough game. Beggs was a really good team, and that’s what put us in the state tournament.”

The Indians lose four starters and some size next season. Herrin said they would play an up-tempo game to make up for it and that making state would be challenging.

“Next year our team will be different. Our guards will be smaller…We lose a lot of strength, size and toughness,” he said. “Those guys are going to have some big shoes to fill, but they’re very good players. This summer will be very important for us to get together and play well and to kind of come together as a group. Hopefully, we’ll be a well-oiled machine next year when the time comes to make the playoffs to make a run and try to get back to the state tournament again.”
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