http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta discusses his role on the new Discovery Channel series “Bushcraft Build-off” while detailing what survival items he carries on his person at all times. Latta was a team leader on the show and challenged to build a shelter in the Aspen Grove forest of Utah in only seven days with three hand tools and the resources from the environment. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Latta competes on Discovery Channel series

Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta also teaches at a survivalist school owned by fellow CN citizen and friend Matt Tate. Latta said he never goes anywhere without a backpack full of items that might be used in a survivalist situation, including a knife, Mylar energy blanket, waterproof matches and pliers. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta also teaches at a survivalist school owned by fellow CN citizen and friend Matt Tate. Latta said he never goes anywhere without a backpack full of items that might be used in a survivalist situation, including a knife, Mylar energy blanket, waterproof matches and pliers. BRITTNEY BENNETT/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
11/21/2017 08:00 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
WESTVILLE, Okla. – When expert bushcrafters were invited to square off against one another on the Discovery Channel’s new series “Bushcraft Build-off,” Cherokee Nation citizen B.J. Latta was featured among them.

“Back in March, I get a phone call and this lady calls me from Hollywood, California, and she says, ‘hey, we would like to interview you on Skype for a upcoming TV show. You got recommended by (Latta’s friend) Matt Tate.’ It was just crazy being interviewed, and of course, I didn’t think it was going to go anywhere because there’s so many guys who are way more talented,” Latta said.

Hosted by primitive skills expert Matt Graham, the show debuted Nov. 14 and takes survival to the next level by asking two teams of three bushcrafters to outdo one another in challenges meant to test ability and skill.

Latta led his team on the series premiere competing to build the best shelter during a seven-day span in Utah’s Aspen Grove forest. Each team was allowed three hand tools to accomplish the task while being graded by Graham in areas of creativity, sustainability, livability and protection.

“One tool a piece, per person and then we were just turned loose in the environment for seven days,” Latta said. “The part where I filmed was in the mountains of Utah, and we didn’t know what we were doing until we got off the plane, got out of the hotel room and they took us to the mountains. We were kind of kept in the dark, so the challenge was more real.”

In addition to being limited on tools, Latta faced challenges from an unfamiliar environment.

“I was totally out of my environment,” he said. “When you go to the mountains of Utah, there’s no cedar trees up there. There’s not one and that’s one of the main resources, especially for Native American people, here. Cedar trees are very life giving. We use that in everything in Cherokee culture, but when you get up there, there’s none.”

The location itself was also a factor.

“Even just working in the altitude was very tough for us because I’m not used to that, the oxygen levels,” Latta said. “There’s no high altitude here in Adair County. Your body’s different. You’re burning more calories. You’re exhausted more and in a survival situation, all that stuff really, really matters.”

In the premiere episode titled “Built to Survive,” Latta said Graham was quick to offer advice when things started to go sideways.

“I ran into a problem with my shelter,” he said. “I thought it out and thought, ‘man, my idea is not going to work. I need a bigger and better idea,’ and so I ask (Graham), ‘hey, what do you think about this?’ And so this guy, who is world renowned got to sit with me and I got to pick his brain, which is really, really cool.”

The experience also allowed Latta to spend more time with his father, who was on his team.

“To be able to spend that time with my dad, was probably the most rewarding,” he said. “Being on TV is going to be really cool, but that’s like third or fourth compared to spending 15 days with my dad.”

Despite seeing himself on the Discovery Channel, the Stilwell teacher remains humble.

“To know that maybe the world doesn’t see me as maybe successful on paper, but that’s because I’ve been a good steward at everything I’ve done and just worked hard like the Lord says, just showing up and doing your best can elevate you,” he said. “I didn’t put in an application to be on the Discovery Channel. They seen my work ethic working somewhere else and noticed me and asked me to come there.”

For more about “Bushcraft Build-off” or to watch Latta’s episode, visit www.discovery.com. A new episode is aired at 9 p.m. every Tuesday night.
About the Author
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.  She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors.
 
While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college.  
 
She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department.
 
Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.
brittney-bennett@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Brittney Bennett is from Colcord, Oklahoma, and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. She is a 2011 Gates Millennium Scholarship recipient and graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and summa cum laude honors. While in college, Brittney became involved with the Native American Journalists Association and was an inaugural NAJA student fellow in 2014. Continued mentorship from NAJA members and the willingness to give Natives a voice led her to accept a multimedia internship with the Cherokee Phoenix after college. She left the Cherokee Phoenix in early 2016 before being selected as a Knight-CUNYJ Fellow in New York City later that same year. During the fellowship, she received training from industry professionals with The New York Times and instructors at the City University of New York. As part of the program, she completed a social media internship with USA Today’s editorial department. Now that Brittney has made her way back to the Cherokee Phoenix, she hopes to use the experience gained from her travels to benefit Indian Country and the Cherokee people.

Multimedia

BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/22/2018 04:00 PM
AKINS – Visitors to the first “Sequoyah Day” event held May 20 experienced all things Cherokee such as art, music, lectures, performances, demonstrations and National Treasures all on the grounds of the historic Sequoyah’s Cabin Museum where the Cherokee syllabary creator lived. “This is a chance to celebrate Sequoyah’s life and his legacy,” Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism Director Travis Owens said. “We’ve had a flute-playing performance, the Cherokee National Youth Choir performed. We had the Girty Family Singers and presenters on our language today.” Others attending the event included Cherokee National Treasures Lorene Drywater and David Scott, as well as Cherokee artists Roy Boney, Jeff Edwards and Mary HorseChief. Tribal Councilors Bryan Warner and E.O. Junior Smith, and 2017-18 Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller also attended. Another highlight was the Traditional Native Games competition. CN citizen and games coordinator Bayly Wright said “Sequoyah Day” was a great place to hold Cherokee marbles, cornstalk shoot, horseshoes, blowgun, a hatchet throw and chunky competitions. “Today is the second of the five competitions leading up to the championships, which will be held on Aug. 25, the weekend before the Cherokee National Holiday,” she said. For more information on cultural events, visit <a href="http://www.visitcherokeenation.com" target="_blank">www.visitcherokeenation.com</a> or call 1-877-779-6977.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/08/2018 12:00 PM
TULSA – Cherokee Nation citizens gathered at the Tulsa Drillers ONEOK Field on May 5 for Cherokee Nation Night. Cherokees enjoyed themselves in the bleachers, as well as the lawn behind the outfield. The evening started with Cherokee Nation Youth Choir singing the National Anthem before Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden threw out the first pitch. Crittenden later led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. “I was kind of drafted,” Crittenden said. “So I have the honor and pleasure of throwing out the first pitch. We’ll see how it goes.” CN citizen and Tulsa Drillers Vice President of Public Relations Brian Carroll said the business relationship between the CN and the Drillers is a longstanding tradition. “Our staff has worked with the Cherokees for several years as a partnership on many, many events. It’s a valuable relationship for us, and on that has grown over the years, and has become better and better in that time,” he said. Various CN departments and entities such as Career Services, Cherokee Heritage Center and Government Relations also attended. Staff members manned booths in the stadium’s main corridor while Cherokee Nation Businesses employees handed out Hard Rock Hotel & Casino drink koozies to Tulsa Drillers and Arkansas Travelers fans. Miss Cherokee Madison Whitekiller said it’s important for the CN to take part in such events. “We’re still here, and we’re thriving. We are a fun people. We do enjoy other things outside our cultural boundaries,” she said.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
05/03/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Whether as a planner, visitor, vendor, artist or administrator, Cherokees played an integral role in all facets of the 2018 Red Fern Festival held April 27- 28 in the downtown area of the Cherokee Nation capital. From the CN Courthouse Square to Northeastern State University, the streets were alive offering music, food, culture, arts and crafts, as well as a coon hunt and hound dog field trials. On April 28, CN citizen and Main Street Tahlequah President Shay Stanfill said Mother Nature played a hand in the festival’s success as Oklahoma just finished its second-coldest April as the festival started. “We’ve had beautiful weather both yesterday and today.” “There’s a strong Cherokee presence everywhere this year,” she added. “There’s Cherokee food vendors, artists and crafters, clothing retailers who are Cherokee Nation citizens all up and down main street.” Officials said the festival had 110 vendors for its 13th year and an unofficial attendance of 16,000 visitors. Among the festival events and attractions, there were Cherokee National Treasure demonstrations, bouncy houses, a chili cook off and Plein Air painting competition. Cherokee Nation citizen Callie Chunestudy served as a Plein Air official. “So Plein Air is just basically outdoor painting, and the Arts Council (of Tahlequah) has collaborated with Red Fern so we have it at the same time so painters can come into town for the festival, go all over town to different sites. So they just paint scenery from Tahlequah.” CN citizen Ashley Vann said she came to the festival for social reasons. “I knew lots of Cherokees would have booths, showing their arts and crafts, but I’ve really enjoyed just running into friends on the street.” For upcoming events or the 2019 Red Fern Festival, go to <a href="http://www.tahlequahmainstreet.com" target="_blank">www.tahlequahmainstreet.com</a>.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
05/02/2018 08:30 AM
CHOUTEAU – On Arbor Day, the Cherokee Nation hosted its seventh annual Environmental Festival at the Mid-American Expo Center with informational booths and cultural activities for three area schools. Approximately 200 students from Salina, Justus-Tiawah and Adair schools attended the April 27 event to learn more about environmental issues. Natural Resources Secretary Sara Hill said in the past year the CN has focused on reducing its carbon footprint by 20 percent in the next 10 years. She said the festival is a good way to get the message to kids about what they can do to help the environment. “Kids are great, and you give them a little bit of information and they really start to apply it all the time to their lives. If these kids walk away just learning a couple of things. It’s important to think about our environment when we make decisions. It’s important to recycle when we can recycle, just some of those basic messages. Once you get that in a kid it spreads to the rest of the family. Children can really start and be an agent of change in that way, so that why events like this are really important to me,” Hill said. One message conveyed was through the River Cane Initiative and how river cane is important to Cherokee culture. Roger Cain, RCI principal investigator, said river cane was an important resource for Cherokees and had many uses such as feeding cattle, making baskets, weaponry, food and housing. “We started the River Cane Initiative just to find out where river cane is on tribal land, where it’s located on tribal land. The tribe has about 55,000 acres and we’ve covered about 40,000 so far,” Cain said. He said in the coming year RCI officials hope to complete cataloging river cane locations and start going to schools to teach students about river cane conservation. “People are using it and understanding that it takes a while for river cane to grow from a small seedling to a large cane to make a blowgun, which takes about 30 to 50 years to be able to use for blowgun quality or basket quality,” Cain said. “River cane was the plastic of the Southeastern Indians. It’s the most-found object in archaeological digs. I’m proud to say our tribe is leading the nation in river cane research.” CN cultural biologist Feather Smith-Trevino gave out native Oklahoma tree seedlings while encouraging students and adults to plant them. “We’ve got the state tree of Oklahoma, which is the Eastern Red Bud. We have several fruiting trees, which are important for wildlife, and also many people like to have fruiting trees, and they tend to be more popular. Some of these trees just have cultural importance. We have the black locust tree and Osage orange, which are both popular for making bows out of. We’ve got walnut trees. A lot of these are just very important for cultural reasons, and it’s a great for getting people out there and planting native trees in their yard,” she said. Federal and local entities also shared information regarding forestry, fish and wildlife, entomology, water and environmental safety. Chouteau was the first location outside of Cherokee County to host the festival. “We thought that we needed some community outreach, and if we did it like this we could target the community a little bit better than just having something in Tahlequah. So we’re trying to make it go out into the different communities now every year,” Environmental Programs Manager Shaun West said.
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/16/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Encore! Performing Society on April 8 previewed its reimagined production of “Four Moons,” which highlights the careers of five Native American ballerinas. “The history of the five ballerinas was always interesting to me because they are so unique. There’s only a handful of Native American ballerinas in the world,” “Four Moons” Director Lena Gladkova-Huffman said. The production features 12 female dancers, nearly all of who are Cherokee, and uses digital backdrops with archived footage, pictures and interviews to showcase the life and careers of Yvonne Chouteau, Rosella Hightower, Moscelyne Larkin and sisters Maria and Marjorie Tallchief. The group became known as the Five Moons and rose to prominence in the mid-1900s during a time when ballet was largely considered a Russian art form. The women represented the Cherokee, Osage, Choctaw and Shawnee tribes. Four of them danced together for the original 1967 production, which occurred during the Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival. It was titled “Four Moons” because the Tallchief sisters were highlighted together. “When we picked up this production, the girls had to do a lot of research and find out who each ballerina was. So they come out of this production with bigger knowledge of the world in general, and hopefully our audience will too,” Gladkova-Huffman said. “There were these five amazing women who, from children, decided to dedicate their life to art.” She said her fascination with the Five Moons and the original performance sparked the need for a reimagining featuring her choreography. “They met and danced, and it was a unique occasion because everybody danced, with the exception of Maria Tallchief, who was retired, and then nobody video recorded them. So from then on everybody that has recreated this play has used original choreography,” she said. Gladkova-Huffman studied ballet in Volgograd, Russia, and though she pursued a career as a doctor after immigrating to America, she’s “closely connected” to directing and choreographing. Many girls featured in her reimagining come from her dance studio, though each “handpicked” ballerina had to meet select criteria. They also vary in age from elementary- to college-aged students to highlight the Five Moons as younger and older versions. Cherokee Nation citizen Natalie Walker, 19, studies at Northeastern State University and is dancing as the older Chouteau. She said she and her younger partner unfurl a ribbon during their dance as a nod to the Cherokee people and Chouteau’s heritage. “There is a part in my dance where we pull a white ribbon and it separates the stage, which is supposed to represent the Trail of Tears,” she said. “It separates us from our Cherokee heritage, as well as the younger and older versions of (Chouteau).” Walker said the dancers have rehearsed on weekends for months to prepare. “We all are very good about taking criticism from Mrs. Lena very well, which I think helps us improve in dancing and for the production,” she said. “It has taken many, many practices since then to get ready for this, and I love dancing in front of people.” CN citizen Lacy Ullrich, 13, portrays the younger Marjorie Tallchief. “I didn’t really know much about it the first time I did this, but it sounded fun,” she said. “They’re all very interesting, and they’ve accomplished a ton of really cool things throughout their lifetime. All these girls come from different tribes, and one of them is Cherokee, and they were all born in Oklahoma, so it’s fun to get to dance the Cherokee variation.” Portraying Hightower is CN citizen Hadley Hume, 17, who will attend the University of Arkansas at Little Rock this fall to major in performance dance. She said audiences should expect to see a mix of traditional ballet and Native American aspects. “You’ll see us dancing on point, on flat, but we’ll also have one girl come out in a traditional Cherokee dress. It’s just really amazing to be able to bring all of their tribes together, and it’s just a really cool way to say, ‘hey look, we’re all here.’” Her mother, Dayna, is the vice president of Encore! who secured the rights to composer Louis Ballard’s music from the 1967 production. She also designed the traditional costumes. “All of the coral dresses that you’ll see and the ribbon work, I’ve done,” she said. “I tell (the girls), ‘I create it, you bring it to life. You make it come to life when you dance.’ We’ve also had some various local Cherokee National Treasures that’s worked on other pieces.” The preview was held ahead of scheduled performances in Washington, D.C., for the annual Cherokee Days on April 13-15 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
04/13/2018 08:00 AM
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Phoenix peeked in on Sequoyah High School’s drama department as it rehearsed for its upcoming adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s musical “Into the Woods,” which musically tells the darker side of the classic fairy tales Cinderella, Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. “Into The Woods” will be held at the Sequoyah’s The Place Where They Play on the SHS campus. Showtimes are 7 p.m. on April 26, 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. on April 27 and 2 p.m. on April 29. For more information, visit <a href="http://sequoyah.cherokee.org" target="_blank">http://sequoyah.cherokee.org</a> or the Sequoyah Speech/Drama/Debate Students Facebook page.