Cherokee marshals conduct active shooter training for tribal employees

03/23/2018 08:30 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center employees on March 16 partook in an ALICE active shooter training at the center with the CN Marshal Service. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate.

The training is to teach employees what to do in an active shooter situation. They were given scenarios and had to decide what was the best plan of action if they came across an active shooter – whether to run, hide or fight.

The CNMS has conducted trainings the past three years for several tribal departments.

“I think this training’s important for both the police and the public, so one, the public knows what to expect when the police come to the scene, and for the police to observe and help with training helps the police teach the public how to react to a violent situation. You can’t always fight. A lot of times you can run. Sometimes you can hide. But you need to be prepared to do all three,” marshal Mike Roach said.

Roach, who played the shooter in the March 16 training, used a firearm that fired 9-millimeter blank cartridges and had a paintball on the end to mark where shots were fired. The blanks emulated the smell of gunpowder.
Video with default Cherokee Phoenix Frame
Cherokee Nation marshal Shawna Roach speaks with CN Male Seminary Recreation Center employees during active shooter training on March 16 at the MSRC in Tahlequah. Employees learned what actions to take during the event of an active shooter situation. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation marshal Mike Roach plays the part of an active shooter as he comes through an entrance of the Male Seminary Recreation Center during active shooter training on March 16 in Tahlequah. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Cherokee Nation Male Seminary Recreation Center employees learn a takedown technique during active shooter training on March 16 at the MSRC in Tahlequah. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation marshal Shawna Roach speaks with CN Male Seminary Recreation Center employees during active shooter training on March 16 at the MSRC in Tahlequah. Employees learned what actions to take during the event of an active shooter situation. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Claiming Indian exemption on taxes

03/21/2018 12:00 PM
WASHINGTON – According to the Indian Health Service, American Indian and Alaska Natives who are citizens of federally recognized tribes and Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act Corporation shareholders can apply for health care coverage in Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program or the Marketplace any time of the year.

American Indians, Alaska Natives and people eligible for services through IHS, tribal or urban Indian health programs may claim an exemption from the tax penalty for not maintaining health care coverage throughout the tax year. One may do so by completing IRS Form 8965 when filing a federal income tax return.

For more information, visit

Phoenix taking names for elder/vet subscriptions

03/17/2018 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 or

CNB increasing support for Tulsans in need

03/02/2018 12:00 PM
TULSA – Cherokee Nation Businesses and a team of its employee volunteers are increasing support in the battle against hunger, as well as helping those in need endure the harsh elements of Oklahoma’s ever-changing weather.

CNB’s Community Impact Team, a companywide initiative dedicated to helping promote volunteerism and community engagement, has committed an increase in volunteer efforts and donations to Iron Gate’s soup kitchen and grocery pantry.

“Iron Gate relies on the generosity of volunteers to help us feed Tulsa’s hungry every day. We are so grateful to the employees of Cherokee Nation Businesses, who not only donated much-needed canned goods, but also gave of their time, helping us serve food,” Carrie Vesely Henderson, Iron Gate executive director, said. “We’re thrilled that they have increased their support recently and will be serving regularly through June. We’re celebrating 40 years of feeding Tulsa, and we couldn’t do it without generous community partners like the Cherokee Nation and its businesses.”

The company kicked off this year’s endeavor with supply drives to collect food and winter weather items. Community Impact Team volunteers donated, collected and recently delivered nearly 300 items such as food, toiletries, coats, blankets and winter accessories.

“Iron Gate’s Grocery Pantry is always in need of protein-rich items, and Cherokee Nation Businesses really came through for us, donating more than 230 pounds of protein and other canned goods,” Ashli Sims, Iron Gate development director, said. “Many of our pantry guests have jobs. They have a home. They just need a little extra to help make ends meet that month. So this donation will have a huge impact on them.”
Cherokee Nation Businesses employees donated, collected and recently delivered nearly 300 items such as food, toiletries, coats, blankets and winter accessories to Iron Gate. The Iron Gate is a soup kitchen and grocery pantry in downtown Tulsa. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation Businesses employees donated, collected and recently delivered nearly 300 items such as food, toiletries, coats, blankets and winter accessories to Iron Gate. The Iron Gate is a soup kitchen and grocery pantry in downtown Tulsa. COURTESY

Veterans Center adds more help, events

02/28/2018 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH – After opening in 2013, the Cherokee Nation’s Veterans Center continues to strive to service all veterans through different programs and events. The center was formerly under Human Services, which set the foundation for what is now offered to veterans. In 2017, Barbara Foreman became the director of CN Veterans Affairs.

“I can say that Human Services laid a good foundation here. They actually started some of the programs, so we’re just trying to build on some the programs that have been started here and maybe to extend more services here for our veterans,” Foreman said.

The center offers readjustment counselor Matt Tiger of the Tulsa Veterans Affairs Center, who does group sessions and individual counseling. Representatives from the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans are available every Tuesday to offer help with benefits.

“We’re collecting resources to refer them to. In the future we are trying to have more and more services. We’re just trying to add to what we have,” Foreman said.

Foreman said she wants to add service personnel from the CN who have the same capabilities the ODVA and the DAV offer. She also said feedback from the veterans is important in knowing what is needed for them.
The Cherokee Nation’s Veterans Center sits east of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. All veterans are welcome to use the center and its services. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Veterans Center customer service representative Norman Littledave sets out information brochures for veterans who visit the center, which was formerly under Humans Services. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
The Cherokee Nation’s Veterans Center sits east of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. All veterans are welcome to use the center and its services. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

$500K grant aims to preserve Cherokee ecological knowledge

02/27/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – A nearly $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation aims to preserve the Cherokee culture through the establishment of a mentor program for young Cherokee Nation citizens.

The program will match young Cherokees from northeastern Oklahoma with elders in the tribe’s Medicine Keepers to learn about and sustain traditional Cherokee life ways by working in the tribe’s heirloom garden, learning the language and participating in field botany exercises.

Clint Carroll, a CN citizen and University of Colorado Boulder professor, was recently awarded the five-year grant. He is working with Pat Gwin, senior director of CN Environmental Resources, to administer a three-year program in the CN.

“Dr. Carroll’s National Science Foundation project promises to be a unique opportunity for Cherokee students to be taught traditional ecological knowledge in a manner and setting as would have been the case centuries ago,” Gwin said.

The Cherokee Environmental Leadership Program works directly with the CN Medicine Keepers to educate five Cherokee students about the Cherokee culture, the Cherokee language and local environmental issues. The Medicine Keepers are a group of 12 fluent Cherokee speakers whose mission is to preserve the traditional language, culture and natural resources of the tribe.
Pat Gwin, Cherokee Nation Environmental Resources senior director, looks at a Georgia candy roaster squash at the tribe’s heirloom garden in Tahlequah. A National Science Foundation grant worth nearly $500,000 will be used to preserve the Cherokee culture through the establishment of a mentor program for young CN citizens. COURTESY
Pat Gwin, Cherokee Nation Environmental Resources senior director, looks at a Georgia candy roaster squash at the tribe’s heirloom garden in Tahlequah. A National Science Foundation grant worth nearly $500,000 will be used to preserve the Cherokee culture through the establishment of a mentor program for young CN citizens. COURTESY

CN roads program to wrap up three road projects by spring

02/25/2018 10:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Roads Program has 38 projects in its Transportation Improvement Program inventory with three projects expected to be complete by or in springtime.

The Honey Hill project, located in Adair County on E0850 off Bell Road, is a total of 3.75 miles with a cost of nearly $3.8 million. Workers were expected to obliterate the old road, widen a new road and install drainage structures, ditches, new fences and signage. The project was expected to be complete by May.

Because 0f past complications in road construction, adjustments needed to be made when planning and designing a road project, officials said.

“Several years ago we went and tried to build the entire length of a project, and we had some issues with some right-of-way, so what we did was we phased it into two phases. The way we lay a road out is little different than one might think. We lay a road out from south to north, and then from west to east,” CN Road Program Director Michael Lynn said.

The Leach/Kenwood project involves an overlay of 11.4 miles of road on N4540 that connects the Leach and Kenwood communities at a cost of $3.9 million. Some construction has already been finished.
Roadwork begins on Phase 1 of E0850 Road off of Bell Road in Honey Hill in Adair County. The Cherokee Nation’s Roads Program is expected to complete the .75-mile project by May. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX The Honey Hill road project leads to the Honey Hill Free Holiness Church located in its namesake community in Adair County. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Roadwork begins on Phase 1 of E0850 Road off of Bell Road in Honey Hill in Adair County. The Cherokee Nation’s Roads Program is expected to complete the .75-mile project by May. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Tribe’s burial aid for needy families

02/13/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation’s Human Services Burial Assistance Program continues to help families with funeral expenses. For nearly 20 years, the program has helped provide tribal citizens financial aid to bury family members who have passed with the Bureau of Indian Affairs paying a portion of those expenses.

“It’s for people that have little or no resources to bury a loved one,” CN Family Assistance Manager Angela King said.

In fiscal year 2017, BAP provided aid for 395 burials, and so far in FY 2018 (Oct. 1 to Jan. 31) the CN has aided with 80 burials. The tribe’s fiscal year runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The program is designed to alleviate financial stress that comes with funeral costs for low-income families. The deceased’s immediate family’s income must not exceed greater than 150 percent of the National Poverty Level income standards.

To be eligible, the deceased must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe: have resided in the CN jurisdiction six months prior to date of death: must not, or family must not, have resources that exceed $2,900, which include life insurance, veteran’s benefits, savings, checking or prepaid burial; and must select a funeral home that has an active burial contract with the tribe.

Veterans receive handmade Valentine cards

02/12/2018 04:00 PM
MUSKOGEE – Cherokee Nation officials and ambassadors delivered hundreds of handmade Valentine cards to veterans on Feb. 9 to the Jack C. Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in time for Valentine’s Day.

Deputy Chief and U.S. Navy veteran S. Joe Crittenden, Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr., as well as Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller and Junior Miss Cherokee Danya Pigeon, gave the cards to dozens of veterans at the medical center as part of tribe’s Valentines for Vets program.
Now in its 10th year, the Valentines for Vets program shares handmade Valentines with Cherokee and non-Cherokee veterans across the tribe’s 14-county jurisdiction.

“We always enjoy going out into our communities and shaking hands with the men and women that served this great country,” Crittenden said. “This program gives us a chance to spend time with veterans and remind them that we care and are so grateful for their service.”

This year, Cherokee Nation Businesses, Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Council, Cherokee Immersion Charter School and other area schools and churches donated cards. Veterans at the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center, Claremore Veterans Center and veteran health clinics in Jay, Vinita and Tulsa benefitted from the handmade cards.

Video Frame selected by 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 or 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.


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.

There are ways to prevent HIV infection, including abstinence (not having sex), limiting the number of sexual partners, never injecting drugs and sharing needles and always use condoms properly when having sex. People may be able to take medication (Truvada) for PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

The only way to know if you have HIV is to be tested. Knowing your HIV status helps you make choices that prevent you from getting HIV or from transmitting HIV.

Visit, call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit for more information.

THE OKCIC was established in 1974 to provide health care and wellness services to American Indians in central Oklahoma. The clinic staff cares for more than 18,000 patients from more than 200 federally recognized tribes every year. American Indians receive services such as medical, dental, pediatrics, prenatal, pharmacy, optometry, physical fitness, nutrition, family programs and behavioral health services. For more information, call 405-948-4900 or visit


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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