Principal Chief Bill John Baker addresses the crowd regarding the Cherokee Nation’s allocation of motor vehicle tax funds to public schools within the CN jurisdiction. The Public School Appreciation Day was held March 2 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa in Catoosa. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation gives $5.4M to 108 public schools
Cherokee Nation officials hold a novelty check for $390,145.40, representing the amount of CN motor vehicle tax funds that will go to Delaware County schools. With the CN officials are representatives from Delaware County schools. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
CATOOSA – During the Cherokee Nation’s annual Public School Appreciation Day on March 2 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, 108 public schools received more than $5.4 million of CN motor vehicle tax revenue to help their respective budges.
CN officials said schools located in the tribe’s jurisdiction received $177 per CN citizen enrolled and that there are 30,714 CN citizens enrolled.
The CN annually allocates 38 percent of jurisdictional motor vehicle tax revenue to public education per its compact with Oklahoma. This year’s amount surpassed the 2017 allocation by $400,000, officials said. Since 2002, the CN has allocated $50.5 million to schools.
Many public schools face budget cuts, and the tribe’s allocation helps alleviate shortages, CN officials said.
“A lot of the schools are able to maybe fund a teacher position that they had to let go or purchase a bus. Some of them have purchased athletic equipment. So they do lots of things they don’t have funding in their budget for, and this allows them to do whatever they need for their school because there are no earmarks on that money,” Sharon Swepston, CN Tax Commission administrator, said.
Kenwood School received $9,567.60 to help offset the lack of local funding and state cuts.
“Our school happens to be one that’s very isolated. We have very little local money, no real tax base and surrounded by Cherokee Nation land. So there’s not much taxable property. No industry, no businesses, or nothing like that,” Kenwood School Superintendent Billy Taylor said. “We depend on state funding, but it decreases all the time. So any little thing we get helps us a great deal, probably more important to us than the average school here. Most schools have a tax base greater than us.”
Taylor said the Delaware County school is about 98 percent Cherokee, both staff and students. He said school officials are appreciative of the tribe’s impact. He said the money is put into a general fund for school operations and teacher pay.
Pryor Public Schools received $142,096.55, and Superintendent Dr. Don Raleigh said the money funds teaching positions and educational opportunities such as science, technology, engineering and math activities.
“We recognize the commitment to all of our learners from the Cherokee Nation. During past budget challenges, the money donated from the Cherokee Nation really became a way to keep teachers because the amount we received actually funded two teaching positions. As funding has stabilized, we have used the money to fund STEM opportunities, especially at the elementary level by the purchase of supplies for our labs, robotics and educational field trips,” Raleigh said.
CN Education Services Executive Director Ron Etheridge said the CN also provides other opportunities to help jurisdictional schools.
“We also provide things for them, supplies and things through our Johnson-O’Malley program. We have other areas we try to help. We try to help them with valedictorian and salutatorian funding. We have scholarship areas once they graduate. So it’s not just the one time deal. Our (Tribal) council helps in (other) respective areas as well,” Etheridge said.
Funding Amounts Per County
Adair County: $467,749.23
Cherokee County: $873,486.27
Craig County: $143,868.32
Delaware County: $390,145.40
Mayes County: $464,028.50
Muskogee County: $524,268.94
Nowata County: $89,829.12
*Osage County: $3,189.20
Ottawa County: $96,207.51
Rogers County: $534,722.42
Sequoyah County: $472,178.69
Tulsa County: $1,028,693.99
Wagoner County: $180,012.58
Washington County: $173,457
*Although Osage County isn’t in the tribe’s jurisdiction, there are schools near the tribe’s jurisdictional border that has CN citizens enrolled.
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.
“We use it for a variety of situations. But in here the actual gunfire, the smell of the gunpowder being burned, the people hearing rounds hit and ricochet off things adds that element of realism that really gets them bought into the scenario and gets them up and moving,” Roach said.
MSRC Director Julie Kimble said she and her employees have taken the trainings for nearly a year.
“We’re trying to prepare our staff as much as possible. The one thing that marshals always talk about is trying to be preventative as far as being suspicious, look for large bags, look for people wearing winter clothing in the summer time and then if they see something that may be suspicious to contact the marshals just so they can check it out,” Kimble said.
She added that the trainings make her staff more confident in knowing what action to take in an actual active shooter situation.
“It was very nerve-wracking at first, but since we’ve done it quarterly, staff has actually become really confident every time they come in because we’re just doing it as a refresher every time, and so now they’re more confident,” she said.
She said the trainings are different every time, with marshals bringing in new scenarios.
“The marshals do a really great job of practicing different scenarios. Every time we’ve done a training, they’ve done different scenarios and we’ve kind of upped the scenarios. Like today, we had two shooters in the facility, which was different than what we had before,” she said.
She said her staff also learned from the March 16 training about the importance of cell phone usage and how it can benefit during an emergency.
“We talked a lot about cell phone usage. Is it good to have your cell phone? We learned that it is good, make sure that it is turned off so that it doesn’t ring or whatever when you’re hiding from the active shooter. Also, we learned to make that phone call to 911 so that we can tell somebody that an active shooter is happening, listen for the shots and how many shots were fired. If you can tell them any information as far as ‘are there two shooters? Is there one shooter?’ you know, what’s going on,” Kimble said.
Roach said the trainings allow marshals to see what reactions employees might have and what they can do to better prepare for an emergency.
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 <a href="http://www.facebook.com/marshalsmuseum" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/marshalsmuseum</a> or <a href="http://www.usmmuseum.org" target="_blank">usmmuseum.org</a> or call 1-479-709-3766.
INOLA – Cherokee Nation leaders joined Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, along with state, county and civic leaders, in welcoming Sofidel CEO and President Luigi Lazzareschi for a March 16 groundbreaking of the Italian-based paper company’s $360-million-dollar plant.
The plant is expected to support 300 jobs initially.
“This is going to be a big investment with a lot of technology,” Lazzareschi said. “For those who don’t know, this is a family only dedicated to tissues. We have never been in any other business than tissue for more than 50 years.”
He said when completed the plant would be about 2 million square feet, which is 5 percent larger than the largest Sofidel plant in Ohio.
Fallin called the announcement and groundbreaking a great day in Oklahoma. She said she traveled to Sofidel’s Italian headquarters two years ago. Once there, Fallin said she knew she had found a great opportunity for, Inola, Rogers County, Tulsa and the northeast region of the state.
Principal Chief Bill John Baker said he would normally welcome everyone to the CN, but the groundbreaking was held in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation’s jurisdiction. He said the CN was “within shooting distance” from where he was standing. He also informed Lazzareschi that assistance would be coming from CN Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelly.
As for Cherokee Nation’s involvement with the Sofidel plant, much is still in the planning phase, CN officials said.
Although after the groundbreaking, CN Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the Sofidel plant site is significant. Sofidel will build on the same site where 40 years ago Public Service Company of Oklahoma proposed building a nuclear energy facility. One of the reasons it was never built is because Native American activists, including many Cherokees, protested against it, he said.
PSO has retained ownership of the property, which has remained vacant and undeveloped despite its location on the Kerr Navigation Channel and proximity to the Port of Catoosa, the furthest inland port and one of the busiest ports in the United States.
“We routinely work with our state, regional and local partners to find opportunities that best suit all involved, and this was a location that worked best for everyone. About 40,000 Cherokee Nation citizens live within 20 miles of this facility, and when you look at a 25-mile radius, the number of Cherokee Nation citizens grows to more than 57,000,” Hoskin said. “The location is just a couple of miles outside of our (CN) boundaries, and our own Career Services department will help recruit the workforce for Sofidel. Because of that we believe Cherokee Nation citizens will be among the first hired.”
Sofidel is one of the leading makers of hygienic tissue paper with locations in 13 countries. It places an emphasis on sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.
“We believe our mission alignment and the number of jobs and opportunities they will provide make them an extremely valuable partner in our economic development goals, which are to help make northeast Oklahoma an attractive place to live, work and raise a family,” Hoskin said.
STILWELL – Whether you call it Yowie, Yeti, Sasquatch or Bigfoot, the mystery of the beast drew hundreds to Stilwell on March 10 to the Mid-America Bigfoot Research Center as researchers tried to provide evidence that the creature isn’t such a mystery.
The center holds an annual Oklahoma Bigfoot Symposium and offers people a chance to hear researchers, audio recordings and firsthand accounts and view castings.
“We actually have different researchers that will be presenting their research from the past year. Different audio, different pictures, whatever they have and new developments as they find stuff out,” Rex Hatfield, MABRC field researcher, said.
D.W. Lee, MABRC executive director, said since the symposium began nearly six years ago there have been multiple accounts of people reporting Bigfoot sightings.
“I would say on average we have 10 to 15 reports turned into us at every symposium,” he said. “It’s a nice way for people to relate their experiences and find out for sure if what they’ve seen was a bigfoot or not.”
The symposium took place at CC Camp, which Lee said is approximately a mile away from the group’s research center.
“We call it the Devil’s Cauldron because it’s a bowl shape area, and then past that we have two other research areas within two miles of that,” he said. “A lot of Natives in this area, they’ve come up to us and told us of their encounters. It’s really a rich area for Bigfoot sightings and encounters.”
With foot castings on display, Lee said it’s the symposium’s “biggest” piece of evidence that Bigfoot lurks somewhere. “The casts are pretty much the biggest piece of evidence that we have that Bigfoot exists. We have a large collection of them inside from not just around here, but from around the country.”
Hatfield said the symposium helps shed light on the creature. “The more people we have working together on this the more evidence we’re hoping to bring forward and solve this mystery, bring forward one of these creatures and find something out.”
Regarding sightings, Lee said there’s anything from white, to tannish blonde and even black-haired Bigfoots that are typically reported in Adair County.
“Around here we have a white one. We believe it’s the alpha of the troop in this area,” he said. “There’s a high voltage power line right-of-way that all of our research areas are within a mile of and since (19)96 he’s been seen within a mile of that power line on multiple sightings.”
Hatfield said if someone encounters a Bigfoot they need to write it down. “Memories fade, but if you can write down as much details as you can as soon as possible it’d be best.”
When researching, Lee said the group uses audio recorders, night vision cameras, thermal cameras and a drone. He said more people are having encounters in Oklahoma because they are moving into wooded areas. “We’ve probably got just as many Bigfoot as any other state, but since we’re pushing more out into the woods we’re coming across more and more encounters.”
As for skeptics, Hatfield said “seeing is believing.”
“Get out in the woods. Rather than judging us on what you’re seeing through a computer screen or on TV, come out and look for yourself. That’s the best way to get a good idea of what is and what isn’t,” he said.
Lee said most skeptics are typically “diehard” skeptics.
“They’re not going to believe that there’s an 8-foot tall, undocumented creature running around the woods,” he said. “I usually tell them, ‘you look at aliens, UFOs. We would be fools to think that we’re the only ones in this universe.’ We’re always encountering new species of animal. To actually believe that that’s not out there, you just can’t really follow that line of thought.”
For more information, visit <a href="http://www.facebook.com/OklahomaBigfootSymposium" target="_blank">www.facebook.com/OklahomaBigfootSymposium</a>.
MUSKOGEE – Pop punk. Video games. Friendships. What do they all have in common? The band When the Clock Strikes, which released its EP “Overnight” on March 16 and was set to play it the next day at The Vanguard in Tulsa.
The Cherokee Phoenix spoke with the pop punk band as it practiced. It’s comprised of singer and bassist Daniel Basden, guitarist Steven Walker and drummer Blake Westerby. Basden and Walker are Cherokee Nation citizens.
All three began playing their respective instruments as teenagers, and bands such as Blink-182, Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance have influenced their style.
“We try to make our melodies as accessible as possible so people can sing along and just enjoy it,” Basden said.
He added that the band’s love of video games has also influenced its music.
“I first got into punk music by playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on PlayStation,” Basden said. “We’ve covered the Pokémon theme song. We’ve done some songs from (The Legend of) Zelda.”
Formed in 2014, When the Clock Strikes has released EPs with cover and original songs and has toured regionally. With the new EP, Basden said he believes these are the “best” songs they’ve written. “They run a pretty wide emotional range.”
Walker said he believes the “Overnight” EP showcases their most “real” songs.
“I really like how much the songs have become more realized. Actually working with Blake and working with Basden to make what I feel like are probably our most real songs, something that’s fleshed out, has a real art to them,” he said.
Walker said they were able to achieve this because at the end of the day they’re not just a band but friends. “Little things that you can’t quantify that you get from working with Basden as many years as I have and working with Blake. Little things that just…kind of happen on their own that you may not get when you jump into a room full of strangers and start working on music. It feels like the new EP and our music in general is really a testament and a byproduct of our relationship in general with our friendship.”
When coming to live shows, Basden said people should expect a high-energy good time.
“All of our songs are pretty fast,” he said. “Usually our home shows we have people sing along with us, which is really cool.”
During the years of performing, Walker said they’ve created friendships with fans.
“I’d been kind of remiss to call them fans at this point, especially with how tight the community is,” he said. “You make a ton of friends, and you get a lot of cool stories. Everybody that comes to that show went there for a reason. They came there to feel things, and you did, too. I don’t really have a family. This has become my family.”
Westerby said he had a special experience with the band by first being a fan and later joining it.
“I actually took lessons at the music store that Steven use to work at, so that’s kind of where I was first introduced to him. I was probably their biggest fan to start out with, and eventually I came in and been here for about two years now. It’s been a little surreal because I use to be the guy out there listening to them, and now I’m up there so it’s kind of a cool thing.”
Aside from drumming, Westerby also works on audio engineering for their tracks and did so before joining.
“That’s kind of where our video game covers came from. First thing I did with them, before I was even in the band, was record the Mega Man cover. I did that and that’s how we sort of started the dialogue that ended me up here,” he said. “Also, with the engineering that’s how we do our demos, too. With the new EP, we put everything on tape to kind of hear it back, to kind of make adjustments that way we’re kind of stepping back from the whole process and getting to listen to it.”
Looking forward, Walker said WTCS has plans to travel “as far east and as far west” as it can.
To keep up with WTCS, “follow” them on Instagram or “like” them on Facebook.
“Listen to our music. Come to shows. Anything helps,” Westerby said.
TAHLEQUAH – Students at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah walked out of their classes on March 14 as part of a nationwide movement to draw attention to gun violence in schools and to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.
The coordinated walkout was organized by the youth wing of the Women’s March called EMPOWER, which encouraged students across the country to walk out of their classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to commemorate a minute for each of the 17 victims gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.
Organizers said nearly 3,000 walkouts were set to take place throughout the U.S. and around the world, resulting in the largest demonstration of student activism that has yet to emerge since the massacre.
Sequoyah seniors Celia Bateman and Raelee Fourkiller organized the walkout at their school in unity with the rest of their peers around the country hoping to take a stand against gun violence.
“We did it to demonstrate that we have power in our voices and that these students behind us have power too, and we want them to utilize it to their fullest,” said Bateman. “I think it is very important to remember that this walk out isn’t about us or by us, it is in solidarity with other schools around the nation who are also participating in the walk out. We are just a little ripple in the pond, just a few drops in the bucket of students who are overflowing and who are tired of not being heard.”
Bateman said although some of the parents, faculty and even students weren’t “too big” on the walkout, the administration allowed them their time.
“They didn’t like the word protest, it is sort of a protest but a silent and peaceful protest. It wasn’t mandatory at all, but it was definitely a big step for those that did come out. A lot of people came out and supported it today and that is really important,” she said.
Sequoyah’s speech and theater teacher Amanda Ray said it was “inspiring” to see students taking the initiative to speak out and care about something such as gun control and showing respect for students who have been victims of mass shootings all over the country.
“I saw all of my speech and theater students out here because they know to be here and they know to have a voice,” she said. “We have talked extensively about gun control and common-sense-gun laws in my speech and debate classes. To me it’s so important to educate them because so many students are coming here and they aren’t educated on common sense gun laws, so to be able to help in that education here at Sequoyah is incredibly important and necessary.”
With their walkout also geared towards school safety, Fourkiller said she hopes people will understand the important roll teachers play in the school system and in turn will start “talking” about teacher salaries.
“With the 284 lives that were lost, their had to be people there protecting them. Teachers, staff members and faculty, they were all in the building at the same time, which hits on why aren’t teachers being paid enough. People need to be talking about that. We need to be talking about the education system in America, and we need to be standing with teachers in April when they walk out too,” said Fourkiller.