http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgChildren look out the window at A Bright Start Development Center, which is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra owns it and provides early childhood development skills and learning. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Children look out the window at A Bright Start Development Center, which is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave., in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra owns it and provides early childhood development skills and learning. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX

Sierra gives ‘A Bright Start’ to childhood education

Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra helps a child during dramatic playtime on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX Children learn early childhood skills such as piecing together puzzles and reading books on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra helps a child during dramatic playtime on April 5 at A Bright Start Development Center in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
04/12/2017 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Ryan Sierra always dreamed of running his own business and educating children. That dream became reality when he opened an early childhood facility called A Bright Start Development Center.

It caters to children ages 0-12 years old with gross motor development and guided learning in a school-like atmosphere. “We try to run a routine similar to school. The kids (have) some group-setting experiences,” Sierra said.

He said he funded the business with his savings and help from family.

“A lot of the equipment we’ve been blessed to get donated…what could be thousands of dollars in equipment was donated,” Sierra said.

After working with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services in 2015 to ensure compliance, including having proper equipment and passing necessary inspections, the center opened in February 2016 with four babies. Enrollment eventually grew to 30 children.

He said his facility is now licensed to take up to 40 children up to 12 years old, but mainly focuses on infants zero to 11 months, toddlers 12-23 months and 2- to 4-year-olds.

“I was excited at the turn of the year into (20)17. I thought this is awesome. So January of (20)17 I…put all our ducks in a row and we increased our capacity to 40. We don’t have all spots taken yet, but we have that potential to grow to 40 now. So it’s really exciting to see that it didn’t take us a year to actually grow. So I was really happy how we ended our first year and started our second,” he said.

The center offers children a social setting, including breakfast; gross motor development (dancing to music and circle time); guided learning (art, dramatic play, science and math); lunch; play time; and rest time.

“We try to keep them engaged. We do want them developing. So everything that is already here in place does benefit the different areas of development,” Sierra said. “We try to add to it by giving them the activities, the art activities, the science activities, the sensory activities. They are very important to development at this age.”

He said the goal is to give the children “a bright start to school and their education.”

Sierra said he works with parents on scheduling and costs. DHS sets costs through a stars program, and the center is rated as a two-star program. Infants are $155 per week. Toddlers are $144 per week. Two- to 3-year-olds are $129 per week, and 4-year-olds and up are $106.50 per week.

He said his center is contracted to accept subsidy payments through the DHS, CN, Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma and Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma.

“Everything we do here is geared toward helping a family. Number one is providing a quality place of care for a child. That’s our number one, and making sure that a child’s taken care of. Everything else that revolves around that involves the family,” Sierra said.

Sierra said he wants to open two more early childhood sites and an immersion school to teach the Cherokee language. “Then eventually I want a charter school because I want to…continue our goal of giving young adults a bright start in the future. I want to be able to prepare them for college, prepare them for trade school, prepare them for whatever they want to do in life.”

The center is located at 509 S. Muskogee Ave. It’s open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 918-772-5155 or visit A Bright Start Development Center on Facebook.
About the Author
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016.
 
Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to gain as much knowledge as she can about Cherokee culture and people. She is a full-blood Cherokee and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band.
 
Her favorite activities are playing stickball and pitching horseshoes. She is a member of the Nighthawks Stickball team in Tahlequah and enjoys performing stickball demonstrations in various communities. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association and competes in sanctioned tournaments throughout the state.
 
Previously a member of the Native American Journalists Association, she has won three NAJA awards and hopes to continue as a member with the Cherokee Phoenix.
lindsey-bark@cherokee.org • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing in journalism. She started working for the Cherokee Phoenix in 2016. Working for the Cherokee Phoenix, Lindsey hopes to gain as much knowledge as she can about Cherokee culture and people. She is a full-blood Cherokee and a citizen of the United Keetoowah Band. Her favorite activities are playing stickball and pitching horseshoes. She is a member of the Nighthawks Stickball team in Tahlequah and enjoys performing stickball demonstrations in various communities. She is also a member of the Oklahoma Horseshoe Pitchers Association and competes in sanctioned tournaments throughout the state. Previously a member of the Native American Journalists Association, she has won three NAJA awards and hopes to continue as a member with the Cherokee Phoenix.

Money

BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
Reporter – @cp_bbennett
04/11/2018 08:15 AM
TAHLEQUAH – Seasoned and newly emerging Cherokee artists gained business information during a Native Artist Professional Development Training on April 4-5 at the Cherokee Arts Center. The First Peoples Fund hosted the training as part of its community workshop program, and its goal is to help Native artists become successful entrepreneurs. The FPF provided the course materials while Cherokee artists Matthew Anderson and MaryBeth Timothy taught the training. “Most of us don’t have that business mind, and so First Peoples Fund comes in and helps us with that,” Timothy said. “I know with me, when I took the First Peoples Fund training here it just opened my eyes to so many things that I wasn’t sure of. Now that I realize that we have so many resources, I’m not afraid to go out and look and ask for help, and I think that’s really important for a lot of artists around here." Training topics included creating a business plan, writing for grants and loans, marketing, crafting a successful portfolio and balancing time between operating a business and being an artist. Each participant was also asked to give a presentation at the training’s end. “It’s a chance for them to step outside the box,” Timothy said. “Some of them have never done that before, and so we give them a little guideline and it shows how to present yourself because part of this whole thing is not just selling your art, you’re selling yourself.” Cherokee Nation citizen Isaiah Soap, who completed both training days, said he attended to learn from established artists. “It’s hard to start, especially being a Native artist and getting your business out there, but the people here are really nice and great with helping,” he said. “I think it will help out a lot of artists around here that took the training because I know they’re already well established, so it was good to get their knowledge.” Soap said he comes from a line of artists specializing in beadwork and realized he wanted to make that passion into a business while attending Northeastern State University. “When I was in college at NSU is really whenever it hit me that I could make money while I was in school because I didn’t have a full-time job, and it would have been a lot to do. It would have been more stress if I had gotten a full-time job, whereas my beadwork was like a stress reliever from school and then I could still make money doing it.” During the training, Soap pitched his artwork and began setting goals. “The training definitely helps us to know where we want to go from where we are now,” he said. “In the training we were taught to set some goals for like five years from now or 10 years from now and where we see ourselves as an artist. It also gave us a lot of insight on how we can promote our work and the clientele that we have and how we can set up our work.” FPF President Lori Pourier said the national program began in the 1990s and that the community training in Tahlequah is made possible because of its “Teach Back” component. “MaryBeth and Matthew are there to do their ‘Teach Back’ because they’ve already gone through the training, and now they’re testing it to see if they want to continue doing it and working with the curriculum,” she said. “Several folks down in that area have gone on to be a trainer and then those folks usually train within the tribe or within the state. I think we have 50 or more certified trainers now across the country from Maine to Barrow, Alaska, to Cherokee Nation.” For more information, visit <a href="http://www.firstpeoplesfund.org" target="_blank">www.firstpeoplesfund.org</a>.
BY ROGER GRAHAM
Multimedia Producer – @cp_rgraham
04/03/2018 08:30 AM
VIAN – Less than a mile from Interstate 40 and 5 miles from Lake Tenkiller, two Cherokee-owned businesses are thriving in Vian. Morning Sky Boutique and Evening Shade Mercantile are the idea of Cherokee Nation citizens Suzanne Sullivan and Callie Prier, who are also mother and daughter. “We opened this store (Morning Sky Boutique) a little over three years ago, and we carry clothing, jewelry, shoes,” Prier, the daughter, said. “And we have another building, Evening Shade Mercantile, and it’s home and gift.” Prier said her family worked together to make the idea a reality. “Well, originally we bought Morning Sky Boutique, which was the old Vian Sundry Store and many things before that. My mom and I purchased the building. My husband remodeled the building,” she said. Prier said they started with just clothing and jewelry on a smaller scale. “We got good responses from the community and tourism and all that,” she said. “So, a year after we purchased Morning Sky, we purchased Evening Shade Mercantile, and we’ve made that into the home and gift side so the boutique could be women’s clothing, shoes and jewelry and things like that.” Prier said it was her mom who knew about the tribe’s Small Business Loan program. “They (CN) actually helped us a lot,” Prier said. “We got the small business loan quickly, and they have been super helpful with anything we needed afterwards.” Sullivan said she knows the area well. Born in nearby Sallisaw, she’s been a community volunteer and organizer in Vian for the past 30 years. Sullivan said the advice and information she received from Commerce Department Executive Director Anna Knight and Career Services Executive Director Diane Kelly was crucial to her and Prier before making the decision to open the businesses. “They, along with (the) Commerce Department’s Steven Highers, have so much wisdom and knowledge of the area and just how things work. We work really, really hard to find items that are interesting and unique, while varied in price range. We think we have something for everyone here,” Sullivan said. “We’re getting ready to start a new men’s line, but we already carry men’s products. We carry some Pendleton and Ted Baker and some Gentlemen’s Hardware, but we’re really excited about just getting approved to carry Patagonia. Plus, Callie just picked up a line call The Normal Brand.” As for women’s brands, Morning Sky Boutique carries Sympli and Joseph Ribkoff, Comfy and others. “We carry a lot Johnny Was women’s wear. In jewelry, we have French Kande and Love Tokens and many others. We also carry children’s Kickee pants,” Sullivan said. Morning Sky Boutique and Evening Shade Mercantile are located at 106 S. Thornton St. They are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 918-773-5000 or visit <a href="http://www.morningskyboutique.com" target="_blank">www.morningskyboutique.com</a> or search Facebook.
BY KENLEA HENSON
Reporter
04/02/2018 12:00 PM
FORT GIBSON – Cherokee Nation citizen Jon Griggs and his friend, Alex Miller, co-own Limitless Nutrition, which recently opened as a one-stop nutrition shop. The two former basketball players said they’ve always been into fitness, which led to an interest in nutrition and a desire to open a nutrition store. Griggs, who is also a real estate agent, said he learned of a storefront rental listing and he could not “pass it up.” “We talked about doing a business together for about seven years. We initially thought about opening a gym, but over the years we realized the importance in fueling your body the right way. Your physical and mental output is heavily dependent on your nutrition intake,” Griggs said. “So our purpose is to provide a healthy solution to anyone interested in improving their health, fitness, mental or physical performance or overall self-image.” Limitless Nutrition is located at 1205 S. Lee St. It offers everything from fitness advice and supplements to nutritional smoothies, shakes and teas, Griggs said. He said they offer pre-workout supplements, proteins, multivitamins, fat burners, natural herbs, energy teas, all-natural skin care products and nootropics, a brain booster for focus and energy. He also said they carry supplement brands to cater to costumers. “We are pretty unlimited to what we can get and what we can carry. If we don’t carry a certain product you’re looking for, we will get it for you.” However, to set it apart from being just a supplement and vitamin store, the team partnered with PowerBlendz, a health and wellness company, to add a made-to-order smoothie bar. Griggs said the smoothie menu consists of meal-replacement, energizer, fat-burner, protein and recovery shakes, as well as shakes geared toward cutting carbs and calories. They also have ingredients to make pre-workout and post-workout drinks made with real fruit, he said. “We don’t use any artificial flavoring. We provide pure protein and zero-sugar products, so our products have less calories per serving. You can get a full serving of greens from our organic greens supplements, and we can add fiber supplements too, so basically you can get like a full multivitamin shake,” Griggs said. Instead of a grab-and-go facility, he said they want to provide the community with a comfortable atmosphere where costumers can enjoy their drinks and complementary Wi-Fi. In addition to seeing the business succeed locally, Griggs said they hope to expand to Tahlequah and across the state. They also are developing fitness plans for those needing guidance, as well as providing delivery services for smoothies and nutrition drinks to Fort Gibson and Muskogee businesses. “A lot of people are doing the meal-replacement shake for lunch, so if a business wants to order our shakes or even a teas we will deliver it to them,” Griggs said. He said they are looking to partner with high school and college sports teams, too. “We would provide them with products to help with performance and recovery, like hydration products, amino acids and protein drinks.” Griggs also said they offer a 5 percent discount to students and CN citizens, as well as military, police and firefighter personnel. Business hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. For more information call 918-777-3315 or follow Limitless Nutrition Fort Gibson on Facebook.
BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
03/13/2018 08:00 AM
LOCUST GROVE – The Cherokee-owned SSLG Trading Group celebrated the grand opening of its family-owned housewares resale business with a ribbon cutting on March 5. SSLG stands for Susan (Standingwater), Stephanie (Standingwater-Cutrer), Lawrence (Standingwater) and Gabriel (Cutrer). Located at 524 E. Main St., it’s open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday. Standingwater-Cutrer and her father, Lawrence, are Cherokee Nation citizens who worked with their spouses to open the business, which started from the back of a truck and has upgraded to a storefront. The store merchandise sells at lower-than-retail pricing, she said. “At the start of it we bought palletized general merchandise from a warehouse in Arkansas, and it was from major retailers, and we were able to buy it at a decent price. So I decided at that moment that everything I was going to offer for people to buy was going to be half or less (than retail).” Its merchandise includes kitchenware, tables, television stands, dressers, cell phones cases, books and clothing that one can find in Wal-Mart, Costco, Cato’s or Bill’s Sporting Goods, she said. Standingwater-Cutrer added that the business stemmed from wanting to add diversity to the town’s business sector. It will also serve as a resource for people in need. Standingwater-Cutrer said SSLG is networking with the Pryor Area Resource Alliance, a nonprofit organization, to help people pay rent or utilities to buying food or help those in need of substance abuse rehabilitation by connecting them to resources. “I want to be an example for the kids. We’re just ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Or trying to,” Standingwater-Cutrer said. “I’m just trying to be obedient and do what I feel in my heart that I need to do.” She said the community has been supportive of her family’s business and efforts, and there is “not really a competition” between businesses. “Everyone’s wanting to better the community.” She said local residents have also wanted to help the business in some way such as being a cashier or helping with inventory. “We have people that have different talents that want to help us fight what we’re striving for. Everyone else is seeing the bigger picture.” In addition to getting the business thriving, Standingwater-Cutrer said she and her family are looking to add 1,300 square feet of space to the existing 500 square feet where the store resides. Another goal is to become CN Tribal Employment Rights Office certified as an Indian-owned business. “It all started with a couple Cherokees on their homestead. I actually have a lot of pride in being Cherokee. We actually just want to bring networking, diversity and being a resource,” Standingwater-Cutrer said.
BY WILL CHAVEZ
Assistant Editor – @cp_wchavez
03/08/2018 08:00 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY – Two Cherokee Nation citizens were recently announced as participants of the American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Oklahoma’s 2018 Leadership Native Oklahoma class. Amber Anderson, a University of Oklahoma Health Services Center research epidemiologist, and Brandi Payton, a CN Cooweescoowee Health Center administrator, join 41 other 2018 LNO participants. According to the AICCO, the LNO is a “leadership opportunity” for business and governmental leaders in Indian Country to broaden their networks and sharpen their understanding of self-governance and self-determination. “I am very appreciative and excited to be selected for this year’s cohort of Leadership Native Oklahoma. Past program participants have shared some of their experiences and I am looking forward to collaborating with Native leaders throughout the state,” Anderson said. “Most importantly, my hope is that I will come out of this program with new knowledge, relationships, and skills to better equip me in my effort to help improve the health of our Cherokee people and Indian County.” Payton, who in 2015 helped open the Washington County-based Cooweescoowee Health Center, said she’s also dedicated to the betterment of health for the American Indian population, and it has become the focus of her professional life. She’s also taken interest in tribal sovereignty and policy after finishing a fellowship in 2016 with the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C. “I am honored to be afforded this opportunity. I feel that participating in LNO will further develop my leadership skills as well as will enhance my knowledge outside of my field,” she said. “I look forward to networking with and learning from some of the finest in Indian Country in hopes of continuing to serve my community to the best of my ability.” This year’s LNO course will include seven monthly sessions of team building and educational sessions, including a two-day “Indianpreneurship Course.” The LNO class will also include professionals with a diverse selection of backgrounds and skill sets in hopes of building a bond unrivaled by other organizations across the state. “The value of LNO is especially important for the group to be introduced to tribal policy, sovereignty, and commerce,” AICCO President Bailey Walker (Chickasaw) said. The AICCO is an organization in which American Indian businesses, tribal leaders and other businesses can come together with innovative ideas that will promote and enhance the success of all American Indian people. “LNO is a unique opportunity to foster cohesiveness from a group of tribal leaders and future tribal leaders. The hours spent together will create a bond between the participants based on respect and interaction to identify, evaluate and implement projects that are of value to Native American businesses in Oklahoma, said AICCO Executive Director and LNO Chairwoman Annetta Abbott (Choctaw). “The LNO program continues to grow and has received a great response from the participants and the tribes.”
BY STACIE BOSTON
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/01/2018 10:00 AM
STILWELL – After graduating college in Colorado, Joe Fletcher returned to Oklahoma looking to make his next move. He noticed some barbecue trucks popping up in Arkansas in towns such as Fort Smith and Fayetteville. This made him want to try this new-style eatery in Oklahoma, which led him to start Okie Joe’s BBQ in 2005. “We had seen them, kind of, this new-style thing, so we decided we’d build one and just try it and see what happened,” he said. “So we actually started up in (West) Siloam (Springs) and stayed there about a year and moved back to Stilwell, where we didn’t know if it would make it or not, and 13 years later here we are.” Fletcher said Okie Joe’s menu began with items such as brisket sandwiches and baked beans, but has expanded to include other smoked choices. “We have a Super Okie Baked Potato now where we take a baked potato, open it up, pile it full of meat, cover it with cheese. We have our Okie Joe sandwich. That’s our signature sandwich. It’s got all four meats on it: a slice of bologna, a link cut up and then a little bit of beef, a little bit of pork,” he said. From its humble beginnings in a trailer, Fletcher has made Okie Joe’s a place you can enjoy no matter the season by adding a deck and a place to eat when the weather is inclement. “When you come in it’s still a little bit hot or cold on the deck depending on the weather,” he said. “So it’s a place you can come in the spring or the fall and all the screens are open on the deck so it’s like being outside on a porch.” With Okie Joe’s continuous growth, Fletcher is planning to add a drive-thru window and a larger kitchen space later this year. “We have a lot of business in the evening. No one wants to get out of their car to take their food home, so we think a drive-thru will help this business,” he said. “So we’re going to go ahead and add a drive-thru and a small kitchen where we can add a few more menu options but still keep the rustic atmosphere that we have today.” When eating barbecue at Okie Joe’s, Fletcher said there’s “no stranger” that walks through the door. “We’re a small community here in Stilwell. It is a tough place to make a living, but we have the respect of our customers. We treat them right,” he said. “There’s no stranger when they come in the door. Everybody’s treated well.” Okie Joe’s BBQ is at 210 S. Second St. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, call 918-696-4637. Cherokee Eats highlights Cherokee-owned eateries and their specialties. Send suggestions to <a href="mailto: stacie-boston@cherokee.org">stacie-boston@cherokee.org</a> or <a href="mailto: brittney-bennett@cherokee.org">brittney-bennett@cherokee.org</a>.